Hampstead and Kilburn: Justice secretary takes questions on migration, Brexit and tuition fees
PUBLISHED: 17:15 11 May 2017 | UPDATED: 17:15 11 May 2017
A government minister joined the Tory Hampstead and Kilburn candidate for a Q&A at a care home today - with questions ranging from military intervention abroad, migration and mental health services.
Justice Secretary Liz Truss told a room of Spring Grove residents in Finchley Road that Claire-Louise Leyland would be a “fantastic” MP whose election would strengthen Prime Minister Theresa May’s hand in upcoming Brexit negotiations.
But not all the questions from the residents – some of whom were content to pay absolutely no attention despite the presence of a senior government minister – were simple.
The duo was pushed on schools and NHS funding, the possibility of following Donald Trump into foreign conflict abroad, Theresa May’s history as a Remainer and the integration of migrants.
Mrs Truss responded to one resident’s concerns about the prime minister “changing her mind” over the EU by stressing that the referendum is over.
“People voting to leave the EU won that vote,” she said. “The decision has been made.”
Ms Leyland added: “We are where we are – we need to stand together and look forward.
“Longing for the past is not going to help us.”
When asked about Finchley Road being “full of cars”, Ms Leyland said she would be very happy to take the issue to Camden Council and Transport for London if elected as an MP.
To a question about mental health, Mrs Truss said the prime minister had made it a “big priority” and hinted the soon-to-be-released Tory manifesto would contain more pledges on funding.
One woman pointed out that her son, who is at university, has been burdened by “crippling” costs – and mentioned the Labour Party’s widely leaked manifesto pledge to abolish tuition fees.
But Mrs Truss rubbished Labour’s manifesto – which she said she’d “just been leafing through” – because it pledged to spend too much money.
“Jeremy Corbyn is promising all kinds of extra funding for all kinds of things,” she said.
“But there’s no plan about where that money’s going to come from.”
Mrs Truss – when asked about whether a Conservative government would send more troops and resources to Afghanistan – said the world is an increasingly dangerous place.
Threats from the likes of Isis and Russia, she said, meant it was crucial to maintain 2 per cent of GDP spending on the military.
Ms Leyland – a former reservist – said it was “so important we have the possibility” of using military force “if we need it”.
On migration, Mrs Truss said it is essential newcomers “integrate and learn to speak English”.
She added: “It’s important we make sure people who are coming from abroad and use our health service are paying for it or their country is paying for it.”
In a separate interview with the Ham&High, Mrs Truss was asked about whether it was possible to staff the likes of the care home she was visiting if the Tories commit again to limiting net migration to less than 100,000 a year.
She said: “We have been clear that of course – in areas like the care sector and the hospitality sector – there need to be enough people working in those industries,” adding that it was also important to push for UK-born workers to be trained to fill gaps in the economy.
Ms Leyland, who worked in the care sector for five years, said it was important to value the job and challenge society on notions of “what is considered a good job”.
But Ms Leyland said she would “get back to” the Ham&High on whether she was committed to getting migration below 100,000, adding: “Having a sense of how many people are coming into the country is a good idea.”
When put to her that the Tories appear set for a landslide victory in the general election, both the minister and Ms Leyland stressed they were taking nothing for granted.
Mrs Truss said: “Everyone thought Trump would lose the election, that we would vote Remain.
“Polls have been proved wrong again and again and again.”