Andrew’s views on key issues

Return the railways to public hands

The Green Party don’t have rich donors, trade unions, or large corporations to give them financial support like the other main parties. The Green Party also does not get the media coverage of other parties, nor does it have national newspapers giving their backing. So it is difficult to share our position on key issues, other than a few party election broadcasts, and the freepost leaflet that goes out to homes across the constituency has little space to go into Green policies in detail. Therefore Andrew sets out below his thoughts and positions on key issues that will shape how people vote on 8th June.

The Environment

Our environment is a key issue that is largely ignored or given lip-service by other political parties. If we do not tackle the environmental crisis we with be left with a planet that cannot support human life and all other issues like the economy, healthcare, education and so on will be completely irrelevant. The environment is at the heart of all Green Party’s policies. We believe we can make people’s lives better while also creating a planet that future generations can live on.

I support the Green Party’s policies to prioritise urgent measures to tackle climate change, replacing fracking, coal power and subsidies to fossil fuels, with investment in jobs rich renewable energy technology. We will invest in warm homes for all, with a nationwide insulation programme, and in a Green Industrial Strategy to build resilient national and local economies. A new Environmental Protection Act will safeguard and enhance everybody’s right to a safe environment as currently guaranteed through our membership of the EU. We will introduce a new Clean Air act, expanding the mandatory clean air zone network and protect the Green Belt, National Parks, SSSIs and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The NHS

The NHS is in crisis. It’s creation was one of the most incredible and and amazing things this country has ever achieved. The use of PFI (Private Finance Initiatives) schemes where private companies have built hospitals and lease them back to the NHS at greatly inflated cost have been poor value and mean many trusts are struggling with debts they cannot cope with. On top of that the Conservative government have cut funding to the NHS and attacked the contracts of key staff like junior doctors. But the greatest worry is privatisation.

Now nearly all of the clinical work that the NHS provides has been opened up to the for-profit sector. At present the NHS is still the dominant provider and for the most part care is still free of charges. However the private sector is quickly expanding its role, especially following the Conservative- Liberal Democrat coaltion government’s Health and Social Care Act in 2012.   In areas of many care, the NHS is having to compete for patients and funding in a new market-focussed health service, up against competitors like Virgin Healthcare and Care UK. There are US healthcare companies waiting in the wings to swoop for lucrative contracts.

In my job I see a growing number of people affected by mental health conditions and the way they struggle to access NHS services to help them. The waiting lists are too long. This is an areas that needs to be a priority and receive much better funding.

We can have a publicly owned, publicly run, and publicly funded NHS all we need is the political will to do it. The Tories don’t believe the NHS but won’t admit it. I’ve personally experienced both the US health system and the NHS. Following the US way would be a disaster. The NHS is a treasure and we must fight to keep it, fund it properly, and to reverse and eradicate the privatisation. If elected that’s what I and my fellow Green MPs would do.

The Green Party will introduce an NHS Reinstatement Act to roll back privatisation so that all health and dental services are always publicly owned and provided free at the point of access. We will close the NHS spending gap to ensure that everyone can access a GP, hospitals can reduce waiting times, and spending on mental health care is brought in line with spending on physical well-being.

Education

My work involves me visiting schools so I’ve seen first hand how government cuts to education funding are affecting school budgets leading to redundancies among teachers and support staff. I’ve unfortunately had to attend several schools in the Leeds West constituency to support people facing redundancy. Many of these are the unsung heroes in schools that make the difference to ensure our children get a good education and are on very modest incomes. But sadly thanks to cuts the headteachers reluctantly have to let staff go. This has an impact on the children and the staff who remain, with stress increasingly leading to long term sickness absence. The Tory government wanted to force schools to become Academies. This was blocked so it appears instead they are running down schools by cutting funding so when they eventually fail OFSTED inspections they are forced to become Academies. It is a cynical attack on the education of our youngsters. There’s no evidence to show that Academies provide a better education than local authority maintained schools.

If elected I will fight alongside fellow Green MPs to bring Academies and Free Schools into the local authority system, abolish SATs and reduce class sizes, as well as increasing and protecting real-term spending on our schools so that they are properly funded and staffed. The Green Party will scrap university tuition fees, fund full student grants, and make greater public investment in further and higher education. I was the first of our family to attend university but it was only because in my day there were no fees or loans, and I received a grant. I believe young people today should have the opportunity I had without the fear of huge debt.

The Economy, the public sector and jobs

The economy currently only works for a very small number of very wealthy individuals and corporations. It does not work well for the vast majority of us. We need to change that. The global financial crisis of 2007-2008 was the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s, brought about by excessive risk taking by banks  and financial institutions making the most of relaxed regulations. The austerity that followed hit the innocent and most vulnerable members of society worst. We are still paying for the huge debt that the banks and financial institutions created. But austerity was not an economic need, it was a political decision by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government, and then the Conservative government under Cameron that won the 2015 general election.

There was an alternative, but the government’s response was based on a political philosophy that wanted to deliberately reduce the public sector and make the poorest pay for the debt. Working in the public sector I have seen firsthand the result of taking millions of pounds away from local government funding. Services disappear, vulnerable people are impacted, and jobs are lost. Those who remain in the public sector find themselves struggling to deliver services, are stressed out, and on the end of falling incomes. In my role as a trade union convenor I have seen a growing number of cases of long term sickness due to mental health issues like stress, anxiety, and depression.

We need to create thousands of secure jobs by rebuilding public services. Our plans for a network of community banks will ensure wealth makes it into our communities rather than piling up in corporate bank accounts. The Green Party will end the scandal of working poverty by phasing in a 4-day working week, abolishing exploitative zero hours contracts, upholding trade union rights, and ensuring that everyone is paid a living wage. We will take steps towards the introduction of a universal basic income, including a government sponsored pilot scheme, as a means to increase security for all and reduce the poverty trap. And we will promote credit unions to free people from unjust and burdensome debt. This can be paid for with a fairer taxation system and ensuring large corporations don’t avoid paying the correct amount of tax. If elected I will work towards delivering these aims.

Housing

The selling off of council houses that started under the Thatcher government of the 1980s has left us with a terrible legacy. House prices are ludicrous, and private rents are way too high. People are struggling to get on the housing ladder, and many cannot afford to pay rent without receiving housing benefit. In some areas of the country house prices are so high that owning a home is just a pipe dream for the majority of locals. A shortage of social housing to rent means long waiting lists and a reliance on private landlords who often charge expensive rents for very poor quality properties. Not only that, many of the UK’s homes are nowhere near energy efficient enough, contributing to rising energy costs.

I support the  introduction of a living rent for all through rent controls, the provision of more secure tenancies for private renters, and the introduction mandatory licensing for all landlords. The Green Party wants to launch a major programme to build affordable homes including half a million new socially rented homes over five years and start action to bring empty homes back into use. As a Green MP I will work to reinstate housing benefits for the under 21s and bring an end to the cruel and unfair Bedroom tax.

Transport

I am the son of a retired railwayman and my grandfather was a signalman on the railways. Our family didn’t have a car for a large part of my childhood so we made most journeys by bus or rail. I have many happy memories of childhood summer holidays in Devon, travelling there on the train, so I’ve always been a huge fan of railways. I used public transport to get to school and to get to work so I know personally the issues that the transport system faces. Privatisation of the railways and deregulation of the buses has led to poorer and more expensive services.

As a Green MP I will campaign to return the railways to public ownership, and increase investment in regional rail links, especially North of England, rather than wasting money on HS2 and the national major roads programme. I’d love to see new stations build in the Leeds West constituency. Green MPs will tackle the impact of transport on climate change and public health by cancelling airport expansions and ending airline fuel subsidies, and increasing incentives to take diesel vehicles off the roads. We need to invest in affordable, reliable and publicly run bus services, in better walking and cycling routes, and facilities such as cycle parking and on street secure cycle storage in residential areas. We will aim to make local public transport free for young people, students and disabled people.

The EU

I agreed with the Green Party’s policy of “Three Yeses”: Yes to a referendum, yes to remaining in the EU, and yes to a greatly reformed EU. While I felt that the UK was far better off remaining in the EU I also believed that the EU was far from perfect and needed significant changes to make it more democratic and accountable. But on balance I felt the benefits of remaining within the EU outweighed its shortcomings. The EU laws to protect employment rights, the environment, and the grants to regenerate areas were extremely important. Many of our public services and small businesses are reliant on the ability of EU workers being able to come and work easily in the UK.

The British people narrowly voted to leave the EU. I was desperately sad about that but that was the decision taken. What was not clear was the nature of the exit, what that would look like, and what the impact would be. I believe the people should have the democratic right to vote on whatever deal is negotiated for Britain’s departure from the EU. This should be provided through a ratification referendum that includes an option to reject the deal and remain in the EU. If elected, along with other Green MPs, I will fight for the Brexit deal to include retention of freedom of movement, including the rights of EU citizens to remain in the UK and for young people to study, work, live and travel in the EU through schemes such as Erasmus, and for the preservation of environmental protections and the principles and regulations which protect human health, animal welfare and workers’ rights.

Peace and Democracy

We live in an unstable world made that way by too much conflict. I believe we need to help other countries become better places for their people to live. Military action destroying homes and infrastructure causes people to flee and seek safer places to live where they can build a decent life.  As a Green I support pursuing an ethical foreign policy, and a humane and compassionate immigration and asylum system that takes responsibility for Britain’s role in causing the flow of refugees worldwide. I support the cancellation of the replacement of the Trident nuclear weapons system which will save at least £100 billion over the next 30 years and can be better spent investing in public services and green jobs.

I believe we need to work to make Britain truly democratic. This can be done by introducing proportional representation for parliamentary elections, extending votes to 16 year olds, reforming the House of Lords as an elected second chamber, and empowering local communities to recall their MP. I believe we should tighten the rules on media ownership so no individual or company owns more than 20% of a media market, protecting against anyone having too much influence or undermining democracy. I will work towards creating a more equal society. The Green Party believe that mixed gender couples should be granted the right to civil partnerships and we should make LGBTIQA+ refugees welcome. The Green Party will introduce job sharing for MPs to increase disabled representation in particular, close the gender pay gap and work towards a 50/50 Parliament. Greens will reform stop and search and Prevent and replace with policing that promotes community cohesion. If elected I will work towards these aims.

 Young People

Young people are ignored by many politicians, and have been on the hard end of several government policies in recent years. Maybe it is because many young people feel like politics is irrelevant to them, or politicians never seem to speak for them, that a lot choose not get involved with the political process. I think that this results in many politicians therefore not caring about young people’s views or interests because they don’t vote. I’d like to see more young people having a say, being listened to, and them receiving a fairer deal from the policies governments implement.

I think we must invest in opportunities for young people, starting with a guarantee of their right to study, work, live and travel in the EU. From a working class family, I benefited from free university education and I think that’s what should be available now. I’d like any young person who wants it to be able to access higher and further education without the burden of debt, and I believe tuition fees should be scrapped and living grants restored. I agree with restoring the Education Maintenance Grant and guaranteeing access to apprenticeships for qualified 16-25 year olds. Green Party policy is to scrap age-related wage bands and raise the national minimum wage level to living wage levels for all. Young people need a voice and if elected I will help give them one, by working towards lowering the voting age to 16 and introducing political and active citizenship education for all young people. Greens also aim to bring in free local public transport for all young people and students.

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