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Shadow Defence Minister calls for views of service personnel, veterans and their families on Armed Forces Bill

Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP has called for service personnel, veterans and their families, as well as civilians subject to service law, to share their views on the Armed Forces Bill currently working its way through Parliament.

A cross-party Select Committee has issued a survey seeking views on the proposed Bill to inform the Committee’s inquiry, and help improve life for the armed forces community.

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

The Official Opposition is also pushing the government to clarify why it has not adopted Lyons’ recommendation that civilian courts should have jurisdiction in matters of murder, rape and serious sexual offences committed in the UK.

The Shadow Armed Forces Minister, who is leading Labour’s response to the Bill, Stephen Morgan MP, said,

“With this Bill the government risks creating a two-tier covenant and a race to the bottom on services for our forces communities across the country.

“But it also fails to deliver urgent service justice reforms to improve the number of cases tried related to the most serious of crimes, such as murder, rape and sexual offences.

“It’s critical that the Armed Forces Bill Select Committee get the clearest understanding of what people connected to Armed Services see as a priority and the best way to do that is by responding to this survey.

“I encourage Portsmouth people to speak loud and clearly to Government in how life can be improved for service personnel, veterans and their families by completing this important survey.”

To complete the survey click here. The deadline for responses is Monday 5 April 5 PM and takes roughly five minutes to complete. 

 

 

 

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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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Portsmouth MP calls Government out for delay in funding for Portsmouth Port

Stephen Morgan MP questioned Ministers in the House of Commons today on why the government has still not afforded the alternative funding Portsmouth International Port was promised.

Back in December Michael Gove MP said the government was exploring alternative funding for Portsmouth’s Port, but so far, no such funding has been provided from central government.

Portsmouth International Port applied for £32m of funding in October from the government’s Port Infrastructure Fund, to prepare for new customs arrangements that were originally set to come in this July, allowing it to adapt to the government’s own new Border Operating Model.

However, the city port was only handed £17.1m of what it asked for – leaving a very large of shortfall of almost £15m.

Meanwhile, the government has also so far ignored the port’s further request for funding for the new Border Control Points, and without it, they will have no facility to use to check the 30,000 breeding animals that are expected to come through each year.

Portsmouth’s local authority owned port contributes around £135m to Portsmouth’s local economy, over 1420 local jobs as well as close to £390m to the national economy each year.

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

Whilst it is welcome the government has finally listened to local concerns on the deadline for facilities to be fully ready for the new Border Operating Model, it now needs to make good on its promise for alternative funding.

“Government cannot continue to chronically underfund our local council, but meanwhile expect it to cough up the cash for this huge infrastructure project. It just is not realistic.

“We still have no further clarity from the Minister for EU negotiations, who has the power and influence to resolve this, neither from other government Ministers.

“I will continue to push the government to put its money where its mouth is and back our city’s port as promised.”

Mr Morgan has been working closely with the city port to support its funding needs, writing to Ministers in December demanding further funding for the port to prepare for post-Brexit trade.

 

 

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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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City MP welcomes vision to reverse ten years of city centre decline under the Conservatives

Labour has set out a “bright future for Britain’s high streets” and launched a five-point plan to “put communities first” in support of our community’s high streets.

The party’s plan, set out by the Shadow Chancellor includes:

  1. Stopping the Conservatives selling off Britain’s high streets for low-quality housing, by scrapping new planning rules.
  2. Empowering councils to fill empty shops with new businesses to breathe life into town centres.
  3. Challenging the government to use Tax Day on 23 March to level the tax playing field for high street businesses and online firms.
  4. Establishing a High Streets Fightback Fund to help businesses hit hard by the pandemic get back on their feet.
  5. Protecting family finances by reversing Rishi Sunak’s economically illiterate hammer blows to people’s pockets.

Stephen Morgan MP, Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, said:

“I’ve long argued that the Government must do more, and our council do better, in tackling the decline of our city’s high streets.

That is why I have been pushing Ministers to invest in Portsmouth and pleased to have helped secure funding for the future of high streets as our city recovers from this pandemic. But in order to reverse the decline we see in Portsmouth’s shopping areas we must put communities first.

The Conservatives have completely failed to protect Britain’s high streets over the last decade with over 7,000 shops closed across the country on their watch.

I welcome this five-point plan to deliver a bright future for our high streets. We need urgent action to reverse a decade of decline in our shopping centres, and I know constituents will know how vital this now is”.

Arguing that high street businesses are competing with online retailers with “one hand tied behind their backs”, Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds, MP, has demanded urgent action to level the playing field:

“We can’t continue with a situation where five US tech firms account for £1.3bn in lost corporation tax every year, while high street shops pay business rates under a system that hasn’t been reformed for years.

“The Government should set out what it plans to do about this. On so-called ‘Tax Day’, the Conservatives must level the playing field between high street businesses and giant online firms.”

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Shadow Defence Minister responds to Government’s military personnel cuts

Stephen Morgan MP has warned the Government’s decision to cut the Army numbers by 10,000 is a ‘mistake’, following the confirmation of the Army’s restructuring today.

It comes as the government published its Defence Command Paper this afternoon, alongside the Integrated Review that was disclosed last week, outlining the government’s defence and security plans for the next five years and beyond.

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 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.

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

“This has been a decade of decline for our Armed Services and the government has confirmed today yet again further cuts to Army personnel numbers. Hi-tech equipment is essential, but highly trained personnel are indispensable.

“The pattern of the 2010 and 2015 reviews was to cut and restructure defence capabilities based on budgetary constraints, rather than meeting threats. Today it was confirmed to be more of the same.

“The PM said he was ending an “era of retreat” with his government’s vision of a ‘global Britain’ in the Integrated Review published last week, but any new cuts will only extend this era of retreat and significantly limit our Forces ability to deploy overseas, support allies and be a force for good in the world.”

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City MP redoubles calls for a fair NHS pay rise as figures show 300,000 staff worked unpaid overtime during Covid crisis

Labour has today redoubled its efforts to secure a fair pay rise for NHS workers after figures revealed an increase in the number of NHS staff working unpaid overtime during the Covid crisis.

The latest figures from the NHS staff survey reveal over 300,000 staff worked unpaid hours in the past year. Almost 13,000 more staff reported working overtime compared to 2019, suggesting over a million hours of unpaid overtime were worked during the pandemic.

Under the Government’s current pay proposals, nurses and other NHS staff who were promised at least a 2.1% pay rise will instead see a real terms pay cut of hundreds of pounds.

This follows a real terms pay cut of more than £2,300 in the average salary of a nurse and health visitor under the Conservatives since 2010.

The survey also reveals that less than one third of nurses and midwives are satisfied with their current pay levels, suggesting widespread opposition among NHS staff to the Government’s current proposals.

Stephen Morgan MP, Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, said:

“I know how angry Portsmouth people are about the Government’s plans to give our city’s dedicated NHS staff a real terms pay cut, especially after the year we have had and their commitment during this pandemic.

“That is why I have launched a petition locally to keep piling on the pressure for the Prime Minister to think again.

“After all they have done for us, I know Portsmouth people won’t stand for a Government which is treating our NHS staff in such a shabby way.

“When our city clapped for our carers during the pandemic, we meant it. That’s why I won’t rest until all our brave NHS staff get the fair, long-term, pay settlement they deserve.”

Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, added:

“The whole country saw the heroism of our nurses and NHS staff during this pandemic. And the whole country is watching as this injustice continues. Our NHS staff deserve a fair pay rise.

“Whether you live in London or Lancashire, you can send a message to the Conservatives in May that a pay cut for our NHS heroes is an insult. A vote for Labour is a vote to support our nurses.”

To sign the Portsmouth South MP’s petition visit: www.stephenmorgan.org.uk/our-nhs-heroes-deserve-a-pay-rise/

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City MP calls for Clean Air Act at landmark environmental summit

Stephen Morgan MP has joined Labour’s call for a Clean Air Act in a bid to combat the impact of air pollution, following the Official Opposition’s first Clean Air Summit today.

The first summit of its kind to be hosted by a major party, Luke Pollard MP, Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary, set out the Party’s demands for a Clean Air Act.

The Clean Air Act would establish a legal right to breathe clean air by ensuring the law on air quality is at least as strict as WHO guidelines, with tough new duties on Ministers to enforce them and grant new powers to local authorities to take urgent action on air quality.

Even before the pandemic, air pollution represented a national health emergency resulting in an estimated 40,000 early deaths each year, costing the UK £20 billion annually.

Meanwhile in Portsmouth, there have been historic issues with dirty polluting air and campaigns to stop the Lib Dem-run council from rolling back the proposed clean air zone plans to finally address the challenge in the city.

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

“We have had historic issues with air pollution in our city and Labour is taking national action to resolve this chronic issue we all face.

“The pandemic has shown us that public health is more important than ever. We need to take every step we can to improve the health of our nation, and that starts with cleaning up our polluted air.

“Our Clean Air Act would give public bodies the powers they need to take even further action and clean up our air for good.”

 

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Portsmouth MP demands government action to tackle violence against women, as local White Ribbon campaign launches

Stephen Morgan MP has demanded in the House of Commons today that the government takes further action to tackle violence against women and girls, as local ‘White Ribbon’ campaign launches this week.

The Portsmouth MP asked the Attorney General what specific action he was taking to ensure the recent spike in domestic abuse cases do not face the same fate in the number cases for rape that do not lead to prosecution.

It comes as this week the local White Ribbon campaign was launched by local community activists Charlotte Gerada and Kirsty Mellor, urging Portsmouth City Council to get behind its pledge to end male violence against women and have the mission for all men to never commit, excuse or remain silent about such crimes on women.

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

“The tragic case of Sarah Everard has caused a public outcry against the continued and rising cases of violence and against women and girls.

“This behaviour, usually men’s, has no place in society and this must now be a turning point to see an end to this awful abuse and behaviour women are subjected to daily.

“I am proud to support the local White Ribbon campaign launched this week here in Portsmouth and thank Charlotte Gerada and Kirsty Mellor for their tireless efforts on this issue.

“I expect Portsmouth City Council to do the right thing now and adopt its pledge in full.”

The MP used the opportunity to mention the initiative in the House of Commons today during departmental questions to the Attorney General.

The Portsmouth South representative asked the Government to ensure cases related to domestic abuse and violence against women are properly heard and given due process, in light of the Crown Court backlog now at an all-time record high of more than 56,000 cases.

Meanwhile, victims of crime are being asked to wait up to 4 years to get to court and many victims and witnesses are dropping entirely because of delays, risking violent criminals being spared prison because of this.

Mr Morgan previously joined Portsmouth Abuse and Rape Counselling Service’s (PARCS) campaign to ‘shrink the elephant’, that aims to raise awareness of issues surrounding sexual abuse and challenge cultural norms that perpetuate abuse.

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‘Government levelling up agenda failing’ says local MP as pupils in class sizes over 30 continue to rise

Stephen Morgan MP has said the government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda is failing as new analysis reveals that one in thirteen pupils in Portsmouth are in class sizes over 30.

The new analysis from Labour has shown that since 2010, the number of pupils in classes over 30 in Portsmouth has increased by 233.

This picture is reflected nationally, with Labour analysis of House of Commons data, showing that since 2010:

  • The number of secondary pupils in classes of 31 or more has risen from one in ten to almost one in seven pupils
  • The number of primary pupils in classes of 31 or more has risen from one in nine to one in eight pupils

In Portsmouth, disadvantaged pupils are falling behind their peers in their learning and development, with those in early years five months behind, primary students over ten months behind and secondary students nearly two years behind (23.6 months).

To tackle these inequalities, Labour has launched a new ‘Bright Future Taskforce’ to deliver a long-term strategy for children’s recovery and ensure every child has the chance to fulfil their potential.

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

“Over the last decade the Conservatives have made the wrong choices for children in Portsmouth, overseeing an increase in class sizes and failing to tackle the gap in learning which is holding children back. 

“Labour has launched our Bright Future Taskforce to tackle the damage done by these policies ensuring every child can recover from the pandemic and achieve their potential.”

Upon many students in Portsmouth returning to school last week, Mr Morgan joined Labour’s call for breakfast clubs to recover lost learning as students return.