Posts

, , , , ,

Portsmouth MP: Wedding industry ‘needs clarity and support’

Stephen Morgan MP has called for the government to give the wedding industry the clarity and support it needs for its related businesses to reopen again post-lockdown.

The Portsmouth representative has written to the Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng MP sharing concerns on behalf of his constituents and the wider sector.

It comes as 60,000 businesses and 400,000 workers are currently reliant on the weddings sector, which is worth an average of £14.7 billion to the UK economy each year, according to the letter.

Yet, despite the importance to the economy and the regional employment the sector provides in every part of the UK, the picture is extremely stark for the wedding industry, as businesses across the entire supply chain are reportedly on the brink of collapse.

Mr Morgan has highlighted that Portsmouth businesses need sector specific clarity in the upcoming roadmap out of lockdown announcement on 22 February, as well as urging Government consider tailored financial support for the sector, such as inclusion in the temporary VAT reduction to 5% and business rates exemption.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, commented,

“The weddings sector provides a great deal of revenue for businesses and employment for many across our city and the wider country.

“However, without the certainty and support the sector requires, the industry we knew before the first lockdown may not be the same one we see when we emerge from the third.

“Ahead of the government announcement on Monday, it is critical Government ensures these businesses will get the clarity and support they need to get back on their feet.”

Last week the parliamentary representative warned 15,000 jobs in Portsmouth could be at risk unless business tax relief, as well as other measures, are introduced in the forthcoming March budget.

, , , , , , , ,

Portsmouth MP gets behind new COVID debt plan to boost business recovery

Stephen Morgan MP has backed the Official Opposition’s new plans to back British businesses, as it calls on the Government to help ease the Covid-debt burden faced by firms across the country.

Calling for the establishment of a British Business Recovery Agency, Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds says Labour’s priority is to “help businesses get back on their feet, secure our economy and get Britain on the road to recovery.”

British business is currently weighed down by £71 billion of Covid debt through Government-backed loans during the crisis – with the Chancellor encouraging banks to begin asking for repayments in March.

New analysis by Labour reveals that 850,000 business are at risk of closure in the next three months, putting 2.4 million jobs at risk.

Labour’s plan would ease the debt burden on business, secure the economy and help British business to rebuild by:

  • Converting the Bounce Back Loans (BBLs) scheme into a ‘student-loan style’ arrangement, so that businesses only have to start repayments when they are making money.
  • Creating a new British Business Recovery Agency that would manage the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans Scheme (CBILs) and Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILs) in order to create terms that secure the future of businesses, including employee ownership, preference shares and subordinated debt

It comes following the Portsmouth representative’s warning last week that 15,000 jobs could be at risk in Portsmouth unless the Chancellor acts.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

Businesses across our city have worked incredibly hard to keep going during this crisis and I know how much many have sacrificed to just adapt.

“That’s why many businesses in Portsmouth will need the breathing room when we exit lockdown to be allowed to be able to grow again before they are asked to repay their debts.

“It is economically illiterate to demand Covid loan repayments next month when it would risk crushing businesses and our recovery, which is why I fully support these plans to allow businesses to start repayments when they are able to.”

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) warned in December that the debt overhang could lead to tens if not hundreds of thousands of corporate failures in the first quarter of this year, with 40 per cent of businesses reporting their debt as unmanageable.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has also said that as much as £30 billion of public money will have to be written off if the Chancellor presses ahead with his current plans.

Anneliese Dodds MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, said:

“Labour would rebuild Britain by backing businesses and supporting families through the crisis and then putting Britain on the path to growth.

“Instead of pushing business to the brink, Labour’s plans would protect small firms and give larger ones flexible options to manage debt. We would help businesses get back on their feet, secure our economy and get Britain on the road to recovery.”

 

 

, , , , , , ,

Portsmouth MP backs National Apprenticeship Week 2021

Stephen Morgan MP has offered his support for National Apprenticeship Week, recognising the contribution made by apprentices and their employers in Portsmouth.

Apprenticeships provide people with the chance to learn a trade and earn a wage whilst they progress, with the Official Opposition arguing investing in training opportunities will be central to rebuilding our economy after the pandemic.

However, there continues to be a downward trend in apprentice numbers, with figures showing the number of apprenticeships in Portsmouth has fallen by nearly 50% since 2015/16.

In July, the Government announced a cash incentive of either £2,000 or £1,500 for employers to take on a new apprentice. The ‘Plan for Jobs’ budgeted for 100,000 incentive payments, but new data shows just 18,670 apprentices had been taken on under the scheme by 8 January 2021 which runs to March 2021.

Labour is calling upon the Government to act now to create more apprenticeship opportunities by creating a wage subsidy from the underspend in the apprenticeships levy.

Backed by the Association of Employers and Learning Providers (AELP), this would create 85,000 new apprenticeships for 16-24-year olds this year.

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

“I’m pleased to back National Apprenticeship Week, recognising the enormous contribution made by apprentices to our economy and wider society.

“The Government is failing to create the opportunities young people in Portsmouth need. I am calling on the Government to adopt Labour’s wage subsidy policy to boost opportunities for young people as we rebuild our country.”

Shadow Minister for Apprenticeships and Lifelong learning, Toby Perkins MP, said:

“Young people are being let down by the Government’s irresponsible handling of this crisis which has led to soaring unemployment rates and the worst recession of any major economy.

“The Government should adopt Labour’s proposal for a structured wage subsidy instead of their failing cash incentives and create the apprenticeship opportunities young people need to gain productive skills and long-term employment.”

Mr Morgan previously criticised the Chancellor for the government’s failure on apprentice numbers post-spending review and will now be looking to see how he may address the growing problem in his forthcoming budget.

 

 

, , , , , , ,

City MP: 15,000 local jobs at risk unless “smart” furlough scheme and business tax relief introduced

Stephen Morgan MP has warned 15,000 jobs could be at risk in Portsmouth unless the Chancellor delivers a “smart” furlough scheme to tackle Britain’s jobs crisis and for the temporary 5% reduced rate of VAT for the hospitality, tourism and culture sectors to continue by as much as another six months.

It comes following new analysis by the Official Opposition estimates that over 15,000 people were still furloughed by their employer in late January in Portsmouth.

According to the new analysis revealed today, seven months after Sunak launched his ‘Plan for Jobs’ last July, nearly 10,000 people are also currently claiming out of work benefits in Portsmouth.

However, Labour is now calling for Sunak to immediately announce an extension to the furlough scheme that is set to expire at the end of April, to remove uncertainty for local businesses and workers.

Meanwhile, the Shadow Chancellor is also calling for the temporary 5% reduced rate of VAT for the hospitality, tourism and culture sectors to continue for another six months or until three months after the lifting of health restrictions – whichever comes later. The reduced rate is set to expire on 31st March, when it will return to 20%.

Labour is also calling on the Chancellor to set the fourth grant of the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) at 80% of pre-crisis profits before the forthcoming Budget announcement.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, said,

“The Chancellor’s Plan for Jobs is clearly not working. We need urgent action to secure, recover and create jobs to help those on furlough to get back into work, as well as to help those claiming out of work benefits to find new employment.

“Extending the furlough scheme and providing tax relief to the hardest hit businesses will give workers and SMEs in Portsmouth the certainty they need to support their recovery.

“People need emergency action today, not more dither and delay until the Budget.”

Mr Morgan previously called for greater support for the hardest hit businesses and self-employed after last year’s Spending Review.

, , , , , ,

‘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.”

, , , , ,

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.

 

 

, , , , , ,

City MP joins calls for “smart” furlough scheme as part of emergency action to tackle Britain’s jobs crisis

Stephen Morgan MP has joined the Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds today on calling on the Chancellor to introduce a “smart” extension of the furlough scheme to protect jobs as long as health restrictions remain in place, as part of an immediate, emergency Jobs Recovery Package to tackle Britain’s ballooning unemployment crisis.

The Chancellor initially triggered a one-size-fits-all wind down of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) in his Plan for Jobs last July. After several last-minute changes over the autumn and winter, the scheme is now set to expire at the end of April.

With 4.6 million people still on furlough, the Official Opposition is calling for the Chancellor not to repeat the mistakes of last year by winding down the scheme while public health restrictions are in place and demand is still severely impacted.

In addition, the Shadow Frontbench is calling for Sunak to immediately announce an extension to the furlough scheme alongside urgent reform to make it smarter, with new training to help furloughed workers improve their skills and tough conditions on employers to stop abuse.

Dodds is also demanding immediate action to recover jobs by overhauling the failing Kickstart scheme and to help create clean new jobs by reforming the shambolic Green Homes Grant.

Seven months after Sunak launched his Plan for Jobs last July, redundancies are at record highs, 1.7 million people are out of work and 4.6 million people are still on furlough.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, commented,

“The government’s plan for jobs just is not working. Seven months after its launch, we’ve got record redundancies, rising unemployment and the worst economic crisis of any major economy.

“We need urgent action to secure, recover and create jobs. This must include a smarter furlough scheme, an overhaul of the failing Kickstart youth programme, and reform of the shambolic Green Homes Grant as part of wider action to ‘Build it in Britain’ and support the creation of 400,000 clean, new jobs.

“I know many people in Portsmouth have been left behind by this government in terms of financial support, particularly the self-employed and creative industries, so I will continue to do all I can to push the government to deliver the support they deserve.”

Mr Morgan has consistently demanded further support for the ‘excluded’ and recently wrote to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to set out a ‘roadmap to recovery’ for creative industries.

, , , , , ,

‘Fire and rehire must be outlawed’ says Portsmouth MP in latest call to protect British Gas workers

Stephen Morgan MP has said that ‘fire and rehire’ tactics must be outlawed, and Government must push for ‘real negotiations’ between Centrica and local British Gas workers to take place.

This comes as British Gas engineers across the country are currently striking over its parent company’s use of ‘fire and rehire’ tactics to force changes to workers’ contracts.

The new terms would mean workers could have to work 156 extra hours per year with no additional pay. It would also put shifts on an uncertain six-week roster and extend the period during which engineers could be asked to work each day. Built into these new contracts is also the ability for British Gas to change the terms with 28 days’ notice, with no negotiation.

In a letter sent this week to the Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng MP, calling for Government action, the Portsmouth South MP urged for ‘real negotiations’ to be conducted and disclosed that he had met with engineers in Portsmouth who have been affected by the renegotiation tactics.

According to the letter, the contract dispute has led to ‘stress and anxiety caused by the uncertainty and potential changes to working conditions’.

The letter also described that one British Gas worker said he would find it impossible to balance the extra hours, whilst caring for his partner and home-schooling his 14-year-old while schools are closed.

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

“Our essential workers deserve to be treated far better than this and they should not be having to face this level of uncertainty during this incredibly difficult period.

“Centrica can more than afford to treat and pay their workers fairly and these draconian ‘fire and rehire’ tactics must stop now and be outlawed.

“I will continue to push the government on this to ensure British Gas workers get the fair deal they so richly deserve.”

The parliamentary representative recently met with local British Gas engineers, and members of the GMB union, whose members are currently striking, due to the dispute with Centrica on pay and conditions.

 

 

, , , , , ,

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.”

, , , , , , , ,

‘Government must deliver on its promise to creative workers’

I know from my postbag that many constituents are concerned by the issue of work permits for creative workers now that the Brexit transition period has ended.

The work musicians, performers, technicians and writers do in bringing creativity to our lives is important in and of itself, but it is also a hugely important part of our city’s economy and has to be part of the recovery plan for Portsmouth as we emerge from the pandemic.

The industry was one of the fastest growing sectors before the pandemic and a real example of Britain shining on the world stage as we are a net exporter of music worldwide.

I believe it is not acceptable that UK-based creative workers miss out. These opportunities are even more essential in the context of how hard-hit creatives have been in the pandemic. Incomes have been lost and so many people have fallen through the gaps in government support.

The current situation will prevent many younger, newer artists from touring and progressing their careers. It will also prevent European acts from touring here – hitting our music venues when they need it most.

Labour wants the Government to deliver on its promise to creative workers that they won’t be subject to unnecessary bureaucracy in the post-Brexit world. UK-based creative workers should not be disadvantaged by the Government’s failures to stand up for their jobs and nor should our venues miss out on EU-based talent.

Ministers need to put this situation right. I will continue to push the Government on this important issue of concern for Portsmouth people.

Stephen Morgan MP