We asked Bucks Free Press readers to submit questions on their key issues to candidates standing for Parliament. Here, we present the answers from those seeking your votes in the Chesham and Amersham constituency.
We put the following questions to our prospective MPs:
- Do you support or oppose fracking in Buckinghamshire?
- Do you support or oppose privatisation in the NHS?
- What would be your plan for the Khalsa secondary school in Stoke Poges which is opposed by many residents?
- I celebrated my 60th birthday last May and because I have worked for most of my life, like thousands of other woman and brought up three children, I believe I should be entitled to my State Pension now and not have to wait until I am almost 66, so I have the opportunity to retire and enjoy the years I have left. Will any of the Parliamentary hopefuls agree that if they get elected, they will aim to reverse the State Pension Law?
Here are the answers from each of the candidates.
Tony Clements – Labour
1. There is little shale gas in Buckinghamshire of commercial value and fortunately little possibility of extraction. Labour’s priority is to invest in renewable and other low-carbon sources of energy. There could be a place for shale gas in our energy supply to ensure we are less reliant on unstable foreign imports and improve our energy security. However, any proposed extraction must pass the toughest environmental tests and local communities must get some of the financial benefits of extraction. Shale gas can be no replacement for generating more of our energy from sustainable sources.
2. I oppose the privatisation of the NHS and the Coalition’s reforms which have fragmented services and welcomed in private companies. The NHS is a great British achievement, freeing millions from the fear of falling ill and being unable to afford treatment. Privatisation threatens that very principle. Labour’s approach is different: we believe the NHS works best for patients when its services are joined-up, not in competition. We’ve identified the funds to reverse Coalition cuts to provide thousands of extra doctors and nurses and reduce waiting times. I will always fight for an NHS true to its founding principles.
3. This is one example of the problems caused by the Coalition’s Free School Programme. Schools are imposed by central government with little understanding of local need and often drawing money away from other schools to fund them. It’s very difficult to close or move a school once it is established without unfairly disrupting pupils’ education and I would not advocate this. Instead, Labour will stop the Free School Programme and introduce School Standards Commissioners at a local level who will be responsible to the community for establishing new schools and increasing standards in all schools.
4. My family celebrated my mother’s 60th birthday this month. She faces the same situation and like you is angry about this change. It appeared in neither Conservative nor Lib Dem manifestos and was introduced suddenly, leaving people little time to plan for very different circumstances as they got older. I’d love to say that Labour can easily reverse this, but I don’t think I can promise it. However, Labour’s plans do not include the huge level of cuts set out by the Conservatives, so I will promise that we can implement future savings in a fairer and more gradual way.
Peter Chapman - Liberal Democrats
1. I would oppose fracking in Buckinghamshire for the foreseeable future. To improve our energy security, I believe we should structure the tax and regulatory regime to obtain the maximum oil and gas production out of the declining reserves in the North Sea before we resort to any onshore fracking.
2. Private businesses are already an important part of the NHS. Most doctors' and dentists' practices are private businesses and they operate successfully within the NHS. I have no ideological bias in favour of the private sector but I want clinical commissioning groups to have the freedom to get the best services they can for patients. However I see no merit in the outsourcing of services for its own sake, because in my experience financial savings are often achieved by reducing the quality of services. I am committed to all existing NHS services which are free at the point of delivery, remaining so.
3. This is a planning matter and planning decisions have to be taken in accordance with planning law. Although the school has one planning application for noise reduction barriers currently awaiting approval, I cannot see how the school's existing lawfully given permission to operate can be retrospectively withdrawn.
4. I believe it was right to equalise the state retirement age for men and women because men have shorter life expectancies than women, so there was no justification for a retirement age of 60 for women. I support the future increase from 65 to 66 and then to 67 because life expectancy is increasing and even with these changes, most of us will enjoy a longer retirement than our parents did.
Dominic Grieve - Conservative
1. The possibility of fracking to obtain oil or gas in Buckinghamshire is wholly hypothetical as no such proposal has been made. If one were made, I would wish to be satisfied that it could be done without environmental damage and that the benefits of the energy obtained outweighed the impact it would have, before I could consider giving it any approval. The current low cost of oil makes fracking very unlikely.
2. No Party, so far as I am aware, advocates the “privatisation” of the NHS. I along with the Conservative Party support the maintenance and improvement of an NHS whose clinical services are free at the point of delivery. The use of the private sector to deliver certain services under contract to the NHS is of long standing and was developed by the last Labour government. It may be justified if it delivers value for money and respects the NHS ethos of a free service available for all.
3. At present the school has neither Planning permission nor permitted development rights to remain on its site. I will continue to make representations to the Secretary of State that the Inspector was correct that permitted development was unsuitable and that a full planning inquiry is needed if the sponsors wish to pursue this project. The site is in the Green belt and it is difficult to see how planning permission will be obtained. If it were to be, there are then important issues of inclusion which need to be considered, as at present it is being rejected as a local community school. I will ensure that the views of the local community are fully represented.
4. There is no justifiable basis for reversing the change to raise the pension age. We live longer and we are healthier. We have to accept that we cannot look after the interests of all in society if we place an excessive burden on those who are working to support those who are retired. All state pensions come from tax revenue. The good news is that the Government has guaranteed rises to the state pension and it has increased and will continue to increase in real terms under the Conservatives.
David Hampton - Green Party
1. The Green Party is the only mainstream party totally opposed to fracking. Apart from being uneconomic, and dangerous, it’s also unnecessary. It’s a ham-fisted, outmoded practice that could render Chiltern water supplies toxic for a long time. Fracking originated in Texas; it’s being banned there now - as they turn to solar power. To a hammer, everything looks like a nail. To yesterdays oil-men & their cronies, everything’s a drill. Many of the Cabinet are like nodding donkeys. Caroline Lucas MP was arrested for standing up to fracking. Only Greens have the collective energy, wit and will power to protect our homes from being drilled under. We will stop the huge fossil fuel subsidies; and start community renewable energy projects, creating jobs.
2.We will stop the creeping privatisation of our NHS. Britain has the best NHS in the world. Let’s keep it. Rather than copy America’s mistakes, we could export our know-how, of decent health care, globally. It would be criminal to sell our NHS to highest bidder; and it is not theirs to sell. The people’s NHS is a magical feature of the UK’s inheritance, reflecting post-war values and the recognition that we can provide the best service to the most people by working together.
3. I don’t know the detail but if elected I’ll find out. But I will say this. The Green Party is inclusive. We value the diverse contributions everyone can make to society, when treated fairly and with respect. No one is born ‘unwanted.’ Tolerance is at the heart of our manifesto. We know that prejudice and intolerance are toxic, and make communities weaker and sadder, not stronger and happier.
4. We’ll introduce a ‘citizen’s pension’ as part of a suite of citizen’s income measures, from child allowance to free social care for the over-65s. This would be £180 per week, irrespective of contributions history (£310 for a couple) thereby taking all pensions above the poverty line. We’ll have to keep the current pension age for now. I bet the quality of life that your children can look forward to (as they approach 60) also matters greatly to you. We’ll work for fairer, healthier local economies everywhere, starting at home. With your help, this beautiful planet ‘legacy’ (borrowed from our grandchildren) will soon be in better shape.
Tim Scott - Ukip
1. No shale gas has been discovered in Bucks. The UKs current energy policy (much of which is laid down by the EU) has pushed up costs, driven industry abroad and fails to guarantee our future supply of electricity. We don’t need more windmills, which only work 20% of the time. Tidal is worth a look, as at least it would generate reliable electricity (unlike wind). UKIP believes in an energy mix including nuclear, fracking (which would need planning permission) for low-carbon shale gas and more efficient coal fired stations. The end objective will be more affordable and secure electricity, and less reliance on unstable foreign regimes.
2. UKIP will maintain the ‘no charge at the point of use’ principle of the NHS and crack-down on health tourism. We’ll also find extra money for our NHS funded from the UKs enormous EU membership fee. Claims that the NHS is being ‘privatised’ are exaggerated. Nobody wants a US style health system. The biggest privatisation within the NHS was when Labour entered into the hugely costly Private Finance Initiative, where the costs of building and improving hospitals were mortgaged into the future. We are still paying the bill. There is some room for public/private co-operation, think about where most prescribed drugs come from.
3. Having a large secondary school in such a village within the Green Belt, with children being bussed in, has not surprisingly caused much concern in Stoke Poges. We need to change national policy, giving local Councils more powers to turn such projects down- the school should never have been given the go-ahead. The recent u-turn by Govt Minister Eric Pickles may provide some hope. The wider issue here is over-development, which continues under the Conservatives both locally and nationally. I do not trust the Tories with our Green Belt.
4. UKIP will open a flexible pensions window, allowing people to take their pension early in return for a small reduction, and are committed to the ’triple lock’ on pensions increases and other benefits. The pensions age is being equalised with men on ‘anti-discrimination’ grounds and also to save money. People are fortunately living longer, which of course places a larger demand on the public purse for pensions. However- beware politicians making unfunded promises, they are trying to bribe you with money we don’t have.