With the general election now just days away, it will soon be time to decide who you want to represent you in Altrincham & Sale West.
Last week we asked our Facebook community for the questions they’d ask the six candidates standing for election to Parliament.
We’ve selected a shortlist using a mix of questions that were upvoted by the community and questions that ensure the candidates cover as broad an array of topics as possible.
Each candidate has then had a few days to come up with their answers to the same set of questions.
But starting us off today is the Conservative candidate, Sir Graham Brady.
DAN McMULLAN: What are the candidates’ views on assisted dying for the terminally ill – this is a topic which I’ve not heard any party talk about but is a matter a significant number of people believe needs looking at again.
GRAHAM BRADY: This is one of the hardest decisions that I have had to take in Parliament. I think it is wrong for people whose motivation is to help a loved one out of compassion then to face criminal charges. There are, though significant dangers: that a vulnerable person might be coerced; that doctors might be pressured to act against their conscience; that a provision put in place for the last days of a terminal illness might be extended to much wider circumstances. I remain sympathetic to a change in the law but have yet to see a legislative proposal that satisfies these concerns.
VITTORIA ELISA: Will you protect Green Belt land in the area?
GRAHAM BRADY: Yes. I have always defended our green belt and green spaces (I persuaded the government to intervene to protect the Grange Road playing fields) and I have consistently opposed the ‘GMSF’ plan to build on the Timperley Wedge and Carrington Moss. I hope that our Labour-run council will recognise the strength of public opinion and abandon these plans. They cannot claim to care about the environment while they are intent on plans that will result in more congestion, worse air quality and the destruction of rare peat moss that is more effective in soaking up carbon than a similar area of rain forest.
NICK ROBINSON: What, in your view, are the causes of us needing to have five food banks in one of the richest constituencies in one of the richest countries in the world?
GRAHAM BRADY: Universal Credit has been very effective in helping more people into work (we now have the highest employment on record, the lowest unemployment in 45 years and a smaller percentage of low paid jobs) but there is too long a delay before payments start. Vouchers for food banks are handed out but this should be accompanied by further improvements in UC to ensure prompt payment. I would also pay tribute to the volunteers who give time or donations to food banks.
JAMIE BUCKTON: With the large increase in crime around the constituency over the last couple of years, what are your plans to tackle it?
GRAHAM BRADY: There has been a ‘spike’ of burglary and robbery in recent months. Some of it has been particularly violent and nasty. I keep in close touch with Greater Manchester Police both to pass on concerns and intelligence and also to ensure that sufficient resources are allocated to Altrincham and Sale. Our area remains one of the safest places in Greater Manchester – and we need to keep it that way. I lobbied ministers for more funding for police and to increase the number of officers. I am pleased that those increases are coming through and GMP are currently recruiting the first tranche of new officers: 347 this year with more to follow. The government’s plan to tackle knife crime with rapid and tough action is welcome, as is the policy to ensure that convicted criminals serve more of their sentence before they are considered for release.
SARAH SCOTT: Given Altrincham and Sale West is a Remain voting area, how will you represent your constituents on the Brexit issue?
GRAHAM BRADY: I have always been completely straight with my constituents and have fulfilled the promises on which I have been elected. Conversations with many thousands of constituents tell me that for most people, their referendum vote was quite finely balanced. Most people recognise that a huge democratic vote must be respected but most would also like to see us leave the EU in an orderly way with an agreement in place. In the last parliament I worked to try to achieve the compromise that would ensure an orderly Brexit: the ‘Brady Amendment’ last January was, for nine months, the only positive proposition on Brexit to win a majority. My amendment pointed the way to the revised agreement that has now been reached with the EU. A Conservative majority will see that agreement implemented by the end of January – giving the certainty that most people, and most businesses want to see.
KATIE SALINGER: I’ve seen manifestos from the parties with details of what each party will deliver. A lot of those promises are longer term, and outside of the immediate 5 year fixed term. What promises are you making for the immediate 12 months after your election in our constituency?
GRAHAM BRADY: Much of this is already underway: I have lobbied successfully for more police, they are now being recruited, I will continue to press GMP to give the right priority to Altrincham and Sale; I lobbied successfully for a move to minimum ‘floor’ levels of per pupil funding for primary schools (£4,000) and secondary schools (£5,000) this approach has already brought significantly more resources for many of our schools and the position will improve next year too. Our schools are probably the best in the country, I will continue to stand up for our grammar and high schools which would be threatened by the left wing parties. I pressed the Department of Health to make sure that the ‘health hub’ will be used for NHS purposes and that is now happening. I will continue to campaign to protect the green belt and stop Labour from concreting over the Timperley Wedge and Carrington Moss.
MICHAEL BATTMAN: What are the candidates’ views on state-funded religious schools?
GRAHAM BRADY: I believe in protecting schools that are good and I believe in making sure that parents have real choice of schools. We have some excellent faith schools and they are popular with parents. It is right that the state should be able to expect certain standards and that a broad curriculum should be taught. We also have very good secular schools and it is right that parents should be able to choose.
ALISON O’CONNELL: What’s your stance on WASPI women – will you be supporting an initiative to make up the £40,000 in lost pension we have lost?
GRAHAM BRADY: The pension equalisation took place following a court judgment that different ages for men and women were discriminatory. The change was started in 1995 and accelerated in 2011. I have always been sympathetic to women who feel that they had too little information and couldn’t plan for their futures. It seems that the government has taken the view that the tens of billions of pounds that compensation would cost are better being spent on the NHS, schools and policing.
DANIELLE MOLYNEUX: How are you going to address the climate crisis?
GRAHAM BRADY: The UK is responsible for 1% of global emissions but we should continue to do what is right both to reduce our own pollution and to lead by example. We have reduced emissions by 42% from 1990 levels – the best performance of any major industrial economy and we are the first of them to commit to being carbon neutral by 2050. In the last year we had the first day when more than half our electricity came from renewables. There is accelerating research to make electric cars better and to achieve electrically powered aviation and fuel from renewable sources. Some parties would tackle climate change by shrinking our economy, meaning fewer jobs, lower living standards and a massive contraction of public services, pensions and welfare. That is how to ensure that people stop caring about the climate. I believe a modern, productive economy with rising living standards is essential if we are to maintain high levels of commitment to improving our environment. Locally of course we should stop the inappropriate plans to build on green belt in Timperley and at Carrington Moss.
EMMA STANTON: What are you going to do about the fact that there is now a generation of young people who were born and raised around Trafford who can now not afford to live in their hometown because house prices / rent are completely unattainable in this area?
GRAHAM BRADY: This is vitally important, people should be able to aspire to own a home. We are building more social housing than at any time in the last 30 years. There are government schemes: Help to Buy and LISAs that are there to assist people getting a foot on the ladder. We should expand some of the excellent shared ownership schemes that are in place. We should do more to build affordable housing on brown field, previously developed sites. I would like to see some innovative approaches like a Capital Gains tax break when landlords sell to a sitting tenant – part of the tax foregone could be turned into a deposit for a first time buyer.
PAUL McCARTHY: Will you support the saving of Stamford Park Infant and Junior Schools from demolition, in favour of architectural remodelling on the same site?
GRAHAM BRADY: I am pleased that improved premises are going to be provided for the schools – I worked with the Regional Schools Commissioner to try to make sure this would happen. I would look at any proposal that ensures appropriate modern teaching facilities for Stamford Park children.
ANNA WHITE: What youth services are you going to provide within the borough to help reduce knife and other crime? (Anne White)
GRAHAM BRADY: The government has already announced a £500million Youth Investment Fund. This can be used to support any provider including some of the excellent charitable and ‘third sector’ provision. Last year I was invited to visit the very impressive Hive youth centre in Birkenhead, which was put in place by a clever partnership of public and charitable provision. We should also ensure that the police have the manpower and the legal powers to ensure rapid and effective steps to tackle knife crime. Schools should have the support they need to contribute to this challenge. Fantastic work is done by organisations such as Scouts and Guides, many of our sports clubs do great work with junior teams and we have voluntary groups that are very active too. I have seen some great local schemes organised by National Citizen Service and we should build on this.
ROSA CROSBIE: How do you propose to tackle the problem of groups of young people committing anti-social behavior and assaulting and intimidating both youngsters and adults?
GRAHAM BRADY: As above, there are many aspects to this: police numbers and powers; ensuring that the courts take prompt and effective action and making better provision for young people to do positive things. All these play a part. We have committed to ensuring that anyone found carrying a knife improperly will be arrested, will be charged within 24 hours and appear in court with in a week.
MARK GORMAN: What’s your favourite cheese?
GRAHAM BRADY: Altrincham’s own Burt’s Blue… of course.