Thank you for joining us at BBC Beds, Herts and Bucks for the debate. Quite lively at times, we hope it helped you gain a better understanding of the issues.
- Updates on Thursday, 1 June 2017
- MP hopefuls for Bedford debate issues ahead of the general election
- The candidates taking part are:
- Lucy Bywater (Green)
- Richard Fuller (Conservative)
- Henry Vann (Lib Dem)
- Mohammad Yasin (Labour)
BBC Three Counties Radio political reporter
Four well-spoken candidates and an audience of more than 200.
Presenter Roberto Perrone promised an informed and knowledgeable debate, and he wasn't wrong.
Our Bedford hustings tackled the big issues like the NHS, education and what each party would do for pensioners.
Candidates were asked for the "idiotic" parts of their manifestos and whether they trusted their leaders (the good news is they all do!).
Surprisingly the state of Bedfordshire Police and worries over Bedford Hospital weren't really touched on, nor for that matter was Brexit.
Only time will tell how much impact this hustings has had on the voters in a week's time, but with this seat holding a slender majority of 1,097, surely every vote and therefore every answer will count.
The panel was asked what their view was of the Conservative manifesto commitment for a vote on the repeal of the act banning fox hunting?
Richard Fuller (Conservative) said: "I stood on a manifesto in 2010 which had that in it and nothing happened. I stood in 2015 on a manifesto that had that in it and nothing happened.
"My guess is that nothing is going to happen."
When asked what his view would be he said he was "sitting on the privet hedge".
Henry Vann (Lib Dem) said: "If something is in the Conservative manifesto and may not happen I would welcome that.
"Including fox hunting in the manifesto at this time, I don't know what's going through the Conservative's minds."
Lucy Bywater (Green Party) said: "There was a time when bear-baiting and cock-fighting was supported.
"I don't know why they would waste time trying to repeal the fox hunting ban. It is monstrous."
Mohammad Yassin (Labour) said: "All of the manifesto is not going to happen it is just a storybook.
"I am completely against fox hunting and would vote against it [the repeal]."
Henry vann, the Lib Dem candidate, says it's an issue the government needs to be "really hot" on.
"What we need is to be absolutely transparent on where the money goes if anything does happen to any of the assets of the NHS.
"I think the concern is that this Naylor Review may cause some people to sell too quickly and just get it out of the door and, as a result, not necessarily get a good market rate to re-invest into the NHS.
"And I'm worried the money won't be re-invested into the NHS and will go elsewhere."
Green candidate Lucy Bywater says: "We should do something about inefficiencies [in the NHS, but] we don't throw the baby out with the bath water and say, 'let's scrap the NHS and privatise it and let it be a profit-led organisation'."
Mohammad Yasin for Labour says: "If the NHS has to sell their assets to pay for NHS [services] and they have to sell it very quickly so it means they may have to sell it at a cheap price, it is very, very worrying."
Richard Fuller, the Conservative candidate, says the NHS currently badly manages its estates and raised the example of GP surgeries in Bedford who were unable to create their own super surgery.
"The Naylor Review, in terms of where it's directing the NHS estate to be more effective and efficient so money can be found for the NHS, is a good thing to do. I would be very worried if that money was not put back into NHS."
A member of the audience asked the panel of candidates for Bedford and Kempston about the Naylor Review in March which called on the NHS to sell off its assets.
Audience member Keith asked for the candidates' views on Conservative plans to cut the triple-lock on pensions by 2020 and means-test the winter fuel allowance for pensioners?
The triple-lock sees the state pension rise in line with wages, inflation or by 2.5% - whichever is highest.
However, it is becoming increasingly expensive to maintain and some have called for it to be scrapped.
Richard Fuller (Conservative) said: "The reason I voted for the triple-lock when it was brought in was the derisory increase in state pensions under Labour.
"I promised to keep the lock until 2020. It is extremely important to me to protect pensioners. But there is another issue which is fairness to the generations."
Henry Vann (Lib Dem) said: "You can fight back against these policies by not voting Conservative."
He said unlike the Labour Party and Conservative Party, the Lib Dem manifesto is costed. "We are keeping the triple-lock," he added.
Lucy Bywater (Green Party) said: "The triple-lock needs to be maintained. The money is there. We are the fifth wealthiest economy."
She said the issue of a growing elderly population needs to be "grappled with".
Mohammad Yassin (Labour) said: "You won't get a straight answer from Mr Fuller. Theresa May is hitting pensioners hard. The government trying to take savings away from them.
"Labour guarantees the triple-lock."
The panel has also been asked about the NHS and the 1% cap on pay rises for nurse and public sector workers.
Richard Fuller (Conservative) said: "I voted to cap the increase in public sector. One of the reasons for that was the rapid increase in public sector wages compared with the private sector in the previous five years.
"A disparity remains. We are still trying to reduce the budget deficit."
Mohammad Yassin (Labour) said: "Richard Fuller talked about voting for the cap. He voted for every single cut. We need somebody to oppose those cuts. To stand up for people.
"Mr Fuller is asking for votes, but does not stand up for the people of Bedford."
Lucy Bywater (Green Party) said: "We all value the NHS. We have to spend a lot of money on it because it is really important.
"We are the world's fifth richest economy, we can and have to afford to pay people properly. But we don't want to waste money making the NHS compete with private firms."
Henry Vann (Lib Dem) said: "We would lift the cap on public sector pay. We will pay nurses properly.
"People are living longer, so the NHS needs more money and we have a plan to do that."
Lucy Bywater, for the Greens, says schools in Bedford are seeing cuts of £300 per pupil.
"We're going to lose teachers, we're already losing teachers.
"You've got less staff, less support staff, the children's welfare suffers... so you end up with exam factories."
Richard Fuller says the Conservative government has protected school funding over the last five years, but admits that more pupils has meant that per head funding in the country has gone down.
"[But] as a member of parliament for Bedford and Kempston, and through the Free Funding Formula for our town, for our schools, I have protected per pupil funding for our town - and that will happen in Bedford and Kempston because I've been member of parliament."
Mohammad Yasin for Labour says his party would give more money for schools, provide free lunch for primary school children and more free childcare, which would be paid for as outlined in the Labour manifesto.
"This government has made £8m in cuts to schools in Bedfordshire.
"Teachers who have joined since 2010, most of them are leaving because of stress and pressure. Headteachers are finding it very difficult to find good teachers."
Lib Dem candidate Henry Vann says the Conservatives have not been giving local authorities the power or the resources to improve schools.
"Our schools are unfunded, we need more money, we need more qualified teachers and every school should be required to employ qualified teachers or those working towards qualification.
"I don't agree with the Conservative policy to remove that requirement and have anyone coming and teaching."
Sandra, a primary school teacher for 40 years, says she's been appalled at some of the schools she's been supply teaching in in Bedfordshire over the past two years.
She put to the panel: "I want to know how the candidates intend to tackle the poor state of the education system which is, in my opinion, heading towards the same fate as the NHS as young teachers are leaving the profession in droves."
The panel was asked how they would help small businesses in Bedford.
Mohammad Yassin (Labour) said: "We would ensure a better workforce and put more money into education and training, something which the Conservative have not done.
"We would also ask the council to provide lower business rates... [but the council has been hit by] £35m of cuts. We need more money."
Richard Fuller (Conservative) said: "Since I became MP I have tried to increase the number of small businesses in Bedfordshire and the number has increased dramatically.
"We should focus together on how to get measures to maintain lower rates and supporting people who run businesses."
Henry Vann (Lib Dem) said: "The first thing I would do is block the Conservative plan to make small businesses do quarterly tax returns.
"The Conservatives are only talking about deregulation."
Lucy Bywater (Green Party) said: "We would support small businesses because we believe in local communities and the local economy.
"We'd give extra help to start-up companies." She said she was concerned that Amazon was paying too little tax compared with local firms in Bedford.
The Conservative candidate, Richard Fuller, rejected criticism of his party leader, Theresa May: "I opposed a number of Conservative policies which were in her area [when she was Home Secretary], particularly on immigration and on stop and search... And Theresa May, in both cases, listened to the evidence, came to a judgement and changed the law, and I think that speaks volumes for her."
Mohammad Yasin says of his leader, Jeremy Corbyn: "A lot of people had doubts about him, but since the election campaign has started he has come out as a true and principled man.
"He speaks from the heart and he does not take the U-turn like Theresa May."
Lucy Bywater says: "Caroline [Lucas], our first leader, has been voted ethical politician of the year several times. She stands by her morals and her principles, which a lot of politicians don't.
"We also have Jonathan Bartley, our new co-leader, and I think it shows how we can do different things differently."
As a Liberal Democrat, Henry Vann says he trusts Lib Dem leader Tim Farron.
"Here's something that Labour will probably bring up at some point - tuition fees. He [Farron] signed the pledge and he kept it and he voted against the increase. I trust Tim Farron."
The candidates taking part in tonight's debate at Bedford Rugby Club are being asked: "How important do you think your leader is to the success of your party at the ballot box?"
Kate in the audience asked the candidates which parts of their party manifestos they disagreed with or found idiotic.
Mohammad Yassin (Labour) said: "I think the Labour manifesto is the best. It is fully costed and tells where the money comes from and where we will spend it, unlike the Conservative manifesto.
"I can't think of anything I disagree." He said he'd read most of the manifesto.
Lucy Bywater (Green) said: "This is a really hard question. I honestly can't think of anything."
She was asked about the commitment to a four-day working week, but she defended the policy asking, "why should we be wage slaves?"
Richard Fuller (Conservative) said: "The energy price cap. I don't think it is a good idea. I don't know how it would work.
"Mr Yassin has said he supports the Labour manifesto but hasn't read it all."
Henry Vann (Lib Dem) said: "One policy area where I think it lacks ambition is in education.
"I think all schools should be the same [rather than having free schools and grammar schools etc]. That's what people want."
Mohammad Yasin, who's the Labour candidate for Bedford and Kempston, accuses the government of overseeing a decline in wages for working class people of £1,400 on average since 2010.
"Labour will give a real minimum wage of £10-an-hour. We will give workers rights when they start work and equal rights for part-time as well as full-time workers.
"We need to protect the workforce and protect the EU workforce and we need to increase the number of jobs. Looking after the workforce is the real solution and only Labour can do that."
The Liberal Democrat candidate, Henry Vann, has hit out on the Conservatives' approach to the cost of living.
"The National Living Wage is not a real living wage. I'm proud of the Lib Dems' record in coalition in lifting poor people out of paying tax altogether.
"I'm also proud that our manifesto says we will raise benefits in line with inflation. But I'm afraid the National Living Wage is just a re-branded minimum wage, and people are going to food banks more and more."
Richard Fuller, who's defending his seat in Bedford and Kempston as a Conservative, is proud of the government's record on wages.
"The first step to high pay is to have a job and, since 2010, 2.9 million jobs have been created across the country and we have seen unemployment go down.
"The second thing is to make sure people's pay goes up and I was one of the early and strong supporters in Parliament talking for the National Living Wage.
"I was proud the Conservatives did something the Labour government never did and that was to introduce the National Living Wage."
Green party candidate Lucy Bywater says people are living on mushrooming debt.
"Inflation is rising faster than wages, so we have a situation where people's rent and mortgages are so high they cannot keep pace with the cost of living.
"We're seeing people relying on food banks and the shocking thing is that many people relying on food banks are people in work. Something needs to change desperately."
Some of the political focus today has been about wages and the cost of living.
Labour claims that many people aren't "just about managing" - they are not managing at all. Many argue that wages are not keeping pace with inflation.
How are people in Bedford and Kempston coping with the cost of living?
Left to right we have Mohammad Yasin (Labour), Richard Fuller (Conservative), Henry Vann (Lib Dem) and Lucy Bywater (Green).
BBC Three Counties Radio political reporter
One of the more interesting seats in Beds, Herts and Bucks, currently it's Tory with Richard Fuller the incumbent, but he holds a majority of just 1,097 from 2015, and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has already visited the town twice with the seat as high as 13th on the party's target list.
Mr Fuller and previous Labour candidate Patrick Hall battled hard over three elections with Hall triumphant in 2005, and Mr Fuller winning in 2010 and 2015.
Mr Hall isn't standing in 2017, so Mr Fuller will instead face competition from local Labour councillor Mohammad Yasin, along with Lib Dem candidate Henry Vann and Lucy Bywater from the Green Party.
BBC Three Counties Radio
These are the candidates we'll be hearing from in our debate at Bedford Rugby Club this evening...
Lucy Bywater (Green)Lucy has lived in Bedford for 14 years, is married with two teenagers and works in publishing. In local council elections she has contested the Castle Ward in Bedford for the Green Party on three occasions and is an active campaigner for the local party. She has a Masters in Children's Literature from De Montfort University and a Politics and Modern History degree from the University of Manchester.
Richard Fuller (Conservative)Richard is Bedford-born and narrowly won the election in the town in 2010 from Labour's Patrick Hall, and held on to the seat in 2015 by an even tighter margin. He'd previously stood and lost to Hall in 2005. Was schooled in Bedford before going on to study at Oxford University and then Harvard Business School. He joined the Conservative Party in 1979, delivering leaflets for Trevor Skeet in the election of the same year and was chairman of the Young Conservatives between 1985 and 1987.
Henry Vann (Lib Dem)Henry is the education portfolio holder at Bedford Borough Council. He stood in the constituency in 2010, finishing third behind Hall and Fuller. He graduated from Cambridge in 2007 and previously appeared in Vogue magazine. Henry works in London in the music industry and sings in the choir at St Paul's Church in Bedford.
Mohammad Yasin (Labour)Mohammad has lived in Bedford for more than 25 years and currently resides in the Queen's Park area where he's been a Labour borough councillor for the last 11 years. He's the current portfolio holder for adult services and housing and is a former speaker of the council.
BBC Three Counties Radio
Hello. This evening we're meeting the people who want to become the MP for Bedford following the general election on 8 June.
They'll be debating key issues including immigration and housing.
You can listen to the debate live from Bedford Blues Rugby Club on BBC Three Counties Radio, between 17:00 and 19:00.
We'll also be bringing you the main points here.
First up, let's have a quick look at who's taking part.