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Budget 2021: Chancellor must change course and not hit local families in March Budget

Stephen Morgan MP has urged the Chancellor to ‘change course’ and to not hit local families with an expected triple blow of council tax hikes, frozen pay and cuts to social security at his Budget this week.

As Britain begins its economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Official Opposition is urging Sunak to change course to protect family finances and get Britain back on the road to recovery.

It is understood that Rishi Sunak MP plans to slash Universal Credit by £20 a week from April, which would mean at least 21,420 people in Portsmouth will take £1040 a year hit to their finances.

It is also expected that Sunak will ask families to pay for gaps in council budgets rather than fulfilling his pledge to back them. That could amount to as much as £89 extra on annual household council tax bills for the average Band D home in Portsmouth.

The Chancellor is also hitting every key worker earning over £18,000 in England with a real terms pay cut this year. This includes at least 13,900 key workers in Portsmouth – the teachers, police officers and Armed Forces personnel on the front line of the battle against Covid-19.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, commented:

Families, small businesses and key workers have been hit particularly hard by this crisis. This is an opportunity to give them the tools they need to find their feet and recover.

“This is not the time to implement both morally and economically illiterate plans that would take support away from some of those who need it most.

“With the Chancellor set to announce his plans for the Budget on Wednesday, he must recognise that this is a make or break moment for Britain. Rishi Sunak must do all he can to secure our economy and put the country on the road to recovery – and that means protecting family finances.”

Mr Morgan has previously called for support for workers and businesses to be extended and recently backed Labour’s proposed British Business Recovery Agency.

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Portsmouth MP: ‘Government must commit to tackle air quality ahead of COP26 Presidency’

Stephen Morgan MP questioned Minsters in the House of Commons today to ensure the government commits to tackling air quality in the UK. The UK will assume the COP26 Presidency this year and will host the global climate conference in Glasgow this November.

This comes after the Official Opposition had pushed the government to tackle air quality in its recent Environment Bill to set parameters to ensure that the PM2.5 (particulate matter) target for air quality will be at least as strict as the 2005 WHO guidelines, with an attainment deadline of 2030 at the latest.

However, this proposition was voted down by the government.

As it stands, the legislation contains no firm targets, with the government committing only to setting one following a ‘review’. COP26 offers an opportunity for the UK to become a world leader on climate change, yet the decision could cause the UK to lag behind other European countries.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, commented,

“It cannot be right that on the year we are set to host the world’s biggest climate change conference, our own government refuses to commit to tackle air quality here in the UK.

“Air quality is already having real world impacts now, with our own city facing historic challenges with air pollution.

“If we are to emerge from this crisis and to be truly world leading in tackling the climate emergency, government should cut out the rhetoric and take action to face up to this challenge we all share.”

Mr Morgan continues to work with local groups to ensure the city council delivers its climate emergency and has consistently put pressure on national government to progress the climate agenda.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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Portsmouth MP sets out education priorities Government must tackle for city

Stephen Morgan MP lobbies the Secretary of State for Education on key priorities for education in Portsmouth, following school closures and the cancellation of GCSE and A-level exams.

With many students now set to learn from home over the coming weeks as the country entered a period of lockdown this week, Mr Morgan has expressed concerns a number of gaps remain that risk creating a generational disadvantage for pupils, as well as unsafe working conditions for staff if not addressed urgently.

The MP’s key priorities set out in a letter to Government, include:

  • Eliminate the digital divide, urging the government to adopt Labour’s proposals to guarantee every child a device and connectivity to safeguard learning during this phase of the pandemic.
  • Keeping staff safe and getting children back into the classroom by setting out a proactive strategy to reopen schools after February half term, including the vaccination of all education staff to keep them safe and get children back into the classroom.
  • Proper financial support for schools by improving financial support to make sure pupils and staff are protected, including nurseries.
  • Plan responsibly for alternative exams by setting out how the Government will support teachers to undertake these new responsibilities, at a time when they are having to work round the clock to implement constantly shifting guidance from the department.

The Portsmouth South MP also called for clarity on a plan for other summer examinations, as well as make alternative arrangements for this week’s BTEC exams, following calls from local parents, colleges and the Association of Colleges.

Stephen Morgan MP, said:

“The uncertainty for pupils, parents and school staff in Portsmouth is seriously concerning and the Secretary of State must clarify the Government’s wider strategy on this immediately.

“I am particularly worried about the impacts this period of lockdown could have on those young people who do not have access to a computer and in turn the damages to their futures this could cause.

“Meanwhile, the Government should also be concentrating its efforts on rolling out the vaccine and getting students back into the classroom as quickly and safely as possible.”

 

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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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City MP calls on Government to tackle racial disparity in the national youth justice system

Stephen Morgan MP today urged Ministers to assure black, Asian and minority ethnic communities that racial disparities in the justice system are being tackled.

The parliamentary representative made the intervention by questioning the Justice Secretary in the House of Commons.

Shockingly since the Lammy Review of 2017, fewer than half of its recommendations have been implemented by Government, as well as a number of other recommendations from several other reviews on related issues.

This year, protests around racial injustice reached a defining tipping point following the murder of George Floyd in America. Since then, events have taken place across the world against racial injustice, including in Portsmouth.

The action today follows a range of steps the MP has been taking in the House of Commons and in Portsmouth to take forward concerns from constituents.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, commented,

“Racial disproportionality in the youth justice system continues to be a stain on this country.

“Since the Lammy Review the situation of racial disparities in the youth justice system has continued to deteriorate and government stop dragging their feet and take action now.”

This comes as the Coalition of Race Equality Organisations (CORE) shared their fears over the government’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities should not be used as ‘a tool to distract the public from inaction on race inequality.

The City MP has vowed to continue to take action on this and similar concerns, liaising with local groups.

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City MP calls for the government to ‘get a grip’ with a long-term health and economic plan

Stephen Morgan MP said it would not be in Portsmouth’s or the nation’s interest to oppose the government’s continuing public health restrictions – but Ministers must now set out a long-term health and economic plan.

As the government proposes its public health restrictions for the winter period to be voted on in parliament, the weekly Covid-19 case rate per 100,000 in Portsmouth still sits at 240, according to the latest government data.

Further afield, between 12 November and 18 November 347,575 people were identified as coming into close contact with someone who had tested positive, only 60.3 per cent of which were reached and asked to self-isolate. This is still well below the 80 per cent needed for test and trace to be effective.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, said,

“Covid-19 still poses a serious threat to our city and our country, so it would not be in Portsmouth’s or the nation’s interest to oppose the government’s proposals for continued public health restrictions.

However, the government has failed to use this lockdown to fix test and trace and now the Prime Minister seems to have stopped mentioning it altogether.

Test turnaround times are still far too slow, a fraction of those who are asked to self-isolate actually do, and the centralised Serco model is failing to reach nearly enough close contacts to be effective. The government has got to get a grip of this.”

In recent days it was also announced Portsmouth would be placed inside the tier 2 category after the country exits its second period of national lockdown.

Meanwhile the government continues to suggest a vaccine could be rolled out in a matter of days but is still yet to publish its plan on this.

Mr Morgan, added,

“The Prime Minister must publish a comprehensive national action plan which can meet the Easter target for vaccine roll out and have a communications plan to tackle vaccine hesitancy.

It is incredibly important that both as a local community and wider country we do not undo all the hard work we have put in to bring infection levels down, so government must implement an effective communications plan to ensure that continues to happen post-lockdown.”

Following the announcement of the Portsmouth falling into the second Covid-19 risk category, Stephen Morgan MP underlined the importance of Portsmouth residents to continue to follow government guidelines.

 

 

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Last chance for food standards as city MP backs British farmers

  • Labour MPs are pushing the Government yet again to adopt a legal guarantee that British animal welfare and environmental standards won’t be undercut in post-Brexit trade deals
  • Concerns that chlorine-washed chicken, hormone-treated beef and food produced to lower animal welfare and environmental standards could be sold in the UK after Brexit, putting many British farms at risk

Portsmouth South’s Member of Parliament Stephen Morgan MP is demanding the Government back British farmers and protect high UK animal welfare, environment and public health standards in food.

In the latest crunch vote on British food standards, MPs will decide on Wednesday whether to back British farmers and stop post-Brexit trade deals from allowing in imports of lower standard food to the UK like chlorinated chicken and hormone-treated beef.

Fruit and wheat farming and other types of agriculture support over 48,000 jobs in the South East and produce £2.2 billion in income for the region each year, but analysts have warned that abandoning existing environmental, health and animal welfare standards could risk the viability of the sector.

Labour has joined the National Farmers Union, leading environmental and consumer organisations such as the RSPCA, National Trust and Which?, as well as celebrities Jamie Oliver and Joe Wicks to fight this threat to British agriculture, with the party’s MPs voting again today to safeguard farming jobs and livelihoods.

The Government has said it won’t weaken food standards as part of a trade deal with the US or other countries with lower standards, but has made no legal commitment to guarantee this. Farming, environmental and consumer groups have been pressing Tory MPs for months to try and secure a guarantee, fearful that lower standard imports will undercut British farmers.

However, the Government is expected yet again to effectively vote out their own manifesto commitment from the Bill on Wednesday, after promising in 2019 that they wouldn’t compromise on high British standards in trade deals.

Commenting on the crunch vote, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“People in Portsmouth are passionate about animal welfare and quality British food, and they’re rightly worried about what might end up in our supermarkets and on our plates if the Government doesn’t make good on its promise to protect our high food standards.

“Nobody wants to see chlorine-washed chicken or hormone-treated beef in our city’s shops and restaurants, or hidden in food on our children’s plates in school, or served up in hospital.

“I won’t back down from the fight to protect our high British food standards and farmers.  That’s why I challenged Tory MPs again today to back Labour’s amendment to safeguard our high animal welfare, environmental and public health standards.”

Luke Pollard MP, Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary added:

“It is beggars belief that South East Tory MPs will yet again breach their own manifesto pledge to vote against the interests of British farming on Wednesday.

“Fruit and wheat farming and other types of agriculture are vital to the economy of the South East, but allowing low-quality imports to flood our market could drive British farmers out of business. It’s not just Labour saying this – it’s the National Farmers Union, leading environmental groups and, according to Which?, 93 per cent of the British public.

“The Government needs to abandon this disastrous course and put into law the cast-iron guarantee that they’ll never allow trade deals to undermine the viability of British farming.”

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Portsmouth MP votes to protect Armed Forces personnel

Stephen Morgan MP today voted to protect Armed Forces personnel by voting against the controversial Overseas Operations Bill, a proposed new law which has been widely criticised by military personnel, legal experts and respected charities.

The Bill has also been challenged by the Royal British Legion (RBL) in that government plans risk breaching the Armed Forces Covenant.

MPs debated the Bill in the House of Commons today (Tuesday 3 November) during report and third reading with Labour putting forward a series of amendments to protect Armed Forces personnel, after repeatedly requesting the government work across the House and the Shadow Defence team to get the bill right.

The Shadow Minister for the Armed Forces led the Official Opposition’s team through bill committee, raising concerns the Bill will harm military personnel and veterans’ rights, as well undermine the Armed Forces’ and Britain’s international reputation.

The Bill has faced criticisms from Members of Parliament on both sides of the House, as well as the Director-General of the Royal British Legion and the former Judge Advocate General, the most senior military judge in the country.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The opposition has tried at every stage to work with the government to get this Bill right and protect our service personnel and veterans.

“Unfortunately, this Bill does not do what it says on the tin: it does not effectively deal with the issue of vexatious claims and will afford more protections for the MoD, not our veterans and service personnel.

“In its current form, this Bill would give our Armed Forces fewer rights than prisoners. This is no way to treat our service personnel and Labour have argued this must be changed.”

The Royal British Legion Director General, Charles Byrne, was clear in his evidence that the Bill risks breaching the Armed Forces Covenant by preventing British Armed Forces personnel from holding the MoD to account when it fails to properly equip personnel, or when it makes serious errors that lead to death or injury of British forces overseas.

The RBL also agreed with Labour’s argument that this Bill does more to protect the MoD than it does the forces.

Critics have also pointed out that forces personnel and their families who have been put through the trauma of long-running investigations are offered little to no legal or welfare support from the MoD. There is no effective duty of care recognised by the MoD to British service personnel who are subject to legal action. But this Bill does not to address duty of care standards, or provide legal, pastoral and mental health support.

Responding to these concerns raised and as the Bill now heads to the House of Lords for further scrutiny, the city MP added:

“No party should ever play party politics with the Armed Forces. Labour want to ensure they receive the appropriate support, protection and access to justice. However, this is a dishonest Bill that is not fixing the problem.

“The Bill does more to protect the MoD and the government’s approach is inflexible and wrong. I will continue to hold the government to account on this Bill and stand up for the many service personnel and veterans in both Portsmouth and the wider country.”

 The Portsmouth South MP has consistently spoken up for the Armed Forces community and veterans of Portsmouth and the nation as a whole.

He recently called for greater support and pastoral care for service personnel who are subject to investigations or litigation after overseas operations.