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Budget 2021: Portsmouth MP blasts government’s ‘failure to deliver for working people’

Stephen Morgan MP has blasted the government today for ‘failing to deliver for working people’ in its autumn budget, announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer earlier this afternoon.

The Portsmouth MP underlined that working people have ‘never paid so much for so little’.

It comes as the cost of living for people in Portsmouth continues to spiral, with a cut to universal credit in October, rising fuel costs, inflation expected to reach as high as 4% in 2022 and the highest sustained tax burden in peace time.

Four in ten households on Universal Credit are facing a 13 per cent rise in their energy bills in the same month as their benefit is cut by £20 a week.

The Official Opposition has said the government has ‘got its priorities wrong’ and said they would focus on easing pressure on households and businesses. Their plan includes abolishing VAT on domestic energy bills for six months to help people get through the winter months and cutting Business Rates next year.

It comes as the Portsmouth MP’s office revealed earlier this month, based on a breakdown of data from the Office for National Statistics, that up to 174 of businesses are at risk in the local representative’s constituency of Portsmouth South alone.

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

“This budget is yet another example of the government’s failure to improve the daily lives of working people in Portsmouth. Never have they paid so much, for so little.

“Families across our city will be feeling the pinch this winter as the government continues to struggle to get to grips with rising fuel prices and the cost of living.

“Today we saw nothing to reduce the burden on working people with no VAT reduction on their energy bills. Little comfort for those on NHS waiting lists. Nothing to be seen on community policing and no real action to tackle the climate emergency.

“Where the Chancellor has failed, Labour will tax fairly, spend wisely, and get our economy firing on all cylinders.

In response to today’s budget announcement, the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rachel Reeves MP, said:

“Families struggling with the cost-of-living crisis, businesses hit by a supply chain crisis, those who rely on our schools and our hospitals and our police – they won’t recognise the world that the Chancellor is describing. They will think that he is living in a parallel universe.

“Time and again today, the Chancellor compared the investments that he is making to the last decade. But who was in charge in this lost decade? They were.”

Labour’s offer:

  • We’ll Buy, Make and Sell More in Britain by bringing jobs back to this country and awarding public contracts to British businesses, and create hundreds of thousands of secure jobs in low-carbon industries that tackle the challenge of climate change.
  • We’ll bring in a New Deal for Working People so people earn a proper wage, have job security, and can balance work with their lives with a right to flexible working. And we’ll always make sure work pays.
  • We’ll deliver efficient, modern public services that drive up standards in schools, hospitals, transport and the places we live and work.
  • We’ll always be on the side of British business, which is where wealth is created and where the jobs are created. We will work together with industry in a national endeavour to remake Britain and to seize the opportunities of the future.
  • And we will get real value for money for the taxpayer and stop the waste that is prolific under this government, with a new Office for Value for Money and strong fiscal rules. We will say how every commitment we make will be paid for.
  • In contrast to this Conservative government, Labour will tax fairly, spend wisely, and get our economy firing on all cylinders.
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COP26: Portsmouth MP urges transformative climate action ahead of landmark summit

Stephen Morgan MP has lobbied the government to deliver ‘transformative climate action’ as the UK prepares to host the largest climate summit in the world, COP26, in Glasgow on Sunday.

In a letter to the COP26 President, Alok Sharma MP, the Portsmouth representative underlined, amongst wider global issues, the importance of expanding woodlands and carbon-capturing peatlands, where Portsmouth and the wider Hampshire area is home to some of the largest swathes of these potential carbon stores in the country.

It comes as the government last week refused to back cross-party supported amendments to the Environment Bill, including those on air quality and sewage pollution.

Ministers rejected placing a legal duty on water companies to clean up local waterways and have previously voted against recognising WHO air quality limits.

This is despite ongoing concerns about recent pollution reports in Eastney and Langstone Harbour, as well as local frustrations of the city council’s failure to take meaningful steps to tackle Portsmouth’s dirty air crisis.

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

“Britain is set to host the largest climate summit in the world later this week, but government is failing to provide the leadership that’s required to secure the transformative climate action the world so desperately needs.

“From raging forest fires in California, to water companies allowed to pump eye-watering amounts of raw sewage into our local waters, it is clear urgent, global action is needed.

 “That’s why I’m demanding government steps up to the plate to secure a greener future for our city, the country and the world at COP26.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fire and rehire: Portsmouth MP votes to end ‘cruel and unacceptable’ practice

Stephen Morgan MP has backed legislation to stop employers being able to sack staff and rehire them on worse pay and conditions.

Despite it not being possible in UK law to outright ban fire and rehire, the Bill will enshrine good practice into law and will penalise bad practice.

The new legislation will require employers to provide all relevant information to workforce representatives or a recognised union and consult with them at the very earliest stage, with the intention of reaching agreement on the least disagreeable way forward.

The Bill also gives a right to claim automatic unfair dismissal if the steps are not taken or if a worker is dismissed for refusing a reduction in terms and conditions.

Fire and rehire is not a new phenomenon. However, it has gained prominence because of the high-profile controversy generated by its use by major employers such as British Airways, Heathrow Airport and British Gas in circumstances they claim to be justified by the COVID pandemic to force their staff onto lower wages and longer hours and cut benefits such as pensions.

A poll published by the TUC revealed that nearly one in 10 (9%) workers have been told to re-apply for their jobs on worse terms and conditions since the first lockdown in March.

In the same poll nearly a fifth of 18-24 year-olds say their employer has tried to rehire them on inferior terms during the pandemic. And twice as many black and minority ethnic (BME) workers (15%) have been faced with fire and rehire as white workers (8%).

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

Fire and rehire is a backward and unacceptable practice that must end. No one in Portsmouth should be subjected to this cowardly negotiation tactic.

“It is not just bad for working people, it’s bad for our economy too, with the loss of productivity meaning less public money to support our vital local services.

“We have an opportunity to emerge from this crisis and move on to something better, not go back to the broken measures we had before. Government must do the right thing and vote with Labour to end fire and rehire.”

Earlier this year, the Portsmouth MP met with local British Gas engineers, and members of the GMB union, whose members were striking, due to a dispute with Centrica on pay and conditions.

Mr Morgan also wrote a letter to Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng MP back in March, calling for Government action and demanded that ‘real negotiations’ be conducted. He disclosed in the letter that he had met with engineers in Portsmouth who have been affected by the renegotiation tactics.

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COP26: City MP calls for government to ‘come clean’ on its climate commitments in UK trade deals

Stephen Morgan MP grilled ministers in the House of Commons today on whether the government’s commitment to tackle climate change is serious, after a leak last week suggested it would prioritise economic growth over climate protection.

It comes as the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26, is set to begin in Glasgow next week.

The leaked document was drawn up for a cross-Whitehall working group and circulated around 120 Whitehall officials in recent days.

It’s reported to say, “HMG (the government) should not refuse to liberalise on products of environmental concern where there is an economic case for liberalisation, or partner interest is so strong that not doing so would compromise the wider agreement.”

Following his question to the Secretary of State for International Trade in the House of Commons this morning, the Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, commented:

“The government is happy to talk up its supposed commitment to tackling this generation’s greatest challenge, but behind closed doors, it’s comfortable to roll back on it.

“With just over a week away until Britain hosts the most significant climate event since the 2015 Paris Agreement, we should be showing leadership, not breaking our promises.

“Government must come clean and not waste next week’s critical opportunity to tackle climate change and I will continue to hold Ministers to account on this.”

The City MP has vowed to continue to keep pressuring government to ensure it lives up to its climate commitments and seizes the chance to finally get a grip of the climate emergency at COP26.

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Government Ministers must ‘match rhetoric with action’ and vote to protect Portsmouth’s environment – City MP

Stephen Morgan MP is calling for the government to back changes to the Environment Bill which would place a legal duty on water companies not to pollute Portsmouth’s waterways.

The change to the Bill, which has cross-party support, would ensure “world leading protection” for waterways across the country, according to charity Surfers Against Sewage.

Without the proposed change, water companies would not be required to take immediate action to tackle sewage pollution, meaning the state of local waterways could continue to decline indefinitely.

The charity has claimed the government would be at risk of undermining its own manifesto pledge to leave the environment in a better state than it found it.

It comes after recent reports from the Environment Agency of an ‘abnormal situation’ in Eastney on October 9.

The Portsmouth MP has written to the regulator demanding answers on what conversations it had with the local water provider Southern Water, in addition to a range of actions Mr Morgan has taken to clean up the city’s bathing waters.

In the local MP’s constituency alone, sewage was pumped into local rivers for at least 617 hours in 2020, according to data from The Rivers Trust.

In July, Southern Water was handed a record £90m fine by the water regulator for thousands of illegal discharges of sewage, which polluted rivers and coastal waters in Kent, Hampshire and Sussex.

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

“As we approach Cop26, the government has an opportunity to match its rhetoric on protecting our environment with action.

“Southern Water’s record shows that the current system in place to protect Portsmouth’s waterways, including Langstone Harbour, is not fit for purpose.

“Southern Water spent the equivalent of nearly a month last year pumping sewage into local waters, and it’s high time now something is done to address this chronic problem for our city.

“Proposed changes to government legislation would force industry to live up to their responsibilities and I hope all of our region’s parliamentary representatives will do the right thing and vote to properly protect our environment.”

The City MP is set vote for the amendment backed by Surfers Against Sewage and other environmental groups in the House of Commons tomorrow evening.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Shadow Defence Minister visits Leonardo Southampton to view world leading thermal imaging technology

Portsmouth South MP and Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan was able to view world leading sensor technology created at Leonardo’s Southampton site at close range during a recent visit.

Leonardo in Southampton builds a compact sensor system that can provide minute detections of fractional changes in temperature, while being highly portable, meaning it can be used in a wide variety of environments. It is thought that the sensor system has world leading levels of sensitivity and is used in observatories around the world.

Peter Dillon VP Sensors for the Southampton site said: “It was great to be able to demonstrate this exciting technology, drawing on the skills of our research team, our production team and our partners across the Solent region. Stephen took real interest in the innovation and learned about its many applications including detecting the signatures of planetary objects.”

Leonardo in Southampton creates communicationsoptronics and air traffic management products for the defence and security sector. The company’s thermal imaging cameras have many uses including being used by the BBC around the globe for high profile wildlife series such as Springwatch, Planet Earth and Big Cats.

Across the UK Leonardo employs more than 7,500 staff, of whom 500 are on their apprenticeship and graduate schemes, offering them degree-level qualifications alongside practical training.

In October 2018, the Southampton office was renamed Nicolson House, after the actions of Flight Lieutenant Nicolson VC who achieved one of the Second World War’s most extraordinary heroic feats, fighting off German planes above the skies of where the Southampton office now stands.

Mr Morgan toured the site with staff before sitting down with senior representatives of the company.

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

“Leonardo are pioneers in British-built aerospace, defence and security technology.

“The next era of defence technology is not just about our national defence but also about the creation and maintenance of high-skilled, well-paid jobs. Leonardo know this and their enthusiasm for local apprenticeship schemes is commendable and infectious.

“Ministers must do more to support Leonardo’s world-leading operations, which has clear benefits for investment and jobs in Southampton and the wider Solent region.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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ENERGY PRICE CRISIS: City MP slams Government’s cost of living ‘triple whammy’ for local families

Stephen Morgan MP has slammed the government’s triple whammy on millions of families who are set to be squeezed by rising energy prices, an increase in national insurance and the cut to Universal Credit. 

Four in ten households on Universal Credit are facing a 13 per cent rise in their energy bills in the same month as their benefit is cut by £20 a week.

In the Portsmouth representative’s constituency alone, 5,550 families will be affected by the cut, including 6,907 children.

According to Citizens Advice, the £20 a week uplift would cover near a whole week of energy costs for a below average income household.

It is also estimated that the rise in the energy price cap means half a million more families will be plunged into fuel poverty.

In addition, according to analysis by the New Economics Foundation, 2.5 million families will be hit by both the cut to Universal Credit and the increase in national insurance. On average, they will lose out by £1,290 in 2022/​23.

The Portsmouth MP has backed a call for the Government to protect family finances before it’s too late – by cancelling the cut, dropping the tax rises on working people and businesses, and urgently exploring further measures to help households alleviate the cost of rising bills, including the option of making automatic and extending the Warm Homes Discount.

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

“Portsmouth families are facing a cruel triple whammy that will hit them in their pockets: rising energy prices, rising taxes, and a £1,000 cut to universal credit.  

“This Government says it is on the side of working people and families, yet it is doubling down on decisions that will impact thousands of local families and plunge half a million more households into fuel poverty. It’s completely indefensible.

“I will continue to take action and stand up for those most at risk in our city as we head towards winter.”

Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband added: 

“It is a fundamental failure of long-term Government planning over the last decade that we are so exposed and vulnerable as a country to soaring gas prices and it is families that are now paying the price.” 

In his latest intervention in a series of actions on this issue, Mr Morgan has written to the Work and Pensions Secretary urging her to cancel the cut to Universal Credit and protect vulnerable families in Portsmouth.