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‘Defence jobs are vital to Luton’s recovery’ – MPs meet with defence firm 

Labour’s Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan MP, visited Luton to meet with bosses at defence firm, Leonardo. The international company employs 1000 people at their Luton site, contributing 8% share local jobs in Luton’s manufacturing sector. 

Accompanied by Council Leader, Hazel Simmons, and Luton South MP, Rachel Hopkins, the Shadow Minister sat down with the electronic aerospace, defence and security developers to discuss the £123 million contribution the firm makes to the area.

Stephen Morgan MP, the Shadow Armed Forces Minister, said:

“It was fantastic to visit Leonardo to hear more about its work to support Luton during the pandemic and its wider contribution to the local economy. 

“Hazel and Rachel have done a tremendous job working with local business to ensure the jobs-based recovery Luton needs and is an excellent example of Labour working constructively with industry to achieve that wider national objective.”

Council Leader, Hazel Simmons MBE, said:

“I am really proud of the positive relationship that Luton Council has built with Leonardo.   

“Their well-developed apprenticeship scheme attracts young people from across the Borough, and it was great to meet with executives to learn more about how we can boost highly skilled, well paid jobs here in Luton. These are the jobs that will help Luton bounce back after Covid.”  

Luton South MP, Rachel Hopkins, added

“Leonardo is an important part of Luton’s manufacturing sector, and it was positive to hear about their apprenticeship schemes, support for women in STEM, and how they moved into making PPE to help tackle the coronavirus pandemic. 

Luton’s recovery must have good, well-paid jobs at its heart. Labour is committed to working with Trade Unions and businesses to help rebuild our economy.” 

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Shadow Defence Minister raises concerns on future security of carriers in Portsmouth

Portsmouth MP and Shadow Defence Minister Stephen Morgan has raised concerns about the security of carriers based in Portsmouth, after it was confirmed in the Defence Command Paper earlier this week that UK frigates could be down to just nine vessels during the next decade.

The new Type 31 frigates confirmed in the command paper are set to be delayed by four years, meaning they will now arrive mid-2027.

However, the current Type 23 frigates that they will replace are set to be decommissioned at the beginning in 2023.

This will create a ‘capability holiday’ of three years and cut the number of UK frigates down to nine vessels, prompting concerns about the level of security for the aircraft carriers HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, based at HMNB Portsmouth.

Meanwhile, with the addition of six Type 45 destroyers and the Royal Navy’s warship force, excluding auxiliaries, minesweepers, submarines and carriers, the Royal Navy’s surface combatant fleet will stand at just 15 hulls.

This would be a smaller surface navy than both Italy and France.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, said,

“The delay in the new type 31 frigates being delivered raises serious concerns about how the Navy will be properly resourced to maintain security of our carriers.

“The modernisation of our Royal Navy is necessary, but it should not be coming at the expense of operational capabilities.

“Better procurement planning is needed in this transition period for our surface combat fleet, and the government must provide assurances that this will not limit our ability to defend Portsmouth’s carriers.

“Portsmouth has historic ties to the Royal Navy and it is important that it and HMNB Portsmouth gets the support they need over the coming years.”

Responding to the reported plans last year, Labour Peer and former First Sea Lord Admiral Lord West told The Sun newspaper,

“Just 15 major service ships will put us into the second tier of the world’s navies”, and that “for a great nation like ours, just five [warships] on task is a national embarrassment and disgrace.” 

Mr Morgan criticised the government on Monday in response to its publication of the Defence Command Paper for cutting personnel numbers for budgetary purposes, not for strategic need.

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Shadow Defence Minister says to cut Armed Services is ‘significant gamble’ on national security

Portsmouth MP and shadow defence minister Stephen Morgan has said cuts to the Armed Forces is a ‘significant gamble’, after it was reported RAF and Royal Marines numbers will be cut.

According to plans proposed by the military reported in The Times, the Royal Marines are set to lose 400 posts, from 6,500 to 6,100. Meanwhile, the RAF is also expected to lose 300 personnel by 2025, with full-time personnel currently at 1,850.

In comes after it was confirmed in the Defence Command Paper published on Monday that the Army would be cut by 10,000, including cuts to the number of tanks, the number of planes for the RAF and the number of ships for the Royal Navy.

At the last election the Conservatives promised they would “not be cutting our armed services in any form”. But this week they have done just that: cutting the British Army by 10,000.

During Prime Minister’s Questions today Labour made clear it won’t support any further cuts to our Armed Forces; and has today called on the Government to put their plans for any further cuts to a vote in Parliament.

Stephen Morgan MP, Shadow Armed Forces Minister, said:

“These cuts represent a significant gamble with our national security, threatening to undermine our capacity to deploy overseas, support allies and maintain domestic resilience.

“There’s a pattern with this government: they promised our NHS would have whatever they need – now nurses are getting a pay cut. They promised a tax guarantee – now they’re putting taxes up for families. They promised they wouldn’t cut the Armed Forces – now they have.

“I know these reports will be particularly concerning to those in Portsmouth and Labour will endeavour to stop the cuts by calling for a vote in Parliament on the Government’s plans.”

Mr Morgan called the decision to cut the Army by 10,000 a ‘mistake’, after it was confirmed on Monday in Parliament.

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Integrated Review: Shadow Defence Minister says government ‘cannot continue to neglect’ Service Personnel

Shadow Armed Forces Minister and Portsmouth MP Stephen Morgan has said the Armed Forces cannot continue to be neglected by the government, after it published its major defence and security policy review today.

The Prime Minister announced in Parliament this afternoon his conclusions of the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, which has been conducted by the government over the past year.

However, amongst other broader priorities set out in the quinquennial government defence and foreign policy review, it has announced in the paper plans to ‘reshape’ the Armed Forces and ‘develop more capabilities – people, skills and equipment – that can be used across a range of scenarios.’

The Portsmouth South MP has recognised in principle the need to modernise the UK Armed Forces to equip them to respond to present and future threats, but has cast serious doubts over the government’s ability to deliver, pointing to its track record on full-time UK personnel numbers and defence spending plans announced in last year’s Spending Review.

As of January 2021, the UK full-time Armed Forces strength fell short of its 2015 SDSR targets across as all services, with the full-time trained strength of the UK Armed Forces 135,444, a shortfall of 8,756 (6%) against the government’s own target of 144,200.

In last year’s Spending Review, the government also revealed that it plans to cut day-to-day spending by 2.7% in real terms over the next 4 years, despite plans to invest £16.5bn in projects, but with no clear resource to support and maintain them.

In addition, the National Audit Office has also reported there could be as high as a £17.4bn funding shortfall in the government’s equipment plan for 2020 to 2030.

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

“This government and its Tory predecessors have continually allowed for our Armed forces to be neglected – numbers down, pay down and morale down.

“The government talks of ‘reshaping’ our Armed Forces in this review, but this cannot be code for continuing to repeat the mistakes of the past and not meeting its targets for full-time UK Armed Forces numbers, as well as failing to provide them with the support and equipment they need.

“Service personnel have shown this year that they continue to be one of our greatest assets when it comes to dealing with serious threats posed to our country, but a cut to many of our troops’ pay and the continued neglect they have faced raises serious questions whether the government will be true to its word.”

Earlier this month, Mr Morgan criticised the real terms pay cut to Armed Forces personnel earning over £18,000.

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Portsmouth MP demands government give veterans access to ‘state-of-the-art’ care facility

Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan MP has pushed the government in the House of Commons today to face-up to its commitment to give veterans access to a world-class treatment centre for those with serious injuries.

The Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre has reportedly seen only twenty-two people in the last three years, despite the government’s commitment to give access to veterans who need it.

However, government has faced criticism from veterans’ charities such as Help for Heroes that “it is not an efficient process” and wants ex-servicemen and women with other issues to be given access.

It comes as the Portsmouth MP is leading the Official Opposition’s response to Armed Forces Bill as it passes through Bill select committee, with its aims to enshrine the Armed Forces Covenant into law and improve veterans’ welfare.

Stephen Morgan, the Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South and Shadow Defence Minister, said:

“This state-of-the-art facility has tremendous potential to afford seriously injured personnel and veterans the healthcare they need, but just 22 veterans being treated at the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre in the last three years is just not good enough.

“If the government is serious about improving veterans’ welfare, giving proper access to treatment facilities that were designed to help them would be the common sense thing to do.

“I will continue to push the Minister on this, and I look forward to an update on the government’s progress.”

Mr Morgan recently criticised the Chancellor for handing a real-terms pay cut to many currently serving Armed Forces personnel in the government Budget announced earlier this month and is pushing for a range of measures to support service personnel, veterans and their families.

 

 

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‘Unfolding Scandal’ of Military Accommodation ‘falls far short’ of Armed Forces Covenant

Labour has criticised the government’s ‘appalling record’ on military housing, as data reveals that just half of service personnel are satisfied with the standard of their accommodation, the lowest since 2009.

The Army’s 2020 Continuous Attitudes Survey shows that a third of tri-service personnel said accommodation provision increased their intention to leave the service.

New data has also revealed that more than 9,000 military homes in England and Wales are awaiting repairs.

Since 2017, £300,000 has been paid in compensation for 9,088 missed maintenance appointments, with compensation given in the form of high street shopping vouchers.

Last week the National Audit Office’s report into Single Living Accommodation, which more than half of the Armed Forces call home, told a similar story.

The report concluded that “the Ministry of Defence is not meeting its commitment to provide high-quality subsidised accommodation to all service personnel.”

Meanwhile, the government continues to arbitrate its dispute with Annington Homes on the rent for Service Family Accommodation, currently occupied by a third of tri-service personnel.

The previous 1996 deal, dubbed “disastrous” by the Public Accounts Committee, held rents down by 58%, meaning service families could face rent hikes under a new deal.

The revelations come as the government’s Armed Forces Bill is due for its second reading on Monday.

Labour has criticised the Bill – which the government claims will ensure ‘fair treatment’ for members of the Armed Forces – for being too narrow and not going far enough to guarantee the rights afforded to service personnel under the Armed Forces Covenant.

Speaking ahead of the Bill’s Second Reading, Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The unfolding scandal of dilapidated military accommodation is a far cry from the ‘homes fit for heroes’ our service personnel should expect.

“The Tories appalling record on this issue is evident in every home that has trouble with basics like heating, hot water, with endless waits for repairs. This falls far short of the promises in the Armed Forces Covenant and those who serve deserve better.

“Labour stands squarely behind our service communities, and will press the government to make sure the Armed Forces Bill delivers quality, affordable housing for all service personnel, families and veterans.”

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Shadow Armed Forces Minister: Covenant must be delivered in full for every member of our Armed Forces

Stephen Morgan MP backed Service Personnel during the second reading of the Armed Forces Bill tonight at the House of Commons, but said the proposals were a ‘missed opportunity’ to make the Armed Forces Covenant a reality for all who serve.

The Shadow Armed Forces Minister is leading Labour’s response to the Bill during its passage through the Commons.

Among other things, the Bill proposes a legal responsibility for public bodies to give ‘due regard’ to the principles of the Armed Forces Covenant when accessing public services such as housing, healthcare and education.

Labour criticised the Bill during the debate for being too weak, and that proposals would do little to correct the many ways in which service personnel are disadvantaged.

These include mental health, where the Covenant guarantees access mental health professionals who have an understanding of Armed Forces culture. Yet government statistics reveal that the average waiting time for veteran’s mental health treatment in England was 37 days in 2020, against a government target of 14.

On housing, the Covenant says service personnel are ‘entitled to publicly provided accommodation, it should be of good quality, affordable and suitably located’. Yet, just half (51%) of tri-service personnel say they are satisfied with the standard of their service accommodation.

In the Chamber, Morgan said the Bill ‘does little’ to tackle these issues head on and that the ‘complex legalese’ of ‘due regard’ would do little to make any real impact on the day-to-day lives of forces personnel.

Service charities including the Royal British Legion have also criticised the Bill for being too narrowly focused, containing nothing on pay or employment.

The latest Government statistics reveal forces personnel are seeing higher levels of unemployment after leaving service than the general UK population.

Speaking in the debate today, the Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Instead of lumping extra legal responsibilities on cash-strapped local authorities and other overstretched public bodies, the Bill should set measurable, enforceable, national standards, that central government is accountable for.

“Only then can we truly end the postcode lottery on the Armed Forces Covenant.”

Labour is also considering potential changes to made to the Bill that would compel ministers to report annually on the fighting strength of the military, following reports over the weekend that 32 of 33 infantry battalions are short of battle-ready personnel.

Commenting after the debate, the Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, added,

“By setting a legal standard that is below the existing voluntary offers in some areas, the government risks creating a two-tier covenant, and a race to the bottom on services for our forces communities.

“The threat poor conditions pose to our defence capability were made clear this weekend with leaked reports over the weekend suggesting 32 of 33 infantry battalions are dangerously short of battle-ready personnel.

“Labour will press the government to ensure the Covenant is delivered in full for every member of our armed forces, their families and veterans.”

The parliamentary representative has consistently referred to his Grandfather who was a D-Day veteran and founder of Portsmouth Normandy Veterans association, as his motivation for delivering justice for service personnel and their families in Portsmouth and across the country.

 

 

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Responding to the National Audit Office report on Improving Armed Forces’ Single Living Accommodation

After decades of under-investment, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is not meeting its commitment to provide all service personnel in the Armed Forces with high-quality subsidised accommodation, according to a new report by the National Audit Office (NAO) on Single Living Accommodation.

Single Living Accommodation is normally accommodation blocks inside military bases. At 31 October 2020, 79,963 service personnel, around 52% of the total Armed Forces, occupied SLA, which can vary considerably by type and quality.

At this date, around half of SLA residents lived in ‘good’ SLA (Grade 1 and 2), but 36% lived in poorer grade accommodation (Grade 4 or below).

In addition, approximately two-fifths of SLA buildings are more than 40 years old, although MoD has confirmed that all SLA was built in compliance with the standards applicable at the time of construction.

Responding to the findings,  Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan MP, said:

“This report shows that too often service accommodation is a far cry from the ‘homes fit for heroes’ our forces should expect.  

“With more than half of the Armed Forces housed in Single Living Accommodation, substandard conditions present a serious risk to recruitment and retention. The appalling prevalence of issues with basics like heating and hot water doesn’t live up to the promises made in the Armed Forces Covenant. Those who serve deserve better.

“The Armed Forces Bill presents an important opportunity to make meaningful improvements to the day-to-day lives of those who serve. Labour will challenge the government to deliver quality, affordable housing for forces and their families.”