Are new Clean Air Zones voluntary?

Plans to tax diesel lorries for entering city centres have been thrown into confusion after one of the cities ordered to bring in the charge have insisted it should be "voluntary".

Last year the government ordered a clean air zone be imposed by five cities in the UK where pollution was highest.

In Birmingham, Leeds, Derby, Nottingham and Southampton the most polluting vehicles, like old buses, taxis, coaches and lorries, will be discouraged from entering the zone through charges. DEFRA says it has ordered the scheme to be introduced by 2020.

But Southampton City Council claim it is making its own voluntary plans.

In a statement, the local authority said: "There is not a statutory requirement at the moment. Southampton City Council have persuaded DEFRA to allow us to put in place a voluntary scheme. We will be working with DEFRA to review and monitor the scheme throughout its implementation."

Image caption An air monitoring station in Southampton

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Portsmouth theatres in the spotlight

Outside of New Theatre Royal Image copyright New Theatre Royal
Image caption The New Theatre Royal reopened last year after a £4.5m revamp

They're national treasures. Not just the actress Sheila Hancock, but the theatre where she began her work in the 1950s - the Kings Theatre in Southsea and the New Theatre Royal in Portsmouth.

Both got a mention from MP Will Quince as he brought the curtain up on a new season of Westminster Hall debates in Parliament.

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A shaky launch for Euro campaigns

  • 11 December 2015
  • From the section Oxford

With hindsight, perhaps the choice of venue was the big mistake that the Labour campaign to stay "IN" Europe made.

Security is tight at the Culham Science Centre. It's the research centre where they help to develop nuclear fusion.

Read full article A shaky launch for Euro campaigns

The sound of the Syria air strikes vote

Media captionProtesters kept up their chanting as MPs voted

It's the sounds of the Syria air strikes vote that will stay with me.

All night protesters in Parliament Square keeping up a chant to match the stark message on their signs - "don't bomb Syria, don't bomb Syria".

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Is Hampshire devolution doomed?

  • 27 November 2015
  • From the section UK

It all seemed to be going so well. Hampshire and Isle of Wight's bid for devolution was seen as a southern front-runner. An economy close to the scale of Wales bidding for control of its own destiny.

The architect of the plan, Hampshire leader Roy Perry, was singled out to speak at the Conservative Party conference in September and the Secretary of State Greg Clark seemed keen.

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We've reached the big four-oh

They are gold-plated, copper-bottomed, cast-iron guarantees of statistical certainty.

The folk in Fareham toil long and hard over their numbers.

Read full article We've reached the big four-oh

Would citizens' assemblies work?

assembly south

Take 35 strangers off the street, put them in a room for the weekend and ask them to devise a new form of government.

It sounds like madness, but then is the current system much saner?

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Who speaks for England?

John Redwood MP

"A lively debate" it certainly was.

MPs kept pointing out they had no time, or need, for the interventions that are supposed to add life when debate drags in the House of Commons.

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Has Corbyn got southern momentum?

  • 19 October 2015
  • From the section England
Peter Henley interviewing Jeremy Corbyn

When I interviewed Jeremy Corbyn recently he was gently chiding about my suggestion that the south of England was a tough nut for Labour to crack.

At the end of our filming in the leader of the opposition's offices in Parliament he wanted to stress the growth in southern membership.

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The picture Farage wants to forget

Ashley Mote on South Today

He talks like a UKIP MEP, he looks like a UKIP politician, right down to the rosette with the pound. But Nigel Farage seems to have developed a blind spot for Ashley Mote.

After Mote was convicted of fraud for a second time in Britain's biggest ever expenses scandal, the UKIP leader commented "I knew he was a wrong 'un."

Read full article The picture Farage wants to forget