Wells General Election: Heated debate in key Liberal Democrat and Conservative seat
PUBLISHED: 09:40 04 June 2017 | UPDATED: 09:40 04 June 2017
People across Britain will head to the polls next week and candidates from the Wells constituency went head-to-head in a hustings at the weekend.
The Wells constituency is expected to be a hotly-contested seat after Conservative candidate James Heappey defeated the area’s former MP, Liberal Democrat Tessa Munt, in 2015.
Mr Heappey and Ms Munt will once again stand for Wells, joined by Labour’s Andy Merryfield and Christian Peoples Alliance (CPA) candidate Lorna Corke.
Should there be another referendum about leaving Europe?
Ms Munt: “Brexit is the decision which has been made so that is where we are heading. You need to have an MP who is going to stand up in parliament and fight and defend Somerset.”
Mr Heappey: “The purpose of a second referendum would be to unstitch the last one because the party proposing it does not like it. It would create enormous uncertainty and it would be very divisive.”
Mr Merryfield: “The EU referendum was a disaster. However, our position in Labour is we respect the decision so it is our job to do the negotiations which concentrate on the best possible trade deals we can.”
Ms Corke: “We want Brexit but personally I do not think we should have ever joined the EU in the first place.”
What do the candidates think about climate change and nuclear power?
Ms Corke: “Climate changes but I do not personally believe it is as dramatic as we are being led to believe.”
Mr Heappey: “Our climate is changing from man-made factors as well as cyclical stuff and we have a responsibility to arrest that through the way we heat our homes, use transport, dispose of waste, through the way we eat, farm and so on.”
Mr Merryfield: “Climate change is extremely serious and we need to think more about the environment and the air we breathe.”
Ms Munt: “We need to concentrate on expanding the use of renewable energy. We need to exploit the potential we have on the coast here “for tidal energy and address air quality.”
Do you think nuclear weapons should be used as deterrants?
Ms Munt: “Nuclear deterrents are devastating weapons. It is crazy to suggest the weapons are a solution to anything.”
Mr Merryfield: “The policy for Labour is to support the renewal of nuclear weapons however there will be an extensive review of the whole defence policy.”
Ms Corke: “I think defence, making sure we defend ourselves with the new technology which is always coming forward with the shields and missiles to shoot down attack and send them into the sea – surely is a solution.”
Mr Heappey: “By having nuclear weapons we have had a deterrent for half a century or more now and that, in my view, deters nuclear attack.”
What reassurances do you have for our local small famers that they will survive beyond the next few years?
Mr Heappey: “Farming has had a strong voice in Parliament for the past few years and I look forward to continuing to be that strong voice. I am absolutely certain farmers will be better allowing Theresa May to negotiate our future with the EU rather than Jeremy Corbyn.”
Mr Merryfield: “It is very important we have a strong voice, but we also need action. We need help and support for small businesses across the board not just in agriculture but in other industries which help and support.”
Ms Munt: “I really am quite alarmed that farming subsidies look like they are just going to drop off a cliff. We need to make certain that small farms are protected and that is what we have here in Somerset, it is small farming.”
Ms Corke: “The CPA would provide farmers with the subsidies they needed but I want to speak about the fisheries as well. How could we allow them to be robbed from us – it is an outrage and it is time for the British people to start to take back the industries which have been systematically destroyed.”
What is your party’s manifesto to protect and secure the NHS and social care?
Mr Merryfield: “We would abolish the 2012 NHS act and add £6billion in funding per annum and we would halt the £22billion worth of cuts. We also need free NHS parking – why on earth are people, who may be under a great amount of stress, have to take out a mortgage to pay for parking fees, it is a disgrace and it should be scrapped.”
Mr Heappey: “We have committed to putting more money into the state funding side and how we pay for our social care as a society.”
Ms Corke: “In our manifesto it will tell you about a free and efficient health service. But what we would do is end the culture of bureaucracy in the NHS and to do all we can to help doctors make the best clinical decisions possible and prescribe the best treatment in all cases, starting with the GP.
Ms Munt: “The Liberal Democrats are suggesting there should be a penny addition on your income tax in order to fund your NHS, and that would include social care, and that would raise £6.7billion which goes some way to the amount of money that the NHS leaders have asked for.”
If elected, what actions will you take to discourage and educate your constituents of the damages hate crime is doing to the reputation of Somerset and the UK?
Ms Munt: “We are all different and we are lucky to have such a mix of cultures in this country we seem to forget that the Normans overrun us in 1066 and it didn’t start there. In the same way love is learned, hate is learned too. We are all a product of our experiences. When you hear young people using the language of hate, they have learned that from somewhere – it is not inside you.”
Ms Corke: “There has been a huge influx of immigrants and it is beyond what we can accommodate to allow people to just flock in.”
Mr Heappey: “There needs to be inter-generational fairness, there is a growing gap between the two generations which needs to be resolved. There is this perception that young people are having a harder time than those that have come before them. We need to be more honest with each other about how we integrate communities and it is about that there is that mutual respect for one another’s religions, sexualities and personalities. Then it is about tackling inequality.”
Mr Merryfield: “Avon and Somerset is fifth in the 43 police forces in the level of hate crime. The way we improve the experience for British and Ethnic Minority and those with other factors covered by the equality act is that we should be much more inclusive in what we do.”
The candidates also took part in a hustings in Burnham on Wednesday, see what they said here.
If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Weston Mercury. Click the link in the orange box above for details.