Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Liberal Democrat candidate for Portsmouth South, gives his 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?
– Recognises non-binary identities
– Gives all trans people, including 16 – 17-year-olds, the right to self-determination, through a much simpler and more streamlined administrative process
– All public bodies should obey the law, if they don’t they should be asked why and if they then don’t comply prosecuted as would happen with any other law.
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?
The Conservatives have always wanted to freeze benefits and they have done this since 2015. Universal Credit might have been a good idea, but the evidence on the ground is that it does not work, so it should go. Raising the national minimum wage would help. Getting family members skilled up for work gives families the ability to get out of poverty in the long term.
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?
The Lib Dem led council is increasing services to people who sleep rough. We are building new council houses, and buying properties on the open market to give people somewhere to live and working with churches to provide extra homes, shelter and volunteer 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 NHS is really important to all our lives. The Lib Dems would put 1p on Income Tax to fund an extra £35 billion in health and social care spending. We know in Portsmouth that EU based doctors, nurses and other health professionals are leaving the UK because of Brexit. We have all relied on these people from Europe and now they feel so unwelcome in the UK they are choosing to leave and our health services will suffer. Mental health services need parity with physical health, something often promised, but never delivered.
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?
Schools need additional funding. The Lib Dems would find an extra £10 billion for schools and recruit and train an extra 20,000 teachers. There is a huge rise in children with special needs. Here, under my leadership of the council, we have built a new special school but this is not enough and we will need to see more investment over the next few years.