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‘NHS and care staff deserve a pay rise’ says Portsmouth MP

Last month we celebrated the anniversary of our National Health Service and the incredible staff who make our NHS what it is: our nation’s proudest achievement, and our greatest asset.

While 72 years has passed since its creation, the intrinsic value of our NHS has not diminished.

Selflessly caring for the nation in its time of need, putting others before themselves and working around the clock amid an unprecedented crisis, this has been the everyday reality for NHS staff throughout the Covid emergency.

And as the sound of clapping from the doorstep falls silent, the need for government to properly recognise the efforts of our NHS grows.

It is high time that these cherished healthcare workers received pay to match their value to society.

The government’s refusal to bring forward the pay rise is a slap in the face to the workers, who for nearly three quarters of a decade, have been the backbone of the nation.

But we must remember, it was just 3 years ago that applause rang out from the Tory frontbenches when they blocked a pay rise for public sector workers.

That’s why Labour supports those calling on the Government today to make an immediate commitment to pay negotiations with NHS staff.

We cannot clap for our carers for weeks, then fail to back them up with meaningful action.

We must show our NHS staff the same commitment they have shown our country in its time of need.

For the sake of the workers who continue to keep us safe, the thousands of unfulfilled vacancies left in the NHS and for justice – healthcare workers must receive fair pay.

Stephen Morgan MP 

 

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Shadow Armed Forces Minister visits National Museum of the Royal Navy to hear about their road to recovery

Concerned by the impact of coronavirus and the subsequent economic crisis faced by the nation’s armed forces museums, Stephen Morgan MP today spent time with the Director of the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) as part of ongoing support for the charity.

Stephen Morgan MP kicked off the socially distanced visit with a meeting led by the Museum’s senior management. First on the agenda was the fact the NMRN and Mary Rose Museum would be opening together later this month with a consolidated ticketing system, while the future of the Royal Marines Museum and public safety ahead of reopening was also discussed.

Mr Morgan then went onto a behind the scenes tour of HMS Victory. This included a tour of the public viewing platforms which are currently mid construction and the changes being made to the dry dock facility, making Mr Morgan the first representative in the city to see the work underway.

On the new viewing platform, Mr Morgan said:

“The new viewing platform will allow visitors the opportunity to see the craftsmanship that has gone into HMS Victory from an entirely new perspective.

This, coupled with the implementation of new hydraulic capabilities aimed at further preserving the ship, proves that the Historic Dockyard is at the cutting edge of delivering a high quality visitor experience.”

The city MP also took the opportunity to hear about the new consolidated ticketing function with the Mary Rose Museum, challenges faced by local museums ahead of reopening, and observed the changes being made to the dry dock being used to preserve HMS Victory.  

Commenting on the venture with the Mary Rose Museum, Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The National Museum of the Royal Navy, home to the world’s most famous warship, is a cultural institution that educates, inspires and informs people from across the globe about our nation’s naval history. While the Mary Rose acts as a porthole into the past, its preservation and excavation is considered world-leading.

I welcome the innovation and cooperative spirit demonstrated by both the NMRN and the Mary Rose, and following discussions today, remain hopeful that this joint venture will lead to both institutions successfully weathering the storm of Covid-19 – an outcome very important to our community.”

The visit comes in the wake of news that government would offer support to the museum, following lobbying by the Portsmouth South MP and others. Concerns over the future of the major cultural asset arose in recent months due to the severe loss of footfall; causing Mr Morgan to lobby Ministers in Parliament and to write directly to the Defence Secretary urging financial assistance.

The NMRN was facing disproportionate strain in comparison to other national museums as 81% of its funding relies on donors and visitor revenue, meaning that unless government stepped in the museum could face closure.

On financial challenges faced by NMRN, Mr Morgan added:

“I welcome news that government is finally willing to give this of significant national asset the support it deserves. However, I will continue to engage with the museum and Ministers to ensure its future remains secure.

Seeing the safety measures put in place today, alongside the adaptations made to normal service due to Covid, there is no doubt in my mind that every measure has been taken to preserve visitor experience and public safety.

Portsmouth is steeped in military history. It is vital that we preserve and protect this heritage so that future generations can understand just how significant our city is. I urge people to do their bit to support the NMRN by booking in a visit, in line with government guidelines.”

 

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“Working together is crucial to overcoming inequality in our communities” says Stephen Morgan MP

In a week where Portsmouth’s Labour Group put forward both a motion and an amendment at the city council’s meeting aimed at combating structural racism, Stephen Morgan MP talks about why differences need to be set aside to overcome inequality.

The harrowing footage of the murder of George Floyd has quite rightly shaken the world. While the Black Lives Matter movement is on the frontier of the battle for civil rights, and their peaceful resilience is an inspiration, there are things that we can do here in Portsmouth to stamp out all forms of racism and injustice. To do that, we need to make sure that we are all working together, looking inwards at how we can improve, and making tangible change in our communities at a local level.

Tragically George Floyd’s death was not a one-off event. It is endemic of a deep-set racism in our society. A racism that does not respect borders, has the ability to cross oceans and is just as dangerous across the Atlantic as it is here within our own city. And it is therefore clear that we have a responsibility to drum out this rot where we find it in our own community.

Nationally, there is a lot more that government must do. With the Race Disparity Audit, Lammy Review and the McGregor-Smith Review we have seen inquiry after inquiry telling us the same thing – that racism has infiltrated every echelon of our society. We have seen enough words, what we now need to see is action to tackle the inequalities in employment, health and education laid bare by the pandemic. That is why I am proud Portsmouth as a city, once again, proved that it is willing to tackle the tough challenges head on this week.

At full council I am proud that the Labour Group played a part in making positive changes in our community. Consulting with grassroots minority groups about the disproportionate effect of coronavirus, commitment to developing an anti-racism strategy, strengthening engagement with local BAME groups and reviewing councillor training on equality responsibilities are now all tangible local changes resulting from the Labour Group’s intervention.

When we know that racism and discrimination suffered by Britain’s black, Asian and minority ethnic people has contributed to the high death rates from Covid-19 in those communities, this couldn’t be more needed.

When facing division and hatred, a united front is always the most effective tool.  That is why at full council Labour worked proactively with the administration and other parties to make sure Portsmouth’s response to the Black Lives Matter movement was as strong as it could be. This meant supporting the efforts of other parties, but constructively offering improvements where they were needed.  It is important that representatives from all parties stand united and work together to combat injustice and hatred.

So, the passing of the motion strengthened by Labour’s amendments at full council proves that our city can pull together and be at the forefront of proliferating progress. But this is only a first step. There is a great deal more to do.

Past behaviour of local representatives, local hate crime data and the everyday racism we all see proves that.  We need to be constantly reassessing our response to racism, listening to our communities and translating this into real, visible change.

While in the first council meeting since the tragic death of George Floyd, the Labour Group has proven its unwavering commitment to creating a more equal society, there is no room for complacency. The party locally will continue to work with others to push for a fairer, unprejudiced and more just society.

Stephen Morgan MP

 

 

 

 

 

 

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City MP responds to The Times report on Aquind and Russian interference

Following the publication of the intelligence and security committee’s report this week, concerns about the growth of Russian influence in British political and public life have increased.

Potential links between Aquind Interconnector, a large national infrastructure project running through Portsmouth, and a Russian tycoon have prompted further questions. Investigative reports carried out by The Times has revealed that large sums of money have been paid by Aquind to the Conservative party.

Responding to The Times story, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“This week the ISC reminded us that the Government failed to properly investigate Russian interference in our democratic process, and then tried to hide it. Unless these threats are dealt with, aggression will rise.

Now, we learn that hefty sums of money have been paid to the Tories by a Russian linked firm delivering a major UK infrastructure project effecting my city.

Alarm bells have been ringing for some time over the Aquind proposals. With the company exempt from some corruption rules, links to the ex-Chief of Russia’s state-owned arms company and hefty donations, this smacks of impropriety.

There are questions that need to be answered by the Conservatives in the interest of transparency. I will not stand idly by while foreign interests attempt to erode our democracy and national security.”

The full Times article can be seen here: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/name-russian-tycoon-behind-power-company-say-top-tories-0vqb0vw8g

 

 

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Shadow Armed Forces Minister hosts ‘Labour Listens’ event for forces communities across region

Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan MP this evening hosted the Shadow Defence Secretary for a virtual roundtable for communities across the south east.

Giving people with a forces interest a chance to relay their concerns to the senior frontbenchers, the event is part of a UK-wide programme of discussions led by Labour’s shadow defence team.

The purpose is to link those in the forces and forces communities along with their families directly with Labour’s decision-makers, reaffirming the party’s stance as four-square behind our troops.

Stephen Morgan, Shadow Armed Forces Minister said:

“In Portsmouth it is impossible to miss the immeasurable value of our troops, whether it’s helping set up test centres to combat Covid or patrolling our waters to keep us safe.

To ensure we are delivering for them, we’ve got to understand the hopes and aspirations of the Armed Forces community, as well as the problems they face after a decade of declining numbers, morale and pay.

“We also want to talk about the pride we share in the excellence and professionalism of Britain’s service men and women, feelings I know many Portsmouth people share.”

The event falls in line with announcements made by the Labour leader on (27 June) Armed Forces Day, that Labour is open and listening to the forces community and must take onboard their views and concerns to win back trust.

John Healey, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Defence

“I want to open up Labour again to our Armed Forces, their families and veterans across our country.

“Today’s event is part of an exciting new dialogue with forces communities. We want to say thank you to our Armed Forces for the role they play both at home and abroad. We will make sure we listen and learn from them.

“As Britain faces a period of greater global risk and conflict, I want Labour to hear their voices and views, and I want them to play a bigger part in our Party.”

 

 

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“Government must tackle disproportionate effect of Covid on BAME communities” City MP tells Minister in House of Commons

In response to a recent Public Health England (PHE) report exposing that black, Asian and minority ethnic people were worst affected by Covid, Stephen Morgan MP has urged the Government to outline its plans for combating racial inequality in the House of Commons today.

The IFS estimated that Black Caribbean deaths are 1.8 times those of White British, Pakistani deaths are 2.7 times as high, and Black African fatalities 3 times higher.

The PHE report confirms that the impact of Covid-19 replicated existing health inequalities and, in some cases, exacerbated them further, particularly affecting minority groups.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Government’s long running failure to address issues that disproportionately effect minority communities such as poor housing, air pollution and overcrowding has resulted in Covid-19 hitting people from a BAME background harder – as the PHE has revealed.

I will continue to put pressure on Ministers to not only acknowledge the findings of the report, but implement the recommendations set out in the ‘Beyond the data’ publication and take stock of Labour’s race relations adviser’s recommendations which will be released soon.

Urgent, drastic and comprehensive measures must be set out by government to tackle this deeply entrenched racist rot that we find in every part of our society. There is no excuse for inaction.”

Labour has carried its own review into the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on BAME groups, led by Baroness Doreen Lawrence who is Labour’s race relations adviser.

The report will gather data on the impact of Covid-19 on Black Asian Minority Ethnic Communities and will be released in the summer.

The city MP followed up his initial question to Government today with a targeted line of inquiry relating to workplace discrimination.

Data shows that almost half of BME workers (45%) have been given harder or more difficult tasks to do, over one third (36%) had heard racist comments or jokes at work, around a quarter (24%) had been singled out for redundancy and one in seven (15%) of those that had been harassed said they left their job because of the racist treatment they received.

On workplace discrimination, the city MP said:

“Research carried out by the TUC revealed that people from ethnic minorities are often blighted by discrimination at work. This is not only shocking, but the fact that this may be linked to increased deaths among this demographic is earthshattering.

From being given less desirable and more dangerous work to being singled out for redundancy and getting less PPE, the report identifies example after example of racism must be drummed out immediately.

That’s why today I demanded action from government in dealing with this discrimination and why I will continue to put pressure on Ministers to redress workplace inequality.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Stephen Morgan MP warns that childcare sector is at “risk of collapse without targeted Government support”

Stephen Morgan MP is calling on the Government to target its financial support at nurseries, childminders and other childcare providers at risk of closure.

This follows action undertaken by the city MP in April that saw him write to the Chancellor outlining the pressures on the sector and demanding better coverage for the childcare sector in terms of the Job Retention Scheme.

The city MP has warned about the devastating impact that mass childcare closures would have on working parents, disadvantaged children and our economic recovery. In Portsmouth the number of childcare providers has reduced by 11 in the last five years, and research by the Early Years Alliance suggests that a quarter may not survive nationally. 

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Childcare providers were struggling before this crisis, with thousands closing every year, but without targeted government support the sector is at risk of collapse. The UK Government has consistently ignored the needs of nurseries, childminders and other early years providers in this crisis, and now a quarter fear they may be forced to close nationally with 11 in our community.

This would be devastating for Portsmouth families that rely on childcare, and it would be a huge setback for our economic recovery from Covid-19 which relies on parents being able to go back to work. It’s time the Government recognised the importance of childcare and early education for our economic recovery and brought forward a proper plan to save the early years sector.”

There are concerns that mass childcare closures and a reduction in the availability of vital early years education would hit hardest the poorest families and most disadvantaged children in our society. This in turn would be a huge setback for our economic recovery, which will be reliant on parents being able to get back to work rather than being forced to stay at home because there isn’t sufficient childcare available.

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The South East needed a ‘New Deal, and all it got was a meal deal’

The South East is facing a looming jobs crisis, as the furlough scheme unwinds, and businesses operate with severe restrictions. In the South East there are:

  • 1,035,400 people are furloughed, equivalent to around 21.90% of the workforce
  • 352,000 people are using the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, around 7.45% of the workforce
  • 325,199 people are claiming UC and other out of work benefits, equivalent to 6.70% of the working age population and a rise of 178.12% since February.

This is why Labour has spent the last few weeks calling on the Chancellor to hold an emergency ‘Back to Work’ budget with one focus: jobs, jobs, jobs.

First we got rhetoric and rehashed announcements from the Prime Minister then last week we got a meal deal from the Chancellor.

Whilst the voucher scheme is welcome, customers will only return to the high street when they are confident the virus is under control. This requires a functioning track and trace system, and a clear framework for local lockdowns.

The Chancellor is also undoing any good work with the blanket withdrawal of the furlough scheme, starting in just a few weeks.

He’s offered firms a £1,000 for any workers they retain until January, but this will be of little to comfort to those making painful redundancy decisions now.

The hardest hit sectors that rely on social interaction and an influx of tourists face months of uncertainty.

  • The Food and accommodation sector saw output fall by nearly 92% between February and April, whilst the arts, entertainment and recreation sectors saw output cut almost in half.
  • The food and accommodation sector supports roughly 331,120 jobs in the South East
  • An estimated 221,850 are furloughed and face an uncertain future as the scheme is withdrawn in a matter of weeks.
  • The arts and entertainment sector support roughly 158,359 jobs in the South East

An estimated 110,060 are furloughed, and again face an uncertain future as the government presses on with blanket withdrawal from August.

Stephen Morgan MP

 

 

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Portsmouth’s Package Free Larder officially opens up to public

After years of preparation, a local group of campaigners have spent the last few months labouring away to create a Package Free Larder in a beautiful space on Elm Grove, funded by over a thousand people donating to the project on Crowdfunder.

The Package Free Larder opened its doors today, Saturday 11 July 2020, as a not-for-profit, affordable ‘zero-waste’ shop, allowing customers to bring and refill their own containers with grocery staples to reduce their plastic waste, protect the environment, and work towards a cleaner Portsmouth.

The official opening took place this afternoon with city MP and project backer, Stephen Morgan MP.

A committee of 9 local volunteers behind the project collectively said:

“This shop is the definition of community love and solidarity and we couldn’t be more proud of everyone that has helped us get to this point. Built for Portsmouth, by Portsmouth.

Thank you for believing in us. Now let’s make some waves and say NO to single-use plastic, NO to rubbish on our beaches and NO to unnecessary waste”.

Stephen Morgan, Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South speaking at the event said:

During lockdown we all heard the birds sing louder, enjoyed seeing the sea clearer and were relieved to be breathing cleaner air. It was a reminder of how precious our environment is, and how through collective action, we can make a big difference in our communities. 

As our city and country gets on the road to recovery, we must build back greener, fairer and stronger. The Package Free Larder is a shining example of that in action – the community coming together to give something back and help protect our planet. 

My huge thanks to Delphine as founder, the dedicated team behind the initiative, all the volunteers who helped and nearly 1,000 local people who donated to make the big dream of a Package Free Larder for Portsmouth a reality. You’ve all done our city proud. With the challenges our city and country now face your efforts are more important than ever”. 

A Click and Collect system went live on the website on 8 July, 3 days prior to the official store opening where customers can now visit the shop to collect their first orders.

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Decision to axe free TV licence for over 75s ‘stripping away vital lifeline amid pandemic’ says city MP

After a two-month delay due to Covid-19, plans to scrap the universally free TV licence for the over-75s are once again underway. The decision to scrap the vital benefit for older people was first made in 2015 when the Conservative Government forced the responsibility onto the BBC.

Since then, Stephen Morgan MP has consistently been vocal in his opposition to government snatching away this popular benefit, working alongside the Portsmouth Pensioners and Age UK as well as hundreds of constituents. The move announced today has angered many especially as the Tories stood on a 2017 election manifesto pledge not to roll back benefits for older people.

The Portsmouth South MP has undertaken a series of actions lobbying for Portsmouth pensioners including seeking the views of all constituents affected; writing to two Culture Secretaries lobbying for government to revoke the decision; speaking out in favour of keeping the benefit during parliamentary debates; grilling Ministers in the House of Commons during relevant questions; submitting a string of targeted written questions to the department responsible; and writing a joint letter with the Portsmouth Pensioners Association to the Prime Minister.

On today’s announcement, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Government has not only snatched away this vital lifeline for some older people, it has then cowered away from ownership of the decision and tried to shift blame onto the BBC.

That means more than three million households will be asked to start paying the £157.50 fee. I know from speaking to hundreds of local residents that for some that will mean choosing between loneliness and hunger.

Of those set to lose out we know that 900,000 are veterans who have served this country, 500,000 suffer from Alzheimer’s and 1.3 million are eligible for pension credit but unable to claim it. This means those losing out are truly the most vulnerable in our society.

Today’s announcement is hugely disappointing for thousands of Portsmouth’s pensioners who have contributed so much to society. This is a simple benefit giving back to those who have contributed a lot”.

Free TV licences for the over-75s had been provided by the Government since 2000, but responsibility for the provision was passed to the BBC as part of a fee settlement.

The cost of continuing to provide free licences to all over-75s could have reached £1bn a year over time with an ageing population and would have accounted for one fifth of their overall budget, meaning government left the BBC no choice.

Shadow Culture Secretary Jo Stevens MP said:

“The refusal of the government to fund this vital service after promising to do so is nothing short of betrayal.

Many over-75s have spent months at home with TV providing an invaluable source of company during the pandemic. For the government to blame the BBC who are having to contend with huge cuts is simply passing the buck.”