David Cameron answers Leader's questions on issues affecting Chester residents

Reporter:

Steve Creswell

CONSERVATIVE leader David Cameron says he will create more jobs, build more houses and boost living standards if he is re-elected as Prime Minister.

He also urged people to get on board with ‘fracking’, saying there were too many “scare stories” about gas extraction and giving his personal guarantee it would not go ahead if proven unsafe.

During a visit to the Chester Standard and Leader offices on Watergate Street yesterday, Mr Cameron said he was confident current MP Stephen Mosley would retain his seat on May 7.

He also sympathised with front line health and emergency services workers who felt the need to go on strike – but said there should be a minimum threshold on strike ballots to ensure they only went ahead when properly supported.

Questioned on other issues, he blamed the rise in the use of food banks partly on the previous Labour government’s policy of not allowing job centres to advertise their services – a policy the Coalition had overturned.

And he warned of the “emerging mess” of a possible Labour/SNP  collaboration.

“They want to pull all the money north of the border. They wouldn’t give a fig about England or the North West,” Mr Cameron said.

Lending his support to Mr Mosley, the Prime Minister added: “We’ve got a good track record in Chester, a very strong MP and a very exciting programme for the future in terms of jobs, reducing people’s taxes and building the homes we need.”

He praised Mr Mosley for overseeing “investment in schools” and “rapid job creation” in the city, and said a vote for the Conservatives would mean more economical balance between the north and south.

Asked about the soaring number of local foodbank users, Mr Cameron said it was partly a sign people knew of their existence as Labour had previously banned their advertisement in job centres for fear of “bad PR”.

Mr Cameron added: “Obviously, we don’t want anyone to have to rely on foodbanks in this country. The most important thing we can do for quality of life is get people into work. 

“Since I became Prime Minister, there are about 160,000 more people in work in the North West.

“That’s the best way to give people the chance of a better livelihood and get people out of poverty.”

He was also asked if he was concerned by the high number of public sector workers, particularly in the NHS, who felt they had no choice but to take strike action over their treatment.

“It’s disturbing when you have potential reductions in service levels,” Mr Cameron said. “We’ve made difficult decisions but we’ve always protected the NHS.”

He added: “We do need to make sure strike ballots are fair. Sometimes you do have very low turn-outs. We’ve put in our manifesto that there would be a threshold for strike ballots... so strikes only go ahead when there is proper support.”

On the subject of ‘fracking’, Mr Cameron again pledged his support for the controversial gas extraction process and vowed it would only be implemented in the UK if it was safe.

He said: “The recovery of unconventional gas will only go ahead if all the safeguards and the very complex and detailed licensing system and environmental permission system in our country allow it.

“My own view is that it makes sense to recover our own natural resources rather than bring the over from the other side of the world, from often unsafe places.

“Also there’s a very big community benefit package now.”

He said communities stood to benefit from fracking with handouts of £100,000 per well available to local authorities, which would also rake in all the business rates.

“This could be significant in terms of money being spent in the local area by locally elected politicians,” Mr Cameron said.

Asked again to address people's fears over safety, he added: “It will not go ahead if it is unsafe. 

“There are a lot of scare stories put around but we’ve been extracting oil and gas onshore for many years.”

During a busy day in Chester, Mr Cameron also visited Christleton High School.

Accomponied by Mr Mosley, the Conserative leader spoke to students and teachers at the 'outstanding' Chester school.

See full story in the Chester Leader

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