GENERAL ELECTION: Spotlight on the NHS and immigration

Ballot box
Ballot box

The four candidates that have announced their intention to run in the Berwick constituency so far share their views on health and immigration.

With less than 100 days left until the General Election on Thursday, May 7, we commissioned a survey to find out what our readers thought about the election and the issues that matter to them. More than 100 Gazette readers responded and of this sample, 73 per cent said that health policy would have a major bearing on how they might vote and 58 per cent said immigration policy.

Nigel Coghill-Marshall (Ukip)

Your poll reflects the views of voters throughout the country in identifying the NHS and immigration as the issues causing most concern.

The NHS, founded in 1948, is unique. Its principles must remain so with the most important being that it remains free at point of delivery.

It must be funded adequately, and those funds must be directed appropriately and efficiently. Ukip will provide an additional £3billion for use by front-line clinicians, not for spending on more layers of management.

The A&E crisis throughout the country must be alleviated and Ukip will end the practice of funding new building projects through private funding; the cause of many of the constraints faced by the NHS. We will not charge for visits to see GPs.

Ukip as a party, and I as an individual, recognise the value and contribution of immigrants over the years.

However, we can only achieve future and continued social cohesion by controlling the numbers arriving and by ensuring through a points-based system that new arrivals will hold the skills needed by our economy.

Alongside a firm but fair policy, we will no longer grant amnesties to those here illegally. Ukip will uphold our nation’s proud tradition with regard to genuine refugees by observing the UN Convention on Refugees which is designed to protect the genuinely vulnerable.

Scott Dickinson (Labour)

I passionately believe in the NHS, it helped my family when we needed it and I am delighted to have played my part in securing a new state-of-the-art £25million hospital for Berwick-upon-Tweed. I want our doctors and nurses to help local residents, we have given them the facilities and if elected as your Member of Parliament, Labour will save and transform the NHS and pay for 36,000 more doctors, nurses and midwives. The Lib Dems and Conservatives have shown they don’t value our health service – Labour does.

Immigration isn’t a problem in Berwick, but it’s important that we have a conversation about it. We need to maintain a sensible approach and respond to concerns which are raised.

Labour will control immigration with fair rules. We will strengthen our borders, with proper entry and exit checks, and when people come here they won’t be able to claim benefits for at least two years. Fair rules means that entitlement to benefit needs to be earned, people should contribute before they claim.

The Tories made many promises in 2010 to tackle immigration – every promise broken. Labour’s approach to immigration has changed. When people worry about the impact that immigration has, Labour will always respond to those concerns.

That’s why there is a clear difference between Labour and the other parties – we put the NHS first and we will listen to local people.

Julie Pörksen (Liberal Democrat)

Providing quality, local healthcare, accessible to Northumberland’s residents, is one of my top priorities because we don’t have the choice of GPs, hospitals and other facilities people in built-up areas have.

We are fighting to improve ambulance cover and increase the range of local services.

The Liberal Democrats are committed to making our health service available to everyone, free of charge at the point of need. We will invest £8billion a year in the NHS by 2020.

We’ve already put an extra £400million into early support for mental-health needs because we believe mental health is as important as physical health.

I am concerned about the considerable threat the NHS in Northumberland would face if Conservative plans for regional pay were implemented, cutting the salaries of our nurses to fund pay rises elsewhere.

Currently no one knows who actually is in Britain as exit checks were stopped. Lib Dems want proper border checks on the way in and the way out so we can get a grip on the issue.

We need a sensible approach to immigration to reflect the need for skilled workers while ensuring we know who is coming and going.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan (Conservative)

I believe that Britain is one of the most tolerant places on earth. We have always been a country of immigration. We have welcomed those with skills and sheltered those in need, where neighbouring countries have persecuted.

However, it is a madness to open our borders without any constraint, management or consideration to the benefits being offered by those who arrive and the pressure on our finite resources in this small and densely-populated island we inhabit.

I would like us as a nation to adopt an Australian-style model of border control management for skilled foreign migrants and refugee arrivals. If we cannot set this in motion within our present EU framework, I would support leaving the EU.

On the NHS, I believe that we should maintain our free-at-point-of-delivery approach and find effective ways to educate people on how to access non-emergency medical care more effectively, both for the patients and so that the medical professionals can make best use of their time for us. The NHS, which is the fifth biggest employer in the world and will cost over £112billion to run this year, needs to be much more robust in tackling waste and inefficiency. This is about cutting out red tape, bureaucracy and layers of unnecessary management to protect the service and support a decent salary and working conditions for the nurses, doctors and those who operate on the front line.