Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Eastleigh by-election candidates answer constituents' questions

Polling station sign
Image caption The by-election in Eastleigh, prompted by Lib Dem MP Chris Huhne's resignation, is on Thursday

A by-election is being held in Eastleigh this Thursday, after the resignation of Lib Dem MP Chris Huhne.

Mr Huhne stepped down shortly after pleading guilty to perverting the course of justice over claims his ex-wife Vicky Pryce took speeding points for him a decade ago.

Fourteen candidates are standing in the by-election and a number of high-profile politicians have visited the constituency to canvass for votes.

The BBC asked Eastleigh voters to pose questions to the candidates ahead of this week's poll.

Questions were asked on help for small businesses, the so-called bedroom tax and positive reasons why voters should back each candidate.

Here are their answers. The candidates are listed in alphabetical order.

Gillian Jeffery, from Hamble, asked: "I am a member of the Federation of Small Businesses. Small businesses make up a large percentage of commerce in this borough. What would you do to help small businesses around here?"

COLIN BEX - Wessex Regionalists: "I would reduce the red tape and costs imposed on all small business by Westminster. In the longer term I would work to recast the financial system to provide grants and low interest rate loans over longer periods for repayment."

DAVID BISHOP - Elvis Loves Pets Party: "Regarding small businesses I'd scrap the car park charges."

Image caption From left: Colin Bex, David Bishop and Jim Duggan

JIM DUGGAN - Peace Party: "The Peace Party supports small businesses and would negotiate a reduction in business rates. We would ensure that the banks are required to invest in fiscally-viable small businesses and to offer services to start-up businesses."

RAY HALL - Beer, Baccy and Crumpet Party: "I would reduce business rate taxes. They are astronomical. There should also be improved parking. A lot of small shops are restricted by the number of cars that can park nearby."

HOWLING LAUD HOPE - Monster Raving Loony William Hill Party: "I would introduce a supermarket tax. Supermarkets seem not to be paying as much tax as they should."

MARIA HUTCHINGS - Conservative: "As a local businesswoman who supports aspiration and knows what needs to be done to help create wealth and jobs, I will bang the drum locally for investment into Eastleigh. But I will also help keep interest rates low for small businesses by supporting David Cameron's clear plan to deal with Labour's deficit."

DIANE JAMES - UK Independence Party: "According to independent research, EU regulation costs us over £20bn a year. It's vital we free small businesses from the stranglehold of employment regulation. UKIP would also abolish employers NI which is a tax on jobs and abolish VAT which is a regulatory burden on small businesses in particular and turns them into tax collectors for the government and EU."

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Media captionThe ladder of politics: To vote or not to vote

DR IAIN MACLENNAN - National Health Action Party: "I would press for measures to address the competitive disadvantage borne by small businesses compared to big corporations on taxation. Making sure big businesses (like Starbucks) pay a fair rate of tax the same as their smaller competitors would be assisted by resisting further cuts in HMRC staff."

KEVIN MILBURN - Christian Party "Proclaiming Christ's Lordship": "Exempt businesses with less than 10 employees from EU regulations. A National Insurance holiday. Immediate review of rates. Abolish them for businesses with rateable value less than £12,000, or on struggling high streets. Freeze the multiplier factor for two years. Consider phasing out and replacing rates with a profit tax system. Introduce a 20% single rate corporate tax."

JOHN O'FARRELL - Labour: "I'd back Labour's measures to support Eastleigh's small businesses, including a temporary VAT cut to kick-start the recovery and a British investment bank to help small businesses get access to the finance they need. And I'd help those small businesses in Eastleigh looking to grow through a one-year National Insurance holiday for firms which take on extra workers."

DARREN PROCTER - Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition: "Small businesses are struggling due to the cut culture and looming prospect of triple-hit recession. Big business is financially protected by those in power with cuts in corporation tax and tax evasion whilst small businesses struggle. We would be looking to support local business through fighting for jobs, which in turn would improve spending in the local economy."

Image caption From left: Maria Hutchings, Ray Hall and Howling Laud Hope

DANNY STUPPLE - Independent: "I have run a business here for more than 20 years. I know what it takes to protect jobs and opportunities through times of recession. Access to communications technologies, effective transport links, opportunities for young people to access the workplace and greater investment can help. Unlike party politicians, I can take local issues and place them on the national stage."

MIKE THORNTON - Liberal Democrats: "Locally, Lib Dems are providing access to affordable premises for new businesses. We also have a quick and accessible planning service and are training more apprentices so businesses have the skilled workforce they need. If elected I'd work closely with Vince Cable on improving access to finance, which is one of the biggest issues facing small businesses."

MICHAEL WALTERS - The English Democrats - "Putting England First!": "We had a notification that 95% of small businesses think that business rates are too high. I cannot fix this but I would, if elected, bend a few ears on the subject. There is a lobby to freeze rates."

Under the so-called "bedroom tax", families on housing benefit deemed to have too much space will lose some of that benefit. Ania Waterman, from Eastleigh, asked: "What would you do about the bedroom tax?"

COLIN BEX - Wessex Regionalists: "I would revoke the bedroom tax and limit council tax to variable amounts fixed to an affordable percentage based on ability to pay."

DAVID BISHOP - Elvis Loves Pets Party: "I'd scrap bedroom tax because I think it's unfair."

JIM DUGGAN - Peace Party: "We would oppose the bedroom tax but we fully support the development of under-used urban land for affordable housing together with the implementation of an urgent, major, home-building programme."

Image caption From left: Diane James, Dr Iain Maclennan and Kevin Milburn

RAY HALL - Beer, Baccy and Crumpet Party: "Each case should be looked at. I'm sure some households that have a spare bedroom do need it but I would say if somebody has a house with one person in with two bedrooms it would be more sensible from the local authority's point of view if they had a one-bedroom place."

HOWLING LAUD HOPE - Monster Raving Loony William Hill Party: "This is like going back to the pre-Victorian window tax. People used to block their windows to avoid the tax. If people have two bedrooms and they block one up will they still qualify for the tax? If older people have lived in a house and they want people to visit them, why shouldn't they have a spare bedroom?"

MARIA HUTCHINGS - Conservative: "Labour are wrong to describe this as a tax. There are nearly a million spare rooms currently being paid for by the taxpayer. Most hard-working families make decisions about what sort of property they can afford to live in and they should not be paying for what is effectively a benefit subsidy for empty rooms."

DIANE JAMES - UK Independence Party: "The bedroom tax is another example of a badly thought out policy which hits the most vulnerable in society the most. It is unacceptable that disabled and elderly people are being told they need to move out of their adapted homes into smaller properties without the necessary facilities. UKIP opposes this policy and would prioritise British people on housing lists."

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Media captionA housing decision in the constituency has become a hot topic between the main parties

DR IAIN MACLENNAN - National Health Action Party: "I would scrap the idea of a bedroom tax. Where there are insufficient one and two-bedroom properties for people to downsize into, the bedroom tax simply drives less well-off families - many of them hard-working people on low incomes - deeper into poverty. We must build more truly affordable properties, control private rents and stop lining the pockets of private landlords."

KEVIN MILBURN - Christian Party "Proclaiming Christ's Lordship": "The bedroom tax is a crude way of assessing social housing benefit and it is under review by the welfare secretary. We agree that tenants should be allowed to offer creative solutions but future council contracts with tenants need a phased approach to account for tenants' changing circumstances, including the right to relocate tenants to more suitable properties."

JOHN O'FARRELL - Labour: "The bedroom tax is an unworkable and unfair policy. It hits disabled people and those with family members serving in our armed forces. Why is it fair for these people to be hit while millionaires are given a tax cut this April? If elected I'd do all I could to make the government think again on this disastrous policy."

DARREN PROCTER - Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition: "Scrap it. I have been campaigning nationally about this outrageous attack on our community and family life. Until such time as the one million-plus builders are taken off the dole to build required housing to suit our needs this should not be discussed but the £120bn in tax evasion should, which could fund the shortage in housing."

Image caption From left: Darren Procter, Danny Stupple and John O'Farrell

DANNY STUPPLE - Independent: "The proposed welfare reforms are necessary to make the best of the social housing stock we have - but not at the expense of individual families and households. There must always be exceptions, based on a form of a 'care provision index'. The most vulnerable must not be harmed by the system that is there to protect them."

MIKE THORNTON - Liberal Democrats: "We need to build more social housing but also deal with the fact there are almost half a million under-occupied houses while we have 1.8 million people on the housing list and many more in overcrowded conditions. I'm clear though that we need transitional arrangements and protections in place, especially for the disabled and those with family in the armed forces."

MICHAEL WALTERS - The English Democrats - "Putting England First!": "Bedroom tax is, in my mind, just another crafty way to cut benefits to those in need of decent housing. Anyone who says they can stop it is untruthful. Something to complain about."

Edward Reach, from Netley Abbey, said: "I've seen a lot of negative campaigning, which is one of the things that disengages people from politics. What are your core values and the positive reasons why I should vote for you?"

COLIN BEX - Wessex Regionalists: "Wessex Regionalists are campaigning for bottom-up, proportionally representative local government with sovereign power vested in the parish councils, county councils accountable to the parishes, and a Wessex regional assembly accountable to both. This would replace top-down diktat from Westminster and Brussels and would unite the currently divided British kingdom by unity through diversity."

DAVID BISHOP - Elvis Loves Pets Party: "Core values include getting vets fees down, banning air guns and having a Benny Hill statue in Eastleigh."

JIM DUGGAN - Peace Party: "We agree that negativity can cause disengagement in politics and we therefore aim to bring a positive message of peace into the arena. Our core values are, in a nutshell, peace, justice, sustainable environmental policies and most importantly treating others as we wish them to treat us - with love and compassion."

Image caption Michael Walters (left) and Mike Thornton

RAY HALL - Beer, Baccy and Crumpet Party: "I am particularly concerned about the closure of public houses. If there is a reduction in excise duty on draught beer, the ordinary working guy can enjoy his beer, the barman can keep his job, the publican can keep his business and the government can keep the duty from all the other drinks. It's a win win win win."

HOWLING LAUD HOPE - Monster Raving Loony William Hill Party: "Vote for us because we have seen it all before, heard it all before and we still don't believe it. Don't vote for the Tories, Labour of the Liberals - vote for the really loony party this time. Vote for insanity; you know it makes sense."

MARIA HUTCHINGS - Conservative: "I would be a strong local champion for the people of Eastleigh. But a vote for me would also be a vote for David Cameron's clear plan to fix Britain by cutting taxes on hard-working families, making our welfare system fairer, controlling immigration and standing up for Britain in Europe."

DIANE JAMES - UK Independence Party: "A vote for UKIP is a vote for a positive vision for Britain. It's a vote for self government, a vote for real power being given to residents of local areas and a vote against uncontrolled immigration which is having a severe effect on local communities in housing, schools, housing and transport. It's a vote for putting British people first."

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Media captionIt is not the first time an Eastleigh by-election has been the centre of national attention

DR IAIN MACLENNAN - National Health Action Party: "My core values are openness, honesty, integrity and rebuilding true democracy. I would vote in Parliament according to my conscience and the wishes of constituents insofar as they are the interests of the whole community. I have worked as a doctor for more than 30 years. I am used to listening to people's problems and acting as their trusted advocate."

KEVIN MILBURN - Christian Party "Proclaiming Christ's Lordship": "The Christian Party does not campaign negatively; it offers an ear and a voice for the people. It stands for sound moral values; strong families; healthy children; individual freedom within the law; educational and training opportunities; self-sufficiency in energy supplies; buoyant economy; safe environment; strong national defence; referendum on Europe and a United Kingdom."

JOHN O'FARRELL - Labour: "I've met hundreds of residents who are finding things tough, with living standards squeezed and prices rising. I've set out a positive alternative to the Tories and Lib Dems, for example reinstating the 10p tax rate and campaigning for investment in the road and bridge to open up the River Side site north of the airport for thousands of jobs."

DARREN PROCTER - Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition: "I too have felt disengaged and that is why the working class of Eastleigh should vote for a worker on a workers wage, rather than a career politician jumping on the gravy train. Working class values need to be reinstated with people who understand the needs of the community. I am that person to fight cuts and sleaze."

DANNY STUPPLE - Independent: "Working as a dispute-resolution expert in the construction industry for 28 years has given me the understanding and skills to help resolve the major issues we have surrounding new housing in our borough. I hope that my years of commitment to this area show who I am and what I can offer in education, community work and in supporting family life."

MIKE THORNTON - Liberal Democrats: "I believe in creating a stronger economy and a fairer society so everyone can get on in life. I've lived in the area for 20 years and a vote for me would be a vote for a hard-working local MP who will protect green spaces, deliver tax cuts for ordinary workers and bring jobs and investment to the area."

MICHAEL WALTERS - The English Democrats - "Putting England First!": "My core values are based on my Christian faith and a liberal background. My attitude is let's solve problems not create them and tell the truth even if it hurts."

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