It has been confirmed that next week Portsmouth South MP will be leading a Westminster Hall debate in Parliament on veteran suicide
This will provide the city MP and other parliamentarians the opportunity to debate the important issue of how to improve support given to ex-service people, ensure appropriate recording and hold to account the Government Minister responsible, who will also be present.
The debate has been secured after months of campaigning by the city MP and local groups and charities, and with pressure from The News.
Responding to the news that a debate had been confirmed in Westminster Hall, Stephen Morgan MP said:
“It is important to stress that many ex-service personnel naturally transition into civilian life without suffering hardship of any kind.
However, this discussion is about those who do require support. It is high time we give those veterans the respect they need and deserve.
This issue was brought to me by experts from organisations such as All Call Signs and Combat Stress, many of whom are ex-service themselves. This is about making sure their voice is heard.”
Stephen James, Founder of veterans Charity, All Call Signs has said:
“We’re losing veterans in the space between them needing mental health treatment and receiving it.
With the largest forces charities and the NHS reporting untenable waiting times for even basic triage, something needs to be done immediately”
The crux of the issue is that in an NHS budget of over £150 billion UK-wide, less than £10 million per annum (0.007%) has been allocated to veteran-specific mental health services.
As it stands, the government has refused requests to start recording suicides that occur within the veteran community, something that separates us from our allies in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. The significance of this cannot be underestimated. Without a quantifiable record, it will be harder to make progress with regard to addressing the serious issue.
Current estimates project that it could be as high as one ex-service personnel every 7 days but without detailed analysis, the problem has the potential to be far worse.
Last November the city MP chaired a round table discussion with the Shadow Veterans Minister with representatives from the charity sector to learn from good practice in supporting veterans, and hear the challenges groups face.
Mr. Morgan added:
“This is not a party-political matter. I want to see cross-party cooperation to increase the funding given to veteran-specific mental health services and see a more tailored approach to how we support our brave men and women.
This includes better recording of data on the link between ex-service personnel and suicide.
No other job requires you to go long periods without sleep, determines when you get up and go to bed and potentially puts you in harm’s way. The mental health services available to veterans should reflect this fact.”
Calls for better monitoring have come from a litany of sources including media organisations, charities, and concerned MPs. Significantly, the Defence Select Committee, the body responsible for the checks and balances of the MoD, has joined in condemning the government’s actions.
In a recent report, they made recommendations that the Ministry of Defence should cooperate with the Ministry of Justice to collate data on whether individuals who have committed suicide were from the veteran community. The Westminster Hall debate gives Mr. Morgan the opportunity to raise this directly with the minister responsible.
Ahead of the debate, Mr. Morgan commented:
“I look forward to my continued work with veterans’ charities such as All Call Signs, Combat Stress and others to bring this issue to the forefront of the government’s radar.
I will continue to raise this issue inside and out of Parliament until the government allocates the funding needed to veterans mental health services and accepts the need to properly record data relevant to veteran suicide.”
With the government’s air quality plans having been found unlawful multiple times by the High Court, today Stephen Morgan MP raised concerns over lack of action to tackle air pollution in Parliament by directly pressing the Minister responsible.
The Government’s new Clean Air Strategy is typical of what we have come to expect from this government on illegal air pollution: vague targets, no detail, and a chronic failure to tackle the issue of roadside pollutants.
Following his action on this locally and by lobbying the Government to do better, the Portsmouth South MP called on the Minister to specifically take action for those from low-income households.
Stephen Morgan MP said:
“After the successful motion at Full Council last week developed by Portsmouth Labour and local campaigners to declare a climate emergency in our city, we must now turn words into deeds and keep the pressure on decision-makers to act on air pollution.
That is why today I asked the Minister responsible directly what the government is doing to support people on low incomes to switch to cleaner forms of transport.”
This morning during DEFRA Questions, the Portsmouth MP launched dual questions that raised both idling cars near to schools and hospitals and also the need for the government to do more to help low income families go green.
The MP added:
“Illegal air quality has been escalated into a ‘public health emergency’ on the Government’s watch according to the cross-party select committee. With this issue being so important to our children’s health, we need action and we need it fast.
That is why today I have called on the Government to make tackling the issue of climate change more inclusive and more accessible for those on lower incomes.
In a time of government-imposed austerity, many green alternatives can be costly and unreachable to those who have a tight budget.
I believe that if we are all to do our bit for climate change in Portsmouth, then Ministers need to acknowledge this and support those from low income households across our city to switch to cleaner forms of transport.”
The Portsmouth MP’s question supports Labour’s wider campaign aimed at tackling climate change. Today, Labour has announced nationally plans to declare a National Climate Change Emergency which will challenge Rt Hon Michael Gove MP to back the declaration.
While councils like Portsmouth are declaring a climate emergency, the Conservative government is refusing to do so.
This June marks the 75 anniversary of the D-Day Landings and the Battle of Normandy that took place from the 6 June 21 August 1944. The focal point of the commemorations will be Portsmouth, which is where much of the D-Day Landing Force sailed from in 1944.
The city has planned a series of events over five days to reflect the area’s unique role in one of the largest and well-known military operations in history.
Since October 2018, city MP Stephen Morgan asked a series of questions in Parliament to find out how much funding the government would be giving to D-Day 75. Their answer was beyond disappointing. The Minster responsible for Veterans confirmed that they would be providing no funding to the commemorations.
Most of the surviving veterans who were involved in these events are in their 90s and 100s and the lack of government funding allocated to the commemorations is concerning.
As it stands, city events are largely being funded through charitable donations, private companies and advertising.
Disappointed by the response from Government, the Portsmouth South MP has now formally written urgently to the Prime Minister to seek a solution.
Stephen Morgan MP said:
“Portsmouth’s important role in Operation Overlord stretched beyond D-Day. Troops, vehicles and supplies continued to pass through the city for months afterwards and it played a pivotal role in the extraction of wounded soldiers throughout the operation, with many of those who died from the injuries buried within our city.
All eyes will be on Portsmouth on 5 June, where a major partnership between the city council and others will aim to provide support to veterans who wish to be part of the commemorations.
It is the nation who owes most to these brave men and women and it is unjust that the Government it is not contributing anything to the commemoration of their actions. The Prime Minister must know that Portsmouth people think this just isn’t good enough”.
Following publication of a series of events to mark the anniversary the MP added:
“It is only right that our great city is the national home to the 75 anniversary commemorations. I welcome the hard work of council officers with partners to plan a range of community activities to mark the key role Portsmouth played in Operation Overlord and the start of the end of World War Two.
This anniversary is personal for me. I’m hugely proud my grandfather left Southsea on this 17th birthday as a soldier in the largest military amphibious operation in our nation’s history, returning to Portsmouth after the conflict ended to help establish the Normandy Veterans’ Association in our city.
I look forward to the Prime Ministers reply. But one thing is certain, I won’t rest until the Government delivers for Portsmouth”.
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if he will publish in full the results from any local economic impact assessment ahead of the decision to close the HMRC office in Portsmouth.