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A.      PEACE

1. Are you in favour of Britain renewing its Trident nuclear weapons system?

In an uncertain and insecure world I believe that Britain should retain the minimum credible independent nuclear deterrent, which can best be delivered through a continuous at sea deterrent. It would require a clear body of evidence for me to change this belief.

I also believe there needs to be an open and inclusive debate that examines all capabilities in the lead up to the next Strategic Defence and Security Review. This will need to examine costs and our strategic interests, and recognise the importance of the defence sector to the UK economy and the need to protect and develop a highly skilled workforce.

On the wider issue of nuclear disarmament, I agree that Britain should seek to further reduce our nuclear arsenal (we have already done so by 75% since the end of the Cold War) and actively pursue further multilateral reductions in global stockpiles and the number of weapons. It is encouraging that the USA and other allies such as France have also spoken of the need for a renewed global effort on non-proliferation and I hope this is a goal the British Government work toward.

2. Do you think our country is right to be involved militarily in the Ukraine, even if in a training and support role?

 

The crisis in Ukraine represents the most significant security threat on the European continent in decades, and poses a real threat to Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity.


The priority is for both sides to de-escalate the situation and Europe must be explicit about the real costs and consequences for Russia if it fails to de-escalate this crisis.


Russia is now significantly more integrated into the world economy than it was at the time of the 2008 crisis in Georgia, let alone during the earlier era of Soviet expansionism. President Putin has also based much of his appeal within Russia upon the promise of rising prosperity.


Today the EU is Russia largest economic partner, with an annual trade £275bn, and the UK alone handles at least £2bn of Russian business in financial services a year.


So the UK as part of the EU should be prepared to implement a graduated hierarchy of diplomatic and economic measures that could help effectively pressure Russia into changing course.


A combination of deft diplomacy, shared resolve and a unified response are the best means by which we can de-escalate this dangerous crisis, and ultimately re-affirm Ukrainian sovereignty and preserve European security.

B. ENVIRONMENT

 

3. Do you give full weight to the urgency of minimising global warming? In the light of this, do you accept that much of the known fossil fuel reserves should be left underground, especially the most environmentally damaging such as tar sands and Arctic oil?

 

Labour will put climate change at the heart of our foreign policy. As the terrible impact of the floods in Britain showed last year, climate change is now an issue of national, as well as global security.


From record droughts in California, to devastating typhoons in the Philippines, the world is already seeing the effects we once thought only future generations would experience. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has made clear that if the world is going to hold warming below two degrees (the internationally agreed goal), global emissions need to peak in around 2020, and then decline rapidly to reach net zero emissions by the second half of this century.


The weaker the action now, the more rapid and costly the reductions will need to be later. The effects of climate change hit the poor, the hardest. If we do not tackle climate change, millions of people will fall into poverty. We will expand the role of the Department of International Development to mitigate the risks of a changing climate, and support sustainable livelihoods for the world’s poorest people.


We want an ambitious agreement on climate change at the UNFCCC conference in Paris, in December. We will make the case for ambitious emissions targets for all countries, strengthened every five years on the basis of a scientific assessment of the progress towards the below two degree goal. And we will push for a goal of net zero global emissions in the second half of this century, for transparent and universal rules for measuring, verifying and reporting emissions, and for an equitable deal in which richer countries provide support to poorer nations in combatting climate change.

4. What is your attitude to fracking?


I know from the large number and letters and e-mails I have received that there is real concern about this issue and I believe that before any shale gas extraction is considered there must be in place a robust regulation regime, accompanied by comprehensive monitoring and strict enforcement guidelines, which are consistent with our long-term climate change targets. 

 

I don't believe shale gas should not be absolutely ruled out because energy security and energy supply are important issues and shale gas could be part of the solution.  However,  before fracking can take place the regulatory regime needs to be fundamentally overhauled so it is fit for purpose and the public can be stratified that the process is safe. The current framework falls far short of this at the moment and in such circumstances any fracking should not proceed.

 

I know that many constituents are concerned that the coalition Government watered down aspects of the regulatory regime around fracking and I share their worries about this.

It is welcome, therefore, that my Shadow Frontbench colleagues have stated that a future Labour Government would ensure that important environmental and safety conditions are met and a tough regime of monitoring and inspection introduced place before any fracking could take place in the UK.

5. Many people can’t afford to heat their homes over the winter. We can’t afford to ignore climate change either. How would you tackle fuel poverty in a long-term, sustainable manner?

 

C. ECONOMICS AND SOCIAL JUSTICE

All Labour’s economic policies have now been published in our manifesto which should answer the question you asked, you can find it here: http://b.3cdn.net/labouruk/e1d45da42456423b8c_vwm6brbvb.pdf

For ease of reference our main promises are:

    cut the deficit every year and balance the books as soon as possible in the next Parliament

        reverse the 50p tax cut so that the top one per cent pay a little more to help get the deficit down

        not increase the basic or higher rates of Income Tax, National Insurance or VAT cut and then freeze business rates and maintain the most competitive corporate tax rates in the G7

        abolish non dom status

        increase the National Minimum Wage to more than £8 an hour by October 2019 and introduce Make Work Pay contracts to provide tax rebates to firms becoming Living Wage employers

        ban exploitative zero-hours contracts

        guarantee an apprenticeship for every school leaver who attains the grades and require any firm that gets a large government contract to offer apprenticeships

        reduce tuition fees to £6,000 a year

        freeze energy bills until 2017 and give the regulator the power to cut bills this winter

        introduce a British Investment Bank and support a network of regional banks.

 

On TTIP:

Before any agreement can be reached it needs to be clear that our public services – particularly the NHS will be protected. Our NHS and public services need to be more, not less, integrated and I am concerned at the worrying fragmentation of health services which has taken place under the coalition Government. That is why the Shadow Health Secretary has said Labour will exempt the NHS from any TTIP deal.

 

It is clear from the large number of e-mails and letters I have received that there is considerable concern about the TTIP negotiations. I agree it is important these proposals receive proper scrutiny at both a UK and EU level and that any final deal must have transparency and accountability at its heart. I believe more needs to be done to address these concerns.

 

There are ways the agreement could bring benefits to Britain, including removing trade barriers between our two most important markets, boosting growth and creating jobs. It is crucial, however, that the benefits of TTIP filter down to employees, small businesses and consumers, that the deal is open and accountable and that it does not water down current labour, consumer, environmental and food safety standards.

 

I know particular concern has also been expressed about the proposed inclusion of Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions in TTIP. I am not convinced that the proposed ISDS mechanism is either necessary or desirable in its current form and believe there needs to be greater transparency on this. The European Commission's public consultation on ISDS was welcome and it is right that the European Commission has decided to temporarily suspend negotiations on ISDS until the final stages of the negotiations.

 

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Lucy Powell
Labour and Cooperative candidate for Manchester Central