Antonia Harrison, Liberal Democrat candidate for Portsmouth North, gives her answers to the five questions recently submitted by S&C readers to all local candidates in the 2019 election.
We recently asked S&C readers and social media followers what one question you would ask all the candidates in Portsmouth North and South in the General Election. From the many – and diverse – answers we received, we selected five questions, which we sent to all the local candidates.
To choose the top 5, we took into account the number of times questions were asked on each topic, whether questions were suitable for all candidates (i.e. some related to individual candidates, or to either Portsmouth North or South), and whether we have seen the topic or question covered in other local reporting (e.g. we didn’t include a question on Brexit for this reason).
Q1: What amendments would you make to the Gender Recognition Act to advance the rights of trans and non-binary people in the UK, and what steps will you take to ensure all public bodies serving the area comply with the requirements of the Equality Act 2010 as they relate to single sex exemptions?
My daughter is transgender and I am incredibly proud of how she copes with prejudice and challenges.
Lib Dems are committed to ensuring that no-one faces discrimination, prejudice or disadvantage because of their sexuality or gender identity. We will undertake complete reform of the Gender Recognition Act to remove the requirement for medical reports, scrap the fee and recognise non-binary gender identities. We back the introduction of legal gender ‘X’ markers on documents, to permit non-binary and intersex people to gain legal recognition for the first time and extend equality cover to cover gender identity and expression. We will include a question on LGBT+ status within the 2021 Census.
Our emphasis on mental health importance includes research into the different mental health needs of communities within the UK such as BAME and LGBT+ people.
Finally, we shall complete the Lib Dem policy of equal marriage, by:
– Removing the spousal veto
– Allowing those marriages that were dissolved solely due to the Gender Recognition process to be retrospectively restored
– Enabling the Church of England and Church in Wales to conduct same-sex marriages.
Q2: The Institute for Fiscal Studies recently reported that the worst-off 10% of households have lost 7% of their income since 2019, rising to 18% among families with children. The highest earning 10% have seen their incomes fall by 4%. How will your party ensure that the social security system is fair and compassionate, and that the benefit system lifts families out of poverty – closing the vast disparity of income and wealth in our country?
We live in the fifth richest economy in the world yet one fifth of the population live in poverty, one and half million people are destitute. The Conservatives have made deeper cuts into welfare benefits since we left coalition where we put a brake on them doing their worst.
The Lib Dems will invest £6 billion per year to make the benefits system work for people who need it and reduce the wait for the first payment from five weeks to five days. We will remove the two-child limit and the benefits cap which has caused so much child poverty. We will reform Universal Credit to be more supportive of the self-employed who are the backbone of our economy. Local Housing allowance must be brought into line with local rents. We also aim to end fuel poverty by 2025 by providing free energy retrofits for low-income homes as part of our emergency programme to reduce energy consumption.
Q3: What will you do to help homeless people in Portsmouth, with particular regard to the housing shortage and cuts to services, e.g. for mental health, for trauma survivors, and for people suffering from problematic drug and alcohol use?
Nationally, our policy is to build at least 100,000 homes for social rent each year from our £130 billion capital infrastructure budget. We want to introduce a Rent To Own model for social housing and give private tenants security with tenancies of three years or more.
To end rough sleeping within five years, we will introduce a “somewhere safe to stay” legal duty of emergency accommodation and ensure local authorities have the financial resources to provide accommodation for survivors of domestic abuse. We commit to invest in more addiction services and support for drug users.
Locally, the Lib Dem led Council is building new council houses and buying properties as well as working with churches to provide homes, shelter and support.
Q4: Portsmouth residents have told us they are unable to book a GP appointment within 3 weeks, and are referred to a walk-in service, which one resident described as ‘a stressful experience in itself’. What is your plan to improve and protect the NHS? And how will you improve public health in the city, including with regard to mental health and obesity in the city?
The Lib Dems want to be honest with people. We cannot improve the NHS through tax cuts. We will put 1p in the Pound on Income Tax and ringfence that funding for the NHS and Social Care.
There is a shortage of doctors and nurses with vacancies at all levels yet leaving the EU will only make the situation worse as EU nationals choose to leave. Under the Conservatives, those who have been working here for years will now be charged to stay. We need to train more doctors and nurses which takes years and potential nurses are not attracted to train with low salaries, stressful working conditions and no bursary towards their degree training costs, axed by the Conservatives when we left coalition. We will reinstate the bursary for nurses struggling with the “most acute” shortages, ie mental health and learning disability.
The Lib Dems will ensure true parity of treatment for mental health with physical health. We will offer free prescriptions for people with chronic mental health conditions and support women’s mental health throughout pregnancy including miscarriage, stillbirth and tackle under diagnosis of postal-natal depression.
To combat obesity, our National Food Strategy will promote the production and consumption of healthy and affordable food and ensure readable labelling on all food products and menus of calorific information. We also guarantee at least an hour a day of free activities to every child eligible for free school meals, with a view to improving their health and wellbeing.
Q5: In terms of both policy and funding, how will you improve support to Portsmouth schools, including meeting the needs of vulnerable children with Special Educational Needs?
The Lib Dems will reverse cuts to school funding, employ an extra 20,000 teachers and scrap SATs relieving stress on primary school children and teachers. We will invest £1 billion a year in Children’s centres to support families and extend free school meals to all children in primary education. Children cannot learn when they are hungry. For children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities, we will allocate additional cash to local authorities to halve the amount that schools pay towards the cost of a child’s Education Health and Care Plan