Why do you want to represent Salisbury?

Salisbury is my home, it is the city my mother, grandparents and great grandparents have lived in for most of the last 90 years. I grew up in Wiltshire too and I am keen to serve this constituency as I understand it and I believe I have the right blend of experience; from ten years in business, from time in politics as an adviser to Party leaders ( including William Hague) and from 14 years of post university life experience – I am a magistrate, I am married with two step-children – to be an effective local constituency MP and powerful advocate for Salisbury and South Wiltshire’s interests in Parliament.

What would you most like to change in Salisbury?

I would love to reduce the congestion we face in our city centre and ensure the centre of the City develops in keeping with the character of the medieval city. I also hope to raise the profile of Salisbury as a tourist attraction. We cannot allow Salisbury to become a dormitory town where people live but don’t work. However, all development must be sensitive to the local cultural heritage which is rich and vibrant.

What do you think of reducing the tax take on veterans’ pensions? (David Bruce (davembruce) on Twitter)

I believe in increasing the basic state retirement pension by restoring the link to earnings but we need to recognise that veterans’ are a category of people that need special consideration given the service they have given our country. Veterans’ pensions should also be a top priority of the next Government. Too often in recent years the Government have not looked after our veterans properly – inadequate equipment in the theatre of war has been complemented by poor quality housing for veterans’ to return to as well as poor pay. I cannot promise anything but I will do all I can to lobby ministers in the next Government (many of whom I have worked with when an adviser to the party) to address this issue.

Do you support boundary changes? (Simon Marks (simonmarks100) on Twitter)

I support a smaller number of MPs – Conservatives have committed to reduce the number of MPs by 10%. This will mean that existing constituencies will have to grow so that we can reduce the number of MPs and save money for the taxpayer.

Could I ask a question regarding boundary changes? It would be interesting to find out when it happened and why we haven’t been informed. (Ann Robinson, Donhead – via email)

Boundary changes occur every 10 years or so to reflect changes in populations sizes as people move around. In Wiltshire, because the population has grown so much in recent years we qualified for an additional seat. A new seat was created in Chippenham, mostly formed from the old North Wiltshire seat. This meant that all of the existing constituency boundaries as of 2005 in the county were adjusted to fit in the additional seat. For Salisbury this meant that the constituency was reduced in size by about 20% and elements to the South West (Tisbury/Donheads etc) and North East (Durrington/Bulford etc) were lost to the new South West Wiltshire and Devizes constituencies respectively. This was widely reported at the time but nothing changed until the election was called.

What are the best and worst things about Salisbury council? (Simon Marks (simonmarks100) on Twitter)

Salisbury Council contains a number of committed local representatives from all parties who give a lot of time to the City – Cllrs Andrew Roberts, John Lindley and Paul Sample to name but three, their willing and sometimes longstanding commitment to the City is the best thing! However, since Wiltshire Unitary Council was founded last year Salisbury City Council enjoys less power and fewer responsibilities than before – this is a shame as people were used to having Salisbury District Council as it felt closer to the people. So I guess the worst thing is that they don’t have the power they used to enjoy!

If you win, will you be singing on the balcony of the White Hart? (Simon Marks (simonmarks100) on Twitter)

Yes of course. I have taken the precaution of looking up the words and listening to a recording of Robert Key in 2005. I am a traditionalist and a tradition that spans 300+ years should not be broken!

What’s your position on the Digital Economy Bill? (Mark Timms (Pimmsoclock) on Twitter)
Do you think that there are more questions to be asked about the Digital Economy Bill and its new powers ? (StuRobson (StuRobson) on Twitter)

I am a very reluctant supporter of the DEB which I think will need revision after the election. It includes controversial measures that could see the internet connections of illegal file-sharers suspended or copyright-infringing websites blocked. If we had a Conservative government after the election we remove bits of the legislation that give the media regulator, Ofcom, more power, we would ditch plans to replace ITV’s regional news bulletins with independently produced alternatives, and current provisions on orphan works and extension of licensing. The Bill could have been massively improved if there had been more scrutiny at the committee stage. Digital piracy is a very real problem for our creative industries whilst I accept that action needed to be taken to ensure the internet is a functioning marketplace and that copyright infringers do not get away with their actions scot free I am concerned that the Government rushed through the legislation without proper consideration of the implications.

How do you plan to engage with young voters? (Mark Timms (Pimmsoclock) on Twitter)

By not patronising them, by speaking to them directly about the issues that matter to them – tuition fees, the environment ( climate change) and education are usually very important as are concerns about local housing and jobs and tax levels. I will be debating at Bishop’s Wordsworth School on Friday 30th April at 7.30pm so I invite young people to come along and fire some questions at me!

The current illogical situation of charging nothing for alterations to listed buildings but charging VAT at standard rate on repairs and maintenance is not in keeping with the pressure for a sustainable approach to building. Do the candidates support removing or reducing VAT on Building Repair and Maintenance work? UK MEPs from all parties backed a VAT cut in February last year but no obvious action has been taken on this. Are any of the Parties committed to this? (Jill Pearce, Publisher, Donhead Publishing)

I see the logic of the argument – I agree with it. Sadly with a £160 billion + deficit we cannot make promises at this stage. I will take this idea on board and if elected will do what I can to understand the cost and impact it would have.

What’s your stance on the closure at Porton Down? (Cliff Sullivan – Cliffsull’s Blog)

Naturally, I am very concerned. I have been working closely with Robert Key (our outgoing MP) as he has lobbied Ministers on the matter. I will be keen, if elected, to take forward the three key arguments that to me make a powerful case for the jobs to remain at Porton. Firstly, we have all the investment in place, recent investment on upgrading the facilities at HPA Porton would be wasted if a move were to go ahead and in a time of tight budgets it seems foolish to waste money moving it elsewhere. Secondly, the Lyons Review, a government report, said that where possible government jobs should not be moved into the South East. Clearly, any proposed relocations to Harlow would contravene this principle. Finally, Porton Down does valuable international work and many of the foreign governments who have invested in Porton would be very concerned about moves elsewhere. This final consideration is critical. I have the letter ready to send on May 7th if elected and if there is a Conservative Government I know the Minister who would make the decision. I will be waiting for him when he arrives at his office.

What actions will you each take to minimise your individual cost to the taxpayer? (Anon. from Twitter)

I will abide by the letter and spirit of the new rules that govern MPs expenses. This involves not having a 2nd home and also not travelling 1st class. However, if elected I would do all I can to retain the excellent local team that Robert Key had in running the Salisbury MP’s office. This continuity would provide value for money and would also mean a continuation of the excellent local service that Robert Key offered Salisbury and South Wiltshire constituents.

I would like to know how far reaching the support for small business really is – will it all vanish once elections over? (Tracy Ronan, Gaggle Gifts)

I grew up in a small horticultural business in Wiltshire so my commitment will never waver. Our policy not to implement the Labour Government’s increase for employers’ national insurance contributions is a manifesto pledge that will not be broken. We need to re-balance our economy towards more private sector growth and more productive jobs in our country. We cannot go on with a bloated public sector economy which we cannot afford.

Do you think the city of Salisbury should show more involvement with the football club, i.e sponsorship etc. ? (Michael J. Hill (MicKarchie) on Twitter)

Of course – Salisbury City is a key part of our community. We need to get behind it and I would do all I can to promote our local club.

How would you encourage more business and jobs into the area?

Stressing the key strategic location of Salisbury as a City which connects the South West to the South East. We have excellent schools, a brilliant regional hospital and a very pleasant physical environment in which to live. I would be a passionate advocate for the City wherever I went.

What do you think of the plans for the Market Place?

I think they are ambitious and some early drafts were perhaps too elaborate but we are a way off seeing the final plans. I have had a number of conversations with the Director of Salisbury Vision and I look forward to holding further conversations. I will input ideas which may enable the final plans to lift the quality of the environment but won’t imperil the interests of our market traders and local residents who are nervous about radical changes which would be out of keeping with the historic centre of our beautiful city.

And the plans for Stonehenge?

Investment in Stonehenge is welcome but I am always concerned that the concerns of local residents are not cast aside. Locals will remain there far beyond the last Olympics tourist has gone home. I will seek urgent and early meetings to examine plans and ensure common sense is involved in all plans for development!

Stonehenge is one of the oldest monuments in world history and the only British one blighted closely by roads. There is a solution costing [the ‘AR4 route’] less than a third of the rejected tunnel plan. Do you believe that such an option, rejected on extremely dubious grounds by the 2004 Public Inquiry, should be properly and publicly reviewed as a matter of prime national importance to the nation’s heritage? (see actsouthwilts.co.uk > Projects > Stonehenge) (John Ellis, The Association of Council Taxpayers, South Wiltshire)

I have seen ACT’s plans and I am happy to offer a formal fresh examination of them after the election. But I need to be convinced that there is a realistic prospect of a different outcome occurring from a public review. It may be we need to develop a fresh approach.

The emerging Local Plan is dominated by government imposed housing and employment development targets beyond the local needs. Development which will urbanise large tracts of green field land in a unique combination of rural and heritage countryside. If you agree, what can you as an Party promoted MP do to stop this objectionable process? (John Ellis – The Association of Council Taxpayers)

A Conservative Government will stop the local plan and allow local people (not an unaccountable Regional Planning body) to determine the future housing and employment needs of Salisbury and South Wiltshire.

Are you aware of the divide and conquer consequences of unitary local government on local issues with a bunch of Boards and one central Council replacing the functions of the well established former Districts working closer to the people. Do you consider that unitary system, bringing marginal financial savings, will prove to be beneficial for the electorate? (John Ellis – The Association of Council Taxpayers)

I am doubtful but I hope we can see greater financial savings than you fear. Politics has to be about practical solutions. Regardless of whether unitary councils were right or not (I happen to believe they weren’t the right path to go down) we must now work to make them work and do all we can to ensure that the interests of Salisbury and South Wiltshire are well represented under this new system. Going over past decisions won’t change anything at this stage.

The monster emerging in the Core Strategy is the approval for a proposed Regional Distribution Centre in Solstice Park, Amesbury, close to a large residential area built since the demise of the NAAFI warehouse. It will work day and night 365/24/7 and clog roads for miles around to the detriment of hundreds of local electors. The present government will not listen to the objections. Will you and what action would you take? (John Ellis – The Association of Council Taxpayers)

Of course I will listen to the objections. No development should be encouraged unless it can properly address the concerns of local residents. As someone who has spent most of his life in Wiltshire I want to preserve the quality of life for those who live on the edge of Amesbury and would be subject to the risk of noise pollution and worse going forward.

Are ‘Open Primaries’ a good thing?

Open Primaries are a modern and open way of selecting candidates to stand to be a Member of Parliament. I was the only candidate to be selected in such a way and I welcome the fact that nearly half of the 473 people who attended the Salisbury Open Primary to select me were not Conservative Party members. The other candidates were presumably selected in closed door meetings of their own party members – this is not as open. However, it was a tough battle and I was happier when the process was over!

If elected would you continue to communicate via Twitter?

Yes, I will use Twitter but possibly less frequently than now. My wife and the children get a bid fed up with me always reaching for the blackberry but I think it is a useful way of communicating with the public

What is your favourite….

….piece of music? Handel’s Messiah

….film Goodbye Mr Chips (1939 edition)

….book The Bible

….view of the Cathedral From my front door in Gigant Street – each day I walk out I think how fortunate I am to have the chance to represent Salisbury in Parliament. The Cathedral spire – standing at 404 feet tall is the first thing that I look to.

Is there anything in the Salisbury Festival that you’re particularly looking forward to?

I hope to attend many events – especially those where local people are involved. I have met the team who have put together the programme – it is impressive and ambitious. However, if elected I will have a lot of work to do as a new MP so I may be restricted as to what I can find time for – serving Salisbury will come before my leisure time!

The main theme of http://salisburyandstonehenge.net is the meanings of Salisbury’s road names. If you were asked to choose the name of a new road, who or what would you name it after?

Robert Key Way – after an outstanding local MP who has been a brilliant representative for Salisbury for 27 years. He has helped so many people and it would seem fitting to remember him in this way.

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