Voters question town politicians

By Ian Dipple Monday 07 April 2014 Updated: 09/04 09:52

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Buy photos » St Augustine's Principal Tony Quinn (centre) oversees the question time event with panel Redditch MP Karen Lumley, Malcolm Hall, Father Tony Rohan and Rebecca Blake. Picture by Ian Dipple (s).

VOTERS of the future got the chance to quiz the two women who are expected to lead the fight to become Redditch's MP at the next General Election.

Current MP Karen Lumley and Rebecca Blake, Labour's Parliamentary spokeswoman for Redditch, went head-to-head for the first time as part of St Augustine Catholic High School's annual Question Time event.

They were joined by former Liberal Democrat councillor Malcolm Hall and Father Tony Rohan.

The panel spent an hour fielding questions ranging from the effectiveness of prisons to immigration and obesity.

On the Alexandra Hospital Ms Blake said the campaign had been listened to and secured A&E, although the pressure must be kept up to maintain maternity services. Mrs Lumley said she would be meeting with health minister Dr Dan Poulter to discuss the maternity situation.

"If we must lose our consultant-led unit in Redditch I want to make sure our mums have got the choice to go to Worcester or Birmingham."

On immigration Mrs Lumley said the Government was right to introduce a cap on the numbers coming to the UK as the last Labour government had let too many people in but she added they had to be sure they did not go too far the other way. But Ms Blake opposed the idea of an immigration cap.

"It should be skills based, we look at what we need in this country, for people to help us and it should be on that basis. It took the last Labour government a while to catch on but towards the end that was the system we were introducing."

Mr Hall said it was a good thing Britain was a country people wanted to come to rather than one people were trying to escape. He also attacked UKIP.

"They are stoking up basic tribal instincts in people driven by xenophobia and it's not helpful, it's the stuff that starts war and we don't need it."

Mrs Lumley said free university education would never return as it was unaffordable in response to a question on tuition fees. She said she objected to having a target of 50 per cent of people having to go to university and was proud of the 3,000 apprenticeships in Redditch the Government had created.

Ms Blake responded by saying a Labour government would cut tuition fees by a third to £6,000 a year.

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