Question 1. It is said that the HS2 Station at Toton will benefit Broxtowe, Nottingham & Derby but will the cost of building the whole line be beneficial for the whole Country?
Most of the Panel were in favour of building HS2, particularly as Toton Station would benefit our local area. However, Steve stated that he was more inclined to favour upgrading our existing Rail Network. Anna explained how this would not assist the capacity issue but agreed that we can’t issue a blank cheque for this extremely expensive project.
Question 2. The recent Floods have shown the British people, in time of need, are ready to help their neighbours in many ways. (For example, animal feed being given to farmers by others from all over the country and the food donations to support Food Banks.) Is this an example of the so called ‘Big Society’? How can this generosity of help, in its many forms, be further progressed to improve society as a whole?
Steve commented that the British people have always been generous towards neighbours and this energy just needs harnessing. Andrew commented that Local People should have more control over the important issue affecting them and not the National Environment Agency.
Questions from the floor suggested that a certain amount of the Overseas Aid should be diverted towards helping the flooded areas, rather than corrupt chiefs in the third world. Anna responded that she was proud of our record in giving targeted aid to the needy in Overseas Countries. She stated that aid was not given to corrupt officials. Vaccines, for Children against Polio, were targeted directly at the children and not through corrupt officials. John added that the Aid we gave often meant that we the UK sold goods that were purchased as a result of the Aid.
Question 3. If a referendum was offered, next week, as to whether or not to come out of Europe; which way would the Panel Vote and Why ?
John explained how the main problem that we have with being in The European Union (EU), is that we concentrate on the emotive issues of immigration and unemployment and didn’t properly evaluate the financial argument. Some people perceive headlines that we see regarding decisions made by the European Court of Human Rights as another reason to leave the EU. Anna pointed out how these two bodies were independent of each other. If we leave the EU, we have still to recognise the Court of Human Rights.
Steve stated that he thought the European Union was ruled by the non elected executive and the Euro MEPs rubber stamp the regulations created by the European Executive. Whereas in the UK, Parliament decides what the Civil Servants should do. Steve also said that the original intention of the EU was to improve trade by making travel and import/export of goods easier. For a long time, he was happy that he voted “yes” in the original referendum.
Anna stated that the EU was running out of control and the Accounts have never been signed off as correct. She mentioned that Capital Transaction Tax that is proposed by the European Parliament is not supported by the Westminster Parliament.
Our trade with Europe was discussed it was said that 50% of our Exports go to Europe but though we believe our Imports from Europe are greater than 50% but we do not know the precise figure. It was suggested also that most of the trade 70% is within the UK and therefore 30% with other countries and then only 15% of our total trade is with Europe.
[It was not said that if we reduced our exports to Europe then our balance of payments would be affected and then the value of our currency]
All agreed that change was needed to give us more control but, with the appropriate changes, it was likely to be beneficial to stay in the EU.
Question 4. Are the reforms and re-organisation of the NHS, introduced by Andrew Lansley and Jeremy Hunt, bringing improvements to the NHS, or is it too big a ‘tanker’ to turn around in such a short period ?
John Doddy stated that he, and all the health care professionals he knows, are working harder since the new changes had been introduced. The NHS was created in 1948 by Aneurin Bevan when life was very different. Life expectancy was much lower than it is now. We live much longer now but have different age related health problems. He thought that the changes needed time to work but would prove to be very good for the NHS and all patients.
Anna said that she had recently received excellent care at QMC but she is also aware of dreadful constituency cases regarding the NHS. She believes that social care still needed to be integrated into the new system but our expectations are so much higher than when the NHS was formed and we are not always helping ourselves.
Andrew explained that GPs were now included in partnership meetings and that Jeremy Hunt understood Localism better than any other Secretary of State.
Question 5. Are the Government’s policies to control immigration sufficient or should they introduce quotas as they do in Australia?
Each member had 10 seconds to respond to this final question.
Anna said no to a quota. The Conservatives have reduced the immigration figures by a third. Andrew also didn’t want a quota but wanted the power to select who we accept. It should be our right to choose and not theirs. Steve agreed with Andrew. John also didn’t want a quota but stated immigrants should lose all their rights to live in the UK if they commit a crime. Richard likes the points system used in Australia.
After the Formal Questions and Answers given by the Panellists, Jonathan Marston, the Chairman closed the meeting. However many of the audience and the Panellists remained in the meeting room and had informal discussions and continued much of the debate on some of the questions.