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Summary

  1. Updates on Tuesday, 6 June 2017
  2. MP hopefuls for Watford debate issues ahead of the general election
  3. The candidates taking part are:
  4. Ian Green (UKIP) represented by Gary Ling
  5. Richard Harrington (Conservative)
  6. Alex Murray (Green)
  7. Chris Ostrowski (Labour)
  8. Ian Stotesbury (Lib Dem)

Live Reporting

By Sarah Jenkins and Craig Lewis

All times stated are UK

Get involved

Thanks for joining us for tonight's Watford election debate

I'm afraid that's now it from the Watford Palace Theatre and the parties seeking your votes in Watford.

It's over to you, the public, now to choose who will be representing the town in the House of Commons in the future.

If you want a re-cap on any of the positions taken by those hoping to fill that role you can simply scroll down this feed to get their views on issues as varied as Brexit, the NHS, the youth vote and the Croxley rail link.

Debate panel
BBC

How would you control immigration?

Sarah Jenkins

BBC Local Live

Penny
BBC

Penny asked the panel what they would do to try and control immigration.

Gary Ling (UKIP) said: "Controlling immigration and having planned immigration is one of the main reasons people voted for Brexit.

"We will allow skilled immigration as we did in 2015, we don't want any unskilled immigration whatsoever for a moratorium period of five years.

"Even when we have asylum seekers, there will be a lot of people there to take up the jobs where unskilled labour is necessary. What we need to do is invest more in our own people."

Richard Harrington (Conservative) said: "I think immigration has been very good for Watford and the economy.

"The system that we now have needs expanding to the EU countries when we leave.

"There is a labour shortage and at the moment employers are faced with the consequences of having to take labour from abroad because they haven't got people here. There's got to be a sensible control to it."

Ian Stotesbury (Lib Dem) said: "We should be looking at our immigration controls available to us now and properly implementing them.

"When it comes to freedom of movement, we have to be really cautious about setting arbitrary limits, I would be opposed to arbitrary limits.

"Let's take this at a very rational and long-term approach, any short and dramatic knee-jerk reaction would be bad for Britain."

Chris Ostrowski (Labour) said: "Because freedom of movement will come to an end on or before March 2019, there will be a clear before and after period.

"In the after period we can set the immigration policy that best suits the economy and that best suits the businesses that need foreign labour.

"One of the things that we can really do now is make sure that wages are not undercut."

Alex Murray (Green) said: "Immigration is a concern for people but we would make sure that any policy is humane and fair.

"Immigration comes from workers, asylum seekers and refugees.

"We would look to sort the problems out so that people didn't need to come here to seek asylum and refugee status."

Where do you stand on climate change?

Each of the candidates were asked to give their views on climate change.

Alex Murray (Green) said he would "ensure any Brexit deal keeps environmental protections" to EU standards as a minimum.

He added failure to do so could result in "a bonfire of European rights".

Gary Ling (UKIP) said his party would get rid of the 2008 Climate Change Act – a move he called "absolutely essential" – but added: "What we want is the continued use of renewables as part of an energy policy."

Ian Stotesbury (Liberal Democrats) said climate change was "phenomenally real" and the reason why he got into politics.

He said European protections have to be maintained as a bare minimum.

Richard Harrington (Conservatives) said it was "so obvious what we have to do we have to do with the EU, whether we are in it or out of it as we are so near to them".

Chris Ostrowski (Labour) said he recognised climate change "is real and it is important the Paris targets are stuck to and met".

What would you do about the Croxley Rail Link?

Craig Lewis

BBC News

Labour's Chris Ostrowski said he had spoken to London mayor Sadiq Khan about the rail link. He said Mr Khan told him money for the scheme from his budget was ring-fenced and had "not been reduced or held back".

However, he said the cost had increased and that an extra £50m needed to come from central government.

"It is the job of the Watford MP to bang on the secretary of state's door and make sure this happens," he said.

Labour candidate
BBC

But Richard Harrington, for the Conservatives, said this was an issue he had been dealing with for seven years and that Mr Ostrowski had "no idea about this at all".

He said any uplift in prices was contractually agreed to come from Mr Khan's budget.

Conservative candidate
BBC

UKIP's Gary Ling said the issue had become a "bun fight", adding that in his view central government would ultimately have to stump up the money to make the rail link work.

UKIP candidate
BBC

And Ian Stotesbury, the Liberal Democrat candidate, was also critical of the political arguments around the rail link, blaming Labour and the Conservatives for playing politics.

"How dare they play politics," he said. "It is an outrage to put it on pause."

Lib Dem candidate
BBC

The Green Party candidate, Alex Murray, preferred to concentrate on the benefits of the scheme, saying he would campaign for it to happen: "We need to do this and get cars off the road."

Green candidate
BBC

What will you deliver post-Brexit for Watford?

Craig Lewis

BBC News

Brexit remains a huge issue nationally, but what would Watford's candidates make sure it delivered for the town?

Ian Stotesbury (Liberal Democrats) said Watford had one of the closest counts in the country at the referendum and as such it was "ludicrous to say any MP wouldn't want to listen to everyone on the issue".

He said he would advocate for the single market and properly control migration within that system.

Conservative Richard Harrington said it would be important that businesses in Watford could export and import as they do now, as easily to Berlin as they do to Birmingham.

He said businesses would need to be able to bring in foreign labour when there were not enough people in the UK market to fill positions, but added that Britain couldn't be part of the single market.

Alex Murray, from the Green Party, said the most important thing would be that Britain doesn't lose the rights it has now – such as freedom of movement for workers and environmental protections.

But UKIP's Gary Ling told people not to vote Green "having listened to that".

He said "one of the things we need to understand is that Brexit is a process" and once controls are returned from Europe then regulations restricting business can be removed and new trade agreements made.

Labour’s Chris Ostrowski said having a close relationship with the "key industries" in Watford would be vital so that if they flag up anything in the Brexit process which could damage Watford then he, as MP, could raise it.

Redevelop Watford General or build a new site?

Sarah Jenkins

BBC Local Live

Roberto Perrone asks the panel whether they would campaign to re-develop the existing Watford General Hospital site or build a new hospital outside Watford to serve the people of West Hertfordshire.

An independent survey recently said it would be cheaper to build a new one than redevelop Watford General.

Gary Ling (UKIP) said: "Redevelop Watford General, no question about it.

"There's been so much work done on that with the Health Campus, we need to find the money.

"With the new road already going in, that's where the hospital needs to be."

Alex Murray (Green) said: "We need to see how a fully-funded Watford hospital could perform before we talk about redeveloping it or moving it.

"If we had an NHS which was not creaking at the seams and not being under-funded and privatised, I might talk about moving the hospital.

"But what we've got is an under-funded NHS and we need to put more money into the hospital first."

Chris Ostrowski (Labour) said: "In 2008 when the previous Labour MP was in place in Watford we brought in the redevelopment plan, but the coalition scrapped that plan.

"The hospital is hugely important to me and every single staff member says the same thing, they're under-resourced and some of the buildings are crumbling.

"So redevelop it on the current site as the previous Labour government had committed to."

Richard Harrington (Conservative) said: "There's been a clinical review by the management of the trust and it has been decided that the best alternative is to redevelop the hospital on the current site.

"That is a £400m alternative and the trust is making a business plan in order to do that.

"This was not stopped by the coalition or anyone else, it's part of the process of deciding the next 20 years of healthcare."

Ian Stotesbury (Lib Dem) said: "If I'm elected as Watford's Liberal Democrat MP I'll be singing in concert on the redevelopment of the current site and the Health Campus.

"It's absolutely essential for our town, but also we're already well along with this discussion, and, like Richard said, there's been a clinical review of this.

"If we want to see our health facilities expanded in Watford we need to pick that site and keep going for it."

Will we be out of the EU by 2019?

Sarah Jenkins

BBC Local Live

Phil in the audience asked the panel: "If your party won the election, will we be out of the EU lock, stock and barrel by 2019?"

He specifically asked the panel for a yes or no answer to his question.

Chris Ostrowski (Labour) said: "Yes!"

Ian Stotesbury (Lib Dem) said: "My suspicion is yes."

Richard Harrington (Conservative) said: "Absolutely, yes."

Alex Murray (Green) said: "Yes."

Gary Ling (UKIP) said: "If you vote UKIP, yes."

Phil
BBC

What about schools in Watford?

Sarah Jenkins

BBC Local Live

Roberto Perrone asked the panel if Watford needed more academies and grammar schools.

Chris Ostrowski (Labour) said: "We want to make sure that every school is achieving the best it possibly can.

"We should always strive to make sure no child is left behind. Labour will not re-introduce grammar schools.

"We have a patchwork quilt of different schools. Labour wouldn't seek to change any of the existing set up, but going forward we would legislate differently."

Roberto then questioned Richard Harrington (Conservative) on whether Theresa May was right that we needed more grammar schools.

"We've got grammar schools in Watford," he said.

"What worries me is not Watford, but many other areas where people from wealthier parents can go to private school which are better than other schools.

"So Theresa May is right to say in those areas we need to create some selective schools."

Ian Stotesbury (Lib Dem) said: "Liberal Democrats oppose new grammar schools and selective schools in principle.

"We want to see the money put where it would best benefit our society in a progressive way.

"We want to expand pupil premium to allow schools to provide access for disadvantaged children."

Alex Murray (Green) said: "We oppose grammar schools and academies.

"We would bring schools back to local council control. We can see the evidence which says academies are less productive and effective than state-run schools.

"We would also do something very radical, we wouldn't start formal education until the year your child turns seven."

Gary Ling (UKIP) said: "What people most want is not a certain type of school but a school nearby.

"The Conservative government haven't built schools in Hertfordshire fast enough. People are allowed to just turn up in Watford and we have to provide them with a school place.

"Now that we have the left the EU, I hope with a sensible and controlled immigration policy we will have more schools."

Should we have secular schools?

Craig Lewis

BBC News

The Watford candidates have been asked about secular schools – and as to what extent they should exist.

UKIP's Gary Ling said the idea of taking religion out of schools was "misguided".

He said the values of Christianity, Islam and Judaism "should be promoted", even though religion has got a bad name recently following the terror attacks.

Conservative Richard Harrington said religion could be taught "from a historic perspective as part of learning about life".

He added that schools specialising in a particular religion was OK, as long as children learned about other religions and humanism.

Debate audience
BBC

Labour's Chris Ostrowski said it was important to find a way for people in religious communities to be involved, but added it could be tough when people of different religions could not get into a secular school - even though it may be the best or closest in their area.

Lib Dem Ian Stotesbury said there was a "really good" inter-faith community in Watford, saying schools shouldn't have compulsory religious services and that they should be inclusive.

He added if a school wanted to be secular "all power to it", but that its teachings must also be inclusive.

Alex Murray, from the Green Party, said learning about religion could help solve some of the problems around it, but also said humanism was a "massive part of my life and needs to be put forward in schools".

Why should young people vote for you?

Sarah Jenkins

BBC Local Live

A member of the audience - Anna - has asked the representatives what they would do locally for young voters.

Anna
BBC

Alex Murray (Green)said: "We would restore both the housing benefit and the educational maintenance allowance and make it easier for young people to get jobs and invest in the economy.

"We would also scrap tuition fees so it's easier for young people to go to university.

"We've seen in countries like Germany where there's no tuition fees there is a fair, more equal society."

Chris Ostrowski (Labour) said: "We want to make sure people can stay in education if they want to.

"It's very important that if people want to fulfil their potential, they can do so.

"Labour will restore the educational maintenance allowance, we will get rid of tuition fees as well. We will will bring the voting age down to 16, so young people can have a stake in the future of Watford."

Ian Stotesbury (Lib Dem) said: "We will restore the educational maintenance fee and bring the voting age down to 16.

"The Liberal Democrats will also add a start up budget for entrepreneurs.

"We're also proposing the most radical housing development programme, to build 300,000 homes per year by the end of next Parliament."

Richard Harrington (Conservative) said: "I would like to focus on my record. In the last few years 3,000 new apprenticeships have been created in Watford.

"A tiny number now leave school without further education or training.

"I was very lucky to be the first member of my family to go to univeristy and I think the current system is fair for those who don't go to uni as well as those who do."

Gary Ling (UKIP) said: "If you're a young person in Watford, there's no better constituency to get a job as this place is booming.

"We would suggest you don't feel as though you have to go to university to get a job.

"It's a great big con - you need to go out there and look for apprenticeships, which UKIP would try to reinstill. Labour will never reduce tuition fees to zero without bankrupting the country."

Will people vote on national or local issues?

Craig Lewis

BBC News

Both, according to our candidates in Watford.

Alex Murray, from the Green Party, said local interests – such as the lack of NHS funding and a shortage of housing in Watford – reflects national issues.

Richard Harrington, the Conservative candidate, agreed, saying: "It's a mix". He said local success depends on a strong national economy and an increase in expenditure.

Mr Harrington also echoed the national Tory line: "Is it Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn?"

Debate panel
BBC

Unsurprisingly, Labour’s Chris Ostrowski agreed – but with a different winner in mind. He added: "The days of a divided Labour party have melted away".

"It is always a combination. There are a whole series of local issues but people are looking at national issues," he said.

Ian Stotesbury, the Liberal Democrat candidate, said his party were popular locally and everyone is "a liberal, but a closet one".

And UKIP's Gary Ling said a huge amount of money is spent on politics at all levels - from the European Parliament to Westminster, to local authorities and Watford's mayor. However, he said "most people are still confused as to what the power of their MP is".

Debate coming up next

We're about ready to go. Stay tuned.

General election: Meet the Watford candidates

Sarah Jenkins

BBC Local Live

These are the candidates we'll be hearing from in our debate at the Watford Palace Theatre this evening:

Gary Ling (UKIP)Information analyst Gary Ling, from Watford, will be representing UKIP candidate Ian Green on the panel. Ian is the chair of UKIP in Watford and stood in the 2015 Watford Borough Council elections in the Woodside Ward, finishing fourth out of five but is not available this evening.

Gary Ling, representing Ian Green
BBC

Richard Harrington (Conservative)Richard was born in Leeds and went to Oxford University before forming a property development company with two friends. He's been an active member of the Conservative party since 1983, winning the election in Watford in 2010 and then increasing his majority in 2015.

Richard Harrington
BBC

Alex Murray (Green)Alex was born and raised in Bushey. He studied History and Criminology at the University of Essex before studying for a career in law. He now splits his time between Green issues and working for a leading criminal defence firm in London.

Alex Murray
BBC

Chris Ostrowski (Labour)Chris and his wife run a training company teaching English to people as a second language. He lives in St Albans, but both his children were born in Watford. Chris's grandfather, who was a Polish airman who fought in the Second World War, settled in England following the end of the conflict.

Chris Ostrowski
BBC

Ian Stotesbury (Lib Dem)Ian was born in Petts Wood, Bromley, and attended Ravenswood School before studying Physics and Astrophysics at the University of Birmingham. In his role as a systems engineer in the space industry, he works on the design of spacecraft and has been involved in the manufacture, test and launch of a number of spacecraft for both public and private customers.

Ian Stotesbury
BBC

General election: Watford decides

Andy Holmes

BBC Three Counties Radio political reporter

Watford is one of 22 seats in Beds, Herts and Bucks out of 24 that are currently blue, but both Labour and the Lib Dems in particular are after this one - it's number 48 on Tim Farron's list of targets.

In 2010, Richard Harrington won it for the Conservatives with a narrow majority of 1,425, and he increased his lead in 2015 to 9,794.

Before 2010, Labour's Claire Ward held the seat across three elections, but historically the Lib Dems have also done well finishing second in 2010 and 2005.

The Greens and UKIP are also standing this time.

General election: The Watford debate

Sarah Jenkins

BBC Local Live

Hello. This evening we're meeting the people (or those representing them) who want to become the MP for Watford at the general election on 8 June.

UKIP candidate Ian Green is not available so Gary Ling will be his representative.

They'll be debating key issues including immigration and housing.

Watford Palace Theatre
Google

You can listen to the debate live from the Watford Palace Theatre on BBC Three Counties Radio between 17:00 and 19:00.

We'll also be bringing you the main points here, so stay tuned!