As part of the Parliament Week activity, the community pulled together some questions to ask leading politicians in the run-up to the general election.
Now it's time to hear what Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party, has to say...
Over the duration of the last few governments, tuition fees have continued to rise. What does the Green Party’s intend to do about this? How would the Green Party support students and make education more accessible?
The Green Party believes that education is a public good, and so should be paid for from general progressive taxation, with no tuition fees for students. I was delighted to be able to speak at last week’s free education demonstration, which was co-organised by the Young Greens.
Young people now are leaving university with £40,000 more of debt, and on current figures a majority will never pay off that loan, facing 30 years of the prime years of their life seeing 9% of their income going to that loan whenever they are earning modest sums, yet seeing an end to it only three decades later. If it continues this will have significant economic impacts, as well as massive damage to individual lives.
Tuition fees, particularly since the rise to £9,0000/year, also proved a major discouragement to mature-age students, and damaged the essential provision of lifelong learning.
We’ve also seen universities being pushed to become commercially orientated organisations thinking of students as 'customers', rather than healthy academic communities of scholars at various stages of their studies.
To support students, we call for a basic income to be paid to everyone accepted as a member of society, to meet their basic needs. We’re looking at an initial payment of £80/week for working-age adults. This would remove the fear of penury, and allow young people, in fact everyone, to have more choice in the manner by which they contribute to society.
To meet the costs of tuition fees (and end the disastrous and failed austerity policies of this government), we say that multinational companies and rich individuals have to pay their way with fair taxes. Green MP Caroline Lucas’s Tax and Financial Transparency Bill 2011 showed the way, in terms of company taxation, while the Green Party is calling for a wealth tax on individuals worth more than £3 million – the richest 1% in our society.
Many young people are finding it tremendously difficult to afford to buy a home, feeling the squeeze from taxes and expenses from every direction, even with a good job. It is easy to see why these people would feel neglected by the government - what does
We need to ensure that we create and maintain jobs that workers can build a life on. This means the minimum wage being a living wage, with a target of a £10/hour minimum wage by 2020, reflecting a modest improvement from the living wage level today. It means banning zero-hours contracts, and forced casualisation that sees entire companies built around workers on short-term contracts and short working hours.
To create varied jobs and business opportunities, we need to support small businesses and cooperatives as the foundation of strong local economies, while bringing manufacturing and food production back to Britain. That means ending the excessive support for the fraud-ridden, reckless, overly-large financial sector.
We need to end the outsourcing of public services that is built on cutting the pay and condition of workers, slashing the quality of services and pumping our money into private hands.
In terms of housing, we need to move back to thinking of houses as homes, rather than financial assets. As well as rebalancing regional economies so that the hundreds of thousands of empty homes can be brought back into use, we need to rein in private landlords by giving tenants security of tenure, ending 'revenge evictions' and implementing rent caps. Councils need to be allowed to borrow to build new genuinely affordable housing, while right to buy needs to end.
With some of the poorest-quality housing in Western Europe, we need to implement a programme such as the Energy Bill Revolution, which could lift nine out of 10 households out of fuel poverty, create up to 200,000 jobs and cut carbon emissions. This would ensure warm, comfortable, affordable-to-heat homes.
What is your idea of how the NHS should look in five years' time, and will you be prepared to block attempts to establish private medical schools in the UK that could render the cap invalid and reduce the employability of our medical and nursing graduates
The surreptitious privatisation of the NHS, combined with this government’s massive reorganisation, has done great damage. We back the principles of the NHS Reinstatement Bill proposed by Prof Allyson Pollock, principally to state that the profit motive has no place in healthcare, and that the market structure, which is bureaucratic, expensive to manage and distorting, is removed from the NHS.
The parties promote the image that they care about the environment, but this is rarely reflected in policy, with priority always going elsewhere with excuses that green policy is too expensive. Parties appear to pay only lip-service to protecting the envi
We are the Green Party. We acknowledge – focus on - the urgency of tackling climate change.
More, we acknowledge the damage done to the natural world by our hypercapitalist system, with more than 50% of our planet’s wildlife lost in the past 40 years, the oceans turned into a plastic soup, freshwater supplies dangerously depleted and soils trashed.
But we know that this environmental destruction hasn’t delivered for Britain or the human race generally; we can build a healthier, happier society that doesn’t each consume the resources of one planet, as Britain does now, but fits within the environmental limits of our small, fragile planet.
Apart from a few flagship projects, science funding has experienced over a billion pounds of effective cuts over the past five years, to the point where science funding is now only barely half of the EU's recommended 3% GDP figure. We appear to be sacrifi
Neglect of science funding by the government reflects the ideological direction of this government which has used austerity to slash away at the public sector on the assumption that the private sector can grow to replace it. This hasn’t happened.
The Green Party calls for government funding for scientific research and development to be lifted to 1% of GDP, nearly twice the current level. That needs to be strategically directed particularly to essential needs such as sustainable food production, enhancing resource efficiency and renewable energy and energy conservation, with individual decisions on research funding made independently by research councils.
The private sector should be encouraged and supported to invest in R&D, but with the focus on meeting our essential social and environmental needs. The current focus on the defence sector threatens our security and with its exports enhances instability around the world and the pharmaceutical sector has focused on high return, non-innovative products, while we face massive risks from antibiotic resistance and emerging diseases.
Voters have become increasingly apathetic to politics, most likely in part due to the difficulties in discerning real ideological differences between the larger parties. Both Labour and the Conservatives appear to follow similar agendas and the Liberal De
Voters have been trained by our first-past-the-post electoral system to vote tactically, for the party they dislike the second-most to stop the party they hate getting in. This has encouraged parties to focus on a small number of swing voters in swing seats, leaving their policies almost indistinguishable.
They’re also trapped in the obviously failed 20th-century ideology of Thatcherism or neoliberalism, the approach that greed is good and the planet is there to be plundered. They failed to understand that with Britain, and the world, facing related economic, social and environmental crisis, business-as-usual approaches are not an option.
In 2010 most voters thought that the financial crash of 2007-8 was just another economic crisis like many before, and that life would continue much as before after this hiccup. Very few think that now.
It clearly is changing; the #greensurge that has seen Green Party membership grow 90% since 1 January and our general election polling at or above the level of the Liberal Democrats, is one sign of that. The Scottish referendum showed the way in which voters, if offered a real choice and the opportunity for real change, can choose to seize it. If the same level of engagement, with 85% turnout of voters, with young voters particularly turning out in large numbers, could be matched in May 2015, with voters choosing to vote for what they believe in, we could see a peaceful political revolution. The possibility is in the hands of the voters.
Could the Green Party decide the election?
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