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)
- Copyright: BBC
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.Copyright: BBC
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".Copyright: Thinkstock
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."Copyright: BBC
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."Copyright: BBC
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.Copyright: BBC
"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.Copyright: BBC
"[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.Copyright: BBC
"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.Copyright: BBC
"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."Copyright: BBC
- Copyright: BBC
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."