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Statement from Stephen Morgan MP – Government denies pay rise for 8,200 service personnel

Reacting to reports of a government decision not to award service personnel a £250 boost to their annual pay, the Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South and Shadow Armed Forces Minister, said:

“The government has short-changed our service personnel once again. As if a decade of real terms pay cuts wasn’t bad enough, this report reveals Ministers have deliberately conned 8,200 of the lowest earning service personnel out of their insultingly low £250 bonus.

“Over the last year Her Majesty’s Armed Forces have shown just how indispensable they are to the nation’s security, from airlifting British Nationals out of Afghanistan to driving NHS ambulances in Wales.

“Yet Ministers still don’t think it’s worth giving the lowest earners taking the highest risks to protect our country a pay rise that’s worth just £200 after tax. To add insult to injury, they will also be paying more for food and service accommodation.

“This continues a decade of Tory decline for our armed forces who’ve seen forces pay, numbers and morale all down since 2010.”

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Labour’s £35 million support fund for British veterans and Afghan interpreters ‘critical’– Portsmouth MP

Stephen Morgan has labelled Labour’s recently announced £35 million fund to support British veterans and Afghan interpreters as ‘critical’.

The policy was announced by Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey in his Party conference speech today (Monday 27 September).

The funding, recovered from cancelled MoD interpreter contracts, will be used for grants to charities and Local Authorities in England to provide mental health support services and support for those Afghan nationals who have relocated to the UK through the ARAP scheme. 

Mr Healey is the first Shadow Defence Secretary to address the party’s conference since 2016, signalling Labour’s renewed focus on the defence and security of the nation.

The new cash comes as calls to veterans’ mental health charity Combat Stress have doubled since the Taliban swept to power. At the same time, its income has fallen by 37% in the last financial year partly due to cuts in NHS funding support.

Research last year found only 26% of charities thought that the government supports the mental health of veterans, and 79% of charities believe that the responsibility to support veterans should lie more with the government and armed forces.

Meanwhile, there have been reports that some of the 1,200 ARAP-eligible Afghans that were made it out of Kabul are stranded in unsuitable accommodation, and councils have requested more funds to support them.

Commenting on the announcement, Portsmouth South MP and Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan, said:

“The government’s woeful mismanagement of the Afghanistan crisis has undermined the professionalism shown by our armed forces. Its recent announcement for mental health funding falls far short of what is necessary.

“A Labour government would deliver the support that’s required for those who have served in Afghanistan, instead of allowing demands on charities providing mental health support for veterans to skyrocket.

“Service personnel and veterans show immense courage in serving our country. It’s time they had a government that had the courage to serve them too.”

Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey, also said:

“The Conservatives are failing our forces. Recent funding announcements are simply a drop in the ocean and the uncertainty surrounding future funding for the Office of Veterans Affairs has pulled the rug from under our personnel when they need it most.

“Labour’s new support fund will make sure we protect those who protected us.”

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‘A step in the right direction ‘– City MP reacts to new government strategy to record veteran suicides

Stephen Morgan MP has welcomed the government’s recently announced strategy to record veteran suicides in England and Wales, labelling it as a ‘step in the right direction’.

The Portsmouth representative has campaigned for veteran suicide figures to be recorded for a number of years, including through securing a parliamentary debate on the issue, writing a string of letters to government ministers and submitting a range of parliamentary questions.

The city MP has also worked alongside local veterans’ charities, including ‘All Call Signs’, who have also been calling for a similar initiative to be brought forward.

For the first time, the new method will capture the numbers of ex-service personnel who take their lives and will be recorded officially by the government, following an agreement between the Office for Veterans’ Affairs (OVA), the MOD and the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The data will be used to further understand where there is a need for dedicated services in England and Wales. The data will allow the government to ensure that these targeted services are signposted to veterans, where they are needed most.

It is expected that the first annual statistics will be published in 2023.

To better understand the lives lost prior to 2022, the government is also conducting a 10 year look back to examine veteran deaths through suicide. This research will be published in 2022.

It comes after the government included in its Armed Forces Bill, which the Portsmouth MP led the Official Opposition’s response to, that local authorities would have a ‘due regard’ to support veterans and armed forces communities.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South and Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan, said:

“It is welcome that after years of campaigning alongside Portsmouth veterans’ charities and others that this strategy has finally been announced.

“It is a step in the right direction to work towards providing targeted support for veterans’ families that need it most.

“However, given the widely expected toll the pandemic and multiple lockdowns will have had on veterans and their families, it is deeply disappointing to learn that annual figures will not be available until as late as 2023.

“Government inaction to bring this forward will have real impacts on service families, and had it been brought forward earlier, the support for those who most need it right now could have got it. Instead, they’ll have to wait because of government indecision.

“I will continue to take action and stand up for service families to ensure they get the support they both need and deserve.”

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ARAP Chaos: Portsmouth MP blasts government with just 1% of applications accepted and almost 7,000 still outstanding

  • Government figures reveal just 850 applications have been accepted since April
  • Almost 7,000 applications remain outstanding
  • Just 213 evacuated in 18 months between the Doha Agreement and Operation Pitting

Stephen Morgan MP has blasted the government after new figures have revealed that just 850 applications to the government’s ARAP scheme have been accepted since the beginning of April, with 6,800 still outstanding.

The revelations contradict Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s claim on 6 September that just 311 of those Afghans who supported UK forces were left in the country, and cast fresh doubt on the government’s chaotic withdrawal from the country.1

Data from the Ministry of Defence shows that 60,000 applications to the scheme were received between April and August 2021, with 52,350 being rejected and 6,800 still being processed, meaning just 850 (1.41%) applications were accepted during the period.2

Ministers have also been forced to admit that just 213 ARAP-eligible Afghans were evacuated in the 18 months between the Doha Agreement and the beginning of Operation Pitting on 13 August, illustrating a further lack of planning.3

Labour’s Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan said the revelations showed the government was “out of touch and on the beach” during the immediate crisis. He called on the Defence Secretary to set out a “credible” plan to help those left behind.

Mr Morgan called on Armed Forces Minister James Heappey to clarify the figures in the House of Commons today, but the minister failed to answer, suggesting he would write to respond instead.

The government has confirmed that no further evacuation flights have been conducted since the conclusion of Operation Pitting on 28 August, yet claim the scheme remains open.4

Earlier this month, the Portsmouth representative also met with members of the local Afghan community to listen to views and concerns about family and friends in Afghanistan.

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

“Despite the very best efforts from our armed forces, this government has woefully mishandled the crisis in Afghanistan.

“These figures reveal the government’ systemic failure to plan for the withdrawal in the 18 months following the Doha agreement and prioritise the safety of British nationals and brave Afghans who supported our forces.

“While Ministers claim the ARAP scheme is still open, this will be cold comfort to those still on the ground, now living in fear under Taliban rule. The Defence Secretary is yet to set out a credible plan to secure the safety of those the government has left behind.

“This crisis was a fundamental test of the government and its leadership. Once again, Conservative Ministers were found to be out of touch and on the beach.”

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Portsmouth MP tells Government to honour Afghanistan evacuation heroes

Stephen Morgan MP has called on the government to reward service personnel who took part in the evacuation of Afghanistan with medals.

More than 1,000 UK personnel took part in Operation Pitting, which airlifted 15,000 people fleeing oppression and persecution to safety as the country fell to the Taliban.

The mission was the largest of its kind since the Second World War and Labour has said that this ‘astonishing feat’ deserves formal recognition.

The Portsmouth MP and Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan has written to the Defence Secretary to urge him to honour service personnel with medals.

Under existing criteria, troops would not receive medals as the mission did not meet the 30-days continuous service for which they are awarded.

Labour has dismissed this as an ‘arbitrary timeframe’ and said that the criteria for medallic recognition needed to shift to reflect the changing nature of conflicts that our armed forces are involved in.

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

Despite the government’s woeful mismanagement of the Afghanistan crisis, no one can deny that the bravery, compassion and integrity of our armed forces displayed during their dangerous mission deserves formal recognition.

“Ministers should swiftly move to honour the heroic efforts of our service personnel with medals. The only thing standing in the way of this is stuffy conventionalism.”

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‘The character of our country is defined by how we respond to these moments’ says City MP on Afghanistan debate

Today (Wednesday 18 August 2021) Parliament was recalled to allow MPs to receive an update from the Government on the shocking and worsening situation in Afghanistan.

Speaking in the debate, Keir Starmer MP, Leader of the Opposition, said:

“20 years ago, the Taliban were largely in control of Afghanistan. Al Qaida were using the country as a training ground and a base for terror – including plotting the horrific 9/11 attack.

“There were widespread human rights abuses. Girls were denied an education, women could not work. Being gay was punishable by death. All imposed without democracy.

“Since then, a fragile democracy emerged.

“It was by no means perfect, but no international terrorist attacks have been mounted from Afghanistan in that period; women have gained liberty and won office; schools and clinics have been built. And Afghans have allowed themselves to dream of a better future.

“Those achievements were born of sacrifice. Sacrifice by the Afghan people who fought bravely alongside their NATO allies. And British sacrifice.

“Over 150,000 UK personnel have served in Afghanistan including Members across this House.”

Responding to the Prime Minister’s statement during the emergency debate, the Shadow Armed Forces Minister and Portsmouth South MP, Stephen Morgan, said:

I know many members of the Armed Forces Community in Portsmouth and further afield will be deeply distressed by the reports of the rapidly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.

“The sacrifices of British personnel, alongside the Afghan people and NATO allies, allowed for something that for many Afghans was not previously possible – to dream of a better future.

“Today the Prime Minister had the opportunity to reassure UK personnel who served in Afghanistan and worked to secure that future that their work will not be undone – but his statement offered little.

“The government’s failure is a dereliction of duty to the Afghan people, the 150,000 British personnel who served and the 457 who did not return home.

“What is happening in Afghanistan will have a profound impact on the mental health of many veterans, which we have known for some time is already in desperate need of addressing.

“This must be a wake-up call by Government to better understand, and better invest, in mental health support for our armed forces personnel and veterans.

“Keir Starmer was right today to say that mental health services for veterans must improve. The Prime Minister had little to say on the matter.

“I will be doing all I can to demand answers on what the government will be doing to address what I fear is an impending spike in mental health cases within the Armed Forces Community.

“I encourage any member of the Armed Forces Community who has been struggling with their mental health in recent days to contact Help for Heroes, the Royal British Legion or All Call Signs, who will be on hand to provide the support that’s needed.

”You are not alone.”

In recent days the city MP has heard from many constituents with regards to the risks faced by UK nationals in Afghanistan, the implications of recent events on human rights and the unfolding humanitarian crisis.

The MP has already spoken with a number of local groups and the city council with regards to resettling Afghan families in the city and continues to help support this.

On the recently announced new resettlement scheme for Afghan refugees, the Portsmouth MP added:

“The latest resettlement scheme proposal by Government does not meet the scale of the challenge or complexities being faced, with the separate scheme for Afghan interpreters already far behind schedule.

“Not only does this risk leaving people in Afghanistan in deadly danger, it will also undermine the leadership role Britain must play in persuading international partners to live up to their responsibilities.

“In recent days, many of my constituents have shared with me their concerns for those fleeing the country in fear of persecution – or even death – seeking sanctuary in the UK. I will continue to help on these matters with the urgency they deserve.

“Soldiers and diplomats must be given the resources that they need and clear routes to safety must be established and expedited, both for Afghan refugees and those who have worked with Britain.”

Commenting on the Government’s lack of a plan to address the unfolding crisis, Stephen Morgan MP also said:

“The character of our country is defined by how we respond to these moments. We must now ensure our city and our country plays its part in providing a safe haven for families in need of safety. We all have a role to play and must be held to account – including the government.

“The scale of the refugee crisis will require an international response. 18.4 million people in Afghanistan already require humanitarian assistance and there is a real risk that this humanitarian disaster will get worse, particularly for women and girls.

“That response starts by the UK urgently ramping up humanitarian and development support for those who need it most and working with trusted partners who are already embedded in the country to deliver that vital support, so it reaches Afghans in need.

“With Portsmouth a proud city of sanctuary I know our communities will want to go above and beyond to help those needing support at this desperate time.”

 

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Local MP accuses Government of breaking its pledge to support veterans into work

Stephen Morgan MP has slammed the Government for breaking its pledge to help personnel, veterans and their families find work after they leave the Armed Forces. 

In 2019, the Government announced plans to employ 100 specialist advisers – or ‘Armed Forces Champions’ – in job centres across the country. But Ministers now admit that just half that number will be hired.

The change means that there will be just one Armed Forces Champion to support every 14,000 working age veterans into employment. And a single specialist adviser could be set to cover all 29 job centres in the local Dorset, Wiltshire, Hampshire and Isle of Wight area.

There are 121,472 veterans of working age in the South East Region.

The unemployment rate for veterans is 7%, almost double level for the general population at 4.8%. In just Portsmouth alone, there are 5,083 veterans of working age.

Ministers have faced criticism from Labour and Service charities that their Armed Forces Bill doesn’t provide any further assistance to Forces personnel, veterans and their families to gain employment. The Government told its MPs to vote against a Labour amendment to widen the scope of the Bill at Report Stage to include provisions to support veterans into work.

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

“It is clear that Forces personnel, veterans and their families in Portsmouth need more support to find work, yet the Government has broken its pledge to provide specialist advice.

“This is yet another example of Ministers failing to match their words with action.

“That’s why I will be taking action to ensure the government is held to account for breaking its promise and will be pushing to see what it will be doing to remedy it as soon as possible.

“Labour will always honour the commitments of the Armed Forces Covenant. This government is treating it with contempt.”

Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary, John Healey, also said:

“Ministers are failing our Forces personnel and veterans. They have outstanding skills from their military service but many need help to get civilian employers to see their talents or to deal with problems in getting work.

“Labour want to see Ministers do more to support our veterans get work and successful civilian careers.”

 

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Government botches British tender process for naval support ships

Labour have today slammed the government for their failure to prioritise UK yards and suppliers to make naval support ships, after their delivery was delayed because of a botched tender process.

The tender for the naval support ships was cancelled in 2019 after the government’s shipbuilding tsar, Sir John Parker, recommended a UK-only tender.

It has since been reopened with the government specifying the successful bidder must be ‘led by a British company,’ but with the tender still silent on what proportion of the contract’s value will be reserved for UK yards and suppliers.

According to the GMB, the union for shipbuilding and ship repair workers, the contract notice suggests the project has already been delayed two years.

GMB have also called for a guarantee that the long-awaited Fleet Solid Support contract will be built in UK yards and use UK supply chains.

Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan said:

“The Prime Minister has made a lot of promises to our Navy and to British industry, but once again this government refuses to put its money where its mouth is.

“Building the Fleet Solid Support Ships in Britain is a no-brainer. Aside from the obvious security benefits it will provide the steady drumbeat of building needed to create jobs and sustain homegrown industry.

“It is baffling how much time and money this government is willing to waste, when instead it could be following Labour’s call to buy, make and sell more in Britain.”

 

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Portsmouth MP urges Ministers to swiftly address ‘all time low’ mental health provision for troops

Stephen Morgan MP urged ministers at departmental defence questions in the House of Commons today to review the ‘all time low’ mental health services provision for forces personnel.

Government figures show that the number of service personnel being seen by the MoD’s Specialist Mental Health Services for an initial assessment has fallen by 36% since 2013 – the lowest it has ever been.

The figures raise questions as to why over fewer Forces personnel are being seen by the MOD’s Specialist Mental Health Services each year than there were nearly a decade ago.

The Government set out in its Defence People Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy 2017-2022 the aim that Forces personnel have “timely access to safe, effective and innovative mental healthcare services”.

Yet since the strategy was launched, the number of Forces personnel being assessed and treated by the Specialist Mental Health Services annually has fallen by 1900 from 5,083 in 2016/17 to just 3,156. Just 1 in 50 are now assessed by the MOD mental health service.

The news comes as the Armed Forces Bill, which Mr Morgan is leading the Official Opposition’s response on, returns to the Commons next week on Tuesday. The Bill contains provisions to try and improve mental health support for Forces personnel. Labour wants to force the Government to review all current mental health provisions for Forces personnel.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South and Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan, said:

“It cannot be right that just after the passing of Armed Forces Day, service personnel are still being failed by this government in providing effective mental health services.

“Service personnel are now more willing to seek help to support their mental health, but the government is once again letting them down. Labour’s commitment to support our Armed Forces is an enduring year-round promise, not just when it is politically convenient. This government is big on rhetoric, but short on delivery.

“I will continue to demand the services our troops deserve from Ministers and will urge them again next week at the final reading of the Armed Forces Bill in the Commons to review all current mental health provisions for Forces personnel.”

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Armed Forces Day event celebrates service past and present

Shadow Armed Forces and Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan was joined by Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey, veterans, and Navy cadets for a tour of Portsmouth’s historic dockyard on restored landing craft to celebrate Armed Forces Day.

Veterans from the Second World War, the Falklands and the first Gulf War were joined by 12 cadets and three adult volunteers from 6 Royal Naval and Royal Marines Volunteer Cadet Corps based in Whale Island, HMS Sultan in Gosport and HMS Collingwood in Fareham.

Politicians, veterans and cadets boarded the restored F8 landing craft, used in the Falklands, HSL102, which rescued airmen during the Battle of Britain, and MGB81, used at Normandy on D-Day.

They then toured around the harbour, taking in sights of Portsmouth’s historic dockyard, before landing on the slipway.

Joe Cattini was one of the veterans in attendance. Now 98, Mr Cattini served with the Royal Artillery during the Second World War, including D-Day and the liberation of France, Belgium and Holland.

Originally formed at Eastney Barracks in 1901, the Volunteer Cadet Corps celebrated its 120th birthday in February 2021.

Portsmouth South MP and Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan said:

“I am delighted to be honouring the service of personnel past and present in the home and heart of the Royal Navy this Armed Forces Day.

“We stand squarely behind our armed forces. The enduring example of service and duty set by those I have met today should be celebrated all year round, not just this week.

“That’s why we’ve launched our veteran’s survey and why Labour has put forward amendments to the Armed Forces Bill to make real improvements in the day-to-day lives of our forces.

“The Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust have been instrumental in bringing this event together. I’d like to thank their brilliant staff and pay tribute to their ongoing efforts to preserve our City’s strong naval and military history.”

Shadow Secretary of State for Defence John Healey said:

“Our Armed Forces work to protect the country and keep us all safe, theirs is the ultimate public service. They’ve played an essential part in helping the nation through the Covid crisis and Labour is proud that British Forces are respected worldwide for their all-round excellence – training allies, fighting terrorism, securing open seas, peacekeeping in conflicts.

“Armed Forces Week is a special week when we can all say a special ‘thank you’ for the service and sacrifice of our Forces, their families and veterans.”

Hannah Prowse, CEO of Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust, said:

“We are honoured to be the custodians of this part of Portsmouth’s naval heritage.  The civilian story of the support for our armed forces – exemplified by the Dockyard – can not be underestimated.  We are justly proud of the role played by the men and women of the armed forces – and by the families, businesses and communities that support them.”