Question Time: 14/1/16

The programme came from London and the panel was: Nick Boles (Conservatives), Cat Smith (Labour), Patrick O’Flynn (UKIP), Camilla Long (journalist) and Kelvin MacKenzie (journalist). The first question asked if junior doctors were justified in striking. Boles said they had the right to, but he was disappointed they had chosen to, suggesting they had been mis-led by the BMA; he also argued that it created safer working conditions with shorter hours throughout a week. Long said she was horrified that doctors were prepared to strike, arguing that they had abandoned the Hippocratic Oath as they were leaving patients. She blamed both sides for allowing it to become politicised. Smith argued that no-one wanted junior doctors to be on strike, including the doctors. She blamed the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, for causing the strike. Long’s view was that the strike was the result of pay. O’Flynn said that doctors are held in high esteem and that the NHS needs to modernise due to high demand, with reform coming too late by approximately 15 years. MacKenzie was in favour of reducing the hours worked by doctors even further to around 50 hours a week. He added that he felt the NHS had never been better and that the strike was likely to collapse as there was a lack of public support. Boles defended claims made by Jeremy Hunt that there are more deaths at the weekend and that the new contracts would not save any money. Smith opposed MacKenzie by saying that she felt the public supported the doctors.

The second question asked if the UK should leave the EU or remain a member. Long pointed out that most people do not know enough about European treaties and that remaining in Europe would probably be the best for a recovering economy. MacKenzie said he was in favour of leaving as he always has been and that other countries manage to flourish and thrive economically without being part of Europe, citing America, Japan and Australia. He predicted that Britain would remain because David Cameron is likely to recommend staying in Europe, which would be a strong argument. However, he did add that large-scale migration could result in Britain voting to leave. O’Flynn pointed out that Britain could trade with other countries in Europe regardless of whether Britain remains a member of the European Union or not. He favoured leaving because he wanted Britain to be a democracy, which is not possible whilst the country remains in the EU. Boles admitted he had no love of the EU, but would listen to what David Cameron negotiates and support him if he said a good deal had been negotiated. O’Flynn likened any doom-mongers for leaving by arguing there were similar warnings about not joining the Euro, but the currency had lost value and Britain had continued to do well with the Pound. Smith favoured remaining in the EU, but pointed out that it is a long way from perfect, particularly as it favours big business over people.

Question three asked when a rent cap would be introduced to ease London’s housing crisis. Smith argued that introducing it would not be revolutionary as other cities around the world have rent caps. Boles agreed there was a long-standing housing crisis in London and that a rent cap would result in landlords selling properties, which would actually result in fewer properties available. Boles favoured helping people to buy so they could get onto the housing ladder as well as helping those renting. MacKenzie argued that no government has dealt with the housing issue, with too many people wanting to buy or rent and that enough homes are not being built. He proposed that it could be solved by either building on greenbelt land or building high rise towers around the country. Long was of the opinion that the government was not tackling the housing crisis, with properties being sold to people from abroad who leave them empty, whilst migration of three to four hundred thousand people per year was putting greater and greater pressure on availability. O’Flynn described there being both a demand and supply issue around housing.

The fourth question asked if all police officers should be carrying firearms to protect the public further. O’Flynn said he would be sorry if the country had reached that position and that the Chief Constables of the forces are in the best position to decide. MacKenzie described seeing armed officers as reassuring, but that in countries where the police are armed, there are higher rates of murder. Long was of the opinion that the police do an excellent job without requiring firearms and that it might harm relationships between the police and the communities they are in. Smith argued that armed police would be incredibly unlikely to deter terrorists, but it could resolve any situation quicker. Boles was also in favour of not all officers being armed.

The last question asked if an English National anthem was needed. Long, O’Flynn, Boles said no, MacKenzie and Smith said yes.

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