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Working towards Clean Air in Southampton

This month and over August I have been working on supporting our council with their Clean Air Zone consultation and other ways to clean the cities air up. I have also been working in Parliament when it has been sitting on formulating renewables targets which I have been asked about by members. Read on to find out more: 

You may also have heard and/or seen the Itchen MP Royston Smith denying the facts surrounding dirty air in Southampton and spreading general untruths about the council’s proposals for a Clean Air Zone.

Those of you who have known me for a long time or even for a little bit will know that jumping up and down, shouting and going red in the face like Royston is not really my style. With this in mind I have been doing hopefully somewhat useful work trying to address some of the issues that individuals and organisations have come to me with.

First of all, I am not reassured that DEFRA in their policies surrounding clean air have sufficiently recognised the specific and sometimes unique characteristics of the cities who have been mandated to take action. For instance, we are the only one of the initial cities mandated to have a Clean Air Zone that has a port which presents specific challenges. In the next couple of weeks, I will be having a conversation with relevant minister and telling them that they need to do more to support the council with these unique challenges and hopefully help the policy to work effectively when implemented.

I have regular meetings with the director of ABP and these naturally have turned to the Clean Air Zone in recent months. Amongst other things I have been linking him up with people that can offer low carbon transport for both goods and people around the port. The result of this is that he is talking about mandating that all port transport vehicles run from low carbon fuel sources.
Related is a meeting I had with Ford who were concerned that the trucks they used at the port would be affected by clean air zone. They were very pleased about and considering taking up some alternative sources of fuel that they could use to pre-empt any charges.

I met representatives from DP World whose main argument against Clean Air Zone is that it will hurt haulage firms and they will take their business elsewhere. I have been working with them to suggest alternatives to the dirtiest diesel engines such as bio- fuel and I’ve been trying to reach a compromise so that if a charge is included in the zone the impact on businesses is mitigated.
I’m hoping these sorts of meetings take the sting out of some of the organisations who have been railing against the council and the much needed Clean Air Zone. We simply do not have a choice in delaying cleaning up the air in Southampton. The evidence of health problems associated with dirty air is alarming and the more we learn the more worried I get.

There are many more pieces of work that I have been undertaking on the Clean Air Zone please do come up to me for a chat if you’d like to know more.

Byadmin

Supporting Staff at the University of Southampton

Members of Staff at Southampton University are currently on strike due to a dispute over pensions. I want to express my support and solidarity with all those out on strike.

I know that staff have not taken the decision to strike lightly, nor do they want to disrupt the education of their students, but they have been left with no other choice.

Up to this point Universities UK have refused to negotiate the terms of the changes to the USS pension scheme. As it stands some members of staff expect to see their pension pot reduced by 40%. Many staff made a decision to go into an academic career believing they would be able to retire with a secure pension. They believed that because it’s what they were told. Now they face the threat of insecurity in their later years.

I hope that this action encourages Universities UK to take the UCU’s counter proposals seriously.

Byadmin

Shore to Ship Power

I am holding an adjournment debate this afternoon regarding shore to ship power and how the Government can support its introduction in ports across the UK, including Southampton.

Southampton is home to one of the UK’s largest ports and the main home in the UK for cruise ships. Although there are many positive aspects to this fact, it is no secret that these ships contribute to our city’s poor air quality.

Shore to ship power is a simple and relatively low cost alternative to big ships running their diesel engines for the whole time they are in port. Studies that have been done in the US showed that ships using shore power in one location saved 99% of their nitrous oxide emissions and between 60 and 70% of particulate emissions.

To the credit of Southampton port, they are investigating whether they can install facilities in one cruise liner berth, but as far as I know they are alone in this pursuit.

In my debate today I will ask the Government to provide assistance to provide the infrastructure needed for shore to ship and it should give notice of an intention to mandate the use of these plugs by a specified date.

Southampton should not be put in the position, if it proceeds with shore power, of ‘going it alone’. It will be far more powerful both for making the case to ports and for ensuring that ships are properly equipped to use shore power if everyone knows that the UK is on course to oblige such supply.

Byadmin

My vote on triggering Article 50

The vote on the Second reading of the Government’s Article 50 Bill was not about whether parliament wanted a rerun of the referendum, but on whether article 50 should be triggered now, and if so on what basis.

The Supreme Court decided that the Government could not proceed to invoke Article 50 and thereby set the wheels in motion for a UK exit from the EU within a strict timetable of two years without a parliamentary vote on Article 50. The implication of this is that Parliament should debate this and decide on when and how Article 50 should be triggered.

The response of the Government was to produce a four line bill with no information about how negotiations might proceed and on what lines any negotiations might go along whilst claiming that anyone who did not support the Bill was going against the result of the referendum. What information we did have before the vote on the Second Reading of the Bill was that the Government intend for us to have a very hard ‘Brexit’ – that is to abandon any association with the European Single Market, and to seek very little participation in any of the EU’s institutions in the future.

This is not a reasonable basis either for an informed debate in Parliament about the implications of triggering Article 50 now, or for a decision about the future direction of the UK once the two year process of withdrawal is complete. The referendum vote did not give any guidance about this: we simply decided by a narrow majority that Britain would leave the EU. There is a world of difference between a negotiation that seeks a good deal for British industry, maintains association with the EU on matters of British national interest, and gets the best terms for the UK in the future, and pushing a button on an exit that dumps the UK out of all its associations with nothing to take their place. I do not think most people who voted in the referendum thought that the latter outcome was what they were voting for.

I do not think that rushing into triggering Article 50 without clarity on what we will be doing is in our country’s best interest, and I was not prepared to stand by and allow us to go down what I regard as a potentially very dangerous path for the UK.

The first stage of the Bill is, however, complete and there will now be an opportunity to try and win amendments to the bill so that the Government is better guided in what it does in negotiations. I hope that some changes may be made, although it will not alter what I regard as a precipitate and ill-judged triggering of exit procedures. If no changes are forthcoming as the Bill makes its way through the stages of Parliamentary procedure, I will certainly be voting against it at Third Reading.