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Labour urges Government to use spare COVID testing capacity to avoid ports chaos

As delays mount at the UK border and COVID cases rise, Labour is calling on the Government to implement testing at ports in order to protect manufacturers, supermarkets and the NHS, by using spare capacity in the £22 billion COVID testing system.

Setting out a plan for the coming weeks, Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Rachel Reeves says that border chaos shows that the Government must now “end the dither and delay and take decisive action” in order to “ save lives and secure the economy.”

The official opposition is urging Ministers to follow to reduce infection rates and stop the chaos at our borders by:

  • urgently directing sufficient mobile testing centres and spare testing capacity to ports in order to secure the economy and protect the NHS
  • finding international solutions to get borders open for freight
  • giving councils and local public health teams a key leadership role in contact tracing and data, and start using “retrospective” contract tracing to contain the spread of infection and avoid more areas falling into Tier Four
  • ensuring that people can afford to self-isolate by providing adequate financial support
  • publishing widespread advice on ventilation in homes, workplaces and public buildings.

Labour is also calling on Government to bring back daily press conferences, in order to level with the public and create as much transparency and confidence as possible.

Following a visit to Portsmouth International Port yesterday, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“According to the Government, current unused testing capacity is around 300,000 tests per day. Over December on average, it only used 50 per cent of its entire testing capacity. 

“With around 6,000 freight drivers passing through the border per day, the UK’s capacity is more than enough to have daily tests at ports.

“Labour plans are practical ideas which the Government should adopt to end the risk of further chaos at our borders”.

Rachel Reeves MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, said:

“The Government itself has admitted it has lost control of the virus. The Prime Minister must end the dither and delay, and take decisive action to save lives and secure the economy.

“The Government should follow Labour’s plan and get to grips with the situation. Failure to do so will put our NHS under even greater pressure, and increase strain on already stretched families and businesses.

“The Prime Minister must also finally conclude his long-promised trade deal with the EU so the Government can turn its full attention to the developing COVID crisis. This is an emergency: there must be honesty from this government and no more distractions or ducking tough decisions.”

 

 

 

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City MP says Government must set out a credible plan to reassure the country that essential supplies will be safeguarded

Responding to the closure of borders affecting freight leaving the UK, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“After a weekend of Government chaos, news that routes from across Europe are being closed is deeply worrying.

This morning I visited Portsmouth International Port to understand the potential impact in our own city, and this afternoon attended a briefing by the Department for Transport. Unaccompanied freight remains unaffected leaving our city’s port, whilst passenger sailings have been halted.

My priority is making sure any disruption and traffic congestion is avoided in Portsmouth and Government sets out a credible plan to reassure the country that essential supplies will be safeguarded. More than ever it is vital during this pandemic that Ministers ensure supplies to our NHS, supermarkets and manufacturers with crucial supply chains secure.

I will continue to liaise with the Port on this important matter to mitigate serious consequences for Portsmouth”.

 

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“The nation needs Portsmouth to build new port infrastructure” says Portsmouth MP

Today (Monday 21 December) Stephen Morgan MP paid a visit to Portsmouth International Port as part of continued efforts to secure Government funding for vital post-Brexit trade infrastructure improvements.

With just 10 days left until the end of the transition period, Portsmouth has been left high and dry by Ministers leaving the port £8m short on funding to build new facilities by next July to meet the Government’s own ‘Border Operating Model.

Following countless correspondence with the Cabinet Office, putting pressure on Government via parliamentary questions, and meetings with officials, the city MP has today shared his frustration as Britain heads towards a no deal Brexit.

Meeting with Port Director Mike Sellers on site this morning for a further briefing and tour of the site, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Whilst we are seeing more delay, dither and excuses from Government over the negotiations with the EU, getting a deal and ending the threat of a no-deal Brexit and its risk our city’s economy and businesses means the Prime Minister must now show leadership.

We were promised an ‘oven-ready deal’ and Government must now get it finished for the sake of the country. Ministers must also end the uncertainty we are seeing here in Portsmouth.

We all know in Portsmouth that our port’s success is our city’s success, and it is in the national interest for Portsmouth to build this vital infrastructure. Our country needs new facilities at our port if we are to continue trading effectively in a post-Brexit Britain.

With just 10 days to go, Government must stop the shortfall and give the port the £8m it needs to deliver on this important project to protect Portsmouth’s economy”.

Questions have been raised in the House of Commons by the Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Rachel Reeves MP after it came to light that  a number of the nation’s ports have been short-changed on government funding needed to build vital infrastructure.

The Portsmouth South representative has vowed to continue working alongside the Port and city council until the Government finally listens to the city’s demands.

 

 

 

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Stephen Morgan MP: government funding for post-Brexit port infrastructure “falls far short”

Responding to the £8m shortfall in funding awarded to Portsmouth International Port through the Government’s Port Infrastructure Fund, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“This funding falls far short of what the port say they’ll need to complete work to manage the once in a generation changes to trading following the end of the transition period.

“This government’s incompetence is setting Portsmouth up to fail. The funding awarded is not enough to cover the major infrastructure work mandated by the government’s own Border Operating Model, and without additional contingency funding it cannot be completed in time. 

“Portsmouth is the UK’s second busiest port and its success is our city’s success. Not only does the port facilitate vital trading routes critical for our economy, but it also helps fund our local public services.

“With a post-Brexit deal in the balance, I urge Government to close this gap in funding and ensure lengthy lorry queues don’t become a reality in Portsmouth”.

The latest intervention from the Portsmouth South MP follows a string of actions taken to ensure minimal disruption at the port.

Last week, Stephen Morgan MP wrote again to Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove to ensure the Port’s plans to avoid disruption receive the required funding.

 

 

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Minister probed in Parliament over securing Gosport Ferry’s future by Stephen Morgan MP

In his latest action to support the continuation of Gosport Ferry post Covid-19, the Portsmouth South MP has raised the ferry services continuation with Ministers’ today at Transport Questions.

Mr Morgan has already liaised with Gosport Ferry’s top team, taken part in meetings with the city council along with other stakeholders, written to the Transport Secretary directly and submitted written parliamentary questions to keep pressure on Government to act.

Today, the city MP followed up on this action by asking Transport Ministers to flesh out the support they could offer to the vital ferry service.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“I know how important the Gosport Ferry is for my constituents and commuters along the south coast which is why I have been working with others to secure its future.

It’s a lifeline service for many who rely on it for work, business and leisure. The coronavirus crisis has shone a spotlight on how crucial the crossing service is for the people of Gosport, and Portsmouth”.

Local stakeholders have submitted proposals to the Government to help secure the ferry’s future following discussions with the Secretary of State for Transport last week.

Mr Morgan added:

Government has already given positive signals and has engaged on the issue so far. However, we cannot afford to lose steam.

Portsmouth jobs, businesses and livelihoods are what is at risk. I will continue to take action on behalf of residents to ensure a suitable solution is reached to secure the ferry’s future.”

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“Job security does not need to be at odds with climate security” says city MP lobbying over plans for Britain’s recovery

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan is urging Government to ensure that Covid-19 does not hinder progress towards tackling the climate emergency.

Writing to the Transport Secretary and submitting a string or parliamentary questions, Stephen Morgan MP has been listening to the views of constituents and local green groups by stressing to Government that support to the transport industry should also help secure targets focusing on reducing emissions.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“As a gateway to the UK from continental Europe, our city has a proud and long association with the maritime sector and wider transport infrastructure for our country. I want to see this tradition continue for the future prosperity of the UK but also for the sake of local jobs and our city’s economy.

Government is currently being lobbied over deals for the aviation and maritime sectors so that these services can weather the Covid-19 storm, there is no reason why any packages of support should be at odds with continued efforts to tackle climate change. The Transport Secretary must ensure that his department’s assistance sits alongside important commitments to cut emissions”.

Stephen Morgan MP is not alone in his calls. The Government’s top climate advisers have also urged a focus on low-carbon work programmes as the economy restarts and people get back to work.

This mirrors the findings of the Energy and Climate Change Committee, who have outlined that fulfilling the UK’s need for low-carbon infrastructure, from electricity networks to cycle lanes, would create jobs in the short term, while government money could also be used to encourage advances in science and innovation that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the future.

Writing to the Transport Secretary based on these important findings, the Portsmouth South representative added:

“In 2018, the transport sector became the biggest contributor to climate change. Government must be the driving force behind enabling a culture and practice change, and in planning Britain’s recovery from Covid-19, it has that opportunity.

I therefore urge you to seize this opportunity that Government has to ensure that climate change is at the heart of your departmental decision-making. There is no reason that sector and job security need to be at odds with tackling climate change.

Many of my constituents expect any government financial assistance to the transport sector to recognise the climate emergency. There is no merit in dealing with a crisis today, by creating one for tomorrow.”

Other major organisations joining the city MP, the Select Committee and the top government advisers calling on Government to take equity stakes include Greenpeace, Flight Free, the IPPR and New Economics Foundation thinktanks, and Tax Justice. The Portsmouth South MP has also vowed to push for investment in active travel solutions as part of thinking on recovery plans for the region.

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Covid-19: City MP takes action to save Gosport Ferry

Stephen Morgan MP has today written to the Transport Secretary urging immediate government measures to support Gosport Ferry. The action follows reports that the business runs the risk of ruin due to the financial implications of Covid-19.

Mr Morgan has called on government to address the fact that their transport funding package, announced earlier this week, does not offer any tangible support to Gosport Ferry, which has lost 90% of its normal passenger volumes.

This is just the latest of the city MP’s actions, as he has already submitted a string of parliamentary written questions and raised the issue with the local authority following discussions with the ferry company’s senior management.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Gosport Ferry is vital to not just Portsmouth, but the region. Some rely on it for business and commuting, others for their employment or leisure.

Government has a responsibility to ensure it continues to serve our community. The £17 million package, announced earlier this week, offers no guidance as to what this will mean for businesses like Gosport Ferry.

I am minded to support government in this time of crisis where suitable, but it is unclear what, if anything, they have done to help this service to date. I will continue to lobby the relevant Ministers to make announcements to help this vital regional transport infrastructure.”

Gosport Ferry has been connecting Portsmouth and Gosport since 1875, it carries over 3 million passengers each year and is a vital link for commuters, businesses and leisure travel. Covid-19 social distancing measures have heavily affected their revenue which has left the future of the company hanging in the balance.

Mr Morgan added:

“What have they done to support this service so far? What steps are they taking to ensure the continuation of the service post Covid-19? Can they guarantee the security of the business?

These are the questions that Government’s funding package failed to answer so far which is why I have today put them to the Transport Secretary. Uncertainty at this time could cost jobs and livelihoods for Portsmouth people. I will continue to push for government support for all transport infrastructure struggling under the strain of Covid-19.”

The Portsmouth South MP is committed to working with the city council and neighbouring Members of Parliament which protects this vital transport link for Portsmouth and Gosport and will be taking further action next week following concerns raised by constituents.

 

 

 

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“Government must go further to protect coastal communities” says city MP in parliamentary debate

Stephen Morgan MP today delivered a speech to parliament outlining areas where the government needs to go further to reduce flood risks.

The city MP honed in on the particular challenges faced for Portsmouth City Council and Southsea Sea Defence Scheme; Forcing the Minister to respond to questions about heritage sites, funding and austerity.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“With record rainfall in February and the last decade the warmest on record, coastal communities are at great risk of the impacts of climate change.

Major infrastructure projects like Southsea Sea Defence Scheme are needed to protect lives, homes and livelihoods.

Government funding, lack of recognition for heritage sites, and the impacts of austerity are undermining local efforts to protect our communities.”

Portsmouth City Council have stated the city coastline’s rich heritage sites mean that additional funding is required to secure cultural assets like Southsea Castle. Currently, government funding offers no weighting to communities who harbour heritage sites, which Mr Morgan has called on them to change.

Mr Morgan also stressed the national importance of our coastal communities, he added:

“Our coastal communities are rich in leisure, tourism and heritage activities. Their loss is the nation’s loss.

They must be protected. There are gaps in the government’s current strategy which need to be addressed.

It is high time the government took notice of this fact and started properly supporting coastal communities like Portsmouth.”

Stephen Morgan MP also raised in the chamber the fact the Minister had cancelled two meetings, one with the Council, to discuss Southsea Sea Defence Scheme.

The city MP has committed to continuing to raise the risk of flooding in order to safeguard the interests and livelihoods of constituents.

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‘Government not giving flooding the priority it deserves’ says City MP after Minister cancels meeting about Portsmouth

Stephen Morgan, Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, has criticised Government after the Minister responsible for tackling flooding cancelled an important meeting about investment in Portsmouth.  The proposed meeting about Southsea sea defence scheme was cancelled with just hours to go.

The parliamentary meeting, orchestrated by Mr Morgan as part of ongoing work alongside the local authority to secure funding for the largest sea defence scheme in the country, was set to take place today with the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and Portsmouth City Council reps.

Previously Mr Morgan raised concerns over the priority Government is giving to the scheme as the department only offered 15 minutes for the meeting with the city MP, local authority officers and the Environment Agency.

Mr Morgan said:

“This meeting was only agreed after months of being given the run-around by Government and originally being offered a meeting of just 15 minutes. The cancellation at the last minute shows a complete lack of respect for Portsmouth.

There have been three serious coastal defence breaches in our city in the last six years, so it is little wonder the Southsea Sea Defence scheme is probably the biggest of its kind the nation has ever seen. 8,000 properties, 700 businesses and hundreds of livelihoods are depending on its success.

Following events and flooding over the last few days I share concerns that Government is not taking seriously the risk of flooding. Portsmouth has thought through plans for its sea defence scheme.

I will continue to take action so that the local authority gets the support it needs from Government and our city is given priority to protect our communities”.

The city MP has also repeatedly invited the Secretary of State to visit the city to understand the scale of the proposed scheme and need for investment, an invitation declined by the top politician in charge. The government is likely to invest in the scheme that has been developed with public consultation, but a number of important actions remain.

The last few days have reminded us all of the need for adequate funding to local authorities for flooding protection. The Environment Agency’s own analysis has revealed that national funding for this financial year (£815m) falls short of what is needed.

The meeting cancelled by the Government Minister comes amid some of the worst weather experienced in the UK for decades.  Some areas saw a month and a half’s rainfall in 24 hours and gusts of more than 90 miles per hour swept across the country.

The Prime Minister has previously committed to hosting a flood summit bringing together regional partners and stakeholders and local representatives, but to date has failed to deliver on this promise.

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“The closure of Lynx House will be a disaster for Portsmouth” – City MP grills Government over implications of HMRC closures under no-deal

Today, during questions in the House of Commons, Stephen Morgan MP continued to apply pressure to Government over the proposed plans to close the HMRC centre, Lynx House in Portsmouth.

Mr Morgan’s chief concern raised today was that if the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal, the HMRC workload is set to increase from 55 million customs declarations to 270 million according the National Audit Office.

Mr Morgan said:

“The fact that Government is planning to shut Lynx House, which provides vital employment to nearly 1000 members of the community, at a time when the HMRC workload is set to increase by nearly five times demonstrates their poor foresight and lack of planning.

A no-deal Brexit will be disastrous for Portsmouth and this nation anyway, the added implications of Government cuts to HMRC and staffing and resource levels down 17 per cent since 2010, is a recipe for disaster”.

Mr Morgan has been fighting alongside the trade unions to retain Lynx House since becoming MP in 2017 and has already brought the Shadow Treasury Minister responsible to the site to see for herself the issues faced by staff as part of a long-running campaign against closure.

Mr Morgan said:

“Anyone who watches the International Trade Secretary’s response to my serious question about Portsmouth will see that it is both vague and lacking in substance. No robust plans are offered in response to how HMRC will deal with the increased workload and I am deeply concerned that adequate planning is not taking place.

Portsmouth needs urgent action from this Government. That is why I have written to the Chief Secretary in a bid to get the Government to take notice of the people at the coal-face raising alarms about HMRC closures at Lynx House.

I have urged the Chief Secretary to rapidly respond by paying a visit to Portsmouth and to see for himself the issues faced here.”

Stephen Morgan MP has so far met with local HMRC staff, spoken with the unions, raised the issue in parliament, supported council motions and brought frontbench colleagues to visit the site and written to the Minister responsible.