Hustings transcript

Partial transcript of the hustings held at All Saints Church on 19 November 2019.

Information

This is a best effort transcript from the Hustings held at All Saints, North Baddesley, on 19 November 2019. We emphasise that the Parish Church Council of North Baddesley does not endorse any Candidate in the General election or statement in this transcript.

Candidate’s introductions

Craig Fletcher – Liberal Democrat

So I’m Craig Fletcher I was originally born in Southampton I grew up on the waterside, down by Fawley. Originally studied medicine at Edinburgh University, then went into business, I spent 25 years building businesses in the IT, events and gaming spaces which I was lucky enough to be quite successful in creating over 100 jobs down in the New Forest. Those were exited four years ago now and so now I act as a business ‘Angel investor’ and a consultant helping other start ups and the entrepreneurs of tomorrow succeed and I want to bring those decades of problem solving experience to politics which is why I’m standing here hoping to be your MP.


Caroline Nokes – Conservative

Hello I’m Caroline Nokes and I think it was last in 2010 that North Baddesley hosted the Churches Together Hustings. [Note – We think it might have been 2005 and this event was not formally a Churches Together Husting] So it’s great to be back here with a new layout a new vicar, some new lighting and it feels rather like we are under the spotlight this evening which of course is the whole point of a hustings isn’t it. It’s to put your candidates under the spotlight. We have of course the coldest election that I can remember standing in, having stood in this constituency since 05 I’m quite familiar with May or June elections when it’s nice and warm and a great opportunity to see people in those sunny evenings. That makes it a challenging election but I think it’s incumbent on all of us here this evening to make sure that we don’t see turnout drop, that we have a good and a good natured debate, and of course that we recognise that this election is the opportunity to break the gridlock that we’ve had in parliament for too long.


Claire Ransom – Labour

So my name’s Claire Ransom I’m a trade union activist which makes me very true to the Labour Party’s roots, um I work in public services and I have been working there since 2010 and I have seen significant cuts and decimation of public services I know that we deserve better. I know that public services should be publicly owned for the public. Romsey and Southampton North is the constituency that I’ve lived in most of my life. I went to Mountbatten school. At the time it was a local authority school. It’s now an academy. I’ve had the benefit of quality accessible free healthcare services here too but I’ve seen increased waiting times for health services and GP appointments is damaging our health and the reputation of the NHS.

Labour can change this. We founded the NHS and we won’t let it die. I want other people regardless of their class, race or ability to get the start in life that they deserve, like I did. My background hasn’t been in politics but my trade union activity and work in public services has shown me that more people like me are needed in parliament. People with compassion, a desire for social justice, and who are ready to listen. I’m committed to making change for the betterment of everyone. I know that we need to pick up the pace when it comes to making our industries greener, our air cleaner and more, use of more sustainable resources. We don’t have to accept the message that we’re being fed that change isn’t possible at the rate that’s needed because of how much it might cost. Investing in greener future is priceless.


Geoff Bentley – United Kingdom Independence Party

Hi my name’s Geoff Bentley. I’m an archivist, document controller, and database specialist, turned tree surgeon. I don’t live here at the moment, I live in East Hants but I used to live and work around here. I worked in solicitors firms in Southampton and I worked at Porton Down. I’ve also cut trees all round this area and in the New Forest. This time last week I did not expect to be standing in this Election. But you all know the story – Everybody knows that this election is about Brexit and I’m standing here to give all you leaver’s a real choice. I’m standing here because Brexit is, because UKIP is the authentic and true party for leaving the European Union thank you.

Addressing Brexit

I thought we would address the elephant in the room and get this one out of the way first because there are a lot of questions on a lot of issues but for the first one can I ask the candidates please – and I’ll start with you Craig and we’ll go straight along this times – what are your plans for Brexit?

Craig Fletcher – Liberal Democrat

Well we’ve been very clear about what we would like to do with Brexit and that is stop it because there is no deal being offered that is better than the deal we already have – Germany+ or whatever you want to call it, which is our current deal with the European Union. We do not want to be breaking apart and setting sail in this land of globalisation – which is the genie is out of the bottle – and this is not the time to be going it alone.

We need to be standing strong with our European partners and we will give people a choice this election. We are the only major party standing on a remain basis. We would, were we to get a majority in the House of Commons, revoke Article 50 because we believe that would be a mandate to do so but as always we would like this to be resolved with a ‘Peoples Vote’ which we have argued with from the very beginning. We’ve had three and a half years of this not being solved by the incumbents and we believe it’s now time to take it back to the people and let them decide; but should we be elected as a majority government we believe that the people would have spoken.


Caroline Nokes – Conservative

I think this as Mark described as the elephant in the room, but this is the election we need to have to solve Brexit. I have always been very clear I voted remain, I wanted us to stay in the European Union but 17.4 million people disagreed with me.They were the majority. In a democracy the will of the majority prevails whilst the rights of minorities must be respected. So in this case I have been adamant from the start that we leave, but we leave with a deal. That has been critically important to me.

Of course Craig has just told you that the Liberal Democrats would revoke Article 50 and of course they voted three times to reject a deal. They are the real ‘no dealers’ here. They prevented Theresa May’s deal from getting a majority in parliament. So it’s crucially important that we have a deal that the Prime Minister has secured and I’ll be completely candid you all know the history. I rebelled against him back in September because I felt that the prorogation was unlawful – something that the Supreme Court agreed with me on.

[Because] I wanted us to have the time that I felt was being taken away from us, but it is crucially important that we get behind the deal that is on the table now that we uphold the outcome of the 2016 referendum and we give businesses the certainty that they are crying out for. Just this morning I was in a business in Broughton where the Managing Director just looked at me and said ‘we need the uncertainty to end’ A further referendum doesn’t do that it gives more delay, more obfuscation, and more time in which the outcome of that referendum is not being delivered.


Claire Ransom – Labour

So obviously this constituency did vote to remain – and if I was elected to be your representative I would be representing your views in parliament. On a national level however I do believe that it is important to respect the 2016 advisory vote and to respect people’s desire to have a National Health Service that is properly funded and functioning to the best of its capability.

I think most of you will be aware – or hopefully some of you at least – that a labour government would negotiate a new deal within three months of being elected based on the things that are necessary with the EU which are supported by trade unions and businesses and protect the NHS this includes new customs union a close single market relationship and guarantees for the rights and protections of workers. Within six months of being elected Labour would put that deal to a public vote along with the option to remain.
So that’s two clear options both agreed with the EU Labour would then carry out whatever the people decide. I think it’s really important to recognise that we know much more now than we did in 2016. People have changed their minds and I know that from speaking to people on the doorstep but also within the constituency generally in the town centre That people need to be given the opportunity to confirm their views now with what they know now.


Geoff Bentley – United Kingdom Independence Party

None of the results are known by constituency err they can only be guessed and Test Valley the various districts and boroughs which counted the votes actually did measure and Test Valley was a leave area and Southampton City Council was also a leave area.

So and these guestimates have been proved wrong on a number of different occasions UKIP would leave the European Union with a clean break Brexit. Straight to WTO terms we would repeal the act of parliament that took us into the European Union. Britain did perfectly well before it was a member of the European Union and we will do perfectly well afterwards. Um, that’s you know, pretty much all there is to it so –

International affairs, peace, and dialogue

Recent British foreign policy on the Middle East and elsewhere have contributed to instability, prolonged conflict deepened sectarianism and added to the global refugee crisis. What foreign policies would you adopt to promote stability dialogue and peace?


Caroline Nokes – Conservative

So I think it is crucially important to reflect on the enormous investment that the UK has made in its international aid programme particularly in the immediate Syria region helping with millions of people in refugee camps and having travelled to Jordan last year and seen some of those camps and the individuals in them and lack of … I think our message must be we can and must do better.
Now I don’t pretend to be an expert on foreign policy but what I do know is that we need to have dialogue you need to have pragmatic policies. I think its crucially important in this election that we look to the future that we are prepared to elect people who are going to be moderate voices of reason not on the extreme in any debate. But people who are prepared to listen to have evidence based policy and when it comes to thinks like foreign aid we are prepared to use our aid budget to reinforce our foreign policy to make sure we do our best to bring peace to regions that are incredibly difficult and steeped in conflict over many hundreds of years. It’s foolish to think that we’re going to resolve any of them at a stroke with one general election.


Claire Ransom – Labour

So I think it’s really important that Labour does its best to mediate in areas of conflict. I also think it’s going to be incredibly important that we end international debt so debts that are owed by other countries to us. They are trapped in a cycle where they cannot get out of that debt yet we are still providing them with aid it would only make sense that we write off their debts to help them to grow as countries and for them to help them prosper.
I do agree with Caroline about working for peace and helping to mediate and conciliate in countries that are suffering conflict we should be doing our best to assist those countries in maintaining peace. I also believe in trying to end the sale of arms to other countries.We can’t continue to fuel wars in other countries and expect the UK not to assist in people who need to move for a better future to our country.


Geoff Bentley – United Kingdom Independence Party

Well. For a start we would stop giving foreign aid to countries with their own nuclear weapons and space programmes. And um yes we would er, definitely cut the overseas aid budget and um.
I mean you know you’ve only got to walk out on the streets these days in Southampton and see the amount of homeless people that are out there I mean perhaps charity should start at home and the department for foreign and international affairs should perhaps be reduced in size and give out foreign aid on an as an when basis.
And as for refugees um why can they not be housed, put up in the neighbouring countries, you know why should they travel all the way across Africa all the way through Europe and then be given refuge in this country. It doesn’t make sense to me. Um yes.


Craig Fletcher – Liberal Democrats

OK well Britain has been, has had great soft power over hundreds of years and that is something we need to make good use of in arbitrating disputes but also taking responsibility for what we have done over that period of time. And er certainly some of our policies over the last couple of centuries have led to some of these issues, drawing boundaries and things like that.
Soft power is something that has been diminishing. Brexit is going to diminish it further, but we’re not … and actually being part of the EU and being part of 28 countries that can stand together and combat problems that arise around the world means we are stronger together.
We aren’t the empire we once were – and size matters in international politics. Coming on to the aid budget that was something that was actually fixed in law in the coalition it was a Lib Dem policy and that is something where we bring other people up and that is a critical thing to give them hope for the future. Because people without hope don’t have anything to lose and that’s why we get a lot of sectarian violence and people prepared to commit acts of terrorism and things like that.
We must continue that and acting together we have to solve things like the refugee crisis.These are human beings they are people just like us, and we have a moral responsibility as well as human, not just as a very rich country to look after these people and I think we should be doing far more than we are right now.

Climate change

Staying on an international and large, big picture thing. We are in a climate emergency many groups think we should be carbon neutral by 2030 at the latest. So is 2030 achievable and what do you think the most important issue in climate change is and what will you do about it.


Claire Ransom – Labour

So I agree with the declaration of climate emergency and obviously Test Valley Borough Council, Southampton City Council have declared a climate emergency as well so kind of bringing that back a little bit more locally.
I think it’s really important that we do take rapid action on measures to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030 and I will add that it was a Labour MP Alun Whitehead who tabled the motion in parliament to bring forward the carbon zero targets.
Extinction Rebellion I believe is right we need to bring in legally binding policy measures to reduce carbon emissions to bring us to net zero and also to reduce our use of resources to below half of sustainable levels.
We need to take rapid action to recover from the damage we have done already to the environment we also need to implement ways of extracting and absorbing carbon from our atmosphere so tree planting and living walls are a really big part of this because they will help to absorb pollutants from our atmosphere.
Labour is committed to more offshore and onshore wind farms and installing solar panels on all viable roofs, installing heat pumps in homes, providing insulation for roofs and floors so that our homes become much more energy efficient. And people who are not able to afford those improvements will be given grants anybody who can afford them will be given interest free loans in order to make that happen and ultimately the savings that people will make on their energy bills will repay those loans and nobody will pay more to improve their homes to make their homes more environmentally friendly.
I’m strongly behind Labour’s position to ban fracking in the UK. I’m really distressed by the fact that the current moratorium does not protect the south east region. so the moratorium that’s currently in place is simply a temporary ban its not a permanent full ban that will protect the whole of the UK so that’s a really big one for me.
Locally the Harewood incinerator thats proposed to be built which is going to be East of Andover that’s rightly facing opposition. We shouldn’t be dealing with our waste by burning it.
We need to reduce our waste and reduce single use plastic.We need to develop alternatives for disposal that can be in the form of recycling, investing in scientific research as to how we use plastic dissolving enzymes and encouraging the use of sustainable eco friendly reusable packaging.


Geoff Bentley – United Kingdom Independence Party

We would seek to um, well – if I get elected to parliament – I would definitely raise a question of hydrogen powered engines in cars. something that you really don’t hear a lot about. People talk about battery powered cars – you know – have a go at anyone that’s driving a diesel car these days – but it seems to me the technology which was being researched more than 100 years ago in Tesla’s time has been somehow buried and that is something that I think, we’d like to see a lot more of basically, and also we would protect the Green Belt.

You will have to forgive me this time last week, I didn’t think I’d be standing. I’m a little bit ill prepared to say the least.

We’d protect the Green Belt and the UK (unclear) especially in England. One of the biggest problems with this is unsustainable population growth.This is predominantly fuelled by mass uncontrolled immigration. You sort that out you sort all your environment … [off stage noise] … Thank you


Craig Fletcher – Liberal Democrats

I never thought I’d hear about us having a massive population problem in the UK think that’s an issue in other parts of the world It’s given a small fraction of our land is actually built up if you look at it.
the Liberal Democrats have a very clear policy I’ll try to keep it brief with lots of questions to go through. We’ve got a plan by 2030 the halve emissions and have 80% of UK’s energy come from renewable resources over with a target to get 2045 Net Zero
I think 2030 net zero will be very challenging technologies much faster than I think they can be done. We would bring a Green Bank in which would invest billions of pounds about five billion into these investments.
I actually I’m working in London are now on the fund that’s going to invest into green or clean tech but relying on the private sector alone isn’t enough you need public investment to do this similar to like with Antibiotics when these things are very expensive to invest in we public funds to do it and then the public to share in their commercial success as well.
International cooperation is essential to climate change there is little point us get into net zero by 2045 if no one else doesn’t particularly the biggest polluters China and the United States and we need to put pressure on those two major polluters to do this and also provide the technology lead the way in the technology and implementation of it, solar of wind power all these different things to make sure it is cost-effective for them too and finally we will learn will build we will plant sixty million trees a year Trees take time to grow but they are great way to sink carbon out of the atmosphere into a physical thing that’s our plan in the UK reforest.


Caroline Nokes – Conservative

So this is a massive topic and apologies if my answer is slightly long but there
are a number of points I want to address firstly I think we have to look as the most critical thing about the way we generate our energy am I very proud to have supporting new solar developments in this constituency and we now generate 33% of our energy needs for renewables are from just under 7 percent in 2010.
I think it’s also crucially important and many members of panel have mentioned in our planting more trees they’re a great way to capture carbon but also we need to restore peat lands I’m very conscious that you only have to go to the New Forest see significant reserves of peat which occasionally still is illegally cut and I think we need to make sure that we crack down on actions which impact the environment negatively.
I think we need to be look after our oceans and that’s one of the most critical things globally we need to make sure that we have adequate marine protection zones we need to use our aid budget to make sure that the British Overseas territories are playing their part in that. We now have 41 new marine conservation zones around the UK but we also have to make sure that we’re spreading that knowledge to our partners across the globe.
We’re proposing to bring in a 640 million pound fund for tree planting in the UK increasing that to numbers of 30,000 hectares more of trees and a blue planet fund which with 500 million pounds of the funding into our oceans. Think we have to look more closely at carbon capture and storage and invest in that so that we can find ways in this coming decade thats only now just over a month away to make sure that those technologies come on stream and are functioning.
I would just say and I think it’s important and I’ve always tried to do this in Parliament so when you agree with people say it. And Craig made a point that the Net Zero target by 2030 will be really really difficult to meet. If you listen to GNB unions they make the point that we can only achieve it by confiscating peoples’ cars. You know I’m not in that market. I think we have to do it by taking people with us. I think thats the most important thing that any journey to decarbonise our economy it has to be about bringing people along with us helping them to make the right decisions about the way they are living their lives and not just imposing yet more legislation on them. Part of this is about winning the the argument in the debate not just about additional legislation

I think is really important to reflect this because we did hear from Geoff didn’t we about the Green Belt. Important to reflect: there is no green belt in Hampshire save for a small corner in the southwest that is designed to prevent the spread of the urban conurbation of Bournemouth which is of course in an entirely different County. If we’re going to talk about the environment of Hampshire lets actually talk about environment in Hampshire.

National issues

Youth unemployment has risen, violent knife crime has risen, youth mental health needs have risen more teenagers are being referred for social care services and yet nationally and locally as reduced. How will you support people through adolescence to raise young adults of tomorrow


Geoff Bentley – United Kingdom Independence Party

Well you can only improve the education system as far as I’m concerned I was certainly falling behind and it was only because you know my parents helped me basically that I was able to perhaps read more in later life and improve myself. I don’t I really don’t know where to start with the education system in its present state so I’ll leave it there.


Craig Fletcher – Liberal Democrats

You’re right we are failing young people there’s there’s been many cuts to various aspects of this number one policing we have lost a lot of police officers in nationally and particularly in this area Hampshire has lost over 500 police officers in the last nine years. So there’s no visible deterrent but also we need to give these people hope and cuts to youth services cuts the social care cuts to the mental health situation.
Our policy to fix that is we’re going to put a penny on income tax to invest directly into health and social care of which 11 billion go directly to mental health where we are failing so many people.
Also in this local area itself I know I looked at the review from the local council that North Baddesley in particular and we have an under a massively under provided amount of land for teenagers and young people it is 5% of what it should be according to that report.
We need to be investing in things for young people to do need to do investing in opportunities youth centres but we also need to have the carrot and the stick you also need to have visible deterrence to ensure they stay on the narrow – that people feel safe in their communities as well.


Caroline Nokes – Conservative

I think it’s important to put the record straight youth unemployment is halved since 2010. Now that doesn’t mean that I think that everything in the garden is rosy far from it and it has to be about providing young people with aspiration and ambition. I served on the Education Select Committee for a while in parliament and I think my biggest mantra has always been that it is no good to leave school just for the clutch of GCSEs in your hand. You have to have found something that you love something you want to carry on doing throughout the rest of your life.

If you go and speak to some of the brilliant head teachers we have in this constituency people like Heather Mcelroy at Mountbatten – Yes it’s an academy, It’s also one of the highest achieving schools that we have not just in this part of Hampshire across the whole county.

Heather will always say to me that she wants her young people all of them to have the opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument; all of them to have the opportunity to learn to speak a foreign language; all of them to have the ability to go and play sport and to play competitive sport. Part of it is absolutely about having curriculums that are rich in variety and opportunity for young people.

I’m not going to sit here and make up policy on the hoof or write a blank check for education but I think that that absolutely is a model of a school that is determined to put young people on the right path in life and give them every opportunity that they can have.

In Parliament I have spoken up for years about the mental health of young people. I’m very conscious that we needed to and indeed I used to argue for and very often vote for before it was Conservative Party policy to have compulsory relationship and sex education in school. Relationships are absolutely the stepping stone to a good grounded mental health to be able to build relationships later in life. Many of you will have heard me speak previously about things like eating disorders; about body image; about the importance of giving young people self-confidence; so they can on to have rich and fulfilling lives. Of course I appreciate the investment that’s going into in young people’s mental health services. I welcome the fact that the Conservatives made a policy announcement over the last few days about additional youth centres and refurbishing 360 / 316 existing support services I think we have to look at it in the round and recognise the role we in society have to play in [unclear] young people as well.


Claire Ransom – Labour

Some of you – well you probably won’t know at the moment but where I’ve worked in public services I did work in a service that supported youth services. I lost that job because the project funding was cut the youth services and centres closed workers were made redundant.
We have seen rising levels of knife crime, and county lines, mental ill health and loneliness, rising exclusions and exam pressures all of these in terms of measures in education are adding pressure to our young people and it’s bringing stress to their lives much earlier than is necessary.
Labour analysis has revealed alarming cuts to Youth Services showing public spending on youth services in England has fallen by 1 billion pounds since 2010 a reduction of 73 percent so it doesn’t really surprise me that young people are struggling. Over 750 youth centres have closed since 2012; 14,500 youth and community work jobs have been lost since 2008.
A member I supported as a trade union representative and she was experiencing problems with her son. He was being brought home by police because he was roof jumping with friends. Now she said she sat down with him and she asked him why he was doing it. The reasons that he gave her was it was a free activity it gave him the sense of achievement and it was something to do with his friends. she said to me ‘well how can I argue with that other than the risk to his safety?’
Youth services, youth centres provided some of those activities that were either low-cost or free things that gave people a sense of community and a way to communicate with one another.
I can’t stress how much my own mental health has been impacted by lack of contact with other people and if actually we are creating cohesion in our youth community that’s going to serve to help mental health issues for young people.
So in terms of what labour is promising and Labor’s going to guarantee young people access to youth services in every community will introduce a new national youth service guarantee for young people backed by new legislation and we will require local authorities to set up and facilitate youth partnerships to develop a diverse universal offer for young people.
I think also I just point out that it’s so important that we invest in preventive projects and services. What we’re dealing with at the moment is having to spend a lot of money on reactive reactive programs that are just treating symptoms we’re not tackling root causes and I’m really passionate about starting early and intervening to help people go along the right path in life.

Lifelong learning, cost of further and higher education

I am concerned about the lack of financial support for retraining adults to meet the needs of our changing economy, especially bursaries for nurses, What do you think about this?


Craig Fletcher – Liberal Democrats

This is something we’ve talked about a lot in that, in the changing economy job for life is going to become the exception not the rule. People gonna have to retrain in multiple times.
I often talk about people worrying about immigration you should worry more about automation because the robots are coming and people are to have to retrain manual jobs that can be automated and move into other areas which humans are better at doing and so for example the Liberal Democrats are offering a ‘skills wallet’ ten thousand pounds over the course of your life to retrain because education should not finish at eighteen it should carry on throughout your life.
I think that is that is an investment we need to make in our workforce to adapt to the the second Machine Age it’s called by some we’re where we’ve also going to through the second Industrial Revolution where skills such as digital technology and all that sort of stuff is going to be very important moving forward indeed training through life.


Caroline Nokes – Conservative

I think this is a fantastic issue and something there’s a real passion of my mine. When I was at the Cabinet Office I was responsible for the returnship program in the Civil Service which was about giving – particularly apologies this is going to be a little bit sexist – particularly giving women who have taken time out of their careers for caring responsibilities the opportunity to come back into the Civil Service to retrain perhaps in a different field or skill.
It’s crucially important, we all know that we are living longer that we have an ageing population we will be playing an active role in the economy longer in life and as Craig said the job for life is gone and young person leaving school today is likely to have seven different careers in their lifetime that’s a phenomenal number of things so it’s about making sure that our FE colleges are tooled up to be able to provide those retraining opportunities
It’s also about looking at some of the most disadvantaged in society there’s other biggest challenges about investing in our criminal justice system and our prisons those leaving prison have the opportunity to move into work. We still have a reoffending level that is far too high and has been stubbornly refusing to budge downwards yet when you look at some of the programs have been put together by companies like Timpsons who specifically go out and recruit ex-offenders to bring them into the workplaces to give their opportunities; and of course our veterans our ex-service personnel when they leave the Armed Forces that make sure that they have the opportunities. There’s a great new package that has come forward as part of the policy announcements made by the Conservatives over the last few weeks and our veterans about making sure that they’re at the front of the queue when it comes to getting interviews for new roles and I think crucially important that we look across whole spectrum to make sure that we’re giving adults as well as young people every opportunity to retrain


Claire Ransom – Labour

Some people have asked me about nursing bursaries and Labour is very much committed to reintroducing those. I know through my Trade Union involvement that there are nurses who are struggling to to cover the cost of their course fees to go out and work to cover their rent and then they are being massively overworked in the health system, so those bursaries will alleviate that kind of problem.
The scrubbing of maintenance grants but also those NHS bursaries and freezing of loan repayment thresholds on student loans. They’ve seriously increased the cost of debt for students and graduates and particularly those who are from less affluent backgrounds and with the raising of those repayments that does mean that if you are poorer and you are struggling to repay your loan you’re actually paying you’re going to be repaying more in terms of interest over the loan period and so it’s never been truer that it costs more, and it’s more expensive when you are poor to live, but also to study.
Labour is committed to scrap tuition fees for students and it’s going to create a national education system which would give adults and the entitlement to six years of study for vocational and technical qualifications and degrees as well as this Labour is going to be paying for this through taxation which offers a fairer system for everyone and to meet the needs of developing industries.
I do think that the Lib Dems commitment to ten thousand pounds per person is fantastic, however if you have access to a national education system at any point in your life and tuition fees are going to be scrapped by Labour government but obviously that’s worth much more to you as an individual.


Geoff Bentley – United Kingdom Independence Party

Yes, I agree was much much of what’s been said I certainly didn’t know what I wanted to do at age 16. I had a career change at age 30 became a tree surgeon studying for a year full time at Sparshalt college and I so had an adult learning grant myself so yes I’m all in favour of bursaries and adult learning grants and I think everybody should always be learning remain open-minded and willing to learn more. Cheers

The NHS

The NHS is underfunded and we have an ageing population so how will you ensure proper funding and staffing and also what you see as a priority for local health provision


Caroline Nokes – Conservative

So I can honestly say from my MP’s postbag what I would see as a priority for local health provision is more GP appointments. I’m delighted by the announcement the Conservatives are going to make sure with 2024/25 we have more GPs working in the NHS. I think that’s crucially important we’re putting the 33.9 billion funding into the NHS. I would just like to say I think it’s really interesting that in election periods people sometimes try to run down our NHS. As somebody who’s used it and used it
very recently I have to say I think our NHS is something that we are rightly proud of that we should defend absolutely to the hilt and I get a little bit tired with Labour, every election over the last forty or so years trotting out the mantra that the Conservatives want to privatise the NHS. We don’t. We are committed to the NHS It’s a great british institution – something that celebrated its 70th birthday only last year and as I said my one priority would be more GP appointments because I think they are crucially important in our area.


Claire Ransom – Labour

As Caroline said GP appointments do need to be a priority for this constituency. We only have three GP surgeries locally and obviously we have a number of housing estates that are being built and they also need health services. So we have seen over a significant period of years the chronic underfunding of the NHS

[Interverntion from Caroline on the number of GP surgeries in the constituency and self correction by Claire to clarify that she meant within Romsey]

So with chronic underfunding of the NHS hospital services are at crisis point privatisations really compounded those issues public funds are going out to profiteers they need to be kept for public services

I see hospital staff that are incredibly overworked and we can only improve treatment and reduce waiting times for the NHS hospital environments generally by investing again and ending outsourcing and privatisation to resolve local problems we need a Labour government the Labour has committed to invest an extra 2.5 billion pounds to overhaul the primary care estate so that GPs can deliver better local services in their communities they’re going to expand GP training places and that will create 27 million more appointments across the nation with family doctors we’re also intending to increase and it just capital budgets to replace NHS hospitals and community facilities and clear the maintenance backlog. We’re going to be funding that from Labour’s social transformation fund and that will be 150 billion pounds over five years. Additionally in terms of local issues we do need to ensure that we have adequate transport to Southampton General Hospital. Public Transport over to the hospital is not good enough and there – are I appreciate most people are car reliant here but that is because of poor transport services

I have to say I’m really frustrated as well when I hear it but people don’t think that we can afford to fund health services properly. The question has to be asked if private companies are willing to get most services because it means profit can be given to their shareholders with [unclear] being invested back into the NHS snd into the staff who run the NHS why and how is the government allowing this. This public money is being drained out of our services and it is meant or you it is meant for the public. I’ll end there.


Geoff Bentley – United Kingdom Independence Party

UKIP believes in an NHS free at the point of delivery. The Private Finance Initiative introduced by the Tories and expanded by Labour is draining much-needed funds out of our NHS. PFI contracts financed eleven point eight billion to build hospitals in England but will cost seventy one billion to pay back over 31 years UKIP will terminate these contracts by act of Parliament where possible


Craig Fletcher – Liberal Democrats

I kind of touched on this earlier and well the NHS and Social Care are you really have to treat them one of the same because of how to inter-related they both are.

My wife is a surgeon at Salisbury District Hospital a little bit experienced when I was training but I hear about it very regularly and I think this morning I was talking to retired GP to get her view on what’s going on with with the situation. So we said 1p on income tax which i think is something price we are all prepared to pay to ring-fence that for NHS and social care and people are better treated in the community. There are so many people now in hospitals that are don’t need to be there any more, they’re blocking beds the people who need to be in hospital should be in.

We’ve had some of the worst A&E [Urgent Care] times since records began recently in Southampton General so we’ve really got to invest heavily in the in the people doing it but we don’t need more of is massive Re-disorganization was the term I was introduced to this morning. At the NHS clinicians in particular are fed up of everything being changed suddenly everything’s got to be… the projects they’re working on the initiatives working on get changed because someone has a better idea and spends millions more millions with consultants and other people to come in to tell them how they should do this or that slightly differently.

One of the critical things that will damage the NHS is what happens with Brexit because make no mistake it is on the table in a trade deal with the United States it will be because they are by far bigger party in any of those discussions

ESA and PIP

In light of the high rejection rate for ESA and PIP
applications and the high success rate for Appeals how would you reform this flawed system which affects the most vulnerable


Claire Ransom – Labour

So a member I had supported in work and through my trade union work she did apply for PIP and she had not been able to work for or be in work consistently for over four years because about terrible skin condition she had and she wasn’t able to leave her property she wasn’t able to wear clothes; she was having to regularly apply ointment to alleviate her skin condition; she was refused the personal independent payments so what was just referred to as PIP she had to go through an appeals process but as well as dealing with that not having the money not being able to get out of the house so she was relying on the local advice centre to support her in terms of giving her voice welfare benefits. What we do need is we need somebody or we need an organisation to help people with with those appeals and it can’t just be a localised area can’t just be dependent on individuals offering that on a voluntary basis; there needs to be the needs to be proper support people with disabilities making this benefit applications to ensure that they are successful The criteria for those benefits also needs reviewing I think that we have far too many penalties and sanctions for disabled people that needs to be removed and a much more supportive rather than a punitive system.


Geoff Bentley – United Kingdom Independence Party

UKIP is committed to maintaining a strong and robust supportive safe safety net for those in genuine need they will end unfair ATOS style work capability assessments and replace them with qualified medical practitioners we’re committed to protecting the rights of disabled people and we support their inclusion in the workplace whenever thatis possible we would scrap the bedroom tax which adversely affects many disabled people


Craig Fletcher – Liberal Democrats

Yes. It’s clear that the Welfare system is in in need of reform and the changes to you to universal credit and such things have a very dramatic impact on many people including the introduction of food banks and other such things I think it’s the responsibility of us as a society to provide a safety net for those not as fortunate in life and there is still very much postcode lottery as to how you will end up and similar policies with things like bedroom tax but it’s not it’s not an area of policy and I’m particularly familiar with myself and Ididn’t bring a full policy document with me and so I feel it’s better to say whenyou have a gap and you know I do know if anyone has any particularly interest on that is in the room of Tony the back and we’ll come back to you.


Caroline Nokes – Conservative

I think it’s a really important one I spent a year in the Department for Work and Pensions working predominantly on issues like housing benefits; bereavement benefits but that gives you an insight into some of the really great work that individual work coaches do in job centers and I always used to draw the analogy that its a bit like being a psychologist because for each individual work coach it was understanding how they could best help that individual back into work and for some they required confidence-building; some they needed upskilling in their abilities. I can remember going to visit a job center in Newcastle and meeting a woman called Caroline who was born in 1972 there was a slight in resonance there and we were having the conversation that she didn’t know who I was she thought I was a trainee work coach and when her Work Coach had gone off to photocopy her Cv she and I had a lovely chat and I said to her you know why are you struggling in interviews and she said why that confidence and I can’t talk to people in authority so every time I get an interview I really have a problem talking to them. I said you don’t strike me as someone who has a problem because you are sat there there chatting to me and when she was told I was the Minister she said looked at me and said ‘you’re right I can talk to people’

But turning to the issue of PIP and ESA I think what was crucial when I was sat in the conference hall back in 2016 when Damien green made the announcement about scrapping Work Capability assessment for people with long-term and degenerative conditions. Conditions like Parkinson’s and MS Its an absolute nonsense that anybody should have to be going through Work Capability Assessments when they have been given that diagnosis by a medical professional. I will admit to not being sure what progress has been made with that.

As a constituency MP I always encourage people should they have been turned down for one of those benefits to do the mandatory reconsideration; If the mandatory reconsideration comes back negatively appeal, because actually these are benefits which it is your right to have and it’s important that there are people like Members of Parliament in the system to fight the corner of their constituents every single time

Disability, Children and Hate crime

I have a seven year old disabled son and I am worried for his future. Services and opportunities are being cut in front of our eyes. The country is a less tolerant place to live; hate crime against disabled people has tripled since 2010. In an increasingly divided and intolerant country what will you do to make it more inclusive more tolerant for disabled people?


Geoff Bentley – United Kingdom Independence Party

All I can say is pretty much what I said in my answer to the last question uh I mean he doesn’t need to worry about his future because there will always be an NHS in this country for as long as I’m alive anyway, which will be free at the point of delivery. As for the rise in hate crime I don’t know what to say. I mean just because we’re leaving the European Union it doesn’t mean to say we all need to become, you know… that that is directly responsible for hate or racism or anything; it’s just leaving the European Union. If anything we will have immigration from other countries you know too. Oh dear… I’m going to leave it there.

At the conclusion of Claire Ranson (Labour) see below Geoff Bentley (UKIP) said:

I’d like to have just another little stab at that if I may,

I can’t help but think that the question was aimed at Brexit somehow, saying that things have got worse in recent times er when it comes to intolerance towards disabled people and minorities. I mean the fact of the mater is that disabled people –

[Moderator:] The question only mentioned disabled people – I don’t know what was in the questioner’s mind but all I can say is that the question only talked about disabled people.

all I was going to say is there’s always been disabled people in this country – before we were members of the EU and [unclear] after and you know obviously whether we are members or not I don’t thing will bear – or have any impact or make any difference on whether there is intolerance in our society


Craig Fletcher – Liberal Democrats

Yes well it certainly has become a less tolerant place to live and I’m afraid that has everything to do with the Brexit situation. Whichever way you voted in the referendum people who are immigrants here now feel less tolerated and in fact not welcome. You’re seeing that in the number of EU and migrant applications here who we need toto run our NHS and with an ageing population and a dwindling working age population in proportion. I was only talking yesterday to an Italian architect who had migrated in 2003, finished a degree here, and she doesn’t want to speak Italian on the streets of Romsey because she’s worried what people will think . So I think what happens is people now think that because we are leaving the European Union that suddenly most of the population agrees with some of those actually say suppressed views that were not tolerated before and now have become more open for people to express and it is certainly not the country I would like to live in or grew up in. and we all need to fight against that whenever we see it and support those who are having it but in terms of disability obviously there’s the Health and Social Care side but it’s also giving these people quality of life and I’m involved in charity called ‘special effect’ which actually gives these people with great disabilities the ability to engage with video games which actually can be massively opening in to their quality of life if you suddenly using your eyes can control a game of FIFA and when you can’t use your arms or legs it suddenly gives these people are much higher quality of life might be more support for engagements to allow these people to live better not just live you know there’s more to life than the food and water will help them a lot but yes there’s we all need to be fighting this intolerance that has arisen and being exemplified by Brexit.


Caroline Nokes – Conservative

I think part of it is just about being kind to people. I read the intro for the hustings which made the point that this debate needed to be conducted in a polite and kind manner. I was lucky enough to serve in parliament for too short a time with Jo Cox. She was somebody who could reach out across any divide whether it was a party divide, whether it was a racial divide or a gender divide and talk to people. I will always remember her talking to be after I had been particularly rebellious on opposing compulsory academisation in the speech; and she came up to me in the corridor she put her hand on my arm and said great speech Caroline. I hadn’t spoken to her before and that was the last time I spoke to Jo.
You know the message be kind to people whether that is face to face or whether that is on social media and some of the panelists have spoken about hate crime increasing since referendum. I actually remember vividly my daughter’s primary school teacher saying to me that the problem with online communication is the reduces the ability of young people to empathise when you say something mean to your friend you see a reaction in their face when you type it on a text message you see nothing and that has enabled us to be much more cruel and unpleasant than you would ever imagine.

Now as a Member of Parliament I get I get the sort of hate crime that some of you really wouldn’t imagine much of it misogynistic; much of it telling me to that I am a tiresome underachieving woman; from people telling me that I have no place standing for parliament because I am a woman and I just read that and I want to weep – but I will see those same people in Waitrose and they will never repeat it to my face. So actually one of the messages I will give – I mentioned Jo Cox because I think much of our society our community is about talking to people it’s about reaching out across divides it’s about breaking down loneliness and the loneliness foundation that was set up in her memory is an absolute example that people are standing up to the level of hatred and intolerance that we see today saying you know what – enough is enough.


Claire Ransom – Labour

I note from that question that the person was saying there’s son has disabilities, so I am going to focus on disabilities in my response. Labour believes in the social model of mobility sorry of disability so we believe that the way that society is organised is organised causes disability and barriers rather than embracing and celebrating somebody’s difference and showing them that their impairment is not a barrier to being involved in society. Labour will work to remove those barriers that limit the lives of people with disabilities.

I think it’s essential that Labour delivers on the commitment to stop Universal Credit and fix the benefit system Universal Credit has effectively targeted disabled people the replacement Social Security system that has to be designed by people who are using it and anything that affects a group of people particularly disabled people anything about them needs to involve them you’d make no decisions without the group of people affected.

Labour is going to act to tackle disability discrimination by removing barriers and ensure social security delivers dignity and empowerment personally for working people I want to see statutory disability leave introduced to many times I’ve seen working people penalised through sickness absence procedures at work and they’ve really been absent for reasons that are linked to their disability.

If we are serious about helping people with disabilities being part of our society and present at work we need to support them with paid disability leave which is recorded separately to sickness absence just as the Equality and Human Rights Commission recommends.

I would also say that cuts to school funding has impacted on SEN provision and support for children with disabilities. It’s really important that our schools are adequate funded so mainstream schools are able to accept and educate children with disabilities and not just separated into special education schools.

On ageing population; dementia; health and social care

So returning to return the population with an ageing population and limited help for those suffering from Alzheimers and other similar complaints; how would you support the carers who often work 16 hour days. You might get perhaps one hour of professional care. The rest is down to family or neighbours. Care homes are very expensive and hard to get into.


Craig Fletcher – Liberal Democrats

So this stuff; I could come back to the kind of talk about our policy and Health and Social Care which is all wrapped up within that. Certainly people should not be having to sell their homes to provide for care and things like that.

Absolutely Alzheimers is a horrible disease that is only on the rise as people get older and older. We don’t really know; we know what causes some of them; some aspects; what can contribute toward it but it’s a very poorly understood condition. There are new treatments coming out to help with it but they’re not coming fast enough.

It’s one of those things that like to become as we all live older; something you may inevitably get the older you you get so we need to definitely be looking at specialist care for people with things like dementia for sure. This is where we need to fix the funding process in Health and Social Care and that’s where [the] Mental Health provision we spoke about 11 billion specifically towards mental health and social care needs fixing; because this is a crippling condition that affects the families as much as those are those are the patients too.


Caroline Nokes – Conservative

We know that in Hampshire there are thousand more people over the age of 80 every single year. So it’s obvious that we have an ageing population and of course once you pass your 80th birthday it’s much more likely living with multiple conditions; with more complex conditions; and it’s imperative that we recognise that much of the care needs of those people falls on family and friends.

I’m very conscious that here in Romsey, Romsey and Southampton North Constituency we have some great organisations Carers Together in Romsey. Of course much of the burden can fall upon children and we have Romsey Young Carers and of course organisations like ROMDAG the dementia awareness group who provide enormous amounts of support to individuals or their families who are new with conditions like dementia.

I don’t pretend there is any single silver bullet to solving the challenges we face around care I think Craig mentioned earlier quite rightly solve the problems with ‘bed blocking’ [Delayed discharges] at hospitals and we all know people are better off in their own homes in their own community or in a care home facility than in hospital.

I think it somehow trying to find some long-term solutions I know the parties of all Colours are struggling to work out how you can afford to fund wraparound care how you can face those challenges so that people don’t have to sell their homes in order to fund it but it is incredibly challenging. One of the realities in the next parliament we really have to face up to.


Claire Ransom – Labour

People I have also supported and represented have been carers and they are predominantly women I will say that. Carers whether you are caring for a disabled relative an ageing relative you do need flexibility around your job that’s [unclear] understanding is really essential to ensure the welfare and mental health of somebody who is trying to hold down full-time job but also care for a relative.

It’s really important to me that we have local authority care homes. For those who do know my background I campaigned to save Southampton City Council’s last two residential dementia care homes the outcome of that is that we retained one. One of the primary reasons for trying to retain that local authority care home was the affordability of residents and their families but also to ensure that that home that serve the local community significantly and a lot of people were finding if they had to move their their relative out to the care home they were to travel much further to see them so this is about the welfare and wellbeing of people who require care homes but also those who care for those who need care home we shouldn’t be increasing journeys and putting barriers up in terms of access to your loved ones and your friends.

I think it’s also very important in terms of the community care and that people retain an independence in their homes. However we have a lot of privatised care services which means that people are getting very limited contact in their homes with people who are caring for them. Fifteen-minute care visits are entirely inadequate it doesn’t allow for somebody who is providing care to provide a meal to ensure somebody’s personal hygiene but also to make sure that they do have that connection with a person so there is a rebalancing that is needed within the care sector


Geoff Bentley – United Kingdom Independence Party

Yeah there is an increasing population proportion of older people in the population this care issues are not being addressed you UKIP will increase social care funding to pay for additional residential and nursing homes and care services

On Mental Health

Those needing inpatient admissions for mental health issues or regularly send hundreds of miles away due to lack of base how are you supporting local mental health services and what would you do in response to this crisis


Caroline Nokes – Conservative

It has to be about more funding and a significant 33.9 million Conservative are putting into the NHS is going towards mental health funding. I am painfully conscious as having been a constituency MP of the numbers of local people – interestingly more likely in the Southampton CCG in the West Hants [CCG] to be sent to Manchester for example for a care bed and it is simply not good enough; particularly where that is a young person and we know that they will do far better when they are surrounded by their family, friends and can have access to those who will be able to provide support which is impossible if your loved one is sent that far away; I think it’s imperative, we know that Southern Health has had its challenges and difficulties, over the last few years now, and I met with them just a couple of weeks ago, just before the election was called to discuss some particular issues around models of care, in this part of the country and I think it’s imperative that we keep the pressure on them that organisation and make sure it is delivering and we don’t see recurrences of the dreadful incidents [unclear perhaps incidences] that were, happened a few years ago.

I think it somehow trying to find some long-term solutions I know the parties of all Colours are struggling to work out how you can afford to fund wraparound care how you can face those challenges so that people don’t have to sell their homes in order to fund it but it is incredibly challenging. One of the realities in the next parliament we really have to face up to0.


Claire Ransom – Labour

So I have a number of friends who have had mental health conditions. One of the key things are when I’ve spoken to them one of the key issues for them is actually the availability and cost of medication. I think it’s really important that physical health care is put on a par with mental health care. My friend who has Bipolar it requires a prescription which is the same medication of somebody with epilepsy someone who has epilepsy that medication is free – where she has Bipolar that medication she has to pay for she has to pay for she has to pay the prescription charge for it that’s that’s not putting on an even play… on a level playing field both forms of health

I would also say funding for mental health services we do need much more kind of community provision of health care isn’t just about mental health care it’s not just about medication; it’s about providing people with a point of contact; regular support providing activities; we talk about exercise helping to alleviate stress and depression; those sorts of programs do need to be provided; and that can be through the NHS or local community services.


Geoff Bentley – United Kingdom Independence Party

UKIP would increase mental health funding I agree with some of what Claire said earlier that good to get the causes of these problems all too often pharmaceuticals are just handed out to alleviate the symptoms. So more talk therapy I think would be good


Craig Fletcher – Liberal Democrats

Cool, so of the penny off income tax that we raised to for the Health and Social Care 11 billion I’ve said it so many times I know; but that is literally to bring this on par with physical health like Claire was saying and there’s also side of this is Mental Health First Aid you know about First Aid at Work normally but mental health first aid at conference this year I was talking to the people for the charter and I signed it on how we should bring training for mental health first aid into the workforce as well. To spot the early signs because mental health is like… it starts off as a little sapling before you know it’s grown and grown and grown because much harder to deal with.

I think it’s something that has always been there in the last few decades; but I think it’s getting worse and technology’s not helped; I think certainly as humans we don’t evolve as quickly as the technology we produce and things like social media has put a tremendous challenge to our young people at the time when their minds are most vulnerable to these sorts of changes; Self-worth and value are if, you look at the chemistry of the brain in teenage years, it’s really vulnerable at that time; I think that’s a real non-medical side of this as well. Medication has its place absolutely but also Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Neuro Linguistic Programming and there’s a wealth of apps out there now whether ‘It’s Calm’ with [unclear] all these others that can really really help people get the help they they they need to do this and actually all of accepting that this is a this is real you’re not weak if you’re to feeling depressed and you’re weak.

This is something… that is a real thing we were not built to be roaming the concrete jungle and we see a lot of challenges in the modern world that as tigers as challenges and our body reacts in the same way that’s why we have such a rise in anxiety and depressive disorder disorders in society at the moment; and green spaces are important for that too they can really help.

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