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Ministers shirk responsibility to deliver for Armed Forces in once-in-a-Parliament legislation

A cross-party group of MPs has raised concerns that government Ministers are outsourcing their responsibility for serving personnel and veterans in a report published today.

The Armed Forces Bill is set to make local authorities and other public bodies legally responsible for delivering the promises in the Armed Forces Covenant. But services provided by central government functions – including the Ministry of Defence – are currently exempt.

Service charities have raised concerns that long-standing problems for service communities will not be covered by the legislation in practice, including service accommodation, social care and visa fees for commonwealth troops.

General Sir John McColl, Chief Executive of Cobseo, said: “There is a moral requirement for Government to comply with the Covenant. That is fine as long as it works, but in some cases it absolutely does not work.”

General Sir John raised the ongoing plight of commonwealth veterans, who are forced to pay eye-watering fees to remain in the country they have served. The Royal British Legion estimates that up to 300 people per year are affected.

The Royal British Legion’s Laura Pett said: “The fact that only certain aspects of housing, healthcare and education—namely, those that are not the responsibility of the Secretary of State—are also omitted is further cause for concern.”

The National Audit Office has found that thousands of armed forces personnel were living in sub-standard accommodation.

The Defence Infrastructure Organisation conceding that “too many” were affected by problems with heating and hot water in evidence to the Committee.

At present the Bill would do nothing to address this crucial issue, which 26% of tri-service personnel say increases their likelihood of leaving service.

The Defence Secretary mysteriously vetoed the Committee’s planned virtual visit to service accommodation at the last moment.

Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan MP said:

“This government is missing a once-in-a-Parliament opportunity to make real improvements to the lives of service personnel, veterans and their families.

“The Armed Forces Covenant should represent a binding commitment to service communities. They will see straight through this government’s attempt to outsource responsibility for delivering it.

“In a year where our armed forces have stepped up to support frontline efforts to tackle the Coronavirus as well as their ongoing commitments abroad, it simply isn’t good enough.

“Ministers should listen to the concerns raised in this report and strengthen the Bill when it returns to the Commons and deliver on their repeated promises of support for our forces”.  

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Shadow Defence Minister: Armed Forces Bill risks reinforcing “postcode lottery” on services for veterans

Stephen Morgan MP urged Ministers to hear service charity concerns that the Armed Forces Bill will reinforce the “postcode lottery” veterans face when accessing services.

Speaking in the House of Commons following the publication of a cross-party report, Mr Morgan said the Bill’s narrow focus on housing, healthcare and education, risked creating a “two-tier” Covenant and a race to the bottom on standards in those areas left out.

In practice, this means many long-standing problems facing armed forces, veterans and their families will remain unaddressed. Social care, pensions, employment and immigration are among the long list of areas witnesses told the Committee will not be covered by this once-in-a-Parliament piece of legislation.

The Confederation of Service Charities Chair General Sir John McColl specifically highlighted the eyewatering visa fees that Commonwealth veterans face as an instance where the government’s current “moral requirement” to comply with the Covenant “absolutely does not work”.

The government has also not included the Lyons Review recommendation that civilian courts should have full jurisdiction over murder, rape and serious sexual offences committed in the UK. In evidence to the Committee, Judge Lyons said he was “surprised” to find the most serious cases being tried in the service justice system and argued that this had not been Parliament’s original intent.

Stephen Morgan MP, Shadow Armed Forces Minister and Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, commented:

“The government must listen to concerns raised by MPs of all parties and service charities that this Bill will not address long-standing issues for service communities.  

“Following input from across the sector and service communities themselves, government must now listen to the recommendations outlined in our report today.

“Labour will continue speaking up for our Armed Forces, veterans and their families, and ensure that the promises in the Covenant are delivered for all of the nation’s service personnel.”

Mr Morgan has been leading the Official Opposition’s response to the Armed Forces Bill during its passage through Parliament.

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Shadow Armed Forces Minister helps force vote on government’s ‘broken promise’ to Armed Forces

Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan MP challenged the government in the House of Commons today for breaking its promise to not cut troop numbers, which was confirmed in the Defence Command Paper published last month.

The Portsmouth MP was speaking at the despatch box in the opposition day debate in Parliament today before a vote on the government’s decision to renege on its commitment to the Armed Forces.

The Integrated Review and Defence Command Paper confirmed that the Army will be further reduced to just 72,500 by 2025, smaller than at any time since the 1700s.

It has also been reported in The Times, but omitted in the Defence Command Paper, that the Royal Marines are set to lose 400 posts, from 6,500 to 6,100.

Meanwhile, the RAF is also expected to lose 300 personnel by 2025, with full-time personnel currently at 1,850.

It comes as 45,000 personnel have been cut since 2010.

The Shadow Defence Minister and Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, commented:

“The government’s track record speaks for itself: a decade of decline for personnel numbers and investment in defence; a strategic defence plan that does not clearly match capabilities to current and future threats; broken promises to our Armed Forces.

“The defence of the realm is the first priority of any government, but this one is playing fast and loose with our country’s strategic security plans and its commitments on defence spending.

“Labour is determined to ensure our country can protect itself properly, now and in the future, which is why the Official Opposition is forcing a vote in Parliament today on this important issue.”

Mr Morgan last month labelled the plans to cut personnel numbers by 10,000 a ‘mistake’, following the Defence Command Paper’s publication.

He also suggested government was taking a ‘significant gamble’ on defence capabilities, after the publication of the government’s Integrated Review, which was also published in March.

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Portsmouth MP votes for full, transparent parliamentary inquiry into Greensill scandal  

Stephen Morgan MP and the Official Opposition have today forced a vote in the House of Commons to establish a full, transparent, Parliament-run inquiry into the Greensill scandal, saying that the Government cannot be allowed to simply “mark its own homework”.

Revelations around the Greensill scandal have escalated week on week since the company collapsed in March, leaving thousands of jobs at risk.

Greensill Capital was the only supply chain firm granted access to the Government’s CLBILS Covid loan scheme, putting hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayer money at risk.

Labour today tabled a ‘binding motion’ that would establish a new select committee to investigate the Greensill lobbying scandal, which would have the power to ask witnesses to give evidence and face questioning.

Stephen Morgan MP, the Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, said:

“Any Conservative who wants to stop the cronyism rampant in their party and in government should have voted with Labour to uncover once and for all the truth behind this scandal.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg in Conservative cronyism which has been endemic during the pandemic and long before.

“The Conservatives cannot be trusted to mark their own homework on this. The British public, especially those with their jobs on the line as a result of Greensill’s collapse, deserve answers.”

Last week, Shadow Ministers also called for the Government to use the upcoming Queen’s Speech to legislate for the expansion of the scope of the lobbying register to include in-house lobbyists – a move that could have detected the nature of Cameron’s lobbying activities for Greensill sooner.

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Portsmouth MP responds to the passing of Prince Philip

Responding to the death of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, Stephen Morgan MP, said:

“I know the people of Portsmouth will join me in paying tribute to the dedication and devotion given to our country by Prince Philip, which is rightly admired at home and abroad.

“In the heart and home of the Royal Navy we are grateful for his distinguished service during the Second World War and we recognise his enduring commitment to Her Majesty The Queen and their royal duties, which embodied the spirit of British public service.

“My thoughts and prayers are with Her Majesty, the Royal Family and communities across our country as we pay our respects to the contribution Prince Philip made to Britain”.

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Stronger rights for victims of anti-social behaviour are needed says City MP as huge increase in number of people affected over past decade revealed

Stephen Morgan MP has welcomed demands for stronger rights for victims of anti-social behaviour as analysis reveals a huge increase in number of people affected over the past decade

New analysis by Labour reveals that two fifths of Crime Survey (CSEW) respondents said they had experienced anti-social behaviour (ASB) in their local area in the past year – the highest since questions on ASB were included in the CSEW.

This is equivalent to 19m people experiencing some form of ASB in 2019-20, up by 1m in a year and 5.5m more than 2011-12.

Every area in England and Wales has seen an increase in the number of people experiencing ASB over the past five years.

Stephen Morgan MP, Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, added:

“We are living through a victims crisis. Over a quarter of all crimes aren’t being prosecuted because victims are dropping out of the process entirely. That means that 1 million victims every year are being failed by the very system designed to protect them. 

I know from my postbag the impact anti-social behaviour is having on our communities. That is why I continue to take action to tackle the issues we face in Portsmouth working alongside the police and other agencies. But it is vital that Government plays their part too and ensures fairer funding for Hampshire Constabulary and delivers investment in preventative services in our city.

 I welcome Labour’s Victims Law that’s ready to go to help those affected by anti-social behaviour.

It makes victims unignorable in a system that increasingly overlooks their needs. Now it’s up to the Government to put politics aside and implement it without delay.” 

Nick Thomas-Symonds MP, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, said:

“The shocking rise in the number of people experiencing anti-social behaviour is a huge cause of concern for families and communities across the country.

“People deserve to feel safe and secure in their neighbourhoods and town centres, but under the Conservatives police numbers have been slashed, violent crime has risen to record levels, and anti-social behaviour has been left unchecked.

“Labour will work to put more police on our streets and would act where the Conservatives have failed and introduce a new Victims’ Law that would give victims of anti-social behaviour the same rights as victims of crimes.”

 

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Labour calls on the government to invest in and secure British jobs ​for the defence sector

The Official Opposition is demanding greater protection of jobs in the defence sector by calling on the government to adopt a ‘British-built by default’ approach, intended to boost manufacturing within the UK supply chain, a move welcomed by Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP.

Labour says a new threshold is needed for equipment to be sourced outside of the UK, requiring proof that defence projects cannot be built under similar terms in Britain.

In addition, the Party is calling on ministers to report annually on the proportion of defence spending going through British companies, and to improve procurement rules to promote prosperity in supply chain businesses throughout the UK’s towns, regions, and industries such as steel.

The Party accuse the Conservative government of br​eaking promises ​made to the Armed Forces and wasting taxpayer money through its decade-long policy of ‘open competition by default’ that has seen the UK buying off-the–shelf defence equipment from overseas.

New analysis by Labour shows:  

  • Over £6 billion of allocated spending in government’s Integrated Review and Defence Command Paper is going on off-the-shelf purchases of surveillance aircraft from overseas.
  • A naval contract worth £1.5 billion for Fleet Support Ships has been unfulfilled since 2018, due to Ministerial indecision ​about making the contract British-led.
  • 30,000 defence industry jobs lost since 2010 under the Conservatives

Keir Starmer MP, Leader of the Labour Party said:

“Prioritising British businesses through defence spending is not only investment in jobs, but in our communities, and a more secure economy.  

“Under this Prime Minister, we have seen broken promises and dither and delay, at the expense of UK supply chain businesses and taxpayer’s money.  

“We cannot go back to business as usual. Labour will protect jobs in the defence sector, harness the skills and talents of our workers, and will deliver value for money for British people, to ensure a prosperous recovery out of the pandemic.” 

John Healey MP, Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary, added:

“The Prime Minister has already broken promises made to military personnel by cutting 10,000 posts in the Army.

“On the Tories’ watch, we have also lost tens of thousands of jobs across the industry and wasted time on key contracts.  

“Of course, there will be essential equipment or systems which makes strategic sense for Britain to develop with allies or to buy direct from overseas, but we want to see a much higher bar for this”.

Stephen Morgan, Shadow Armed Forces Minister and Portsmouth South MP, added:

“We know only too well here in Portsmouth that when done well, defence spending has a multiplier effect, strengthening our UK economy. That’s why I have been calling on the Government for some time to build more Naval ships in Britain.

“Covid has exposed the risks of relying on foreign supply chains.

“I welcome Keir Starmer’s contribution to this debate. Labour’s ‘British by default’ policy would help secure vital jobs in Portsmouth as our city recovers from the pandemic as well as strengthen the UK’s sovereignty and security.” 

 

 

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Vaccine passports: Portsmouth MP responds

In recent days, many constituents have got in touch with Stephen Morgan MP with their views on the Government considering ‘vaccine passports’.

Responding to concerns, the Portsmouth South representative said:

I do not support domestic vaccine passports. It is not clear so far what the benefits are compared to the risks and costs.

“The British public have already seen what has happened with the Government’s handing out of Covid contracts with the cronyism, as well as poor delivery and value. Ministers mustn’t make these mistakes again.

“What’s more, asking people to produce a vaccine certificate or passport to access pubs or shops is discriminatory and it will add a huge burden to businesses and come at huge cost to the taxpayer.

“Labour wants the Government to get the basics right. That means making sure the vaccine rollout includes young people and there is a focus on vaccine take-up where it is slower so we don’t risk pockets of people exposed to the virus, self-isolation, and contact tracing”.

The Official Opposition have stated that if there was a vote in the House of Commons on vaccine and test certification, based on what has been seen so far, the party would oppose domestic vaccine passports.

Labour has not ruled out testing certification (for example, for large events) but have the same questions around focus, efficacy and value.

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Portsmouth MP says lobbying for city’s arts and cultural sector ‘is paying off’ but Government must support those excluded

Stephen Morgan MP has today welcomed the latest round of grants to help the city’s arts and cultural sector recover from the pandemic but has called on Ministers to finally end the uncertainty for those in the creative sector who have missed out on financial support

In the Portsmouth South constituency, the Cultural Recovery Fund has today awarded grants totalling £1,066,493 to over six organisations from Concrete Music to The Mary Rose. Moreover, across Portsmouth, a total of £1,143,047 has been awarded to eight organisations.

Arts Council England has awarded over £261 million to more than 2,700 organisations as part of this round of the national programme.

The Portsmouth South MP has been tirelessly lobbying Government to support the city’s arts and cultural organisations and those who work in the sector in what has been an extremely challenging time for the industry.

This has included meeting with local representatives, submitting parliamentary questions, visiting organisations to hear concerns, supporting funding bids and lobbying Ministers directly.

Welcoming today’s latest grants round, Stephen Morgan MP, said:

“I have long argued that when our country recovers from this pandemic culture must be front and centre. Yet so many of our city’s fantastic arts and cultural organisations have been under huge strain in the past year, with venues closed and ticket and secondary sales lost.

I am pleased that the lobbying of Government is finally paying off and these grants will go a long well to help many organisations get back on their feet and recover from a difficult year.

It was a pleasure to work alongside so many in the sector to secure much needed funding for Portsmouth, but we have more to do to get Ministers to listen, and ensure the strong foundations we need for the future”.

The Cultural Recovery Fund has been designed to support venues rather than individuals in the creative sector.  On this the city MP added:

“Our city’s recovery will not just be about making sure organisations have the resources they need to thrive, but also support is given to those amazing creatives who work within the sector.

Last month’s Budget made only a small adjustment to the support for the self-employed but there are still millions without support – many of whom work within the creative and events sector here in Portsmouth.

That’s why I will continue to lobby Government to make sure those excluded from financial support are not forgotten. They need certainty too and they need it now”.

Local beneficiaries of the Cultural Recovery Fund also include:

  • The Cathedral Church of St. Thomas of Canterbury in Portsmouth (£121,000 )
  • Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust (£222,300)
  • PRCDTC Portsmouth St Johns Cathedral (£102,200)
  • The Wedgewood Rooms (£73,686)
  • Groundlings Theatre (£32,582)
  • SSD Music limited (£299,002)
  • Portsmouth City Council – Museums (£160,640)
  • The Kings Theatre Trust (£172,931)

 

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City MP welcomes launch of ‘Operation Nautical’ to ensure a safe summer

Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP has welcomed the launch of a dedicated policing response to keep communities safe along Southsea seafront and neighbouring areas in Portsmouth this summer.

‘Operation Nautical’ will see officers working alongside a number of other agencies across the city and increasing patrols in areas where there is the potential for higher rates of anti-social behaviour as the weather gets warmer and government restrictions begin to ease.

Welcoming the initiative ahead of warmer weather, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“I know from my postbag the impact anti-social behaviour has on the lives of constituents and I am pleased the police and partners are listening to concerns I have raised on the need for a proactive, joined-up response.

In liaison with the District Commander, and other agencies, I am pleased this initiative is being launched now to help prevent the problems we have seen year on year at the Hotwalls, Southsea Commons and at other locations in our city’s green and open spaces.

I will be following this initiative closely and will continue to call on the police and council to do all they can to make sure our communities stay safe this summer”.

Police in Portsmouth will work alongside Hampshire’s Marine Unit, Motiv8, Active Communities Network, Portsmouth City Council wardens, Ministry of Defence police, Hampshire Fire & Rescue Service, street pastors in the city, local councillors, businesses and our local residents on a joined up response to a safe return to socialising outdoors.

Operation Nautical will cover the seafront from Old Portsmouth to Eastney, as well as parks within the city and Southsea Common. Neighbourhood policing teams will be upping patrols in these areas, engaging with members of the public to ensure everyone is staying safe over the summer period.

This weekend the Portsmouth South MP will be going out on patrol with Street Pastors as the new Operation comes into force to see how the initiative is working on the ground.

Portsmouth South Inspector, Louise Tester, added:

“With the weather warming up and the government’s current road map out of lockdown allowing for increased outdoor interaction, we know we will see higher footfall in our popular outdoor spaces, including Southsea seafront and the common.

“We want our communities to feel safe as they begin to venture out more often and we are pleased that Operation Nautical will help to give people that reassurance.

“We will have dedicated resources patrolling these summer hot spots each day, offering reassurance to our communities and deterring anti-social behaviour.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve all been able to meet with small groups of friends and family outdoors, and this will no doubt provide a welcome boost to many of us after what has been a very long and difficult winter.

“While we want people to enjoy being able to gather with friends and family again, we ask them to do it safely while abiding by the regulations and remembering the rule of six or the two household rule when meeting outdoors.

“Our officers will continue to engage, explain and encourage in the first instance, however enforcement action will be taken for blatant or repeated regulation breaches.”

“We urge the public to stay safe and continue treating each other with respect and patience as we move through the roadmap as laid out by the government.”

If you have any concerns regarding any crime in these areas over the summer, do speak to one of the patrolling officers or call 101.