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  1. Updates from the North East and Cumbria election debate

Live Reporting

All times stated are UK

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Our coverage of the North East and Cumbria election debate

Richard Moss

Political Editor, BBC Look North

And that concludes our updates from thee general election debate here in the North East and Cumbria. Thank you for joining us.

The election will be held on 8 June.

The audience leaves

For more information on all the candidates and constituencies visit the BBC website.

You can watch this debate again on the BBC iPlayer.

Contributions to the debate on Twitter

People joined the debate on Twitter as the North East and Cumbria debate was broadcast tonight.

Here are some of the comments:

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Wharton: 'Big opportunity for Cumbria'

Conservative James Wharton said Moorside is a "big opportunity for Cumbria" but that the "figures have to stack up".

He said: "Nuclear has to be part of our energy mix. Nuclear has a key role in diversifying our electricty generetaion.

"It has to stack up though. Despite what some others might tell you, the magic money tree is not in full bloom."

Hall: 'Only energy source to get dearer'

Fiona Hall of the Liberal Democrats said nuclear power is "the only source of energy that's got dearer over the years".

Instead of building a power plant at Moorside she said it should be made "a centre of excellence for decommissioning" nuclear facilities.

Mills: 'Government should underwrite Moorside'

Fiona Mills of UKIP said the government should underwrite Toshiba's "£6bn" investment in Moorside to ensure it happens.

She said: "UKIP support nuclear industry as part of diverse mix in energy."

McDonald: 'Nuclear is part of energy mix'

Labour's Andy McDonald said nuclear power is "part of the energy mix".

He said: "Moorside should be given the support. What we've got to do is demonstrate our commitment to make sure that is successful, some of the major problems in that part of the world are transport infrastructure."

Ford: 'Nuclear is not the right solution'

Shirley Ford of the Green Party said she would invest nothing in nuclear power because it is "not the right solution".

She said: "It is far too high in cost and that will fall on consumers and hard-pressed businesses. It is very low in jobs compared to other things we would invest in, such as renewable energy, insulating homes and public transport."

Question: 'How would you boost nuclear power?'

The fifth question comes from Ryan Armstrong from West Cumbria and is about the area's nuclear industry.

He asked: “If your party gets into Government, what funding will you provide for the building of a new nuclear plant at Moorside – both for the creation of badly needed jobs in Cumbria and also for the nation’s long-term energy strategy?”

Power plant

'Magic money tree in bloom'

Another man in the audience, the owner of a small business, questioned the candidates over proposed increases in the national minimum wage.

He said some of the proposals would see his wage bill increase by £125,000 in two years.

Labour's Andy McDonald said previous predictions of havoc caused by the introduction of a minimum wage failed to materialise and his party would lower the rate of corporation tax for businesses making less than £300,000 to support small businesses.

He also said he supported adult education, adding: "It's critical those people going into adult education are not burdened by fees. Education is a gift and it should be lifelong."

Conservative James Wharton said: "We've had too many responses tonight where the magic money tree has been in full bloom. We need a realistic sensible plan based on a sound economy."

'The squeaky wheel gets the oil'

Shirley Ford of the Green Party also said devolving powers and redistributing the nation's wealth are important.

A man in the audience said he would be supporting the North East party, adding: "Our neighbours in Scotland get a fantastic deal and part of that is because of devolution but also because they have an independent voice for their nation. The squeaky wheel gets the oil."

An 18-year-old woman in the audience said it was "ironic" those discussing the issues affecting young people aged between 11 and 18 are not in that age band. She said children and students have already seen A-Levels and GCSEs "completely changed" and asked the candidates how they would listen to young people.

UKIP's Fiona Mills said she has already spoken to young people. She also said UKIP would raise the personal allowance to £13,500 and abolish VAT on fuel bills so people can "keep their money".

McDonald: 'Need quality employment'

Andy McDonald said zero-hour contracts need to be tackled.

He said: "It's got to be employment that is a value to people, not part time or zero hours working where people are sitting with their mobile phones wondering how much work they will get this week. People cannot plan for their futures."

He also said there needs to be more investment in transport infrastructure.

Wharton: 'Let people aspire'

Conservative James Wharton also said powers should be devolved, adding: "We have started doing that."

He said: "You've got to give people the opportunity to lift themselves up and aspire. It goes to the heart of education, about providing people with the tools."

Hall: 'Devolve powers to local areas'

Fiona Hall of the Liberal Democrats said more power should be devolved to regions and local areas.

She said: "It's about accountability. It means you can eyeball your local councillor in a way you can't the government.

"What's the point of the elections on 4 May (the local council elections) if those people elected can't achieve anything."

Question: 'How will you bring equality?'

The fourth question comes from David Tomlinson from Shildon and concerns poverty.

He said: “The North East and Cumbria is one of the poorest parts of the country.

"How will the parties govern differently to ensure fairness and equality in the future?”


Hall: 'Grammar schools debate is distraction'

Fiona Hall of the Liberal Democrats said the debate over grammar schools "is just a distraction".

She said: "The real problem is schools are losing money and teachers.

"What is really lacking is the basic funding going into schools so our kids on a day by day basis can get the standard of education they need."

McDonald: 'Grammar schools do not improve social mobility'

Labour's Andy McDonald rejected UKIP's claim that grammar schools improve social mobility.

He said: "The thinking that this improves social mobility denies the history of the last 50 years, to put a child through an exam at 11 and slap a failure on their head is unacceptable.

"The Conservatives want to invest in the minority of people and let the rest go up the wall.

"We want the talents of everybody in the country uplifted."

Wharton: 'Grammar schools are part of the package'

Conservative James Wharton said he supported grammar schools where people wanted them.

He said: "We need a mix of provision. Grammar schools have a lot to offer, they are not the complete answer but they are part of the package.

"In those areas that want a new grammar school, they should have the freedom to set them up."

Ford: 'All schools should be properly funded'

The Green Party's Shirley Ford said putting children "through a test at 11 which will decide where their future lies is unacceptable".

She said: "All schools need to be funded properly."

Mills: 'Grammar school aids social mobility'

UKIP's Fiona Mills said she supports grammar schools as they "aid social mobility".

She also said there should be other schools, such as technical colleges and vocational courses, as "we want every child to excel and we recognise that everyone is different".

She said: "Not everyone needs to go to university."

Question: 'What are your thoughts on grammar schools?'

Our third question comes from Judy Cowgill, the headteacher of Hawthorn Primary School in Scotswood, Newcastle.

She said: “Most of the parties now seem to agree that there is a crisis looming with regards to the funding of schools.

"But do the candidates think re-introducing grammar schools – alongside free schools and academies – will make things better or worse for the majority of pupils in our region?”

School gates

Hall: 'Pay medical staff more'

Liberal Democrat Fiona Hall said staff pay must also be raised.

She said: "It is unfair the number of nurses who are really struggling to make ends meet."

She also said mental health care is "grossly underfunded".

Fiona Mills of UKIP agreed and said she would want to see more funding for both mental health care and dementia services.

She added: "We need to look at the organisation of the NHS, we need to take out non-value added activity."

NHS faces 'infinite demand and finite supply'

It is time for the audience to have their say again.

One man whose wife works at Newcastle's Royal Victoria Infirmary treating children with cancer said: "I gather we spend about 8.9% of our GPD (gross domestic product) on the NHS and its well into the double figures in comparable countries like France and Germany."

Another man said: "We have infinite demand and finite supply. The more people think they can use it willy-nilly the bigger the problem will be."


A woman agreed and said: "It's more than time there was some system to make sure people attending A&E actually need it. You don't go with a graze, or because your child won't stop crying."

Conservative James Wharton said: "If you want to continue having an NHS you have to have a strong economy to underpin that."

But Labour's Andy McDonald said: "If people cannot get access to services in a more appropriate way sadly that overloads the A&E system. To think that (people unnecessarily attending A&E) is responsible for the cuts impacting so viciously on the NHS is to overstate the case very considerably."

Ford: 'Funding cuts are driving NHS problems'

Shirley Ford of the Green Party said the number of people dying due to health and social care funding cuts "is a scandal".

She said: "The cuts are what are driving this, it might be dressed up in fine words about configuration. There is a huge number of beds being closed down.

"We find the money from things we don't need to spend money on like Trident."

Mills: 'We need more doctors and nurses'

UKIP's Fiona Mills said patients should be treated closer to home "in the correct location".

She added: "We haven't got enough doctors and nurses because previous administrations didn't train enough."

McDonald: Conservatives' 'configuration' is 'smokescreen'

Labour's Andy McDonald said James Wharton's "talk of configuration" is a "smokescreen".

He said: "This is not the country most people want to see. We want to see investment so people can see that timely intervention and care.

"It's not about the veracity of the configuration, it's about the money available to local services.

"If you've got a ward where you need 17 staff and it's running on seven it tells you everything you need to know about the crisis."

Hall: Conservatives using 'measly words'

Liberal Democrat Fiona Hall accused the Conservative party of using "measly words" with regards the NHS.

She said: "What it comes down to in the small print is it is about cost. The real problem is the money is not there, we need to put at least an extra £6bn a year."

Wharton: 'We must follow doctors' advice'

Conservative James Wharton said there are "two important issues" facing the NHS.

He said: "One is funding for the NHS, we can't deny there are more people needing care and better and more advanced treatment requires more money.

"There is then the debate about the right configuration of services. It is right the people who work in hospitals look at the services.

"The reality is we need to trust medical experts, there are proposals to look at concentrating services into centres of excellence but they are not definitely going to happen."

Question: 'How will you keep NHS local?'

The next question comes from Katie Scott who has concerns about Rothbury Community Hospital.

She said: "Our new 12-bed ward was closed in September like other community hospitals up and down the country.

"Why do you think community hospitals are under attack?"


Hall: 'Why we need a second EU referendum'

Fiona Hall of the Liberal Democrats was asked if her party's desire for a second referendum was making them less appealing to people.

She said: "We are saying what we voted on last June was do we stay or leave, we didn't vote on what sort of exit that would be. There were many falsehoods said, its only now people are beginning to realise the impact.

"It makes me weep because so many people put so much effort into getting companies like Nissan into the North East and now we are throwing it out. You can dream of getting a deal straight away but every country in the EU has to agree, it will take 10 years if you are lucky."

James Wharton said he believed "we will be successful after Brexit no matter what deal we get", adding: "No deal is better than a bad deal, you have to be willing to walk away."

Shirley Ford of the Green Party said: "We are leaving but the people should have a say."

'EU tariffs would be disaster for Sunderland'

A man in the audience said he believed Nissan's plant at Washington, one of the region's largest employers, would not be safe after Brexit due to potential EU tariffs and delays in importing through UK customs.

He said: "Tariffs would be a disaster for Sunderland as would delays through customs."

UKIP's Fiona Mills said Nissan's continued investment in the region "speaks volumes".

She said it was necessary to offer the company any guarantees or security promises because "we will get free trade".

Andy McDonald said: "If tariffs are introduced that would scupper Nissan's European operation. Their goods are made from component parts from across the EU, if we don't have that frictionless process through the customs system we will be in real trouble."

'Why call the election now?'

It is time for the audience to have their say and Pat Chambers raises her hand.

She asked the Conservative candidate James Wharton why his party called the election now, adding: "I think you win whichever way because Labour would be damned if they won because they would be left picking up the pieces."

Mr Wharton replied: "The reason is because there are MPs in parliament who do not accept the result and want to frustrate it.

"This is the crucial thing this country faces, we need a good negotiating team, I think Theresa May is the best person to do that."

Ford: 'Protect good EU things'

Shirley Hall of the Green Party said the "good things" offered by EU membership "must be protected" but they would not be if the Conservatives are negotiating the Brexit deal.

She said: "We have to have a different kind of Brexit to bring and build strong local industries here.

"It should be fair-trade and opportunities for skills."

Wharton: 'We must respect EU result and get best deal'

Conservative candidate James Wharton said the Brexit referendum result "must be respected" and the country needs to get the "best possible deal".

He said: "I think Brexit is the single most important thing this country faces for a generation.

"For the North East, whomever is in government, we need to have a strong voice in that government to make sure the things that matter to us are represented.

"The automative industry is a good example of an issue that matters a lot to this region, we have to make sure it matters to this country."

The panel

Hall: 'North needs single market'

Fiona Hall of the Liberal Democrats said the North East and Cumbria "desperately needs the single market".

She said: "We have an awful lot of small businesses who work in intercontinental Europe and they are going to be barred from doing so.

"The most crucial thing for the economy is to stay in the single market."

Ms Hall said ideally the UK would not leave the EU and said staying in "would be part" of a second referendum on EU membership being proposed by her party.

Mills: 'We will get free trade agreement'

UKIP's Fiona Mills said she did not think Brexit would be "an issue at all".

She said she did not believe the EU would introduce tariffs on UK companies looking to export to Europe.

She added: "We will probably get a free-trade agreement. I'm convinced we will be better off outside the EU."

McDonald: 'We must protect exporting record'

Labour's Andy McDonald is the first to answer and he said it is "essential" the North East's record of exporting is protected.

He cited the example of Nissan and the automative industry as well as the supply chain of North East companies who do business with the car-makers.

Mr McDonald said: "It's key that we have unfettered and untariffed access to the European market.

"We must also retain the skills we have from people who have come from other countries. It is essential we say we want you here."

Question: 'How will you limit Brexit North/South divide?'

The first question comes from Katie Davison, 26, from Durham.

She wants to know: “How will the parties ensure that Britain leaving the EU will not create more of a North/South divide?”

Angel of the north/Tower Bridge

Who are the panel?

James Wharton of the Conservatives is standing for re-election in Stockton South, a seat he has held since 2010.

Labour's Andy McDonald is up for Middlesbrough again, the constituency he has represented since 2012.

James Wharton and Andy McDonald

Fiona Hall from the Liberal Democrats is a former MEP for the North East and is standing to become MP for Hexham.

The Green Party's Shirley Ford is vying to become MP for South Shields.

And UKIP's Fiona Mills is standing in Carlisle.

For a full list of candidates in each area click the links.

Fiona Hall,  Shirley Ford and Fiona Mills

Facebook Live: Candidates talk about plans for tuition fees

Richard Moss

Political Editor, BBC Look North

Before the main event of tonight's election debate we filmed a smaller discussion live on Facebook with the candidates on the subject of tuition fees.

You can watch it here:

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