'Question Time' with David Drew MP in Nailsworth - from the arms trade to school funding, work-life balance and Brexit
From the arms trade to education funding, work-life balance and Brexit, David Drew MP led a thoughtful and wide-ranging discussion in Nailsworth on Saturday 6 October.
Churches Together in Nailsworth invited David Drew, Labour MP for the Stroud constituency, to join them for a ‘Question Time’-style event at Christ Church in the town.
Around 70 people joined David for the Saturday-morning event, where he answered questions on a wide range of international, national and local issues.
Key topics included the need to address in-work poverty, the strain on families and mental-health issues in young people.
He also spoke about the need to tackle climate change and environmental issues, including air pollution.
There were questions on Brexit as well as the arms trade and agriculture.
Speaking on climate change, David, said:
“We have to have a mechanism that helps us to move away from fossil fuels. That does involve sacrifices and we can’t have something for nothing. But wind and solar power is a way forward.”
He also spoke about the need for cleaner air:
“Air-quality levels are unacceptable and in some areas life expectancy has been cut by ten or fifteen years. People will die because they live in the wrong area.”
On the arms trade he said:
“We can control the supply of arms. Our arms trade determines where wars happen. There should be a complete embargo on arms sales to Saudi Arabia. We desperately need to bring peace to that part of the world.”
David was asked about the benefits of the Severn Barrage project.
“I’m not supportive of the Severn Barrage scheme but I am supportive of smaller schemes like underwater turbines. I am in favour of smaller technologies which bring benefits to local communities.”
He answered questions about a second EU referendum:
“The first referendum was a very narrow vote, I worry about a second vote as we are such a divided country. The misbehaviour which we saw during the referendum in 2016 will be worse a second time around… Referendums have never done anything other than divide people further. There's a real problem in 'going to the county' because your political party is split, because you end up splitting the country, so yes, I do blame Cameron."
On Brexit and agriculture, he said that uncertainty was a major issue for farmers and environmental organisations.
“We know nothing about pesticide, organic regulations and more. The real worry is there are those in the Conservatives who see the answer in deals with US and Australia. That will wipe out British agriculture.”
Mr Drew said he was worried about education funding and erosion of public services:
“We have a lot of schools in difficult circumstances and we have to raise that money by having a fairer tax system and having a proper debate about the way we fund our services.
“We’ve had a long period of austerity and we are seeing the effects across public services, such as police cuts, and we are seeing problems in Stroud because of the dramatic cut in police officers.
“We see issues in child protection and children’s services, which both received bad inspection reports in recent years, so children are going unprotected.”
“I'm very worried about children's mental health. If we had proper investment in the early years, maybe we wouldn't have such serious issues."
Homelessness and the benefits system were also areas of concern raised by the audience. David said:
“We are seeing people who are homeless are being given emergency accommodation further afield.
“This is not a high wage area and high private rent means it’s beyond the means of many people who are in work, let alone those who are homeless.
“Universal Credit has been a monumental disaster, as have been PIP (personal independence payments) and we haven’t even got the full roll out here yet. We now have a ‘sanctions culture’ yet people with genuine issues get themselves in to difficulties, which is why we have a welfare state.”
David also spoke about work-life balance and the impact of low wages.
“Our work-life balance is wrong for so many people now. I meet people in two jobs working 14 hours a day. We can’t allow people to be ground down by work patterns. We have a real issue with the ‘working poor’. There are lots of jobs – but lots of badly paid jobs and zero-hours contracts.”
He also called for reform of our electoral system:
"I'm an electoral reformer. I think people should vote for what they want to believe in, not for what they want to stop."
David thanked the Churches Together in Nailsworth for organising the event and said that he would welcome similar invitations from other community groups.