|Parliamentary Candidates face the electorate at the Regency Hall in Saundersfoot|
Local Candidates Rise to the Challenge at Green Question Time
Members of Pembrokeshire South East Energy Group were delighted by the public response to their Question Time held at the Regency Hall on Friday 29th January.
An attendance of approximately one hundred and fifty greeted the four candidates of the major parties for the West Carmarthen and South Pembrokeshire constituency in the next general election. Nick Ainger MP, John Dixon, John Gossage and Simon Hart appeared in commendable good humour as they ascended the stage. This general camaraderie continued for the whole evening with not a harsh word exchanged between any of the four panellists. Indeed on most issues there was a remarkable degree of consensus.
Prior to the opening of the event, concern had been expressed that the audience would not submit an adequate number of questions for the selectors (Joan Asby, Jo Horsely and Marc Mordey) to choose a wide range of topics for the panellists. Events proved this a needless worry. Questions came in thick and fast. The problem was then – how to decide!
Of particular pleasure was to find a group of eight students from the Sir Thomas Picton School, Haverfordwest, not just attending the event but also submitting a range of perceptive and intelligent questions. Their attendance made a significant contribution to the success of the evening.
After introducing the panel, chairman Andy Middleton sought their views on the question of public transport. All accepted the importance of public provision, but it had to be of an acceptable standard. Significant improvement was essential. John Gossage made the telling point that though, during the recent severe weather, efforts were made to clear the roads, pavements were left icy and dangerous for far too long.
Though there was some variation in emphasis, all panellists also agreed it was essential that measures should be taken to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide. Simon Hart said that though he was not an expert on climate science, the risks of doing nothing were far too great. The others were even more forceful in their opinion that if measures were not introduced to combat global warming, we would be condemned by future generations. Again there was general agreement that renewable energy should be fully exploited. However there was disagreement over the future role of nuclear energy with John Dixon and John Gossage highlighting its shortcomings, whilst Nick Ainger and Simon Hart considered it had an important role to play in the eventual energy mix.
Improved feed-in tariffs were generally thought to be wise, to encourage members of the public to generate their own renewable electricity. The general opinion that at the present time wind turbines were the best option with the current plans for Infinergy's wind farm near Milford Haven being generally supported. However there was also strong support for the harnessing of tidal energy with its more predictable output. Simon Hart stressed that people responded better to the carrot than the stick.
All were against compulsion in the field of population control. Improved living standards was the most effective way of reducing population growth.
The best ways forward for agriculture was also probed. Though genetic engineering was generally cautiously approved, there was a feeling that the main beneficiary of this was often the multinational agri-chemical industries. John Dixon also stressed the extent to which the industry was dependent on petro-chemicals – a risky business when there are fears that oil reserves are being depleted. The general feeling was that organic farming though desirable could not produce the quantities of food needed to feed the world. All the panellists were agreed that the West were using more than their fair shares of the world's resources. The correcting of the balance would not however be easy.
A question about the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 revealed some differences in knowledge and perspectives amongst the panellists. Simon Hart was interested in the potential conflicts of interest between land owners and the general public about gaining access to the coast. Nick Ainger outlined his contribution to the legislative process and the potential of the Act to protect Pembrokeshire’s rich offshore marine environment. He explained how Marine Conservation Zones would protect fish stocks. John Gossage attributed Pembrokeshire’s special marine environment to the influence of the gulf stream which was why a marine Special Area of Conservation had already been established. Pressure had been applied for a long time to achieve stronger statutory safeguards. He also argued that further international action was needed to protect the seas and he advocated pressure on the European Union to reform the Common Fisheries Policy.
Andy Middleton chaired with firmness and fairness. Strict time keeping was maintained and wandering from the point was not permitted. It was also most noticeable that he too had an impressive grasp of environmental issues. It was clear from the searching questions submitted by the large audience that, at least in South Pembrokeshire, caring for the environment was a matter of great concern and that whichever candidate wins this seat at the General Election, he should be sure to take this message to Westminster.
|15th January 2010||Weather & Climate: A Question of Energy|
|4th December 2009||Sustainable Community Ventures: Regeneration in Pembrokeshire|
|13th November 2009||Community Initiatives: Sustainable Wales leads by example|
|16th October 2009||Climate Change Challenge for Candidates & Micro-generation with wind turbines|
|2nd October 2009||A Visit to Castle Pill Wind Farm: Quiet blows the wind|
|11th September 2009||Renewable Sustainable Energy: An Energy Survey for South East Pembrokeshire|
|10th July 2009||A talk by Lorraine Dallmeier of Infinergy: Wind Power - Pembrokeshire's Potential|
|12th June 2009||St. Oswald's, Jeffreyston - Pembrokeshire's Beacon of Sustainability|
|24th April 2009||Solar Panels: Three Cheers for Sunny Pembrokeshire|
|13th March 2009||Ashton Hayes Community Energy Reduction & Hot Water From the Sun|
|13th February 2009||Could Pembrokeshire go carbon neutral?|
|14th November 2008||Environment Wales to provide 'Start-Up' Funding for PSEEG|
|17th October 2008||PSEEG to become a Registered Charity|