Candidates answers WT questions
2:03pm Tuesday 4th May 2010 in Preseli Pembrokeshire
Question 1: In your opinion, what is the biggest issue facing Pembrokeshire and why?
Nick Tregoning (Lib Dem) - The impact of the recession. Pembrokeshire relies disproportionately upon agriculture and tourism, and frankly, that isn’t going to change anytime soon.
So, anything that can support farmers and small businesses (and larger businesses where we have them) is to be welcomed.
Welsh Liberal Democrats will create a supermarket ombudsman, fight to improve transport links, dualling the A40 and more trains per day to/from Fishguard.
We would get the banks lending again. Too many micro-business owners rely on their personal credit cards. We paid to bail out these bankers. Now they need to do their bit.
Stephen Crabb (Conservative) - Securing a strong economic future, and the growth of new and better paid jobs for local people, remains the biggest issue facing Pembrokeshire.
Pembrokeshire must not become just a nice place for retirement. Low wages and temporary jobs prevent families from getting onto the housing ladder and encourage too many of our talented young people to leave the county. There is a need both to attract new investment into Pembrokeshire and to strengthen our home-grown micro and small businesses which are the backbone of the local economy. In a period of tighter public spending because of the national debt, burdens on private companies need to be reduced so they can expand and create new jobs.
Henry Jones-Davies (Plaid Cymru) - The maintenance of essential public services in the face of the inevitable deep and savage cuts by whichever London party forms the next government in Westminster.
Almost a quarter of all jobs in Pembrokeshire relate to the public sector and we will be hit disproportionately hard in terms of job losses. We have to fight for the preservation of essential services and the knock-on effects on our local small businesses from the loss of spending power of those who will, inevitably, be made unemployed. In addition we have to ensure that pensioners are protected against the coming storm — a society should be judged on how it treats its elderly, and ours falls very far short of what is acceptable.
Mari Rees (Labour) - The biggest issue facing Pembrokeshire is ensuring the economic recovery continues and we do not slip back under the Tories to a situation where in parts of the county unemployment was 50%.
In the worse global downturn in 80 years unemployment here is less then 5%. That is a direct result of Labour policies. We are investing in the new industries of the future and green technologies.
Here in Pembrokeshire we already have a headstart in those areas. If I were elected I would see it as my job to promote the county to those industries at every opportunity, we have the capacity to become world leaders in those industries and we must grab it with both hands.
Richard Lawson (UKIP) - The total disregard for supporting and improving our transport infrastructure and links to the rest of Wales and indeed the UK.
Preseli Pembroke will continue to struggle to increase our tourism, manufacturing and agricultural industries without major investment.
Question 2: How would you and your party support working people and families?
NT - We will ensure that the first £10,000 of income earned is taken out of tax.
That means that up to 4,600 people in Preseli Pembrokeshire would pay no tax at all. In addition to this, a further 18,170 people will save £700 a year — giving them an extra £60 a month in their pay packets.
Allow parents to share the full allocation of maternity and parental leave.
SC - Our first priority will be to stop Labour’s destructive increase in National Insurance contributions which even their own figures show will result in massive job losses.
It is a pure tax on jobs – at the worst time for the economy. Conservatives will protect families with incomes under £50,000 from any cuts to Tax Credits and protect the pay of the poorest public sector workers.
We want to end the bias against couples in the tax and benefits system so that family stability is once again valued and encouraged. Only millionaires will be required to pay Inheritance Tax as we will raise the threshold to £1million, taking the family home out of Inheritance Tax altogether for the vast majority of people.
HJD - First and foremost by protecting jobs.
The London parties have an atrocious record with decades of boom and bust economics. When it’s ‘boom’ for the south-east of England, it’s nearly always ‘bust’ for us! Plaid Cymru is unique in Welsh politics as the only party which always puts Wales first, so we shall fight hard for fair funding for Wales. Our public services lose out by an unacceptable £300million a year.
In addition, local businesses must succeed. Too many businesses find it difficult to get credit to help them expand. We want to see a special venture capital fund established to give our businesses the funds they need to develop new ideas, to expand and to create sustainable jobs.
MR - We have introduced Working Tax Credits, Child Trust Funds and increased child benefit.
Toddler Child Tax Credits are to be increased. Now we intend through our Better Off In Work Guarantee to ensure if you work you be at least £40 better off than you would be on benefits. The minimum wage is to be linked to average earnings and we will re-establish the link between the basic state pension and earnings. We will secure free, high quality targeted childcare to ensure that lack of childcare does not limit people’s ability to work. Every young person who is unemployed for over six months will be offered a job or training. Local authorities will be asked to expand free swimming.
RL - By increasing the tax threshold to £11,500 pounds.
It’s madness to tax the low paid and our policy will also help middle income families.
Question 3: Petrol prices are crippling rural communities. How would you and your party tackle this?
NT - We will introduce a rural fuel discount scheme so that the amount of fuel duty paid in remote rural areas is reduced.
SC - Even though world oil prices have remained broadly stable, fuel prices in this country have reached unbearable levels.
This is due in large part to the government’s policy of loading ever more tax on road fuel. Conservatives will end the volatility of petrol prices by introducing a Fuel Price Stabiliser which will mean tax on fuel will fall during times when world oil prices shoot up and will be increased when oil prices fall.
The key to the success of this policy will be identifying a price level which is sustainable for all parts of the economy, including far-flung rural areas like Pembrokeshire where road transport is an essential of daily living.
HJD - Preseli Pembrokeshire’s key industries such as tourism and agriculture will suffer heavily from any further rises in the cost of fuel.
Hardworking families, especially those in rural areas where pubic transport is poor, already struggle with the costs of running a car and sky-high fuel taxes will also impact on businesses and prices in stores as delivery costs rise steadily.
London Labour’s gross mismanagement of the economy is hitting Wales hard with rising unemployment and companies forced out of business. Plaid Cymru has long campaigned for a Fuel Duty Regulator to cap petrol prices. A parliamentary motion by Plaid and the SNP to this effect was voted down by Labour.
MR - I support the provision of red diesel for rural communities. But more needs to be done.
Petrol prices depend on the price of oil. Speculators are hoarding huge quantities of oil to force up the price. Regulation of them can only happen on a global basis. We are pushing for regulation to stop this speculation.
In addition we must move from dependency on fossil fuels to sustainable energy sources. Labour has made record investments in public transport and high speed rail.
I support the dualling of the A40 and better rail services for Pembrokeshire.
The Welsh Assembly has plans to introduce a system of electric charging points for electric cars initially along the M4 corridor.
RL - Our policy is to halt the fuel tax windfall caused by rising fuel prices, as oil prices rocket UKIP would halt the accompanying rise in fuel tax.
Question 4: Should British soldiers still be in Afghanistan? Why?
NT - Yes. It is clear that Afghanistan (and the tribal lands of north Pakistan) has been a training-ground for terrorists in the past.
We have made mistakes however; no clear strategy for building a civil society and the rule of law, a deficient understanding of the patchwork tribal nature of the country, and no clear idea of what the final objective in terms of nation-building would look like.
We now have what I believe is our last chance to put those mistakes right, properly identify what a sustainable and stable Afghanistan will look like and work towards it.
We need President Karzai to understand that he MUST act to root out corruption, and defend the rights of women and children.
SC - Unlike Iraq, the mission in Afghanistan does have a proper Nato mandate.
However, lack of clarity about what ‘success’ against the Taliban actually looks like; lack of adequate helicopters and armoured vehicles; and lack of support from so-called ‘international partners’ have undermined the mission and increased our casualties. But pulling out now would give a massive boost to the Taliban and similar groups throughout the world, and would be a devastating blow to the morale of all British armed forces. The government needs to define a clear exit strategy linked to real progress achieved in reducing the Taliban threat to both Afghanistan and, crucially, northern Pakistan. This will require a more intelligent mix of force, political negotiation and reconstruction work.
HJD - Sun Tzu wrote: “Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”
This neatly sums up Britain’s involvement in Afghanistan. What makes Gordon Brown and others think that they can succeed, when the Soviets failed with more than 100,000 men and suffered 15,000 casualties?
How can bankrupt Britain afford such a war, and when will its cost be considered too much to pay in both lives and hard cash? How may thousands of civilian casualties? How many British deaths will be acceptable – three hundred; a thousand? Rather than make the streets of this country safer Gordon Brown has made Britain a prime target.
This is an unwinnable war from every standpoint, moral, strategic and financial. We should withdraw all our troops.
MR - Our brave soldiers in Afghanistan should continue to protect us. And give that benighted country a chance to achieve normality.
Most terrorist plots against us have had their roots in the border lands of Afghanistan and Pakistan. We cannot allow Afghanistan to be a safe haven for Al-Qaida to plan and execute terrorist attacks against Britain.
Our strategy is to weaken the Taliban and strengthen the Afghanistan people so they can run their own affairs.
We will do this by training the Afghanistan police and army to protect their own people. And give the Afghan people a fighting chance to live in a country ruled by their own democratically elected government so they have a stake in their own future.
RL - We need an immediate inquiry to determine our role and exit strategy in Afghanistan.
In the meantime we must give everything we can in support of our brave servicemen and women serving there. There must be no cost cutting or economies while their lives are at risk.
Question 5: Tell us why we should vote for you.
NT - Because it really is time for a change. We’ve had 65 years of Labour and the Conservatives taking turns to govern the UK, and they have run out of ideas.
They have come to believe that it’s their right to share government out between them, and it has made them both arrogant and complacent by turns.
Both of them made their unique contributions to the recession, supporting the deregulation of the banks which led inexorably to the explosion of debt, both opposed our attempts to reform Parliament, both supported the illegal war in Iraq, both favour (until Gordon Brown’s recent conversion) a system of election cosily designed to keep them in office for ever.
SC - By voting Welsh Conservative, Pembrokeshire people can help bring about the national change we badly need and vote to keep one of the hardest working MPs in Wales.
In this constituency, the election is a straight fight between Labour and the Welsh Conservatives.
A vote for any other party is a vote to keep Gordon Brown in Downing Street.
As a local man who lives and was raised in the heart of Pembrokeshire, I want to continue to provide a strong voice for our county in Westminster.
In all the difficult decisions that lie ahead for rebuilding our economy, it is important for Preseli Pembrokeshire to have a genuinely local MP who will always speak up for Pembrokeshire’s interests.
HJD - I am not a career politician. I was born and bred in west Wales and have run my own business here for several years.
I have a wide experience of life having worked abroad in some difficult places and encountered many dangerous situations. Politics should be a matter of trust between electors and their representatives, and the expenses scandal has shown how badly that trust has been broken. I believe this constituency needs a fresh start. I have made a firm pledge on expenses, and promise absolute transparency and honesty.
I will fight both for Preseli Pembrokeshire and for Wales in Westminster, and undertake to work tirelessly in the interests of the people of this most beautiful corner of Wales.
MR - I will be a hardworking and honourable local champion for businesses, individuals and hard working families.
I believe in the politics of decency. People must be put first in policy making. But the expenses scandal — with its house flipping and other extravagant claims — has damaged the trust between voters and their representatives. I will vote for a recall system so misbehaving MPs can be sacked by their constituents.
To strengthen our democracy I support changing our voting system so every vote counts and smaller parties’ voices are heard. If elected I will vote for a change from a first past the post system to a list system(AV) which requires MPs must get 50% of the vote to be elected.
RL - Because I am not a greedy, grasping career politician who has mapped out a career in politics from an early age, I am an ordinary honest working man who can represent the voters of Preseli Pembroke as someone just like them rather than a member of the political elite who show us such disdain.