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Stephen Morgan MP volunteers with PiTC to deliver meals to local residents

Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP used parliamentary recess to volunteer to deliver food to local residents as part of his wider work with local charity Pompey in the Community (PiTC).

Time was also spent by the city MP reading poems online for use by local schools, and helping the Blue Kitchen project which aims to encourage Portsmouth families cook fresh food affordably.

The charity has provided a range of support and services for local residents throughout the pandemic. In partnership with others, PiTC were able to get 60 meals a day to be delivered to those who needed it most during the summer lockdown of 2020.

This comes as the country entered a third period of lockdown this week as Covid-19 infections levels continue to rise throughout the UK.

Stephen Morgan MP, said:

“It is critically important that those who are unable to access basic essentials such as food are continued to be supported by our local community, just in the way they have in previous lockdowns.

“PiTC have done an incredible job over the last twelve months in providing support to our local community and we are incredibly grateful for their efforts.

“It was a pleasure to use parliamentary recess to find out more about their invaluable work for our city and offer a helping hand”.

For more information about the work of Pompey in the Community visit https://pompeyitc.co.uk

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City MP lobbies Health Secretary on concerns over NHS dentistry

Stephen Morgan MP is lobbying Government on the recently introduced NHS activity targets for dental practices, raising concerns they may present a clear and unnecessary risk to patient safety and the viability of already stretched dental practices in Portsmouth.

The parliamentary representative has urged Matt Hancock MP to abandon the targets and work with NHS practices and the British Dental Association to find a sustainable solution to benefit patients in Portsmouth struggling to be seen by a dentist.

In addition to a letter to Government, the Portsmouth MP has committed to:

  • Take part in a debate in Parliament next Thursday on the effect of Covid-19 on dental services, to raise concerns of dentists and patients.
  • Call a summit discuss these issues further, inviting local dentists, the Chair of Hampshire and Isle of Wight Local Dental Committee and Portsmouth Healthwatch.

Stephen Morgan MP commented:

“I am hearing targets set by Government are risking dental care across the country, not just here in Portsmouth.

“Due to the pandemic, there has understandably been an extensive backlog created, but prioritising routine check-ups over clearing it poses an unacceptable danger to ongoing patient care.

I will continue to take further action in the coming months to hold ministers to account on this and to push for greater access to local NHS dentistry for local people.”

Mr Morgan backed Labour’s pledge last year to offer free dental check-ups for all, following long running action over patient access in Portsmouth and has fought the closure of local dentistry practices.

 

 

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The Blitz in Portsmouth at 80

This weekend marks 80 years since the biggest air raid on our city that took place during Second World War.

During the attack, which took place from early evening on 10 January 1941 and into the early hours of 11 January, 172 people were killed and hundreds more were injured or made homeless.

On the 80th anniversary, I’m really keen to hear from local residents and their accounts and stories of the air raid. It’s incredibly important we understand the impact it had on our city, as well the lessons we can take to apply today of coming together as a city when we need to most.

The council has provided a fantastic interactive local map that details the Blitz’s impacts on our city, which I encourage residents both young and old to go and have a look at:

https://pcc.dynamicmaps.co.uk/MapThatPublic/login.html?user=Hist#/step1

Stephen Morgan MP

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Portsmouth MP sets out education priorities Government must tackle for city

Stephen Morgan MP lobbies the Secretary of State for Education on key priorities for education in Portsmouth, following school closures and the cancellation of GCSE and A-level exams.

With many students now set to learn from home over the coming weeks as the country entered a period of lockdown this week, Mr Morgan has expressed concerns a number of gaps remain that risk creating a generational disadvantage for pupils, as well as unsafe working conditions for staff if not addressed urgently.

The MP’s key priorities set out in a letter to Government, include:

  • Eliminate the digital divide, urging the government to adopt Labour’s proposals to guarantee every child a device and connectivity to safeguard learning during this phase of the pandemic.
  • Keeping staff safe and getting children back into the classroom by setting out a proactive strategy to reopen schools after February half term, including the vaccination of all education staff to keep them safe and get children back into the classroom.
  • Proper financial support for schools by improving financial support to make sure pupils and staff are protected, including nurseries.
  • Plan responsibly for alternative exams by setting out how the Government will support teachers to undertake these new responsibilities, at a time when they are having to work round the clock to implement constantly shifting guidance from the department.

The Portsmouth South MP also called for clarity on a plan for other summer examinations, as well as make alternative arrangements for this week’s BTEC exams, following calls from local parents, colleges and the Association of Colleges.

Stephen Morgan MP, said:

“The uncertainty for pupils, parents and school staff in Portsmouth is seriously concerning and the Secretary of State must clarify the Government’s wider strategy on this immediately.

“I am particularly worried about the impacts this period of lockdown could have on those young people who do not have access to a computer and in turn the damages to their futures this could cause.

“Meanwhile, the Government should also be concentrating its efforts on rolling out the vaccine and getting students back into the classroom as quickly and safely as possible.”

 

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Portsmouth MP urges local people volunteer with city’s vaccination programme

Stephen Morgan MP is calling for members of the city’s community to come forward to take part in supporting the city’s Covid-19 vaccination programme, via charity, HIVE Portsmouth.

From 18 January, HIVE Portsmouth is aiming to provide volunteers to support Solent NHS Trust and the Covid-19 Vaccination Programme.

Volunteers will be needed 7 days a week, working in shifts, to help guide patients arriving and departing from the vaccination centre in a timely and safe manner.

Members of the public can register via HIVE Portsmouth’s website.

Stephen Morgan MP, commented:

“This is a fantastic opportunity, for those that feel safe to do so, to support our city’s and the country’s historic effort in the fight against coronavirus.

“The vaccine is our way out of this and it is now so important that we all do our bit, where we can, to roll it out and vaccinate Britain.

“HIVE Portsmouth has been a central pillar to our city’s efforts throughout this pandemic and I want to thank them for this and their wider efforts over the past year.”

The Portsmouth South MP has previously underlined the importance of the government scaling up its Covid-19 Vaccination Programme as fast as possible.

 

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Lockdown: Government guidance published

The Government has published guidance as the national lockdown came into force this morning.

The single most important action we can all take is to stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives.

You should follow this guidance immediately. The law will be updated to reflect these new rules.

The Government’s guidance can be found here

 

 

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With our city staying at home, the Government must deliver on the vaccine: says City MP as country heads into lockdown

Speaking ahead of any votes in the House of Commons on a lockdown which Government announced on Monday and came into operation this morning (Wednesday 6 January), Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Another lockdown will be difficult for families in Portsmouth and across Britain, especially after everything we have already sacrificed. But national measures are now necessary to control the spread of the virus. 

There are, however, serious questions for the Government to answer on why they did not act sooner, why the testing system still is not working, why families were given so little time to plan for childcare and for schools closing, and why – once again – many businesses and working people in our city have not been given the support they need.

I will continue to raise these concerns in Parliament and lobby Ministers to learn from mistakes on behalf of the people of Portsmouth.

We were the first country in the world to get the vaccine, we have the opportunity to be the first in the world to get our country vaccinated. That is why I am calling on the Prime Minister to use this lockdown to establish a massive and immediate vaccination programme across the country.

With our city staying at home, the Government must deliver on the vaccine”.

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City MP sets out Portsmouth demands on Government economic support

Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP has called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to make an urgent statement to Parliament on economic support for the new England-wide lockdown.

The Chancellor posted a 90-second video statement on business support measures for the new lockdown today, but is not scheduled to give a statement when Parliament is recalled tomorrow.

He made no mention of the millions of employees, self-employed people, parents and others who will be impacted by the new restrictions and intimated that no new announcements would be made until the Budget in March – yet households and businesses alike face a series of cliff edges throughout the spring as existing support programmes come to an end.

The Chancellor is also pressing ahead with plans to hit workers in their pockets by hiking council tax by 5%, cutting pay for key workers on the front line and slashing Universal Credit in the middle of the pandemic.

The Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds has today also called on him to appear in Parliament as soon as possible to set out in full what support will be offered those affected by the new lockdown.

Anneliese Dodds MP is also demanding the Chancellor stops the last-minute scramble on economic support by setting out a long-term framework to support jobs and the economy through this crisis.

Labour’s demands include:

  • Support for employees
    By allowing people who started new jobs after October 31 to access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and explaining what incentive businesses will be offered for retaining furloughed staff at the end of the scheme.
  • Support for the self-employed
    By confirming immediately that the fourth Self-Employment Income Support Scheme will be set at 80% of pre-crisis profits.
  • Support for the excluded
    By fixing holes in the existing income support schemes and using some of the £2 billion returned by supermarkets and other large shops to help the millions of workers denied support since the outset of the pandemic.
  • Support for business
    By giving business clarity about how long the new support payments will be available and helping them to plan for the future while the vaccine is rolled out.
  • Support for parents
    By making sure working parents are aware they can be furloughed to look after children when schools are closed, and extending the Test and Trace Support Payment so low-income parents of self-isolating children can receive it once schools are open for all children again.
  • Support for renters and homeowners
    By extending the bans on evictions and repossessions and extending mortgage holidays.
  • Support for those on low incomes and out of work
    By maintaining the £20 per week uplift to Universal Credit and uprating legacy benefits in line with UC.
  • Support for those required to self-isolate
    By ensuring all those who are eligible for the £500 Test and Trace Support payment know they can receive it, giving councils the resources to properly cover discretionary payments for the scheme and improving Statutory Sick Pay.

The Chancellor last appeared in Parliament at Treasury Questions on 1 December. In the intervening 35 days, new tier 4 restrictions have been introduced, expanded and then replaced with a blanket lockdown on a scale not seen since the first in March.

Today’s Twitter video was the first statement from the Chancellor on economic support since Tier 4 was introduced.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Many shops, leisure and beauty businesses in Portsmouth were only just getting back on their feet to have the rug pulled from under them when our city went into tier four. Now as we go into another national lockdown, many will be struggling even further.

“Portsmouth businesses are doing the right thing and closing to keep people safe, but Government cannot keep leaving businesses them in the lurch.

“The Chancellor must also finally offer support to those that have been excluded from financial support since March of last year. I will keep raising these issues in Parliament for those ignored by Ministers”.

Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds MP said:

“The UK is mired in the worst recession of any major economy and back under the strictest lockdown since March, yet the Chancellor is still missing in action.

“After the Prime Minister forgot to mention the economy again last night, millions of people were let down by the Chancellor’s 90-second cameo today.

“Instead of delivering the support that Britain needed, he’s ploughing on with plans to hit people in their pockets with pay cuts, benefits cuts and tax rises.

“People have had enough of the last-minute scramble from this absent Chancellor. Rishi Sunak must come to Parliament tomorrow and finally set out a long-term plan to protect jobs and livelihoods and put Britain on the path to a better, more secure recovery.”

Whether employed, self-employed, relying on social security or a combination of all three, Britain’s beleaguered households face several cliff edges in the first few months of 2021, including:

11 January: End of eviction ban

29 January: Deadline for applications for the third grant under the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme

31 January: deadline for mortgage holidays; end of ban on home repossessions

31 March: applications close for government-backed loan schemes;

6 April: Government cuts £20 a week from Universal Credit

30 April: End of furlough scheme

Labour is calling on the government to end the last-minute scramble approach to economic support and put in place a long-term framework that allows support to be calibrated in line with the severity of restrictions, rather than pinned to arbitrary dates in the calendar.

These include:

Support for workers:

  • Reopen eligibility for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme so people who started new jobs after October 31st can be furloughed
  • Make sure employers and employees are aware that working parents can be furloughed in order to look after children now schools have been closed
  • Immediate clarity over what happens at the end of the furlough scheme – what is the “incentive” that businesses will be offered for retaining furloughed staff, and what happens if there are delays in rollout of the vaccine?
  • Consider whether requiring employers to pay National Insurance and pension contributions this time (unlike in March) is acting as a disincentive to retaining staff

Support for self-employed and those who have been excluded:

  • Immediately confirm that the fourth Self-Employment Income Support Scheme will be set at 80% of pre-crisis profits
  • Use the £2 billion returned by supermarkets and other large shops to support those who have been excluded from government support schemes

Support for businesses:

  • Clarify how the £594m in discretionary funding for businesses has been calculated and will be allocated. Is it genuinely based on business need and will it be given to those areas where need is most acute?

Support for renters and homeowners:

  • Extend the bans on evictions and repossessions while the pandemic is still ongoing
  • Increase Local Housing Allowance to cover median market rents
  • Reduce the waiting period to receive support for mortgage interest payments
  • Support for those on low incomes and those out of work:
  • The Government should not be cutting £20 from UC in the middle of a pandemic, and should uprate legacy benefits in line with UC
  • Convert UC advances to grants instead of loans, abolish the two-child limit and remove the savings limit
  • Scrap the benefit cap
  • Suspend the ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ rule

Support for those required to self-isolate:

  • Improve the communications around the £500 Test and Trace Support payment so all those who are eligible know they can receive it
  • Extend the scope of the payment so low-income parents of self-isolating children can receive it
  • Ensure that councils are able to give discretionary payments to all those who need them, including by suspending the ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ rule
  • Ensure that councils have the resources they need to continue making discretionary payments under the Test and Trace Support scheme
  • Address the inadequacy of Statutory Sick Pay – which the Health Secretary admits is not enough to live on – and is acting as a disincentive for people to do the right thing and self-isolate

 

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Portsmouth MP demands “clear and comprehensive” economic plan as Chancellor announces “last-minute” support for businesses

Responding the Chancellor’s announcement of new lockdown grants for leisure and hospitality businesses, Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan said:

“Businesses in Portsmouth and across the country continue to struggle against lost revenue and a constantly shifting raft of restrictions.

“While extra financial support will be welcomed by some, this is yet another last-minute, one-off cash bung from a Chancellor with no long term plan.

“We’ve seen time and time again how this government’s economic response to the pandemic has lagged behind what businesses are experiencing on the ground. Portsmouth needs a clear and comprehensive plan from the Chancellor that addresses coming cliff-edges for businesses on evictions and protects jobs, not another video on Twitter.”

Throughout the pandemic, Stephen Morgan MP has consistently taken action to support the struggling hospitality sector and those excluded from government support. 

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Lockdown: your questions answered

Below is a list of frequently asked questions on the new national lockdown coming into force this Wednesday (6 January) and some Stephen’s views:

National lockdown

What is the justification for a national lockdown?

It is clear that the virus is out of control, more and more people are getting infected by the disease and this is putting immense pressure on our NHS.  The tiers established by Government put Portsmouth in the toughest of tiers, yet this has not been working well to contain the virus.

Stephen has said that the Government should have acted on the scientific advice it had before Christmas that a lockdown similar to March was needed to get control of the virus. He also believes Ministers must not keep making the same mistakes again, which is why a national lockdown is now necessary.

‘We need a step change in our response from Government to the virus and a national effort to get control of the virus, protect the NHS, vaccinate Britain’ Stephen has said.

What should be included in a national lockdown?

It is right that the Government has set out that the national lockdown is for all of England comparable to the restrictions introduced in March.

Schools are part of the national lockdown but Stephen believes measures need to be put in place to protect working parents, for children to learn at home, and for schools to reopen safely as soon as possible.

Where can I find the government guidance on this third national lockdown?

The Government has published guidance at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/national-lockdown-stay-at-home

Vaccine

What does Stephen want to see happen with the vaccine roll out?

Our country was the first in the world to get the vaccine, we should now aim to be the first in the world to get vaccinated.

Stephen wants to see the Government delivering a vaccination programme with the very least two million people a week getting the jab, with the aim of doubling that figure by the end of February.

Government should recruit an army of volunteers to help and cut the red tape that is making it difficult for retired NHS staff to help out and Ministers should ensure we have vaccination centres in every local community and provide GPs with the resources they need.

Stephen is calling for Portsmouth to have a vaccination hub as soon as possible, and alongside this, has been calling for mass testing in the community.

The government must also be clear with the public about the number of vaccines we have available every day and getting on with delivering them.

‘The NHS says it is ready – the Government must now deliver’ says Stephen.

The local economy

What financial support should be in place?

Introducing a national lockdown now is the best way to support the economy. If the PM had continued to dither and delay he would have caused greater damage to businesses, jobs and livelihoods in our city.

Stephen has been taken action to ensure the economic package from Government supports businesses through this crisis and reflects the severity of restrictions.

In particular the government should immediately:

  • Use the £2 billion handed back to the Treasury by supermarkets and other large shops to help hard-hit businesses, including those in hospitality, and those who have been excluded from support.
  • Reform the one-off £20-a-head business support payment so that areas that have been in tougher restrictions for longer get more support.
  • Amend the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme so people who have got new jobs since October 31st and are now at risk of losing them can be placed on furlough.
  • Find a solution to help those excluded from financial support so far from Government.

Stephen is calling for greater support for Portsmouth in light of the city entering national lockdown after being in the toughest conditions in tier 4.

Schools

Should schools be shut?  

Yes. Stephen has said the closure of schools for most pupils is a huge failure because the Government has lost control of the virus and been too slow.

Education has been Labour’s priority throughout the pandemic and have always said that schools must be the last thing to close.

The switch to remote learning for most pupils now looks inevitable and sadly necessary as part of a national lockdown.

The government need a plan for school closures to ensure that pupils don’t fall behind, that working parents and staff are supported, and that schools are reopened safely as soon as possible.

What provision should be in place for children missing out on school?

We must get children back in school safely as soon as possible, with a clear timeframe for reopening.

During the lockdown, all vulnerable and key worker children who can be in school should be. Stephen is calling on the government to work with schools and councils to ensure that vulnerable children are identified and supported to attend school throughout a national lockdown.

All pupils who are learning remotely must have the resources they need to do so. That means devices and connectivity for all pupils, particularly the most disadvantaged, and a plan to ensure that nobody is priced out of the education they are entitled to.

What support should there be for working parents?

Working parents face huge challenges in balancing work, childcare, and supporting children’s education. They must have the support they need to do this.

The government, and employers, must clearly promote the use of the job retention scheme for those who cannot work because of childcare commitments, and emphasise the fact that this can be used on a flexible and part-time basis. Nobody should have to choose between their job and support their children.

Stephen believes that we cannot return to the confusion of the first lockdown, when parents did not know if their child could attend school when most pupils learned remotely. The list of critical workers must be clearly communicated to schools and families.

What would need to happen for schools to reopen?

We cannot enter a period in which schools are closed indefinitely – the consequences for children’s education and wellbeing would be devastating and last for years to come.

While school closures were inevitable to reduce the spread of the virus, we must act to ensure that children are not out of school for months.

That is why Stephen is calling on government to set out a clear plan for getting schools open again, and any period of school closures must be used to get control of the virus and make schools safer.

The government should look at using a rota system after any period of closures, to ensure that children can begin getting back in the classroom safely as soon as possible.