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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.

 

 

 

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‘Stay at home, protect the NHS, vaccinate Britain’ urges Portsmouth MP

Responding to the Prime Minister’s address to the nation tonight (4 January 2021) Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP has said the Government’s message to the country should be simple: ‘Stay at home, protect the NHS, vaccinate Britain’.

The intervention comes after a series of actions by the city MP to urging Ministers to prioritise the vaccine roll-out in the city, to consider mass testing for the community and urgently secure a vaccine hub for Portsmouth.

The MP also joined a briefing tonight with the Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi MP to make the call for a scaling up of the vaccine programme.

To date the Government has failed to respond to these demands from Portsmouth, but Mr Morgan has vowed to continue to make the case to Ministers.

On the Prime Minister’s statement tonight announcing a third national lockdown, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“We are a critical moment in our city’s fight against coronavirus. The virus is out of control, more and more people are getting infected by the disease and this is putting immense pressure on our local NHS.

With the roll out of the vaccine, and as we slowly start to see all the pieces of the puzzle to tackle coronavirus in place, l will continue to call on Government to respond swiftly and effectively to this crisis.

For now, as a city, we can and we must recapture the spirit of the national lockdown in March.

So the message tonight is simple. Stay at home, protect the NHS, and vaccinate Britain”.

On the vaccine roll out, the MP said:

“As a country we were the first in the world to get the vaccine, we should now aim to be the first in the world to get vaccinated.

Vaccinating Britain has got to be our national mission as it is the only way to get our city out of this crisis and to reopen our local economy.

That means introducing a national lockdown to get the virus under control. It means giving the NHS the capacity and support it needs to treat people with COVID, but also to vaccinate people from COVID.

That’s why I believe we should be vaccinating at the very least two million people a week, with the aim of doubling that figure by February”. 

On his efforts to get clarity from Government on schools closing, the Portsmouth MP added:

“With the Government losing control of the virus and being too slow to act, it was inevitable that schools would close and are now a necessary part of this national lockdown. But Ministers can’t just shut schools without a plan for what happens next. 

The government must now put in place a plan to ensure that all children have access to online learning so no child falls behind. Working parents and staff must be supported, and Portsmouth schools must reopened safely as soon as possible.

I will continue to liaise with parents and school staff over concerns and ensure their views are heard in Parliament”.

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City MP calls for Education Secretary to act urgently over school return plans

Stephen Morgan MP is demanding that the Education Secretary urgently answers outstanding questions after his shambolic announcement on school reopening led to chaos for parents, pupils and school staff just days before term is due to restart.

Some primary schools across the country face closure in other tier four areas with no clear path to reopening and the Education Secretary’s statements and media appearances so far have shed little light on the situation.

With one working day to go until the return of schools, thousands of parents have been forced to find last minute childcare as over 870,000 – more than one in six – primary age children will be off school for at least the next two weeks.

Accusing the embattled Education Secretary of a “cavalier approach to children’s education”, Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green has also demanded a clear and transparent route out of school closures that will ensure that pupils can return to the classroom safely.

The Portsmouth South representative is calling on Gavin Williamson to immediately clarify the announcement made by Government and ensure school and college staff and working families get the support they need to keep children learning safely.

He has also called on the Government to publish the SAGE advice on schools and colleges, stating that parents and school staff deserve to know that the government is taking all possible measures to keep children learning and keep children and staff safe across the whole country.

Demands by Labour to the government include:

  • Publish SAGE’s advice on the return of schools in January;
  • Confirm how many primary schools across England will not be opening as planned, and how many pupils are affected by this;
  • Publish the criteria used to determine which schools have closed and the specific circumstances in which schools will reopen during the new term;
  • Confirm which secondary age students will receive remote learning over the next two weeks;
  • Set out what support is available to families whose children will be off school;
  • Consider pausing the return of university students to campuses in line with the increased in tier 4 stay at home restrictions;
  • Set out how BTEC and vocational and technical exams taking place in January will be supported to go ahead safely and fairly.

Following an urgent letter to the Government this morning, Stephen Morgan MP said: 

“Government incompetence is causing a great deal of stress for parents, pupils, and school and college staff, and risks damaging children’s education, especially as further dither and delay comes just two days before the start of the Spring term.

It was clear that the latest u-turn was needed to provide consistency in London, as Covid infections continue to rise. Portsmouth local authority area moved into tier 4 on Sunday 20 December, with neighbouring Hampshire following shortly after. 

Parents, teachers and my constituents need Ministers to be transparent with their decisions to ensure they are based upon science and data and not just that Portsmouth schools have simply been missed by your Government”.

Kate Green MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Education, said:

“Gavin Williamson’s cavalier approach to children’s education has put the life chances of a generation at risk.

“He must end the serial incompetence and urgently clarify how many schools are closing, how many more are at risk, and provide a clear path to reopening for all schools affected.

“With just four days to go parents and pupils are confused about the start of term with dedicated school and college staff again being left to pick-up the pieces. Parents, pupils and staff deserve better.”

 

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Portsmouth MP: Government is failing to take proactive, responsible action on return to school

Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP has criticised the government’s chaotic approach to the return to school in January.

The City MP blasted the government’s failure today to provide the clarity parents and children need after a statement in the House of Commons from Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, made at Labour’s urging.

Williamson announced that the government was triggering the ‘education contingency framework’ and pushing back the staggered return for secondary schools and colleges by one week.

However, he did not clarify in his statement to the House which schools will open and which will remain closed. He also failed to guarantee remote learning access for those students that need it and remained silent on any commitment to a staff vaccination programme.

Labour has also urged the Government to publish SAGE advice about the return of schools and colleges next week, after scientific advisers have said stricter restrictions, including school closures, may be needed. 

Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green MP, said: 

Parents, pupils and staff will be increasingly worried by the drip feed of media reports saying scientists have advised the closure of schools in January, yet the Prime Minister has failed to be clear about the advice he has received.

The education secretary must set out a plan for schools and colleges, and provide desperately needed leadership. He must also urgently publish the SAGE advice on schools.”

Responding to the Government’s statement today, Stephen Morgan MP, said:

“Coronavirus rates are rising, and parents, staff, pupils and our city’s schools are crying out for clarity about the start of term next week.

“The government is failing to take the proactive, responsible action parents and pupils need on the return to school in January. Sadly they got little comfort or much-needed leadership from the Education Secretary tonight.

“I have always been clear that keeping young people learning safely should be a priority for Ministers. But the government’s failures – with a lack of funding for school safety measures to the delayed and chaotic announcement of mass testing – are putting young people’s education in Portsmouth at risk.

“I will continue to listen to concerns and act on them in Parliament for the sake of our city’s children and dedicated school staff”.

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UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement: My commitment to you on next steps

Today Parliament debated and voted to implement the Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the EU, which provides a legal framework for the UK’s future relationship at the end of the transition period.

Brexit has been a fraught and lengthy process. It is an issue which has divided opinion here in Portsmouth and across the country for decades. I believe you cannot welcome this deal with any enthusiasm but I do want to set out the reasons why I voted in favour of implementation legislation today and importantly, what I will do next to hold the Government to account on what happens next.

I have always been a proud advocate for Britain’s future in Europe and have always tried to represent the views of the many thousands of Portsmouth people who feel the same, and also respect those who do not.

That has meant standing shoulder to shoulder with campaigners and using my voice in Parliament to support a public vote on any deal. It has meant working across the House and across party to prevent a no-deal and to protect workers’ rights and safeguard our environment. It has meant fighting hard to secure investment in Portsmouth Port to avoid disruption and traffic chaos.

I remain steadfast in my belief that Britain should be a modern, outward-looking nation, with close economic and cultural ties to its nearest neighbours in a world of superpowers. Whilst this deal puts that at risk, it must be seen as a foundation to build on with a Labour Government ensuring closer cooperation and prosperity for all.

The Trade and Cooperation Agreement is not the deal we were promised. Instead of the Prime Minister’s much-vaunted “oven-ready deal”, what has emerged is the bare minimum that the public could have expected from a needlessly fraught process.

The months of dither, delay and theatrics have caused unnecessary damage to businesses and the wider economy, all in the middle of a global pandemic and the worst recession in three centuries.

There is no doubt that a better deal could have been reached, but that is not what was voted on today and it is important to recognise this.

There are only two choices facing the country: implement an underwhelming but mutually-agreed trade deal, or immediately face a disastrous no-deal Brexit.

I have always been clear that crashing out of the EU without a deal would be unthinkable. It would cause permanent and unacceptable damage to communities including our own. It would be bad for British business and it would be bad for Portsmouth people.

On an issue like this, I don’t believe we can sit on the sidelines. The tough, but necessary decision to accept the implementation of legislation is one that reflects the urgency to avoid a disastrous no-deal. It allows the country to focus once again on the day-to-day priorities that matter: fighting the pandemic and rebuilding the economy.

But I am absolutely clear that this does not give the Government a free hand for the future. The consequences of the deal are this government’s, and this government’s alone, to own. I can reassure you I will hold them to account every step of the way.

So my vote today was conditional. It is based on what you have told me that right now people and business want stability and certainty. It recognises what our partners in the EU have fought for – an agreement that they have collectively agreed and I believe can be put right.

The Brexit debate may be over. The fight for the future isn’t. Nothing in this trade agreement closes the door on a stronger future relationship with Europe. The first review point for the agreement is in 2026. There will be at least one general election before then.

That’s why in the coming days I will be setting out a series of demands on government must deliver for Portsmouth. I will be listening to constituents, local businesses and trade unions in the coming days to shape these priorities for our city. To be part of that task, please get in touch.

We can start now on beginning to build on this agreement to secure a more prosperous and fairer future for everyone. I urge you to help me here in Portsmouth with that mission.

Stephen Morgan MP

 

 

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With no option of renegotiating left, Labour votes in the national interest to reject a no-deal

Labour votes today (30 December) “in the national interest” to implement the legislation on the Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the EU, therefore avoiding a disastrous no-deal Brexit.

While the deal struck with the European Commission and 27 Member States has many shortcomings, Labour made it clear in the House of Commons that it was still preferable to the severe damage of a no deal scenario and that it brought stability and some certainty for businesses already under huge strain from the pandemic.

In the debate today, MPs were not given an opportunity to vote on the deal itself, but merely the implementation legislation, just hours before the transition period comes to an end tomorrow night.

Opening the debate for the official opposition, Labour Leader Keir Starmer also criticised the late delivery of the deal, and how it falls far short of the government’s promises on services, security and cutting red tape for British businesses and producers.

Labour have made clear they will build on the foundations of the deal to make the UK the best place to grow up in and grow old in.

Rachel Reeves MP, Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster who closed the debate said:

“For some stability, in the national interest, and up against the only other choice of a disastrous no deal scenario, Labour has voted for the trade deal agreed between the UK government and the 27 member states of the EU.

“But not only does this unambitious deal fall far short of what this government promised – months of dither, delay and theatrics mean it has come far too late for many businesses and caused unnecessary damage to the economy.

“This government must now deliver on its promises, and plug the gaps in their preparations for our businesses and borders – and fast. A Labour government will build on the foundations of this deal to change the UK for better.”

Stephen Morgan MP has a strong record of proudly speaking out in support of Britain’s relationship with the EU.

He has called in Parliament for a public vote on any deal. He has worked across the House and across party to prevent a no-deal Brexit and to protect workers’ rights and safeguard our environment. He has fought hard to secure investment in Portsmouth Port at risk of disruption and traffic chaos under a no-deal scenario.

Stephen Morgan MP commenting on the debate today said:

“Whilst it is a relief that a deal has been secured it falls vastly short of what the Prime Minister promised was oven-ready back in December last year, and it allows the country to avoid a disastrous no-deal Brexit.

“This is a thin deal and I have huge misgivings about it. Voting for or against it wasn’t an option before MPs today. The tough, but necessary decision to accept the implementation legislation is one that reflects a long-term effort to avoid a disastrous no-deal Brexit. It also allows the country to focus once again on the day-to-day priorities that matter to people: fighting the pandemic and rebuilding the economy.

“Portsmouth people will know only too well that after all the dither and delay the consequences of this deal and its weaknesses are this government’s to own”.

Commenting on Keir Starmer’s remarks that Labour will build on the deal, the Portsmouth South MP added:

 “A Labour government will hold Ministers to account on this deal, and will forge a new future for our country, leading the way globally, but working with our neighbours and those with shared values on crucial issues like tax justice, tackling climate change and workers’ rights.

“The deal falls far short of what the government promised. It neglects services which makes up 80% of our economy and weakens our security measures. I will hold Ministers to account on the promises they make and break to the British people.

“That’s why in the coming days I will be setting out a series of demands on what government must deliver for Portsmouth. I will be listening to constituents, local businesses and trade unions in the coming days to shape these priorities for our city.”

 

 

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UK-EU trade deal: Have your say

The Government has now published the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement following news on Christmas Eve that a deal had been struck. The deal sets out the relationship the UK will have at the end of the Brexit transition period. 

Since being elected MP, Stephen Morgan has had thousands of letters, messages and conversations with constituents to hear views on Brexit and the UK’s future relationship with the EU. He has also been meeting with local businesses to understand and address the uncertainty of a no-deal and liaising with the area’s branch of the European Movement.

In this latest survey, in order for Stephen to continue to represent your views in Parliament, he is keen to hear your ideas.

 Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Let me be clear: I campaigned to remain in the EU, and wanted people to have a final say. Sadly after the result of the General Election last year that is no longer possible.

There are two paths for the country now. A no-deal or a deal.

I want to hear from you with your views on what should happen next as I continue to hold the Government to account”.

To complete the short survey and tell Stephen what you think click here.

 

 

 

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“If Ministers are serious about turning around the misfortune of nation’s shopping areas, they need to commit to further investment in cities like our own”

Responding to news that Portsmouth has secured funding from the Future High Streets Fund, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“I have long argued that Government needs to do better, the council do more, to bring our city’s high streets back from the brink which have been neglected for too long. That is why I have repeatedly lobbied Government over the challenges our shopping areas face and backed a bid to Ministers for much-needed funds.

Covid has made the crisis on our city’s high streets even worse, with more store closures, further job losses and shopping areas looking unloved. Whilst this investment is welcome, and a step in the right direction, yet again Portsmouth’s communities are short-changed by this Government. 

If Ministers are serious about turning around the misfortune of nation’s shopping areas, they need to commit to further investment in cities like our own”.

Portsmouth submitted a bid for £10.5m to Government with proposals for projects to the value of £4.9m for Commercial Road and £5.6m for Fratton Road.

The Minister responsible regrettably confirmed today (26 December 2020) to Stephen Morgan MP that figures fall short of what was requested.

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‘Glass half empty’ approach to support fails our pubs warn Labour

Labour warns of ‘last orders’ for pubs as government ‘glass half empty’ approach fails to provide adequate support to closed businesses on the high street

  • New analysis shows cash crisis facing pubs with an estimated £3.8 billion of lost income in crucial Christmas period
  • 36,000 pubs in England have been forced to close – or 9 out of 10 pubs in England
  • Labour is calling for a Hospitality and High Street Fightback Fund that would boost cash support to pubs and hospitality sector saving jobs and livelihoods
  • New analysis by the Labour party has revealed that 93 per cent, or 9 out of 10 pubs in England, have been forced to shut and are set to lose out on thousands of pounds in trade over the critical Christmas period.
  • 85 per-cent of pubs in England were closed in the run up to Christmas. This number will jump to 93 per-cent – with over 3,000 more pubs closed from (today) Boxing Day after new restrictions came into force across large parts of the country.

In November and December last year, pubs and bars across the UK made £3.8 billion in sales to tide them through the first quarter of 2020.

The Official Opposition is warning that thousands of pubs could go bust as they have seen takings tumble, debt mount up, and cash reserves reduced during the coronavirus crisis. The turnover for pubs and bars to August 2020 was less than half of what it was in 2019.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The failure of government to properly support pubs means that three quarters of pubs are receiving up to half the amount of cash support that they received in the first national lockdown.

“This comes after months of reduced sales and the cost of making themselves Covid-safe pushing many to the brink of bankruptcy. This latest analysis confirms what I am hearing from many Portsmouth publicans and is a stark reminder of the extent to which our much-loved local pubs are struggling. Government must act to protect our nation’s pubs”.

The Portsmouth South MP is urging the government to use a portion of the £2 billion in business rate relief that supermarkets have pledged to return to HM Treasury to establish a Hospitality and High Streets Fightback Fund targeted at those firms that have been hardest hit throughout the crisis. 

Labour is calling for the remainder to be used to immediately support self-employed people excluded from support throughout this crisis.

The party is also calling for reform of the unfair Additional Restrictions Grant so that funding is allocated to supply chain businesses based on which Tier a local area is in and how long they have been in it, to reflect business need.

Lucy Powell MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Business and Consumers, added: 

“Pubs are a vital part of Britain’s high streets. They bring people together and help communities thrive. They’ve had the toughest of years as a result of the pandemic and, if the government doesn’t step up and put a proper support plan in place to secure their future, it will be last orders for many.

“Boris Johnson is failing our pubs. His glass half empty approach is a real threat to their future. Labour is calling on the government to use part of the £2 billion supermarkets are returning to set up a Hospitality and High Streets Fightback Fund to save businesses and jobs now.”