Question Time: 26/2/15

The first question concerned immigration following recently released figures. Mark Reckless, of UKIP, argued for a points system as used in Australia. Grant Shapps, of the Conservatives, described the statistics as disappointing, but argued that people wish to migrate to Britain because our economy is doing better than elsewhere in Europe. Rachel Reeves, of Labour, said that the minimum wage is not always being met, but didn’t answer the question that was originally asked. Camilla Long said that the country was losing skilled workers, whilst unskilled workers were coming in. Tessa Munt, of the Liberal Democrats, didn’t comment about the figures released, arguing that it was a ridiculous proposal from the Conservatives five years ago due to the fluid nature of movement.

The second question asked about whether MPs should be allowed to have second jobs. Reeves said no and that being an MP is a full-time job. Munt shared that MPs had earned £7.4 million from other work over the past year, but argued that MPs should be allowed to keep skills up in certain professions should they need to go back to it. Shapps argued that being a Minister was a second job and asked Reeves if she would be be limiting her earnings from the book she had written. He also mentioned that career politicians are not what is wanted. Long wanted them to be MPs only, with that being what they have been elected for. She also suggested that MPs should be paid more, thus reducing the likelihood of them accepting outside work; I think that it would also change the people going into politics if the pay was higher, attracting the very best and brightest. Reckless said that he wanted the power of recall, so constituents could recall their MP if they were dissatisfied with them; he then admitted he abstained from the vote in Parliament. Shapps said that he felt MPs were paid enough and were serving the community.

Syria was the basis of the third question, asking whether the three girls who had travelled there recently were victims or terrorists. Long said she viewed them as terrorists as that would be their only reason for travelling there in her opinion. Munt took the view of a bit of both, whilst Reeves said that even if they weren’t when leaving, they probably would be soon after arrival; she also said that more needed to be done to prevent more cases. Reckless viewed them as victims, arguing they had been groomed over the Internet and that a stronger sense of patriotism could give a stronger British identity and a rejection of extremism. Shapps said that foreign policy was not to blame (picking up on a point made from the audience) and broadly agreed with Reeves. Long felt that promoting relationships between different communities would help to prevent further cases.

Question four asked about giving free TV licences to rich pensioners. Shapps defended the policy, saying that they had worked hard over their lifetime and that a complex system would need to be created. Dimbleby asked if it was because the elderly are more likely to vote, which Shapps described as cynical; it may have been cynical, but is a valid point in my opinion. Reckless argued that other areas could be cut instead of payments to pensioners. A member of the audience asked why more is not done for younger voters. Munt said that the policy of the Lib Dems was that those on a higher rate would not receive the benefits, whilst young people in education should receive bus passes. Reeves argued that pensioners would not necessarily be able to adjust earnings and that the richest 5% of pensioners would not receive winter fuel payments (but keep the bus pass and TV licence due to the expense of testing) under a Labour government. Long said that it was a non-issue and agreed with Dimbleby’s interjection about it being an attempt to secure the votes of the elderly.

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