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City MP calls on the Government to fund free school meals throughout the holiday

Stephen Morgan MP has called on the government to extend free school meals in the school holidays, including the upcoming October half term and Christmas, as part of a Labour campaign to ensure that no child goes hungry during the coronavirus pandemic.

Labour had previously given Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak 72 hours to change their position and provide this support. With the deadline expired, the Party is forcing a Commons vote on the issue.

In Portsmouth alone over 6,500 children are at risk of going hungry over the holidays as the government withdraws support for the provision of free school meals.

The October half term comes as millions of families face a furlough cliff-edge that could see jobs across the country at risk, at the same time as millions of families face tighter restrictions.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Millions of families face the prospect of losing their livelihoods because the government has lost control of the virus.

It’s sink-or-swim plans for support could leave more than one million children at risk of going hungry over the school holidays, including many here in Portsmouth.

Now is the time to act. I have taken a range of actions on this and will continue to hold the government to account on this issue.”

 

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Black History Month: Portsmouth South MP calls for Black History to be added to the curriculum all year round

Following action taken earlier this year by the Portsmouth South representative, Stephen Morgan MP has today urged the government again to include Black History in the school curriculum all year round.

As part of efforts to mark Black History Month in the House of Commons, Members from across the House highlighted issues of racism and discrimination and called on the government to do more during a backbench debate.

A debate in recognition of Black History Month has not taken place in the House of Commons for five years. Over the past few months issues of race and discrimination have been at the forefront of public opinion following multiple Black Lives Matter demonstrations which took place in every region in England throughout June and July.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Much more needs to be done to tackle racism and discrimination in society, and I am committed to actively working with others to end injustice and inequality affecting communities in Portsmouth.

This year we have seen Black, Asian and minority ethnic people disproportionately affected by Covid-19 death rates and the economic crisis.

Teaching Black British history in schools would be an important step towards ending the structural racism that holds people back and creating a society where everyone’s contributions are recognised and celebrated. I made that point to the Minister earlier this year and regrettably Government has not taken this issue seriously.

Whilst I welcome the backbench debate today on tackling racism and discrimination, it is high time Ministers hear our concerns and take action”.

Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, Marsha De Cordova MP added:

“In the context of a growing Black Lives Matter movement that is highlighting racial injustices across the globe, Black history must be taught all year round, as part of a truly diverse school curriculum that includes and inspires all young people from all backgrounds.

Black history is British history and it’s a disgrace that the Government won’t even review the curriculum to get this right.”

 

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Failing Test and Trace system has left a quarter of a million Covid-19 contacts untraced

New analysis by Labour has revealed that the Government’s disastrous Test & Trace system has failed to trace almost 250,000 close contacts of people who tested positive for Covid-19 in England.

The analysis, verified by the House of Commons Library, reveals a deeply flawed contact tracing system unable to handle the increase in Covid-19 cases as the country enters a second wave. It shows that last week alone, almost 80,000 close contacts of people who tested positive were not reached and notified.

A contact is defined as someone who has come into close contact with someone who tested positive for the virus. Reaching 80% of close contacts is considered one of the key means of slowing transmission of Covid-19.

Yet Labour’s analysis shows that the Government’s contact tracing is going backwards across England, with just over half of close contacts (57.7%) reached last week. For the first time since the weekly Test & Trace figures were published, Labour found that the 80% target was missed in every single local authority and English region.

In the worst-affected regions, the failures of the system mean tens of thousands of people who were in close contact with someone who tested positive were not reached and told to self-isolate last week. In the North West, over 26,000 people were not contacted, with over 14,000 people in Yorkshire and the Humber.

On 9th September, the Prime Minister announced ‘Operation Moonshot’, promising a Test and Trace system which would “allow people to lead more normal lives, without the need for social distancing.”  Labour’s figures show that in the four weeks since that statement, over three quarters of local authorities saw their contact tracing rates decline.

The revelations raise further questions about the UK’s tracing system, already under scrutiny due to the Conservative government’s choice of designing a centralised, privatised system contracted out to Serco and Sitel. SAGE minutes from 21st September and published this week highlight how the billions put into the Test and Trace system has only had a “marginal” impact on slowing infection rates.

With some local councils reaching almost 100% of contacts, Labour has called for contact tracing to be handed over to them as part of a two-to-three week circuit break – designed to reverse the trend of infections and hospital admissions and “to rectify some of the mistakes the Government has made.”

Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The Government must get a grip of the failings of the test and trace system and that means the Prime Minister must act now to reverse the trends we are now seeing.

That is why Labour is calling for a short, sharp circuit break to fix testing, protect the NHS and save lives.” 

Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Shadow Cabinet Office Minister, Rachel Reeves MP added:

“We are at a decisive moment in our efforts to tackle coronavirus, and these figures are a new low for a Test and Trace system on the verge of collapse.

Tests are taking too long, leaving NHS and key workers vulnerable. And the abysmal contact tracing system has failed to reach a quarter of a million close contacts of people with the virus. The government is wasting hundreds of millions on a system that doesn’t seem to function or even use basic common sense.

We’re are beyond the tipping point with the Test & Trace system. Without our local councils working day in day out to pick up the pieces, contact tracing would all have but collapsed”.

 

 

 

 

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Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill

A small number of constituents have got in touch with me over recent days about the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill currently being debated in Parliament.

As this Bill has received some media attention, I thought it would be helpful for all Portsmouth people to have some information about this and Labour’s views on the matters this legislation attempts to deal with.

This Bill is about “covert human intelligence sources” – undercover agents – who are working to disrupt some of the vilest crimes imaginable, including terrorism, violent drug gangs, serious and organised crime and child sexual exploitation.

It’s vital that our security services are able to disrupt this activity, prevent further crime and bring people to justice. Since March 2017, MI5 and Counter Terror Police have together thwarted 27 terror attacks.

It cannot be right, though, that this has been happening in the shadows and without being subject to a clear legal framework or robust accountability. I believe this activity should be in law, with strong safeguards.

The CHIS Bill is not perfect, but it is an improvement on the status quo. Without it, undercover sources would either not be able to operate – therefore removing a vital tool for the security services to prevent very serious crimes – or would continue to operate in the shadows, away from the legal oversight.

Crucial to these safeguards is the fact that the Human Rights Act is on the face of the Bill. This means that no criminal authorisation can go beyond its limits, in effect this prohibits murder, torture and sexual violence. As the Bill continues to progress through Parliament, next in the House of Lords, Labour will also argue for even stronger protections.

As this Bill does not have retrospective power, it does not impact upon the search for justice for the wrongs of the past. The Bill does not impact on the legitimate work of trade unions. The 2016 Investigatory Powers Act, contains significant safeguards that prevents interference with legitimate trade union activity: the Labour Party secured changes to the Bill including Section 20, which is a clear protection for Trade Unions.

The last Labour Government banned the practice of blacklisting and a future Labour Government will build upon that and stand beside those campaigning for justice. The next Labour Government will ensure the release of papers for both Shrewsbury 24 and the Cammell Laird shipyard workers. The next Labour Government will also order a full public inquiry into the events at Orgreave in 1984 and its aftermath. We stand with the victims of the terrible, disgraceful ‘spy cops’ scandal. Labour is committed to implementing the recommendations of the Mitting Inquiry.

I will continue to work with others to press the Government on vital safeguards, we will put the public’s safety first as part of our commitment to Labour’s role in keeping individuals, families and our country safe.

Stephen Morgan MP

 

 

 

 

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‘Government must fix testing, protect the NHS and get control of the virus’ says Portsmouth MP

Responding to news that the Covid-19 infection rate has doubled in Portsmouth from 43.4/100,000 to 94/100,000 in seven days, Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP has said latest Government restrictions won’t be enough to get control of the crisis.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Our city and our country are at a decisive moment in our efforts to tackle coronavirus with the numbers across Britain and here in Portsmouth moving in the wrong direction.

With Government losing control of the virus, losing control of the message and is no longer following scientific advice, the measures it has set out in recent weeks are harming the economy and failing to suppress the virus. That’s why another course is needed, and why I back calls for a national reset.

Labour is calling for a national two-three week circuit break that will give us a chance to fix testing, protect the NHS and get control of the virus.

The Prime Minister knows his latest restrictions won’t be enough. He knows he will have to impose harsher restrictions. Portsmouth people can’t wait for Mr Johnson to catch up – he must act now”.

 

 

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City MP Calls on Government to hand control of contact tracing to local authorities

Stephen Morgan MP has today urged the government to hand over control of contact tracing to councils and local public health teams, following revelations that the national – largely privatised – system is only making a marginal  difference to addressing rapidly rising rates of Covid-19 infection. 

The Portsmouth South representative said:

“For months, Labour has been asking this government to put contact tracing into the hands of councils and local public health teams who know their own communities better than anyone.

In the face of all the evidence, the Tories are continuing with a system that rewards failure by handing enormous sums of money to big companies such as Serco and Sitel.

The government should look at the science, follow our call to bring in a circuit break and transfer control of contact tracing to local authorities, so that we can better protect people’s lives and livelihoods.”

Even when the evidence mounts from Peterborough, Cumbria and throughout Wales that local tracing is more effective, the Tory government seems adamant to keep plodding on with a model that puts people’s lives and livelihoods at risk.

Stephen Morgan MP added:

“Transferring this control on a local level to Portsmouth is crucial if we are to see the Government get a grip on this crisis and save people’s lives.”

 

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City MP welcomes new funding for culture in Portsmouth but calls for further action

Welcoming news today that local organisations from the Kings Theatre to Portsmouth Guildhall Trust, Wedgewood Rooms to Mary Rose Museum, will receive culture recovery money, Stephen Morgan MP has said Portsmouth expects the government ‘to go further’.

The Portsmouth South representative said:

“I am delighted that a number of Portsmouth’s arts, music and theatre venues and museums have secured much needed money from the culture recovery fund as announced today, and pleased to have played a part in making this happen.

Arts and culture form part of the soul of our city. Yet coronavirus and the economic crisis risks thousands of redundancies across the country unless the Government introduces sector-specific support.

This sector represents around a fifth of the economy, driving so much growth, yet account for less than one per cent of government spending. It is clear the scale of the challenge is such that help to date just doesn’t go far enough.

I will continue to stand up for culture in our city, lobbying for Portsmouth until Ministers step up and act with tailored support.

Portsmouth expects the Government to go further. If they don’t soon, we risk well-loved assets going under as a result of the coronavirus crisis”.

 

 

 

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Together we can, and we will, stop AQUIND

Attending the against AQUIND human chain today in Milton, a Covid-safe protest organised by local people, city MP Stephen Morgan said:

In the week of clean air day, when the council withdrew crucial roads from a scheme to reduce dirty air and rowed back on its climate emergency commitment, it’s humbling to see so many Portsmouth people coming together to stop the AQUIND development. 

Portsmouth’s green and open spaces are precious. The developer’s plans do nothing to benefit our city, only cause disruption to our environment and to our daily lives. 

Thank you to the grassroots group that organised today’s event. Together we can, and we will, stop this”.

To find out more about the Portsmouth South MP’s long-running work helping residents oppose the AQUIND interconnector proposals click here.

 

 

 

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Crunch Day for Food Standards as City MP demands Government back British Farmers

  • Labour is pushing the Government to adopt a legal guarantee that British animal welfare and environmental standards won’t be undercut in post-Brexit trade deals
  • PM challenged to back a Labour amendment to safeguard high UK food standards in the Government’s new farming Bill 
  • Concerns that chlorine-washed chicken, hormone-treated beef and food produced to lower animal welfare and environmental standards could be sold in the UK after Brexit undercutting British farmers

Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP is demanding the Government back British farmers and protect high UK animal welfare, environment and public health standards in food. 

In a crunch day for British food standards, MPs will vote on Monday whether to accept a Labour amendment made to the Government’s Agriculture Bill which would stop post-Brexit trade deals from allowing in imports of lower standard food to the UK like chlorinated chicken and hormone-treated beef.

The Government has said it won’t weaken food standards as part of a trade deal with the US or other countries with lower standards, but has made no legal commitment to guarantee this. Farming, environmental and consumer groups have been pressing Tory MPs for months to try and secure a guarantee, fearful that lower standard imports will undercut British farmers and standards.

The Government is expected to effectively vote out their own manifesto commitment from the Bill on Monday, after promising in 2019 that they wouldn’t compromise on high British standards in trade deals.

Commenting on the crunch vote, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“I know from my post bag people across Portsmouth are passionate about animal welfare, and they’re rightly worried about what might end up in our supermarkets and on our plates if the Government doesn’t make good on its promise to protect our high food standards. Nobody wants to see Trumps’ chlorinated chicken or hormone-treated beef in our city’s shops and restaurants.

I won’t back down from the fight to protect our high British food standards and farmers, and will be pressing the Government on Monday to back Labour’s amendment to safeguard our high animal welfare, environmental and public health standards in UK food.”

Luke Pollard MP, Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary added:

The Government have said they back our British standards and farmers – it’s time to put their money where their mouth is. Ministers keep promising they’ll maintain high animal welfare and environmental standards after Brexit, but there’s still a serious threat that they will drop that promise to get the trade deals they’re so desperate to secure with Donald Trump and others.

“If the Government are serious about maintaining our high UK standards post-Brexit they should get a guarantee in law, and support Labour’s amendment on Monday to safeguard our standards and back British farmers.

To vote out their own manifesto commitment to protect food standards from their flagship food and agriculture Bill is absurd.”

 

 

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City MP calls for additional support and measures for UK areas facing localised restrictions

Stephen Morgan MP has called for the government to recognise the ‘cliff edge’ faced by those most at risk in Portsmouth and across the country who are both on the furlough scheme, which is set to expire at the end of the month, and in areas facing additional local Covid-19 restrictions.

According to HMRC, 3.5m employments have been furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme in local areas now under local restrictions, or on the amber watch-list.

The Government’s furlough scheme is due to expire at the end of the month. However, the official opposition has highlighted that where there have been bespoke packages of financial support – in Leicester, Liverpool, Hartlepool, Warrington and Middlesbrough – these have come after local restrictions have been put in place.

Leicester was given £3 million, meanwhile Liverpool City Region, Hartlepool, Warrington and Middlesbrough are set to receive £7 million.

Stephen Morgan MP, commented,

“The opposition and I have been calling for months to ditch the one-size-fits-all approach and target the areas and sectors that are most at risk.

“It is common sense if an area is going to be locked down it needs greater support, especially areas where many workers are still enrolled on the furlough scheme, which is set to expire at the end of the month.”

Following the Chancellor’s speech at Conservative Party Conference on Monday, the Shadow Chancellor, Anneliese Dodds MP, said,

“The Chancellor just spoke for ten minutes, but he had nothing new to say. He just blew his chance to get a grip on Britain’s jobs crisis.”

Mr Morgan has consistently called for targeted support from the government for the sectors and people that are most at risk.