Seven of the nine candidates fighting for the seat of Monmouthshire in the upcoming general election took their places at Monmouth Comprehensive School for a hustings on Thursday night.

The event was led by pupils Bella Chowns, head girl at Monmouth School for Girls and Sam North, head student at Monmouth Comprehensive School.

Bella Chowns, head girl at Monmouth School for Girls and Sam North, head student at Monmouth Comprehensive School.
Bella Chowns, head girl at Monmouth School for Girls and Sam North, head student at Monmouth Comprehensive School. (Des Pugh)

Welcomed by Hugo Hutchison, MCS head, candidates were given three minutes to introduce themselves and make opening statements.

Following the introductions, there was a question and answer session where the candidates were grilled on the subjects including the state of the River Wye and how the NHS can get fair funding asking “ isn’t the issue to have better allocation of funding rather than increasing funding?”

He had sat on a Wales Fair select Committee last summer and pointed out that the Welsh Government handed back money to the UK government as it was unspent.

The question was directed at Ioan Rhys Bellin, Plaid Cymru who agreed that the NHS had not been managed well by Labour but added that the HS2 project meant Wales missed out on £4b of money they should have had.

Green Party’s Ian Chandler explained the Barnett formula works on a population basis and said the UK money determined how much money Wales receives.

Ioan Rhys Bellin, Plaid Cymru and
Ian Chandler, Green Party
Ioan Rhys Bellin, Plaid Cymru and Ian Chandler, Green Party (Des Pugh)

Independent Owen Lewis said the money is there and needs to make sure it goes to the right places such as vulnerable people.

William Powell for the Welsh Lib Dems said the key issue to address with NHS funding was the “extraordinary level of wastage” that comes from agency nurses and doctors and we should be able to “grow our own”.

Catherine Fookes, Welsh Labour and
Owen Lewis, Independent
Catherine Ann Fookes, Welsh Labour and Owen Lewis, Independent (Des Pugh)

Catherine Fookes, Labour candidate said she said she agreed Wales needs more money and the best way to do that was to “grow our economy” which was Labour’s number one priority.

June Davies for the True and Fair party said it was no surprise tha Wales was the “poor relation" and said the Barnett formula was inadequate and “needs to change to a needs-based system” adding that Wales needs more control over tax-raising powers.

David Davies, Conservatives, said that Wales does get an extra 20 percent through the Barnett formula and is based on need and population, “for every £1 that England gets for schools and hospitals, Wales gets £1.20,” but said it begs the question “why do we wait longer for treatment in Wales”.

David TC Davies, Welsh Conservative and
June Davies, True & Fair Party
David TC Davies, Welsh Conservative and June Davies, True & Fair Party (Des Pugh)

A young student, Liberty, who is keen to be a motorcycle mechanic asked why she had to endure consistent “rape threats and cat-calling on the streets of Monmouth” when it’s dark or late and added that she felt the pay difference between men and women was unfair.

Liberty felt that education is the key.

Other questioners asked how can the country override the present apathy towards politicians?

A question on the funding crisis for schools and teachers’ recruitment brought answers ranging from smaller class sizes, more money needs to be made available and an idea to review the bursary scheme to attract applicants.

The final question was from Andrew Tuggey who asked how the parties would meet the challenges of Illegal immigration; some of the answers brought forth the first reaction from the audience?

William Powell (WLD) said the system was clearly broken and his party would allocate resources to deal effectively to solve the problem adding the “Rwanda was an absurd attention-seeking distraction saying we need a new “joined-up” arrangement with our former EU counterparts.

He drew applause when he said: “We must not demonise migrant workers, the NHS would be on its knees without them”.

William Denston Powell, Welsh Liberal Democrats
(Des Pugh)

Independent Owen Lewis admitted he was not as knowledgeable on this as others but said the migrants were coming here to work and we have to “work with what we have and make sure they are supported”.

Ian Chandler (Green) said the country needs immigration “Things like Brexit, the anti-immigration policies have caused great damage to our country”.

“If you see an im,migrant in a hospital, they are not going to be taking your place, they are likely to be treating you”, adding that we need clear simple safe routes for asylum seekers and need to rejoin the EU.

David Davies said that the question was about the 50,000 that had come here illegally on small boats, “the vast majority are young men between 18-25 coming from countries where the average wage is very small and are coming for financial reasons.

“They are coming for a better way of life and can’t say I blame them but the UK will not be able to cope with the many millions of people, especially if we open up the routes”.

Catherine Fookes for Labour said she agreed with the others that the country need immigration and praised the welcome from residents: “Monmouthshire is one of the kindest people I know, the welcome you gave to Ukranians and we have Syrian families in Abergavenny and that’s an incredible thing”.

She added that illegal immigration is a tiny proportion of the overall number of people coming here “but the Rwanda scheme is an absolute gimmick”.

Ioan Rhys Bellin said it comes down to a “fairness”, and criticised the UK government for failing to find safe routes and to process the claims quickly.

He also criticised the Labour policy saying they would boost public services but questioned how they would pay for all the extra people.

June Davies said we need to provide safe routes “and acknowledge refugees are fleeing war-torn areas, the current Rwanda scheme is a stunt “and inhuman, we need to bring compassion to the people fleeing different parts of the world.

“The numbers are nothing to the way the government has mismanaged who is in the country,  who are not being processed and how they are being housed”.

“We have not got enough labour force in the UK and we should be embracing it” adding that 20 percent are coming to the universities and contributing to the economy.”

Simon Dorman, Haberdashers’ Headmaster thanked the candidates, everyone for attending and MCS for hosting the event.

Simon Dorman brings the evening to a close
(Des Pugh)

Ballot slips were handed out and the audience voted for the candidate they felt came out the best.

The audience had the chance to vote for their favourite candidate
(Des Pugh)