Can­di­dates de­bate the hot top­ics

Halifax Courier - - Election: Health - By Toby Cryne

A hus­tings de­bate fea­tur­ing the seven can­di­dates for the mar­ginal Hal­i­fax seat at next month’s Gen­eral Elec­tion took place at Hal­i­fax Min­ster. Brought to­gether to de­bate key is­sues were Con­ser­va­tive can­di­date Philip Al­lott, Lib­eral Demo­crat can­di­date Mo­ham­mad Ilyas, Chris­tian Party “Pro­claim­ing Christ’s Lord­ship” can­di­date Trevor Ben­drien, Re­spect Party can­di­date Asama Javed, Labour’s Holly Lynch, UKIP’s Liz Phillips and the Green Party’s Gary Scott.

Chaired by Tom But­ler, a re­tired bishop and for­mer mem­ber of the House of Lords, the hus­tings was or­gan­ised as part of the Min­ster Se­ries, a se­quence of events that have taken place over the last few months in the 500-year-old church.

Each can­di­date was given four min­utes to present his or her case be­fore an­swer­ing writ­ten ques­tions from the au­di­ence. Top­ics in­cluded the pri­vati­sa­tion of the NHS, the role of reli­gion in gov­ern­ment, the on­go­ing cri­sis be- tween Is­rael and Pales­tine, and the planned clo­sure of Hal­i­fax A&E depart­ment.

Philip Al­lott echoed state­ments made by the Prime Min­is­ter, ty­ing the con­cerns of Hal­i­fax peo­ple in with the cur­rent gov­ern­ment’s “long term eco­nomic plan”.

He said: “This is pos­si­bly the most im­por­tant gen­eral elec­tion in a gen­er­a­tion. The coun­try is grow­ing fast and, here in Hal­i­fax, un­em­ploy­ment has fallen by 39 per cent.”

Holly Lynch spoke of her con­cern for the younger gen­er­a­tion.

She said: “Young peo­ple have been quite hard done by over the last five years. I want to stand up to stand up for young peo­ple across Hal­i­fax.”

Trevor Ben­drien, chair­man of the Hal­i­fax Street An­gels, urged mem­bers of the public to help com­mu­nity groups with the town’s lit­ter prob­lem, to ap­plause from the au­di­ence and agree­ment from all party mem­bers.

He said: “You should come out at four o’clock in the morn­ing with the Street An­gels. Hal­i­fax is a state at that time, but by 8 o’clock it is im­mac­u­late – and they’re all vol­un­teers.”

All party mem­bers vowed to fight against the po­ten­tial clo­sure of Hal­i­fax A&E.

Mo­hamed Iiyas said: “The Lib­eral Democrats be­lieve in the NHS. We want to give equal at­ten­tion to men­tal health and I want to en­sure that Hal­i­fax A&E stays open.”

Asama Javed agreed with his state­ments. She said: “We must pro­tect the NHS at all costs. We spend £100 bil­lion on nu­clear weapons which could be spent on hos­pi­tals.”

Liz Phillips spoke frankly about UKIP’s per­cep­tion as a racist party.

She said: “We are not a racist party. The only thing that UKIP stands for is some sort of con­trol so that the in­fra­struc­ture of this coun­try can cope.”

On the topic of the en­vi­ron­ment, each can­di­date aside from Liz Phillips vowed to match a re­cent pledge by David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Mil­liband to work across party lines to pri­ori­tise cli­mate change.

Gary Scott said: “It’s all about try­ing to use the re­sources that we have use­fully.

“The Green Party is a prac­ti­cal party that wants to work with what we have – be­cause it won’t be here for­ever.”

Can­di­dates for the Hal­i­fax seat at the 2015 Gen­eral Elec­tion tak­ing part in a de­bate at Hal­i­fax Min­ster

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