In September, I wrote to constituents to say that I would not vote for a Brexit deal that was not in the best interests of the people of South Manchester and the UK as a whole.
I campaigned strongly for a remain vote. I believe in internationalism, and that our future should be at the heart of Europe. I was dismayed and saddened by the referendum result nationally, but in representing the voters and interests of Manchester Withington, I am conscious that our area voted with a large majority to remain.
This week, I will vote against triggering Article 50 and against starting the process of leaving the EU. This was not a decision I took lightly, but I asked the following questions:
1) Does the government have a convincing plan for leaving the European Union?
While the country voted to leave the EU, it did not vote to harm our economy or diminish our values. ‘Brexit means Brexit’ is not a credible plan to reassure my constituents that the government is prioritising the issues that they care about.
While the government can claim a mandate to leave the EU, there is no mandate to leave the single market or the customs union, and I disagree strongly with the way that Theresa May is setting out her position on behalf of the UK. We were told by the leave campaign that the vote wasn't about leaving the single market, and the Conservative manifesto said they would “safeguard British interests in the Single Market”. A hard Brexit would be bad for the UK economy and our people, and we should not be rushing into it.
We’ve heard no detail on whether European citizens living here will have their rights guaranteed. Our universities – so important to south Manchester – are worried about the future, with no assurance they will be able to access valuable European research contracts or retain talented staff from the EU. It looks certain that we will abandon the European Convention on Human Rights.
There have been no guarantees that in the long term workers’ rights will continue to be respected, or that EU environmental protections will remain after we leave.
On the basis of the government's position on the negotiations, I cannot support triggering Article 50.
2) Will the public get a chance to consider and approve (or not) any deal for leaving?
There were only two options on the ballot paper on June 23rd, but the way in which we leave the European Union will affect our economy and our society for decades to come.
There are too many uncertainties ahead for the public not to be able to take a view on the deal that is negotiated. The British people must be able to hold our government to account during this process, and the most democratic means of doing that is a second vote on the final deal.
Without this, we are being forced to give a blank cheque to the Prime Minister to negotiate a deal of any kind, at any cost.
3) Is triggering Article 50 in the best interest of my constituents?
A clear majority of people in South Manchester voted to remain in the European Union and since the result, many constituents have told me clearly that the government’s plan for Brexit will leave us worse off in the future. As their MP, it’s vital that those views are represented in parliament.
It's clear to me that the answer to these three questions is ‘no’, so I will represent the majority of my constituents in opposing the triggering of Article 50.
In September, I wrote to constituents to say that I would not vote for a Brexit deal that was not in the best interests of the people of South Manchester...
After President Donald Trump announced over the weekend that he has blocked entry to the US for refugees from Syria and citizens from 7 Muslim-majority nations, Manchester Withington MP Jeff Smith responded:
“This Executive Order is wrong and counterproductive. The President is denying sanctuary to some of the most vulnerable refugees in the world, while buying into the false narrative that citizens of these countries are enemies of the West. It can only promote division and resentment.
Our Prime Minister has failed to take the danger of the new President’s sanctions seriously. It took this government 38 hours to choose a position on this disgraceful policy, and the best the Foreign Secretary could do yesterday was “this wouldn’t be our policy”.
This is not good enough, and the Prime Minister must now stand up for the values of tolerance and diversity by postponing any planned State Visit until this Executive Order has been withdrawn.
This can no longer be “business as usual”, the Prime Minister must show leadership by unequivocally condemning this policy.”
After President Donald Trump announced over the weekend that he has blocked entry to the US for refugees from Syria and citizens from 7 Muslim-majority nations, Manchester Withington MP Jeff...
Manchester Withington MP Jeff Smith met residents who have moved into the new Oasis Close in Burnage alongside Lord Mayor Carl Austin.
Oasis Close is a new development by local housing provider Southway. The new, smaller properties will allow people the opportunity to downsize to brand new homes while freeing up three-bedroom houses for local families. Pictured above is long time Burnage resident Elsie, who was happy to move into the new development, along with some of her other neighbours from the local area.
Commenting on the development, Jeff said: “As a former board member of Southway, I’m delighted to see the trust take advantage of opportunities to provide new affordable housing in South Manchester.
I wish Elsie and the other people moving into the new development the best of luck as they settle in.”
Manchester Withington MP Jeff Smith met residents who have moved into the new Oasis Close in Burnage alongside Lord Mayor Carl Austin. Oasis Close is a new development by local...
Last week, Manchester Withington MP Jeff Smith spoke at a roundtable to discuss air pollution in our towns and cities.
Up to 40,000 people die prematurely as a result of air pollution. Poor air quality is linked with lung cancer, asthma, strokes and heart disease and around 3,000 schools are on sites with dangerous levels of pollution.
Organised by the thinktank IPPR North, the event brought together public health, transport, environmental and local government policy experts to highlight local and national solutions to the problem.
The discussion took place in the context of the High Court’s verdict in November that judged the government’s plans to bring air pollution under control to be insufficient. The government must now return with a new plan on air quality before July this year, in particular focusing on tackling Nitrogen Dioxide emissions.
Following the verdict, Jeff has been campaigning in parliament for the government to expand the Clean Air Zone (CAZ) program which aims to reduce pollution in city centres and incentivise the replacement of old, high-emission vehicles. As it stands the government is only funding and supporting 5 CAZs across the country, drawing criticism from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee.
Jeff said: “Air pollution is a public health crisis and, as November’s High Court ruling showed, this government has comprehensively failed to tackle it.
The development of Greater Manchester’s Low-Emission Strategy and Air Quality Action Plan represent the city region stepping up to the task. It’s now time that the government followed suit and showed some leadership on the issue.
In particular, I’m calling on the government to fund and support a Clean Air Zone in Greater Manchester and a national car-scrappage scheme for older, high-emission diesel vehicles.
I’m looking forward to working closely with Manchester City Council on an upcoming inquiry into air pollution in our city, consulting with environmental experts to find effective local solutions.
I hope that the government listens to the High Court verdict and commits to working with growing urban centres like Greater Manchester to tackle this issue.”
You can read more about Jeff’s work in parliament on air pollution here.
Last week, Manchester Withington MP Jeff Smith spoke at a roundtable to discuss air pollution in our towns and cities. Up to 40,000 people die prematurely as a result of...
In a debate on the Local Government Finance Bill, Jeff called the legislation a ‘missed opportunity to properly support local government’.
The Bill outlines how, by 2020, all councils will be able to retain 100% of the revenue raised from business rates. The Bill has been criticised for not providing details on the redistribution mechanism that will be necessary to ensure that the most deprived areas, who can raise substantially less revenue, are not left worse off. Westminster, for example, can raise £1.8bn in business rates revenue, more than Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield, Liverpool and Bristol combined.
The Bill also does not contain any new local government funding, despite the fact that local councils are facing a £5.8bn shortfall by 2020, including a £2.6bn deficit in adult social care funding.
Speaking in the debate, Jeff said: “During my time as Executive Member for Finance at Manchester City Council, I saw first-hand the damage done to local government by the Lib Dem/Tory coalition.
This Bill provides no solutions to the funding crisis facing local government and does nothing to help the most deprived communities that have been hit the hardest by austerity.
I will need to see far more detail before I’m convinced that this is the right Bill for Manchester.”
You can watch Jeff’s speech in the debate here.
In a debate on the Local Government Finance Bill, Jeff called the legislation a ‘missed opportunity to properly support local government’. The Bill outlines how, by 2020, all councils will...
Last week, Manchester Withington MP Jeff Smith chaired an expert panel on the future of the creative industries in the North.
Bringing together experts from TV, film and other media, the panel discussed the major challenges lying ahead for the creative sector. Panellists discussed how Brexit, digitalisation and new international market competitors are issues for the sector and how start-ups and SMEs in the North can attract investment.
Commenting following the event Jeff said: “As a former DJ and events producer in Manchester, I know the creative potential of our city and the value of a vibrant creative sector to our economy and our society.
There are over 8,000 digital and creative businesses in Greater Manchester, generating £2bn in economic output and supporting more than 45,000 jobs.
We’re in a great position to build on the rich cultural history of our city, but we must ensure creative businesses have access to the finance, training infrastructure and talent they need to grow.”
Last week, Manchester Withington MP Jeff Smith chaired an expert panel on the future of the creative industries in the North. Bringing together experts from TV, film and other media,...
Manchester Withington MP Jeff Smith is supporting a new resource for parents to help keep children safe on Facebook.
Facebook has collaborated with cyber security and child safeguarding experts to design a new information hub for parents to help them ensure their child is using Facebook safely.
How to prevent online bullying, block explicit or offensive content and safeguard against cyber fraud are all included in the toolkit, alongside educational facilities for children and adolescents themselves.
Jeff said: “The internet can be a fantastic resource for young people, bringing a world of possibilities and information.
However, parents understandably have concerns that their children may be exposed to dangerous content and placed at risk of abuse.
Resources like Facebook’s Parent Portal are a useful way to reassure parents that their children can enjoy the benefits that the Internet brings while staying safe online.”
You can access the Parent Portal here.
Manchester Withington MP Jeff Smith is supporting a new resource for parents to help keep children safe on Facebook. Facebook has collaborated with cyber security and child safeguarding experts to...
Jeff Smith MP visited a Guide Dogs event in Parliament recently to show his support for taxi and minicab drivers receiving disability equality training when getting their licence.
At the event, guide dog owners told the MP for Manchester Withington how taxi and minicab drivers refused to carry them because they had their guide dog with them. They explained that they had missed important appointments due to the refusals and how it had left them anxious and reluctant to use taxis and minicabs again.
Although the Equality Act 2010 makes it illegal for a taxi or minicab driver to refuse to carry an assistance dog, Guide Dogs research found that 42% of people living with sight loss were turned away by a taxi or minicab in the last year because of their guide dog. The research also uncovered that 38% of assistance dog owners have illegally been asked to pay an extra fare for carrying their dog.
Guide Dogs is calling for disability equality training to be made a requirement for all taxi and minicab drivers to help them understand the rights and needs of disabled people and how to welcome assistance dog owners. A Private Member’s Bill that sought to introduce such training was debated on 18th November but was not voted on due to a lack of time.
Jeff commented: “It is very disappointing to hear from so many people who are illegally turned away from taxis and minicabs because they travel with an assistance dog.
We’re asking the Government to act to ensure all taxi and minicab drivers receive disability equality training so they are aware of the law and how to assist their disabled customers in the right way.”
James White, Senior Campaigns Manager at Guide Dogs, commented: “Imagine you were turned away by a taxi driver or asked to pay an extra fare, for no good reason. Despite legal protection, this regularly happens to people living with sight loss because they are travelling with a guide dog.
“This discrimination is not only illegal, it knocks people’s confidence and can stop them doing everyday things that most people take for granted.
“We are very disappointed that we didn’t see a vote on the Disability Equality Training Bill. We were encouraged by the Government’s supportive comments and hope they will take action to introduce training for all taxi and minicab drivers.”
Jeff Smith MP visited a Guide Dogs event in Parliament recently to show his support for taxi and minicab drivers receiving disability equality training when getting their licence. At the event,...
Jeff visited St Paul’s C of E Primary School on Friday to present a prize to the winner of his Christmas card competition for 2016. Nikita Biju from Year 6 at St Paul’s (pictured above) was the overall winner.
Here is the winning design from Nikita that has been printed on Jeff’s card this year. It has gone to local community groups, businesses and residents in South Manchester.
Jeff commented after meeting Nikita:
“Thank you to all the children and schools who took part this year in my Christmas card competition – the standard was extremely high once again and judging was difficult. Well done to Nikita, and to all the runners up too”
“I would also like to take the opportunity to wish everyone in the constituency a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”
The runners up for the competition were:
Afaf Odeh, Mauldeth Road Primary School, Withington
Alice Millard, Chorlton Park Primary School, Chorlton
Charlotte Blomfield, Didsbury C of E Primary School, Didsbury
Natalia Guttadauro, Barlow Hall Primary School, Chorlton
Laiba Hussain, Mauldeth Road Primary School, Withington
Jeff’s Christmas card in 2016 was sponsored by WH Frost Butchers and Barakah Foods in Chorlton. Prizes were donated by Khandoker Restaurant and Giddy Goat Toys from Didsbury.
Thank you to all the local businesses for their support this year.
Jeff visited St Paul’s C of E Primary School on Friday to present a prize to the winner of his Christmas card competition for 2016. Nikita Biju from Year 6...
In a debate in parliament last week, Manchester Withington MP Jeff Smith urged the Government to meet the challenge of air pollution in the UK.
Poor air quality causes 40,000 premature deaths per year in the UK and has proven links with cancer, asthma, strokes and heart disease. 3,000 schools in the UK are on sites with dangerous levels of air pollution, with 1 in 4 school children in London being exposed to unsafe air.
The High Court ruled last month that the Government had failed to produce adequate plans to meet its international air quality targets. As a result, the Government is now reconsidering its policy on air pollution, with revised plans due in the New Year.
Manchester City Council have opened a Task and Finish group into air quality in Manchester, working with Jeff and environmental campaigners, businesses and local government officials to see what steps can be taken locally to tackle the problem.
In a debate responding to the latest report on air quality from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, Jeff pushed the Government to support growing Northern cities like Manchester and called for a national diesel car scrappage scheme to take older, high-emission vehicles off the road.
Speaking in the debate, Jeff said:
“Last month’s High Court ruling was a damning indictment of the Government’s failure to tackle air pollution.
The Government’s approach now has to change, and working with growing urban centres like Greater Manchester will be vital to the success of any revised plans.
I’m calling on the Government to show leadership on this issue by looking again at a Clean Air Zone in Greater Manchester and a national car scrappage scheme for high-emission diesel vehicles.
I’m looking forward to working with Manchester City Council on a new inquiry into air quality in Manchester, consulting with environmental experts to find effective local solutions to go alongside the necessary changes in national policy.
After losing two cases in two years at the High Court, there is now no place to hide for the Government on air pollution.”
You can read Jeff’s speech here.
“Air pollution in the UK is a public health crisis” – Jeff Smith urges Government to act on poor air quality in the UK
In a debate in parliament last week, Manchester Withington MP Jeff Smith urged the Government to meet the challenge of air pollution in the UK. Poor air quality causes 40,000...