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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.  

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ARAP Chaos: Portsmouth MP blasts government with just 1% of applications accepted and almost 7,000 still outstanding

  • Government figures reveal just 850 applications have been accepted since April
  • Almost 7,000 applications remain outstanding
  • Just 213 evacuated in 18 months between the Doha Agreement and Operation Pitting

Stephen Morgan MP has blasted the government after new figures have revealed that just 850 applications to the government’s ARAP scheme have been accepted since the beginning of April, with 6,800 still outstanding.

The revelations contradict Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s claim on 6 September that just 311 of those Afghans who supported UK forces were left in the country, and cast fresh doubt on the government’s chaotic withdrawal from the country.1

Data from the Ministry of Defence shows that 60,000 applications to the scheme were received between April and August 2021, with 52,350 being rejected and 6,800 still being processed, meaning just 850 (1.41%) applications were accepted during the period.2

Ministers have also been forced to admit that just 213 ARAP-eligible Afghans were evacuated in the 18 months between the Doha Agreement and the beginning of Operation Pitting on 13 August, illustrating a further lack of planning.3

Labour’s Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan said the revelations showed the government was “out of touch and on the beach” during the immediate crisis. He called on the Defence Secretary to set out a “credible” plan to help those left behind.

Mr Morgan called on Armed Forces Minister James Heappey to clarify the figures in the House of Commons today, but the minister failed to answer, suggesting he would write to respond instead.

The government has confirmed that no further evacuation flights have been conducted since the conclusion of Operation Pitting on 28 August, yet claim the scheme remains open.4

Earlier this month, the Portsmouth representative also met with members of the local Afghan community to listen to views and concerns about family and friends in Afghanistan.

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

“Despite the very best efforts from our armed forces, this government has woefully mishandled the crisis in Afghanistan.

“These figures reveal the government’ systemic failure to plan for the withdrawal in the 18 months following the Doha agreement and prioritise the safety of British nationals and brave Afghans who supported our forces.

“While Ministers claim the ARAP scheme is still open, this will be cold comfort to those still on the ground, now living in fear under Taliban rule. The Defence Secretary is yet to set out a credible plan to secure the safety of those the government has left behind.

“This crisis was a fundamental test of the government and its leadership. Once again, Conservative Ministers were found to be out of touch and on the beach.”

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City MP votes against government Bill to raise National Insurance as Labour offers alternative vision for Social Care

Stephen Morgan MP has voted against a government Bill that will raise National Insurance for local working families as Labour sets out its alternative vision for social care reforms.

The Health and Social Care Levy Bill, which is being debated in the House of Commons today before votes this evening, would raise National Insurance by 1.25% for working families and businesses across the country.

The government legislation is facing wide-ranging criticism for how the social care reforms will be funded, particularly for those on low income.

Under current proposals, a graduate on a typical entry level salary would a pay marginal tax rate of almost 50%.

In addition, The British Chamber of Commerce, Make UK, the CBI and the Federation of Small Businesses have all slammed the government’s suggested solution to the social care crisis as harmful for businesses and for our economic recovery, with the FSB saying it will lead to 50,000 fewer jobs being created.

Labour has set an alternative plan, which would:

  • Give older and disabled people the chance to live the life they choose, shifting the focus of support towards prevention and early help.
  • Ensure every older and disabled person who needs care and support gets it when and where they need it, improving their lives and delivering better value for taxpayers’ money and;
  • Build a strong and skilled social care workforce, with a new deal for care workers to create a well-motivated, skilled and properly rewarded workforce, with more support for unpaid carers

The member of parliament of Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, commented:

“When it comes to social care, for many, it’s personal. This is about services for our loved ones. Our friends. Our neighbours.

“For me, it was the lack of social care available for my grandad that was one of the key reasons I put myself forward for public office.

“The barriers to access affordable social care for people like him was unacceptable then, and it’s unacceptable now.

“That’s why I voted against these deeply regressive proposals today and will continue to fight on behalf of local people for the better access to the vital services they need.”

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‘Stop Aquind’ campaign reaches critical moment as Portsmouth MP submits 6,200 signature petition to Parliament

Stephen Morgan MP has submitted a 6,200 signature petition to Parliament today, calling on the Business Secretary to scrap the damaging infrastructure project. 

The campaign, supported by the local ‘Stop AQUIND’ group, has been the leading local voice of opposition to the proposed interconnector project. The Portsmouth representative’s petition cites the huge damage it would cause to the local infrastructure and environment, as well as ongoing concerns surrounding the project company and its directors.

Local activists met the city MP on Tuesday morning outside the House of Commons, ahead of the petition’s submission.

The Portsmouth MP, who strongly opposed AQUIND from the earliest stages, has written a string of letters to Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng MP on the issue, regularly attended local demonstrations against the project and held Ministers accountable through written and oral questions in the House of Commons.

Kwarteng has until October 21 to make a decision.

The original deadline was September 8, but this was postponed earlier this month after Mr Kwarteng queried why an alternative plan without commercial telecoms aspects still included rights for the associated land.

The company has until September 16 to respond.

Commenting on his latest intervention, the member of parliament for Portsmouth South, said,

“The people of Portsmouth have spoken: the Aquind Interconnector Project must be stopped.

“I’ve been clear from the outset that this project would bring untold disruption to our daily lives and natural environment, with no clear benefits. Meanwhile, the company directors’ cosy relationships with government ministers continue to raise suspicions.

“The Secretary of State needs to provide certainty to the thousands of city residents whose daily lives will be affected.

“Over 6,200 of you have spoken. It’s time the government finally listened.”

Responding to the news in a joint-statement, the co-chairs of the ‘Stop Aquind’ campaign, Viola Langley and Paula Ann-Savage, also said:

“Today was a critical moment in our campaign with Portsmouth voices being heard loud and clear In Parliament through Stephen’s petition, and we’re grateful for his support and being alongside us every step of the way.

“It cannot be right that decisions impacting residents here in Portsmouth are made hundreds of miles away behind a desk in Whitehall.

“It’s time the Business Secretary listened to our concerns, end the uncertainty and scrap Aquind.”

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Portsmouth MP votes against ‘discriminatory’ Voter ID policy and calls for it to be ‘urgently abolished’

Stephen Morgan MP has voted against the government’s ‘discriminatory’ Election Bill and has called for it to be ‘urgently abolished’.

The Bill, if passed, would require voters to present photo ID to vote at polling stations in future elections.

The Official Opposition has called on the government to urgently rethink the policy, raising concerns that it would reverse decades of democratic progress and threaten to bar millions of people from exercising their democratic right to vote.

Since this policy was first announced in December 2016, the Government has received multiple warnings from charities, civil society figures and campaign groups that mandatory voter ID – if rolled out nationally – could pull up the drawbridge for millions of voters.

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

“Voter ID is a total waste of taxpayers’ money. The policy is set to cost millions of pounds at every election. 

“Voting is safe and secure in Britain. Ministers should be promoting confidence in our elections instead of spreading baseless scare stories which threaten our democracy.

“Millions of people lack photo ID in this country – in particular the elderly, low income and Black, Asian and ethnic minority voters. The Conservatives are reversing decades of democratic progress and urgently need to rethink this pointless policy.

“That’s why I voted against the Bill last night and will continue to hold the government to account on this.”