Parliamentary Candidates under the spotlight at hustings meeting

By DEBBIE DAVIES All six prospective parliamentary candidates for South East Cambridgeshire came under the spotlight on Monday night at a hustings meeting organised by the Churches Together in Ely group. A packed St Mary s Church listened as Jim Paice (Co


All six prospective parliamentary candidates for South East Cambridgeshire came under the spotlight on Monday night at a hustings meeting organised by the Churches Together in Ely group.

A packed St Mary's Church listened as Jim Paice (Con) Andy Monk (UKIP) Geoffrey Woollard (Ind) Simon Sedgewick-Jell (Green Party) Jonathan Chatfield (Lib Dem) and Daniel Bell (Christian People's Alliance) answered audience questions and put forward a summary of what they stand for.

The evening proved to be no easy ride for the candidates who were asked for their views on controversial subjects ranging from nuclear deterrent to abortion and Christian values.

All the candidates remarked on the excitement surrounding this election and the unparallel nature of the lead-up, which has made the outcome so unpredictable and the likelihood of a hung parliament an ever-increasing likelihood.

Simon SJ said there was a "tremendous amount of interest" and he felt "people were generally undecided. "It's not just about winning an election it's about making life better for people."

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Jim Paice talked about pockets of poverty that needed to be addressed in East Cambs and the challenges of growth. "We need a great shift of power down to the people who really matter," he said.

Daniel Bell opened by voicing his fears about Christian values and politics.

He said society was becoming less tolerant and our Christian heritage was at risk.

He also said the EU was "bureaucratic and wasteful."

Geoffrey Woollard told the audience he wanted to "end the slaughter and bring our boys home from Afghanistan" and went on to say EU immigration was "out of control". "I want to stick up for the forgotten people of East Cambs," he added.

Jonathan Chatfield said his party was about "fairness and change" and he wanted to see a "fair green route of the recession. He said this election was very important and many more people were looking at Nick Clegg and seriously considering the Lib Dems.

Andy Monk set out his stall by calling for a withdrawal from the EU which he said was costing the tax payer �45million per day. He said he wants to see tighter controls on immigration and borders. He said changes to the structure of the NHS would make "MRSA a thing of the past".

Question One - Sue Booth

Access to good quality social care can make a huge difference to the quality of life for carers. How will your party's policies on social care also deliver better carer support services?

JC: "We need integrated health and social care. Allow carers to have a week's respite care. We need to support carers to fulfil their role."

JP: "The system is not perfect, but it is largely integrated. We need to recognise caring as a career."

DB: "We need to take away control from Whitehall and bring it down to local level. This is not a political football."

Question Two - Keith Walters

There is a growing perception that Christian beliefs are being marginalised in today's society. How does this impact on your views on abortion and euthanasia?

GW: "I do not want to tangle too deeply, although I do have my personal beliefs."

JC: "The number of weeks [abortion} should be reduced, but this is not something we can have a policy about. I would worry about the return of backstreet abortions if there was an outright ban."

Question 3 - Francis Young

In your view, what is the moral justification for a nuclear deterrent?

JP: "I think it is necessary to protect our freedom. We can't perceive the world far enough ahead to know the dangers. Nuclear power is here to stay."

AM: We won't have a say. The decision will be made in Brussels. We need a strong nuclear deterrent."

JC: "The issue is what we do in replacing Trident. The Lib Dems want to see a strategic defence review after the election, should Trident form a part of that, in our view it should."

SSJ: "No moral justification for a nuclear deterrent. We need to remove the troops from Afghanistan."

Question 4 - Ben Jupp

It is likely that one of the key issues facing all politicians will be the encouragement of social or community cohesion which will include but not be restricted to immigration policy. Please explain the way in which your party manifesto aligns itself with this and how would you encourage this, if elected?

AM: "We have lost control of our borders. There is just not enough space to support all these immigrants. The infrastructure is not there to sustain the numbers.

GW: "I am not a supporter of multi-culturalism, but we have got a mixture of cultures and it is getting out of hand."

DB: Migrant workers can provide a boost for the economy. We need a fair immigration policy and we also need to make clear distinctions between immigration and asylum. We have a duty to provide asylum for those in need."

SSJ: "We need to decant the power down to a local level. These things should be decided locally not centrally."

Question 5 - Andy Watson

Millennium Development Goals for the relief of poverty in the developing world were agreed in the year 2000 but our financial support has waned since. To what extent is compassion for our global neighbours a priority for your party?

GW: "Lots of overseas aid is wasted or ends up in Swiss bank accounts. We need to reinstate the British Empire so we can better channel the money."

DB: "We need to encourage more trading partners and agreements and end exploitation."

JP: "We will develop goals and increase the overseas aid budget. We will use the money to ensure poor countries are in a better position to feed themselves."

Question 6 - DLT

Can you explain your party's position on holding a referendum on our continuing membership of the EU?

AM: "We would hold an immediate referendum of membership of the EU. The money that could be saved from our withdrawal could wipe out national debt within a few years."

JP: "Those figures are complete bunkum. Relations with other countries would be damaged and there is no doubt that Europe would be angry. We can't take such a glib view."

JC: "There are some very clear benefits in us remaining as part of the EU. Let's have a referendum - an in-out debate."

Question 7 - Pat Brandon

Over recent years there seems to have been a conscious attempt in the political arena to sideline, privatise and undermine Christian values. What would you say to the growing number of Christians who have concluded that they have had enough of this and will choose where to cast their vote on this basis?

JP: "I can assure you that I will always put my Christian values at the forefront of any policy matters."

AM: "Churches need to be more accessible and we need to involve younger people. The church population is getting older and we need to energise young people so they make a life-long commitment."

The panel were also asked questions from the floor, one of which concerned the possibility for a southern bypass in Ely.

GW: The problem has been around for a long time so why has nothing been done? Mr Paice you have been around for a very long time representing this constituency - what have you been doing?

JP: "A southern bypass for Ely is essential and I have been fighting very hard. The problem is that at local level this is opposed by the Lib Dems who think we don't need it. I will go to Government with this but let's do it together."

JC: "It is a very expensive option and we need to look at some cheaper alternatives. There are other options in lorry stacking and public transport."

AM: "If I am elected to East Cambridgeshire I will lobby hard on this issue until I get the right answers. We need to get these lorries away from Ely."

SSJ: "You will also have to lobby for higher council tax to pay for a bypass. If you look at the county council budgets the money is just not there. The bypass is not a panacea; it will only put off the problems for another few years.