Candidates’ food for thought on top issues

Food queues outside Ebenezer Church, Halifax.
Food queues outside Ebenezer Church, Halifax.

Candidate question: In-work poverty. Record numbers of people are in work, yet there has been an increase in food banks and more than 700,000 people are on zero-hours contracts. What are your views on this issue?

Paul Rogan, UKIP Calder Valley:
We would restrict cheap labour from outside Britain, which is holding wages down, giving British working people the prospect of pay rises that will improve their living standards. Additionally we will scrap income tax on the minimum wage by raising the personal allowance to at least £13,000. British companies will be permitted to favour British job applicants without the risk of being sued for discrimination – at long last making a reality of the idea of “British jobs for British workers”.

Alisdair McGregor, Liberal Democrat, Calder Valley 
In government we’ve legislated to prevent abusive and illiberal exclusivity clauses on zero-hours contracts, so employees can no longer be trapped by an employer and if employed for over 26 weeks can request set working hours. This gives workers more power in the workplace, but keeps the flexibility of zero-hours contracts for those (such as students and parents) who need them. To deal with in-work poverty, the Liberal Democrats have removed the lowest paid workers from paying income tax at all, and aim in the next Parliament to remove all full-time workers on the national minimum wage from paying either income tax or national insurance. There is no reason to tax the poorest earners.

Jenny Shepherd, Green Party, 
Calder Valley
In one of the richest countries in the world, it’s a scandal that in 2014 nearly a million people had to use food banks and more than 700,000 people are on zero-hours contracts. The coalition government has chosen to make the public pay for the massive bailout of too-big-to-fail banks that caused the financial crash in 2008. By design, the worst of the public spending cuts have fallen on the most vulnerable people.

Craig Whittaker, Conservative, Calder Valley
There are many reasons why people use food banks. High personal debt and benefit sanctions are the two biggest reasons. For the first time ever we see a government who signposts people to them. With regards to benefit sanctions this is always used as a last resort and those who chose not to do as they are asked with regards to finding work are rightly sanctioned - the first time for two weeks and then for a month. With regards to zero-hours contracts we currently have 648,000 in the UK. These include supply teachers, agency nurses, agency doctors, students and many more essential services workers who do not want to work full-time and want the flexibility of working when they want to.

Josh Fenton-Glynn, Labour, Calder Valley
This government has seen the greatest squeeze in the standard of living since the 1870s. I’ve volunteered at one of Calderdale’s food banks and a huge number of the regular service users are those in work - this is because work for too many doesn’t pay. Having worked for Child Poverty Action Group, I believe it is a disgrace that over two-thirds of children born into poverty have at least one parent in work. Labour will raise the minimum wage and give those on zero-hours contracts the right to proper contract.

Joe Stead, World Peace Through Song, Calder Valley
People must be paid a living wage. The existing minimum must be debated and improved by the next government. The idea that people are only paid if called into work must be seriously examined. Using the self employed system with employed personnel is completely wrong.

Holly Walker-Lynch, Labour, Halifax
The Labour party will ban zero-hours contracts. Too many people in Halifax have no idea what their income will be from one week to the next. I have worked on zero-hours contracts and know how difficult they are to manage. Whilst unemployment may have fallen, people across Halifax are telling me that their wages have gone down, their hours have been reduced or they have decided to go self-employed. We have to make sure people are well paid and secure in their jobs.

Philip Allott, Conservative, Halifax
I have been to the food bank at Ebenezer’s in Halifax and seen first-hand the variety of reasons why people use them. One thing a Conservative government can do in the future is make sure people receive their benefits as promptly as possible, which will reduce the number of people using food banks. Only a small percentage of workers have zero-hours contracts. In the last 12 months the majority of jobs created have been full-time. Whilst flexibility sometimes suits certain employees, the Business Secretary has therefore proposed that those on zero-hours contracts should have the right to request a fixed-term contract, something in principle I support.