2:36pm Tuesday 4th May 2010
Question 1: In your opinion, what is the biggest issue facing Pembrokeshire and why?
John Dixon (Plaid Cymru) - We are facing the double problem of an economic recession coupled with the threat of climate change, which means that the route out of recession needs to be built on sustainability. We need to build a localised and sustainable economy in Pembrokeshire which will provide the jobs and services which people need. There are real opportunities in the fields of renewable energy generation, and we need to seize them enthusiastically if we are to build the sort of economy in which our communities can thrive. The future of our communities depends on the opportunities available to people to continue to work and live in those communities, rather than having to go elsewhere.
John Gossage (Lib Dem) - There are few places where so many people are working such long hours for so little money. Wages are low because productivity is low. To make ends meet constituents are working longer and longer hours.
The labour market is very informal, employers recruit from family and friends and would generally prefer to ask around at the rugby club than put an advert in the paper.
Some thus find it very difficult to find work even when they could meet skill shortages nearby. But there is also a lack of qualified labour, for instance when the Port Authority tripled the number of tugs in the Haven to cope with LNG they had to recruit crews from outside the county.
Nick Ainger (Labour) - The economic recovery is key to Pembrokeshire’s future. In the last recession in the early 90s, Pembrokeshire was hammered with some of the highest unemployment in the UK.
After the longest and deepest global recession, while unemployment has risen, Pembrokeshire’s jobless figure remains below the Welsh and UK average thanks to the action taken by the Labour government to support businesses, stimulate the economy and help people with their mortgages. The recovery is fragile and economists tell us that the Tory plans for extra cuts in spending now risk putting Pembrokeshire back into recession.
New green jobs in renewable energy funded by a Green investment Bank can provide new sustainable jobs.
Simon Hart (Conservative) - The biggest issues for people in Pembrokeshire are a National Health System that works, good schools, job security, pensions and controlling immigration.
Business has taken a battering in the recession and Labour’s planned tax on jobs — raising employees’ National Insurance contributions by 1% — will threaten small and medium sized businesses, the lifeblood of our area. Instead, for the next two years, we will exempt new businesses from employers’ National Insurance on the first ten employees they hire in their first year.
We will cut waste in the NHS while protecting frontline services; increase the value of the basic state pension by linking it to earnings, while keeping the Winter Fuel Allowance and free bus travel.
Ray Clarke (UKIP) - Pembrokeshire has a growing tourism industry, which will continue to grow with the right investment. It requires an enhanced transport link from the M4.
This can only be achieved by investing in roads, UKIP would invest the money saved by leaving the EU into such programmes.
Most people cannot use public transport because there are not enough routes, this together with escalating petrol costs will do the industry no favours.
Rail needs to be given a fair chance by reopening rural lines.
Henry Langen (Independent) - One of the big issues facing Pembrokeshire is the huge rise in property prices that are inhibiting locals to buy within their own community; this is due to the natural migration of people retiring into our area. In Carmarthen West and Pembrokeshire South tourism is a significant part of our economy and we should do all we can to ensure we maximise the many benefits it brings to us? The high rates on business is effecting tourism and all business alike, we need to regulate business rates.
Question 2:How would you and your party support working people and families?
JD - We must protect our public services from the cuts which would inevitably follow the sort of cuts in public expenditure being proposed by the London parties. We must tackle the huge and growing level of inequality in our society, so that effort is rewarded, but rewards are not disproportionate. We call for a change in the pattern of taxation, so that the lowest paid pay less, and the highest paid pay more. We also call for the blocking of tax loopholes by which the richest in our society often avoid paying much of the tax which they should be paying. In short, we need to build a much fairer society.
JG - We would raise the income tax threshold to £10,000, which would take 1-in-4 earners in Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire out of income tax altogether and give most others an extra £700 a year.
We would invest in a green spine for the economy that would generate high skill, well paid jobs locally. We would fix tax credits for six months based on the previous six months earnings, adjustable upwards if there is a major life event such as losing a job or having a baby. This would stop families having to face demands for re-payment of tax credits from HMRC.
We would extend flexible working to the entire workforce and allow parents to share parental leave entitlements.
NA - Working and Child Tax Credits have lifted families out of poverty. The new Toddler Tax Credit will give an extra £4 a week to parents of young children.
The national minimum wage will rise at least in line with average earnings, with a new £40 a week Better Off in Work guarantee.
New fathers will get four weeks of flexible paid paternity leave, on top of the nine months paid maternity leave for mums.
200,000 jobs will be created by the Future Jobs Fund with a job or training place for young people out of work for six months.
No stamp duty for first-time buyers below £250,000 and action to keep mortgage rates low are helping families too.
SH - We’ll reward rather than punish families who work hard and save and we’ll cut their tax burden by taking away the free ride being given to those who are able to work but who refuse.
Those unable to work will still get the help they need and our Work Programme will give unprecedented support for those looking for work.
We will ensure people get help immediately if they are out of work and help them by creating business-led training places and providing Work Clubs where they can learn skills.
But there will be new sanctions for those who refuse to look for work and benefits will be cut for those who won’t take up reasonable job offers or who repeatedly commit benefit fraud.
RC - Most working families would love to have more money left at the end of the week.
By giving a greater tax allowance of £11,500 per person, all working class families would have more left in their pockets, many would spend the extra income somehow in the local economy. We would also believe that there should be no tax on the current minimum wage.
HL - There needs to be more work done with the private sector to create real, sustainable jobs so that young people can gain usable skills and build a habit of working. There should be more incentives for young people to move into work. We should not forget that young people represent the future of this country. They should not be consigned to a lifetime of benefits. The minimum wage should be raised from just under £6.00 an hour to £7.00 an hour with immediate effect. The income tax threshold which is governed by the minimum wage would then be set at a salary of £14,000 per year – meaning you would only pay tax on earnings over this amount.
Question 3: Petrol prices are crippling rural communities. How would you and your party tackle this?
JD - We would establish a fuel duty regulator. This would vary the rate of fuel duty in order to smooth out fluctuations in fuel prices.
It is often sudden and unexpected changes in price which make it hard for businesses and individuals to plan their finances.
But we also recognise that as oil becomes scarcer, energy costs will rise. We need to plan for this and protect the poorest and most vulnerable in our society from the effects. We must reduce dependence on cars by improving bus and rail services across the county. Those services must be frequent, dependable, and cheap if they are to provide a real alternative. And they must be planned and delivered in an integrated way.
JG - We would immediately introduce a rural fuel discount scheme which would allow a reduced rate of fuel duty to be paid in remote rural areas. This is allowed under EU law. In the medium term we would introduce road pricing, abolish Vehicle Excise Duty and reduce fuel duty to make the measure revenue neutral.
We would also reform business rates by moving to a system based upon site values. This would remove a bias against small companies in general and in particular small rural petrol retailers which are at a disadvantage because the current rating valuation system is capped at an annual throughput of three million litres.
NA - Petrol prices have risen again because oil companies immediately pass on rises in crude oil prices.
The fall in the value of the pound means we pay more for our petrol. The current price is too high, and in part is caused by speculators in commodity markets forcing up the price of oil in order for them to make a profit.
The value of the pound is now rising, so petrol prices should start to fall. International action is required to end this greedy speculation and the Prime Minister and the G20 are demanding open and transparent oil markets.
But as prices fall on international markets, oil companies must pass on immediately the lower prices to customers.
SH - It cost me £70 to fill my car this week – the most I have ever had to pay.
The price of petrol is a massive issue in rural areas because public transport can be so patchy and many of us are reliant on cars.
The Conservatives plan to introduce a Fair Fuel Stabiliser which will work on a sliding scale; reducing duty when fuel prices go up and raising it when fuel prices go down.
If this had been introduced in 2008, fuel would now be 5p per litre cheaper, shaving £3.50 off an average tankful.
By having a sliding scale, government revenues would remain unchanged and the cost of fuel to families would not rise when oil prices go up.
RC - Very simply by cutting the fuel duty — no other party mentions that petrol is approximately 20% more expensive now, even though the price of oil has dropped.
It is far more expensive than when we encountered the fuel protests. Motorists, however, have been the easy target for years, expensive fuel, over zealous enforcement of parking tickets, ill placed speed cameras, we would bring some common sense issues to heal the growing resentment most motorists now feel, enough is enough.
HL - The price of fuel at the pump is always blamed on the price of crude oil going up; this is an absolute farce, the crude oil even if it reached $200 a barrel would only cost £2.00 a gallon, the fact of the matter is our government taxes on fuel are the largest in Europe. With the lack of public transport in rural areas, the running of a vehicle is essential to everybody. Therefore rural areas could have a subsidy on their fuel to make the cost of living in rural areas more bearable. When the price of a barrel drops this is not reflected at our pumps.
Question 4: Should British soldiers still be in Afghanistan? Why?
JD - No, they should not. The war is unwinnable by military means, and the presence of western troops is now part of the problem rather than the solution.
Our soldiers are dying on an almost daily basis in pursuit of an unachievable objective, and we need to set a clear date for withdrawal as some other countries have already done.
The government of Afghanistan was elected in a disputed election, and does not enjoy the support of the people – using western troops to try to impose its authority on the country is doomed to failure. There should be negotiations under the aegis of the UN. Negotiation is the only way in which a solution will be achieved.
JG - We believe it should be possible for British troops to come home from Afghanistan during the next parliament.
Either we shall have succeeded in winning over the more moderate elements in the insurgency, reduced corruption and increased trust in the government in Kabul, in which case they will have achieved their objective; or we will have little realistic chance of achieving anything worthwhile so we should end the loss of life.
Unlike Iraq we have been critical supporters of the Afghanistan mission because the former Taliban government did harbour Al-Qaida and provide a base for the 9-11 attack. However, the Iraq war diverted attention at a crucial time and has made success much more difficult to achieve.
NA - Afghanistan under the Taliban was where Al-Qaida trained terrorists who attacked many countries around the world including Britain. After the 9/11 attacks on the USA, a joint Nato force removed the Taliban.
British troops, along with other Nato forces are training the Afghan Army and Police so that they can take on the Taliban in their own country. It is a tragedy when brave British soldiers lose their lives, but they are fighting to protect democracy in Afghanistan and to prevent more terrorists being trained who could cause atrocities on our own streets.
I want our troops home as soon as possible but pulling out now could lead to the return of the Taliban and Al-Qaida.
SH - The Conservatives support the mission in Afghanistan and will set up a war cabinet to oversee operations in the country and to plan the troop withdrawal.
The terrorist attacks of September 11th were planned in Afghanistan. Al-Qaida and the Taliban, who were behind them, may return with further attacks if they are not stopped. We need to concentrate on training the Afghan security forces to enable the Afghans to look after their own security in the future. As a former TA soldier I appreciate how vital it is that our armed forces are supported and supplied properly when they are abroad, and when they return home. We will double the operational allowance paid to soldiers and pilot a mental health follow-up service for veterans.
RC - It is very clear it appears British troops are dying in Afghanistan for no reason, young men of 18 who have yet to gain little life experience are being killed for what seems like an unwinnable campaign.
However, the UK is part of Nato and even though the government can see the bad press and speaks of success, this does nothing to comfort those who have lost loved ones, so until Nato calls it off, UK troops will continue to be there, ill equipped or not.
HL - British soldiers should be with drawn immediately from an impossible situation the, Russians tried for twenty years and failed, the loss of life being more horrendous than that of today; situations akin to Afghanistan should be dealt with by a United Nations force, and not one country trying to inflict a regime for alternative reasons to the one claimed. OIL.
Question 5: Tell us why we should vote for you.
JD -For decades, we have been governed by the same old parties pursuing the same old policies. The result has been that Wales is seriously lagging behind the rest of the UK, and the situation is getting worse. The level of inequality between the richest and the poorest in our society has continued to grow. We need a new politics and a new voice to speak up for Pembrokeshire and for Wales. Another MP from any of the London parties will not be free to speak out for this area and its people. A Plaid Cymru MP will be a strong voice for the constituency and for Wales — Plaid Cymru MPs have a solid consistent record of doing just that.
JG - We face an unsustainable structural government deficit, which means expenditure cuts and tax rises. The only way we will get through this is by sharing the burden fairly. The present system is not fair and we are the only party offering a radical programme to address this. The contest here is now clearly a three horse race. To end the alternation of Labour and Conservative administrations which have got us into this mess you should vote for me. Our policies are clearly spelt out and costed. We are the only party that will deliver fair taxes, good jobs to make our country greener, a fair chance for every child, and restore trust in politics by cleaning up Westminster.
NA - I have been helping local people and communities for more than 30 years as a trade union branch secretary, county councillor, and as Member of Parliament since 1992.
I have fought hard for Pembrokeshire over many years and our local economy has radically improved from the dark days under the last Conservative government. I want to build on the big improvements we’ve seen and create more jobs, particularly in the renewable energy industry.
A Labour-led government will protect spending on hospitals, schools and the police and ensure the recovery delivers more jobs and funding for our local services on which we all depend.
SH - I am a local person who really does care about Pembrokeshire. My wife and our children were born here and I love living here.
The Conservatives believe in ‘small government but big society’ – giving control back to people and getting out of the way. Fewer targets, less red tape, letting people take responsibility for themselves and their families.
We will reward those who work hard and support those out of work back into employment. But we will end the benefits culture by cracking down on people who refuse to work.
We will cut immigration, support farmers and pensioners and cut waste. I will be a strong voice for the county at Westminster.
RC - I am asking the voters for their vote, not only because I believe Mr Ainger has had his chance, 18 years is a very long time, but I bring a fresh face with a new approach.
I am a businessman who has been in the harsh real world of business for over 23 years. I know how difficult everyday life can be, so I am standing to represent all the working class people within our constituency based on common sense issues.
HL - Should I be elected my aim will be to represent the ignored and the forgotten; the elderly, those on social welfare, the disenfranchised in our society, all of you that have been made cynical by the self serving schemes and policies that are now all to common in party politics and public life? Some believe that the ballot box has no power and think that their vote means nothing. This is only true if you keep away from the polling station on May 6th. Positive change can only come from positive thinking so I urge you to vote come Election Day, and to vote for the only candidate that has your interest at heart. Me. Henry Langen.
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