Election 2015 Wales

Election 2015: Leaders argue over deficit, funding and NHS

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Media captionPlaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood asked Labour leader Ed Miliband: ''Do you accept that you have failed people in Wales?''

The political parties have clashed on the UK's budget deficit, devolution funding and the NHS in the ITV seven-way live leaders' debate.

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood said no arbitrary targets should be set to cut the UK's budget deficit.

She said Wales should receive an additional £1.2bn in annual funding, to bring spending into line with Scotland.

UKIP's Nigel Farage pledged to re-draw the Barnett formula that distributes cash to the devolved governments.

"The Welsh negotiated a very bad deal in 1978 and the canny Scots negotiated a very good deal," he said.

Ms Wood said the UK's annual deficit should be reduced to £30bn by 2020, from its current level of about £90bn.

'Competence and chaos'

She asked Labour leader Ed Miliband: ''Do you accept that you have failed people in Wales?"

Mr Miliband said he did not.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg launched an attack on his former coalition partner Prime Minister David Cameron, accusing him of wanting to cause "chaos" with big spending cuts.

Mr Cameron insisted he planned to cut the deficit by cracking down on tax evasion.

Mr Miliband also rounded on the Tory leader as the party leaders debated the economy.

"Cuts will have to come, but we can do it in a balanced way," he promised.

Image copyright Itv
Image caption The debate was shown live on ITV
Image copyright ITV
Image caption The seven party leaders on stage at Media City in Salford with presenter Julie Etchingham

The Labour leader repeatedly described what he would do "if I am prime minister", in raising the minimum wage, banning exploitative zero-hours contracts and "rescuing our NHS".

Mr Clegg directly challenged Mr Cameron over his decision not to ask the richest to pay more towards deficit reduction, but instead to impose "ideologically-driven cuts".

Responding to Mr Cameron's casting of the election as a choice between "competence and chaos", the Lib Dem leader urged him to "imagine the chaos in people's lives" caused by cuts in spending on health, schools and childcare.

Mr Farage expressed outrage that the books had not been balanced under Labour or the Conservatives.

'Scaremongering'

During exchanges on the NHS, Mr Cameron said: "There's only one group of politicians that have cut the NHS, Labour in Wales."

Another flashpoint came when Mr Farage discussed "health tourism" and highlighted the number of foreign nationals with HIV who he said were treated by the NHS, saying: "We have to look after our own people first."

Ms Wood said Mr Farage "ought to be ashamed of himself" for deploying "scaremongering rhetoric".

Earlier, Green Party leader Natalie Bennett got the debate under way with an anti-austerity message, saying there was an "alternative" to making the poor and disadvantaged pay for the mistakes of bankers.

In her opening statement, SNP leader and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had a message of "friendship" for the rest of the UK, saying the SNP will work with other "parties of like mind" to end the "bedroom tax" and protect the health service.

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