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Portsmouth MP will vote to cut business rates, as new figures show over 300,000 businesses at risk across the country

Stephen Morgan MP will today urge the government to cut business rates, and support struggling high street businesses in Portsmouth.

 

It comes as the Portsmouth MP’s office revealed new figures, 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.

 

With business organisations including the CBI, FSB, British Chamber of Commerce and over 40 trade associations calling for an urgent reform of the tax, the cost to businesses from rising inflation and increasing shortages is making the change more urgent.

 

Labour committed at their party conference to cutting and eventually entirely scrapping business rates and replace them with a new form of business taxation fit for the 21st Century. 

 

Labour has proposed freezing Business Rates until the next revaluation, and then increasing the threshold for small business rates relief (from the current threshold of £15,000 to £25,000), to give SMEs a discount on their business rates bill for 2022/23, ahead of more fundamental reform, where the party say they will scrap business rates entirely and replace them with a new form of business taxation.

 

Labour would pay for easing this burden on businesses by raising the UK Digital Services Tax to 12 per cent for 2022/23, raising £2.1bn which would be spent on cutting business rates for small businesses and the high street. In the long term, Labour would fund the replacement for business rates by shifting the burden of business taxation away from the high street towards large online tech giants.

 

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

“Our high street businesses do so much to enrich our lives and our communities, facing huge adversity in the past year.

 

“But I know that many local businesses, particularly those in the city centre, are struggling right now, with a cliff-edge in rates relief coming up in March, and increasing shortages and supply chain issues increasing pressure and costs.

 

“I want Portsmouth’s high streets to thrive, and that’s why Labour will scrap business rates. We will carry out the biggest overhaul of business taxation in a generation, so our businesses can lead the pack, not watch opportunities go elsewhere.”

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Statement from Stephen Morgan MP – Stop the Sewage Protest

A statement from Stephen Morgan MP was provided today at a protest in Eastney, demonstrating against Southern Water’s continued discharges into the Solent.

“What we saw last weekend is deeply concerning and the quality of our bathing water is a severe concern for many of us.

“There seems to be a clear difference between what Southern Water is sayingand the water local people were witnessing, which is why I wrote to the Environment Agency earlier this week demanding answers over last weekend’s ‘abnormal situation’.

“The government and its regulator need to provide assurances to the people of Portsmouth that our local environment is being properly protected and that industry is living up to its responsibilities.

“It’s vital we get to the bottom of this ‘abnormal incident’ quickly to understand the cause, lessons can be learnt to prevent it from happening again and those responsible can be held to account. Any wrongdoing must be dealt with
robustly.

“But the scenes from last weekend were just the tip of the iceberg.

“The evidence we have seen over recent months and years demonstrates we have a system that wilfully ignores the worst pollution events in our country.

“Water companies continue to legally pollute UK waters, exposing all-water users, as well as our delicate ocean ecosystems to harm.

“Consequently, our water quality remains at the same dire level as it was in the 1990s, placing the UK a pitiful 25th out of 30 EU countries for coastal water quality.

“Natural spaces such as Langstone Harbour and the Solent are crucial for the health and wellbeing of society and should be highly protected, not used as a dumping ground for big business.

“That is why I have been calling on the Government to end sewage pollution to protect UK waters, help restore our rivers and ocean, and working with others to hold Southern Water to account to ensure the health and wellbeing of the public.

“I’ve met with key bodies, raised concerns with the water company, asked questions of Ministers and called on Government to take urgent action to fix long-running local sewage pollution.

“I will be taking further action over the next few weeks, urging Government to do more, and do better”.

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Portsmouth MP demands answers after ‘abnormal situation’ warning for bathers

Stephen Morgan MP has demanded the Environment Agency (EA) urgently provide answers to explain the ‘abnormal situation’ reported at the weekend that advised bathers not to swim in local waters.

In a letter to the EA, the Portsmouth MP has asked for the regulator to clarify, amongst a range of concerns, what was the cause of the warning, who is responsible, can it be prevented and what conversations has it had with Southern Water (SW) about the incident.

SW has said that “No releases were made over the weekend and there were no incidents at any of our assets in the area.” and that “no evidence” of sewage pollution was found by its investigating officers.

This is despite local charity Final Straw Foundation reportedly collecting 135kg of rubbish and dirty wipes from the area on Saturday morning.

It comes after the EA issued a record £90m SW in July this year, after it was prosecuted by the EA for at least 6,971 unpermitted sewage discharges between 2010 and 2015.

Meanwhile, it is the second year in a row the water utility has performed below target, with the EA labelling SW’s performance as “consistently unacceptable during the last 5 years” in its environmental performance report for 2020. It also said the water utility was “significantly below target (red) for the Environmental Performance Assessment sewerage incidents metric”.

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

“Reports from the weekend are deeply concerning and the quality of our bathing water is a significant concern for many of my constituents.

“There seems to be a clear difference between what Southern Water is saying and the water local people are witnessing.

“The government and its regulator need to provide assurances to the people of Portsmouth that our local environment is being properly protected and that industry is living up to its responsibilities.

“It’s vital we get to the bottom of this ‘abnormal incident’ quickly to understand the cause, lessons can be learnt to prevent it from happening again and those responsible can be held to account. Any wrongdoing must be dealt with robustly.”

Mr Morgan has been campaigning for Government to finally end sewage discharge and calling on water companies to tackle the issue with real investment and urgency. He has taken a range of actions including raising questions in the House of Commons, lobbying Ministers, holding Southern Water to account and working alongside a number of local groups in the city.

The Portsmouth MP has also called for constituents to share their concerns with him about sewage discharge to build the case to government to take action. Over 250 people have already shared their views in the last 24 hours.. This can be accessed at: https://www.stephenmorgan.org.uk/solent-sewage-discharge/

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Pubs ‘vital’ to local economy, but being chronically let down by government – City MP

Stephen Morgan MP has underlined that the pub and brewing sector has been chronically let down by government, despite its considerable contribution to the economy and the challenges it’s faced this year.

According to the latest research by the British Beer and Pub Association, in the Portsmouth MP’s constituency alone, brewing companies and pubs contribute 2,478 jobs and £60m to the local economy.

Nationally, before the pandemic, the sector was supporting 900,000 jobs, generating £23 billion in economic value and providing £13 billion in tax revenues.

However, even before Covid-19 took hold, pubs were under severe threat, with a 15% fall in their number from 2010 to 2020.

A review of business rates has been delayed by the government until the autumn, leaving many businesses working in the hospitality and related sectors feeling uncertain.

Meanwhile, the city MP has backed a call to scrap business rates and reforming business taxation, so it is fairer, more efficient and shifts the burden of business tax.

It comes as a number of industry bodies have got behind this year’s ‘Long Live Local’ campaign, calling on the Government to invest in pubs and breweries through the reform of the unfair tax burden – specifically lower VAT & Business Rates for pubs and lower Beer Duty.

After listening to concerns of constituents and the local hospitality sector, the city MP will be meeting industry in Parliament later this month to continue his efforts in lobbying Government for support to the sector.

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

“Pubs are at the heart of the UK’s communities and play an important role not only in our in our local and national economy but also in our social lives and neighbourhoods.

“But with inflation on the rise, gas prices up and an acute HGV driver shortage, many pub and brewing businesses will be worrying how long they can keep on going and need to be given assurances by government.

“That’s why I believe the business rate review must not be delayed any longer and must lead to wholesale reform. An overhaul of business rates is long overdue, and Labour’s alternative will offer a real plan to help our hospitality industry to thrive.”

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Portsmouth MP blasts government for cost-of-living crisis as £1,000 Universal Credit cut kicks in for over 10,000 local families

Stephen Morgan MP has blasted the government for the scale of the cost-of-living crisis impacting local families as the planned £1,000 cut to Universal Credit and working tax credits kicks in today.

In the Portsmouth representative’s constituency alone, 5,550 families will be affected, including 6,907 children. Across the city, there are over 10,000 families with children in receipt of Universal Credit or Working Tax Credits who could be impacted as result of the cut.

Meanwhile, working families across the country are dealing with a ‘triple whammy’ to their cost of living,

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.

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

In another hit to working families and businesses across the country, the government is also continuing to push through a Bill that would raise National Insurance by 1.25%.

The Portsmouth MP has paid tribute to local campaigning efforts against the cut, including a petition to ‘Cancel the Cut’ organised by local Unite Community campaigner David Gorham, who has also staged a number of events in our city’s communities with the backing of Mr Morgan in opposition to the Government’s decision.

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

“The government is pulling out the rug for working families across Portsmouth just at the moment when Tory failure has led to their cost of living going up.

“Cutting £1,000 a year for six million families across Britain, and 10,000 in Portsmouth will have real consequences for daily lives.

“As the Prime Minister stands up to deliver his speech at the champagne bubble of Tory party conference, millions of working families across the country will be weighing up the choice between eating or heating this week.

“I will always stand up for the most vulnerable in our city. I will continue to push the government to provide answers on how they will support struggling families in Portsmouth this winter.”

Unite South East Community Coordinator, Kelly Tomlinson, added,

“Families in the South East are now facing a triple whammy. The £20 cut to Universal Credit; the increase in energy bills and the steep rise in the cost of food will force Families to make the terrible choice of feeding their children or keeping the heating on. This Christmas is going to be bleak as people go without life’s essentials.

 “Unite will continue to work with the Labour Party to make the Tory Government put families first and reverse the damaging cut to Universal Credit.”

Mr Morgan has tirelessly campaigned against the cut to universal credit. He has written to the Work and Pensions Secretary, lobbied the Chancellor ahead of the Budget, helped secure a motion against the cut at the city council and asked a number of questions to Ministers to keep up the pressure.

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Labour demands to know what Russian oligarch was getting in return for bankrolling one in ten Conservative MPs

Chair of the Labour Party Anneliese Dodds has today written to her Conservative opposite number asking him to explain why one in ten of his party’s MPs were getting cash from an oligarch accused of corruption at the heart of Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

The BBC has revealed that 34 Conservative MPs received some £700,000 from businesses owned by the Russian businessman Viktor Fedotov. The recent ‘Pandora Papers’ scandal suggested that Fedotov secretly benefitted from an alleged $4bn fraud in Putin’s Russia. The state-owned oil and gas company gave hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts to a firm called VNIIST, but leaked audit reports in 2008 suggest the work was not carried out and instead the money was apparently siphoned off. The ‘Pandora Papers’ showed Fedotov to have held a stake in VNIIST, hidden behind a complex web of offshore structures.

In the UK, Fedotov jointly owns Aquind with fellow oligarch Alexander Temerko. Temerko is a Conservative Party activist and avowedly personal friend of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and he too has given £700,000 to the party in recent years. Aquind is in the process of bidding to build an undersea power connector between Portsmouth and Normandy, which the Government has deemed to be a “nationally significant infrastructure project”. Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng is due to decide whether to appoint Aquind to the project in just 16 days’ time. Three separate Conservative Ministers have already had to recuse themselves from making the decision because of personal links to Aquind.

In her letter to Oliver Dowden, Anneliese Dodds links the secrecy over Fedotov’s money to that over the Conservatives’ £50k-a-head Leader’s Group and its £250k-a-head Advisory Group, both of which offer donors access to senior ministers.

The Conservatives have refused to say who is on each group, when they meet and what they discuss. In her letter, Dodds asks Dowden: “Why can’t you level with the public and tell us just what it is that people get for handing over huge sums of money to your party?”

The letter comes after Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan said that the disclosures were the ‘final nail in the coffin’ for AQUIND yesterday. The City MP recently submitted a 6,200 signature petition to Parliament as part of a string of actions to oppose the project.

Labour Party Chair Anneliese Dodds, said:

“It is extraordinary that a company co-owned by an oligarch allegedly linked to a huge corruption scandal in Putin’s Russia is bankrolling one in ten Tory MPs. And in two weeks’ time, the Conservative Government is going to decide whether to give this man’s company the right to build infrastructure vital to our national security.

“We have no idea what his money is buying. Just as we have no idea what the members of the so-called ‘Leader’s Group’ and ‘Advisory Board’ are getting for the tens of thousands they hand over in cash to the Conservative Party.

“If the accusations of corruption are correct, the Tories should hand this money back. And they should tell us who is giving the party money and what they’re getting in return. Otherwise it’s clear there’s one rule for senior Conservatives and another for everyone else.”

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan said:

“The Panorama investigation has revealed the staggering alleged corruption of AQUIND owners and raises further suspicion about their cosy relationships with government.

“There are now serious questions to answer about how AQUIND owners have made their money and whether we can trust them to build nationally significant infrastructure. Perhaps most concerningly, we have no clarity on what Tory MPs promised them before lining their pockets and accepting their cash.

“One thing is clear: Ministers must immediately stop AQUIND, once and for all. Any pretence that this Tory Government is able to make an impartial decision is now laughable”.

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Portsmouth MP says ‘urgent action’ needed to tackle a predicted rise in local waiting times for heart diagnosis and treatment

Stephen Morgan MP has met with the British Heart Foundation (BHF) to discuss the need for urgent action to address the pandemic’s devastating impact on heart care.

A new report from the BHF has estimated that 725 people in Portsmouth could be waiting for life saving heart diagnosis and treatment two years after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic – 44 per cent higher than the waiting list before the pandemic began (1).

The Portsmouth MP has heard that the BHF is calling for Government to take significant action to reduce the heart care backlog and build a stronger NHS for the future. The charity argues that this must include a clear plan for cardiovascular services and rapid and substantial long-term investment to build more capacity into NHS England and relieve pressure on exhausted health workers, as well as better support for heart patients while they wait for vital treatment.

The BHF warns that without this immediate intervention, alongside the necessary investment at the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review, there is a risk that thousands more people could die from heart and circulatory diseases, despite the NHS going above and beyond during the pandemic.

At a recent meeting at Labour party conference, the city MP met with the BHF’s policy team to discuss the case for building a more resilient health system to save more lives from heart and circulatory diseases for years to come.

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

“It was eye-opening to speak with the BHF about the significant local disruption to vital heart care during the pandemic and what will be needed to urgently address this growing backlog.

“I agree that urgent action is needed to end the untold heartbreak now. A clear plan is vital to build capacity back into the health service and relieve the pressure on overstretched health workers in Portsmouth and across the country.

“I will continue to work with the BHF to ensure this is a priority for the Government and will be raising issues in the House of Commons on behalf of constituents”.

Dr Charmaine Griffiths, Chief Executive of the British Heart Foundation, said:

“Every number on a waiting list is a loved one facing a potentially agonising wait for care that could save or improve their life.

“Vital heart tests and surgery can’t be put off – long delays lead to debilitating anxiety and put people’s lives at risk. The voices of people with heart and circulatory diseases must be heard as the Government considers the action needed to tackle both the mounting backlog in cardiovascular care and the pandemic’s wider impact on vital heart treatment.”

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City MP responds to AQUIND corruption allegations

Stephen Morgan MP has responded to recent reports that AQUIND owner Viktor Fedotov made millions from an allegedly corrupt Russian pipeline deal, saying it is ‘the final nail in the coffin’ for the project planned for the city.

The reports come from an investigation being led by the BBC Panorama team and The Guardian newspaper into the Pandora Papers, a leak of 11.9 million offshore files obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICJ).

The new revelations raises serious questions over whether a reported £72m Fedotov made through an allegedly corrupt company made its way to the heart of the British government and has influenced its decision to give the Russian-born AQUIND co-owner’s infrastructure project the green light or not.

Alexander Temerko, who is a friend of the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and a co-owner of AQUIND, has together with the company donated £1.1m to the Conservative Party.

Responding to reports, Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan said:

“This is the final nail in the coffin for AQUIND.

“I’ve repeatedly raised concerns about the company’s opaque finances and the directors’ cosy relationships with Conservative Ministers as part of wider objections to the project. It’s now clear these concerns are well founded.

“The Business Secretary must immediately stop AQUIND once and for all. Government should also get on with implementing the recommendations of the Russia report to ensure our country is protected from interference from foreign powers.”

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‘New data shows Portsmouth South needs levelling up’ says City MP

A new survey has revealed that the Portsmouth South constituency is officially in need of levelling up.

The research, conducted by consultants WPI Strategy, ranked 573 parliamentary constituencies in England and Wales based on key indicators of wealth, health and deprivation, with Portsmouth coming in at 160.

Spending power, gauging employment and wage data, and financial dependency, including those on jobseekers and Universal Credit, were roughly in line with national averages, but Portsmouth South was 30% higher than the England and Wales average on crime and deprivation.

Perhaps most concerningly, Portsmouth South ranked in the bottom 20 constituencies in all of England and Wales on health, based on the number of GPs and the average life expectancy for the area.

Portsmouth South MP, Stephen Morgan, said:

“That our community needs levelling up is a surprise only to government ministers. These figures are exactly why I have made crime, deprivation, and health my priorities as the city’s MP.

“I’ve consistently raised concerns about access to GPs and dentists, called for fairer funding for our police service and continue to point out that Tory tax rises are clobbering working people in Portsmouth.

“It’s clear that the government’s approach to levelling up is based only on their political ambitions, not a genuine desire to support our city.

“In the coming weeks Ministers will have the chance to put their money where their mouths are. Government should back Portsmouth’s Levelling Up bid and invest in our city if they want to start making a real difference in people’s day-to-day lives.”

The city MP has been lobbying Government not to forget Portsmouth and invest in the city’s infrastructure as communities recover from the pandemic.

This has included writing to the Chancellor of the Exchequer about a range of regeneration projects in the constituency needing government support, and has recently put pressure on Ministers to finally announce future funding for local communities.

 

 

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Statement from City MP at ‘Stop Aquind’ Guildhall Square protest

Today (Saturday 2 October 2021) local people gathered at the Guildhall Square for the latest ‘Stop AQUIND’ public event.

For the event, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“My thanks to all of you for your hard work and determination to keep pressure on this Conservative government to make sure they put an end to this disastrous project for our city.

“AQUIND is a project that’s mired in Tory cronyism, offering nothing for our city, but bringing with it untold disruption to our daily lives and damage to our precious natural environment.

“From my 6,200 signature public petition that was signed by local people and submitted to Parliament last month, to the open letter from our local paper delivered to the Business Secretary just yesterday, one thing is clear.

“The people of Portsmouth are united. The AQUIND Interconnector Project must be stopped.

“If the decision does not go our city’s way, the council must take the fight immediately to a judicial review. It is in their power to start that work, and to start it now. Let’s use today’s event to tell the council they must now do so now.

“From its outset, I have been and will continue to be by your side. I have written a string of letters to Ministers, tabled a range of parliamentary questions and submitted evidence to the planning inspectorate detailing our shared concerns.

“It cannot be right that a decision that will acutely affect the people of Portsmouth will be made hundreds of miles away behind a desk in Whitehall.

“Despite this being a government of dither and delay, Kwasi Kwarteng cannot keep running forever from the main task he was put in the job to do: make decisions.

“But it’s high time now this crony government finally listened to our concerns.

“The Business Secretary must provide certainty to the thousands of city residents whose daily lives will be affected by this disastrous project.

“Government has the power to stop AQUIND. Its high time Tory Ministers do so.”