The Yorkshire Post asked Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn and Jo Swinson what they would do for our region - this is what they said

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Ahead of Friday night's Question Time leaders' debate in Sheffield, The Yorkshire Post challenged the main political parties on what they would do for Yorkshire.

This newspaper's ten questions took in issues including transport, high streets, education and flooding and were put to the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Labour. This is what they said in response.

The Yorkshire Post asked the main political parties ten questions about what they would do for Yorkshire.

The Yorkshire Post asked the main political parties ten questions about what they would do for Yorkshire.

1 What is your number one plan to incentivise global companies to be based in Yorkshire and how do you intend to breathe new life into our struggling high streets?

Boris Johnson, Conservatives:

Yorkshire is such a fantastic part of the country and has so much to offer, and that’s why since I became Prime Minister my focus has been on powering up the North - a campaign championed by this great newspaper. The way to do this is to level up our country, investing in towns, infrastructure, education and technology, so opportunity is evenly distributed and we can truly unleash Yorkshire’s potential. And we will support our wealth creators as the Conservatives understand that this is the only way to fund our precious public services.

We also need to support our towns and invest in our high streets, and 16 towns across Yorkshire and Humber are set to receive up to £25m each from our Towns Fund, as well as 11 town centres benefitting from our Future High Streets Fund, which will help boost our high streets and give local people the power to input into the future of their towns. We’re cutting business rates, by increasing the retail discount to 50 per cent for shops, cinemas and pubs - saving your average corner shop £1,400 a year. And we’re backing community groups who want to buy their local pubs and post offices, saving these great institutions from disappearing from our high streets.

There’s so much more we want to do to unleash investment into Yorkshire, but first we need to end the dither and delay in Westminster. We need to get Brexit done so we can focus on attracting investment into Yorkshire from around the world and carry on supporting our high streets, not wasting next year on two more pointless referendums with the Labour Party.

Jo Swinson, Liberal Democrats:

Dynamic, entrepreneurial businesses are a force for good: entrepreneurs, the self-employed a small businesses form the backbone of local economies and government should support them. However, the Conservatives are pursuing policies that make it harder to start successful new businesses and Labour do not understand or value start-ups and small businesses.

We have a track record of attracting global companies to Yorkshire: when Secretary of State at DECC, Ed Davey brought Siemens to Hull. Our manifesto commits us to building on
Yorkshire’s regional excellence in advanced materials. We know that Yorkshire’s universities and businesses make it an attractive place for innovative manufacturing companies to be based and would incentivise them through additional funding for research and development.

Liberal Democrats are the only party who understand the importance of these businesses and who will ensure that they have the access to funding and long-term capital that they need.

We will finance the transformation of town centres by expanding the Future High Streets
Fund, as well as help protect our high streets and town centres by scrapping the rule which
allows developers to convert offices and shops into residential properties without planning permission.

We will introduce a capital £50 billion Regional Rebalancing Programme for infrastructure spend across the nations and regions of the UK, with local and devolved
authorities given a say in how it is used, reinforced by a Just Transition Fund to support communities negatively affected by policies to tackle the climate emergency.

We are going to breathe new life into our struggling highstreets by scrapping the unfair
business rates system and replacing it with a commercial landowner levy, based solely on
the land value of commercial sites rather than their entire capital value. This will shift the
burden of taxation from tenants to commercial landowners and incentivise productive investment in high street businesses. It will also result in lower taxes in 92% of English local authorities.

Jeremy Corbyn, Labour:

This election is a once-in-a-generation chance to transform Britain and take on the vested interests holding communities in the Yorkshire and the rest of the country. Under the Conservatives, the regions and nations outside of London and the South East have been starved of investment, with for instance spending on transport five times higher in London than in Yorkshire. This undermines enterprise and makes Yorkshire a less attractive place for global firms to set up and trade. This is wrong and Labour will put a stop to it.

Labour will reverse this decade of under-investment with a £400 billion to upgrade infrastructure and revitalise communities across the country, including a dedicated Local Transformation Fund based in and earmarked for Yorkshire. This will ensure Yorkshire has the world class infrastructure to attract global business.

The Yorkshire Post has also been right to highlight the urgent action needed to save ‘dying’ high streets. Across the country, 100,000 retail jobs have been lost in three years. So Labour will instigate a radical plan to revive our high streets, in part by stopping bank branch closures, banning ATM charges and giving local government new powers to put empty shops to good use.

2 Please reiterate your commitment to Northern Powerhouse Rail to transform transport links, set out a timetable for its implementation and pledge to prioritise the Yorkshire link of HS2.

Jo Swinson, Liberal Democrats:

It is a false choice between HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail. It must not be a choice between one or other, we need both.

The North has been underinvested for years. It is frankly astonishing that we are only just
seeing the replacement of the temporary Pacer trains that blighted our rails for thirty years. We need HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail and significant upgrades to existing lines.

The Conservatives have delayed upgrading the trans-Pennine route for several years

We are committed to building both HS2 and Northern Powerhouse rail – aiming to complete HS2 on the agreed timetable, including the link to Yorkshire.

-A Liberal Democrat government are also committed to starting Northern Powerhouse Rail rather than just talking up the possibility with empty words, as the Tories have done.

We are also commitment to improvements to transit systems in cities and towns across
Yorkshire. Especially Leeds which is the largest city in Western Europe without a mass transit system and has had two failed projects (trams and trolley buses) in the last twenty years.

Jeremy Corbyn, Labour:

Under the Tories, Yorkshire and the Humber is set to receive just £511 in transport spending per head, the lowest of any of England’s regions over the next four years. In contrast spending in the capital is set to be £3,636 per person.

We’ll reform our railways by bringing private franchises into public ownership as they expire. We will create a new dynamic public operator where profits are reinvested into keeping fares down and improving the quality of service.
Labour will deliver a proper ‘Crossrail for the North’ connecting Liverpool to Hull and Newcastle unlike the Tories’ poultry offer and build all stages of HS2 so those in the North can gain from this infrastructure project rather than be frozen out. We’ll also consult with local communities about opening up closed branch lines.

Boris Johnson, Conservatives

This is an easy one - I’m very happy to reiterate my commitment to Northern Powerhouse Rail! I’m passionate about investing in transport infrastructure and one of the first things I did as Prime Minister was to commit to funding the first phase of Northern Powerhouse Rail between Manchester and Leeds.

We’ve invested £13bn in northern transport since 2016 - a record amount. This includes £2.9bn for the Trans Pennine Route Upgrade which will deliver a better service for passengers with more seats, more trains and faster services between Manchester, York, Huddersfield and Leeds.

On HS2, we need to make sure money is being properly spent and such projects are truly benefitting areas that most need this investment. That’s why I’ve asked Douglas Oakervee to undertake a review, and this will be published after 12th December.

3 As well as transport, will you commit your party to working with leaders here to deliver a devolution package for the whole of Yorkshire and guarantee fair funding to this region to narrow the North-South divide?

Jeremy Corbyn, Labour:

As part of our devolution agenda, Labour will give local government the funding it needs to deliver the services local communities require and expect. We reiterate our commitment to One Yorkshire, and will make directly elected mayors more accountable.

Boris Johnson, Conservatives

I’m a strong believer in giving local people more power over their future, and in fact I’m the first Prime Minister to have previously been a Mayor so I truly understand the importance of this - and I also know that with this power comes responsibility and accountability.

Five years ago, we had no devolution across the entire north of the country, whereas today, more than 50 per cent of people in the north are represented by accountable metro mayors with a warchest of powers and money to drive jobs and growth. I want to see devolution across Yorkshire - that’s why we’ll complete the Sheffield City Region deal, unlocking £900m of investment, and we’re negotiating with West Yorkshire leaders to secure a deal there too.

Our Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry spoke to all Yorkshire leaders before the start of this election campaign, confirming the Conservative Party’s desire to negotiate devolution deals across Yorkshire if re-elected.

We have given councils the biggest boost to their spending power in a decade and local government spending has risen by £4.7 billion since 2015 – so local authorities can deliver essential public services whilst keeping taxes low.

Jo Swinson, Liberal Democrats:

All areas should have access to the same opportunities and mayoral authorities should not be ranked higher in terms of the powers with which they can be granted. We will enact
permissive legislation to empower groups of authorities to come together to establish
devolved governance – for example to a Cornish Assembly or a Yorkshire Parliament,
building on the One Yorkshire campaign. We will proceed by consensus as far as possible but will not allow one local authority to veto a coherent proposal.  

As mentioned earlier, we will introduce a capital £50 billion Regional Rebalancing
Programme for infrastructure spend across the nations and regions of the UK, with local and devolved authorities given a say in how it is used, reinforced by a Just Transition Fund to support communities negatively affected by policies to tackle the climate emergency.

In addition to this we will devolve further revenue-raising powers away from Westminster. We will legislate to empower groups of authorities to come together to establish devolved governance and ensure that any powers devolved are matched by the funding to deliver on the needs of local people. We will also devolve more decision-making power over key levers of economic development including transport, energy, housing and skills.

4 Given skills is integral to the devolution and economy agendas, how do you intend to raise standards at the county’s schools and address longstanding shortfalls in funding?

Boris Johnson, Conservatives

Education is one of my biggest priorities, and on my first day as Prime Minister I promised on the steps of Downing Street to ensure that all children get a superb education, regardless of where they live in the country. And we’ve raised per pupil school funding across the country, with every primary school to get a minimum of £4,000 and every secondary school £5,000.

I know that talent and genius are evenly distributed across the country but so often opportunity is not, and that’s why we’re investing in children’s futures across the country, including here in Yorkshire. Labour on the other hand want to abolish the independent regulator Ofsted, putting children at risk and wrecking school standards. The Conservatives will always invest in education, making sure every child gets a superb education and experience equal opportunities.

Jo Swinson, Liberal Democrats:

Yorkshire’s schools should be world-class, helping every child make the most of the
challenges ahead. But under the Conservatives, they’ve been trailing behind.

Teaching unions estimate that in Yorkshire and the Humber, schools’ frontline spending
power will have been cut by £251 per pupil between 2015 and 2020. Next year, 82% of
schools in the region will still have less spending power than in 2015.

Liberal Democrats will stop Brexit and reverse school cuts with an emergency cash injection.
By 2024, we will use the Remain Bonus to spend an extra £10 billion a year on schools, to build a brighter a future for our children.

This funding means we can employ 20,000 more teachers over five years, valuing them
properly and giving them the pay, support and training they deserve.

Jeremy Corbyn, Labour:

Over the past nine years Conservative and Lib Dem governments have starved our education system of funding and since 2015 £241 million has been cut from school budgets in Yorkshire. This means there are 412,797 primary school children in classes over 30 and 1,693 unqualified teachers in your schools. Labour will invest in the education and skills training for the people of Yorkshire.

We’ll reverse the funding cuts and by 2022/23 we’ll put an extra £10.5 billion into national school funding. To raise standards we’ll cap class sizes at 30 for all primary school children and guarantee that all of our teachers are qualified. We’ll also ensure that no child is too hungry to learn and that the half a million primary school children in Yorkshire will benefit from a free hot lunch under our plans.

5 Social care is another key service dogged by inertia and inaction – when do you intend to implement detailed reforms and do you propose a cap on the maximum contribution that individuals, or families, should make towards costs?

Jo Swinson, Liberal Democrats:

For too long, social care has been political football for the Conservatives and Labour. The
only way to solve the social care crisis will be by bringing together politicians from all sides
to a consensus on the solution.

That’s why we’re proposing a cross-party health and social care convention. This would build on existing work from previous conventions, commissions and committees.

For the Liberal Democrats, capping the often astronomical costs of care would be a key
starting point.

Ultimately, we want to bring together the NHS, social care and public health systems
seamlessly. We want services to work in a more joined up way for the people who depend on them.

Boris Johnson, Conservatives

I believe that everyone must have access to the best possible care, and that people are treated with the compassion and dignity they deserve in old age. That’s why just this week we’ve committed to a new plan for social care.

With a majority Conservative Government, we’ll invest an extra £1bn every year into the current system, providing more people with the care they need immediately. But we also need a new process to establish cross-party consensus for this crucial issue. And as part of this we will make sure that no one will ever have to sell their own home to pay for their care.

Jeremy Corbyn, Labour:

For local councils the social care crisis is pushing some to breaking point. So Labour has a plan. We will fund social care properly with an additional £10.8 billion of additional funding by 2023/24 to provide more social care packages for working age adults and older people.

We’ll also introduce free personal care for older people, to support them to live independently in their own home by providing help with daily tasks. And we’ll cap care costs, to ensure no one is faced with catastrophic costs for their care.

6 As part of your public service commitments, how many affordable homes would you build in Yorkshire over the next decade, how would you fund them and what proportion of these properties would be located in rural areas?

Jeremy Corbyn, Labour:

On housing, by the end of the Parliament we will be building at an annual rate of at least 150,000 council and social homes, with 100,000 of these built by councils for social rent in the biggest council housebuilding programme in more than a generation. We will establish a new duty on councils to plan and build these homes in their area, and fund them to do so, with backing from national government.

Boris Johnson, Conservatives

If the Conservatives win a majority government we’re going to build another one million homes over the next five years, because we want to help more people to have the opportunity to own their own home. Since 2010, the Conservatives have delivered more than 134,000 more homes in Yorkshire, including more than 30,000 additional affordable dwellings.

Jo Swinson, Liberal Democrats:

We’re committed to expanding house building in England to 300,000 homes a year. Over 100,000 of which will social and affordable homes.

We will apportion these across England according to population and need. These homes will be built with government grants to housing associations, local authorities and also changes to planning rules on private developments under Section 106.

We’re committed to spending an extra £10bn over the 5 years.

We know that affordable housing is a particular issue in rural areas and this has a real impact on those communities. Part of the problem is the prevalence of second homes, which price out important members of the community like nurses and teachers. To tackle this problem we would enable local authorities to increase the council tax on second properties by up to 500%

- We will also ensure that new developments in rural areas contain an appropriate percentage of affordable housing. The current government policy is that rural area developments of over ten properties need to have an affordable housing element. In very rural areas this is five. This is easily avoided by developers. We would require a right to local affordable housing on developments with two or more properties in very rural areas and four or more properties in rural areas.

7 This is being described by some as the climate change election – where do you stand on fracking and how do you intend to guarantee that the future energy needs of Yorkshire, and the rest of the UK, are met?

Boris Johnson, Conservatives

We recently announced an immediate halt on fracking. We’ve always said that we would be led by scientific evidence and would never do anything to put local communities at risk, so fracking will no longer be allowed to continue.

The Conservative Party has always been the party of the environment, from introducing the Clean Air Act in 1956 to becoming the first major economy to legislate to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. With our support, more than £92 billion has been invested in clean technologies since 2010, and we’ve helped to create 400,000 jobs in low carbon industries. And our world-leading Environment Bill will set legally binding targets to improve air quality and tackle climate change.

Jo Swinson, Liberal Democrats:

Liberal Democrats would ban fracking immediately and instead focus our efforts on
generating 80% of electricity needs from renewables by 2030.

Liberal Democrat policies led to Hull becoming a centre for renewable energy and we would hope that this would continue to expand across Yorkshire

The Liberal Democrats are that party, we are the only party with a radical credible plan to
tackle the climate emergency – we will halve emissions by 2030 compared to today and to
reach net-zero by 2045.

Jeremy Corbyn, Labour:

The Tories have spent nearly a decade and wasted millions of pounds in taxpayer money trying to force dangerous fracking upon communities across the North of England. Now they’re promising a “temporary pause” which no-one seriously believes will last longer than this election campaign.

Labour is clear: we’d immediately ban fracking for good. Instead of investing in dangerous, polluting fracking, we’ll kickstart a Green Industrial Revolution that will deliver more than one million green jobs and cut our carbon emissions by 2030. We’ll build 7,000 new offshore wind turbines, 2,000 new onshore wind turbines and enough solar panels to cover 22,000 football pitches. This will power Yorkshire and the UK into the future, and we’ll ensure that the benefits are felt locally, with jobs and investment on UK shores rather than overseas.

8 As you address Question Time, hundreds of flood-hit families just over 20 miles away in the lower Don Valley face months in temporary accommodation while their homes are repaired. What is your message to them and how do you intend to protect Yorkshire homes and businesses from future flooding?

Jo Swinson, Liberal Democrats:

- Flooding is something we would not wish on anyone. Having your home destroyed by a force you can do nothing to stop is one of the worst things that can happen – particularly just a month from Christmas. Boris Johnson and the Conservative’s failure to acknowledge this as emergency was shameful.

Liberal Democrats are committed to a £5 billion fund for flood prevention over the next
Parliament – on top of the £800 million a year the government spend currently.

This money will be used to support small community and council-led schemes to reduce upstream flooding, to improve flood defences and introducing high standards for flood resilience for buildings and infrastructure in high flood risk areas.

As well as supporting our farmers to manage land effectively to reduce downstream

Jeremy Corbyn, Labour:

The families affected by the recent flooding in Yorkshire and elsewhere in the country will rightly be angry at the Government’s poor handling of the situation. The Government commitment to tackle flooding is far too little, too late.

Labour has been clear, we will spend £5.6 billion over 10 years to level up flood defences. The new fund will prioritise areas of need, particularly in regions such as the North West, Yorkshire and the East Midlands that have been neglected under the Tories. This is the amount the Environment Agency has asked for, so that’s the amount we’ll give. Labour will work to protect people’s homes and livelihoods.

Boris Johnson, Conservatives

I’ve visited affected communities twice over the past couple of weeks and have been in constant communication with the teams leading recovery efforts in flooded areas. I’ve seen first hand the resilience of local communities, and I want them to know the Government will always be ready to support them.

We’ve committed new funding to support communities as they recover, including activating an emergency scheme allowing local authorities to reclaim flood-related costs from the Government, and providing homes and businesses affected by flooding with grants of up to £5,000 for new resilience measures.

Since 2010, Yorkshire has been a priority area for flood defence planning. Yorkshire and the Humber will receive more funding per head for projects until 2021 than any other region in England. Nationally, we are also investing more than three times as much in flood defences than the previous administration.

We are midway through an investment programme worth £2.6 billion, which will dramatically reduce the risk of flooding for at least 300,000 homes by 2021 and is a substantial increase in funding from £1.7 billion in the 2010-2015 Parliament, and £1.5 billion between 2005 and 2010.

9 Farmers here – the original Northern Powerhouse – want guarantees about future subsidies so they can plan for the future. What is your pledge to them and how you can you reassure them that you will take countryside issues more seriously?

Jeremy Corbyn, Labour:

The Yorkshire Post is right to point out that the famers are the original Northern Powerhouse. Leave or Remain in the EU we will legislate to ensure support and economic certainty for UK famers. We are also explicit that we will put farmers, fishers, food producers and workers at the heart of our plans for delivering healthy food locally.

We will support local food networks, expand access to farm holdings and ensure rights of union representation for all food and agricultural workers. We will re-establish an Agricultural Wages Board in England so every part of the UK is covered.

Jo Swinson, Liberal Democrats:

Liberal Democrats will stop Brexit, ensuring funding continues to come from the European Unionf our Yorkshire farmers.

We would adopt a public goods for public goods approach – ensuring that farmers are
rewarded for helping tackle climate change and farming in a nature friendly way including
increasing soil carbon and expanding native woodland – all while continuing to produce high quality British food.

Introduce a National Food Strategy, including the use of public procurement policy, to
promote the production and consumption of healthy, sustainable and affordable food and
cut down on food waste.

Support producers increasing powers of the Groceries Code Adjudicator.

We will also ensure that future trade deals signed as part of the EU will maintain our high
environmental and animal welfare standards – meaning our farmers would be undercut.

We must also take countryside issues seriously; we need our farmers to help us manage our land effectively.

Liberal Democrats are committed to tackling rural crime, improving connectivity and services in rural areas.

Boris Johnson, Conservatives

I know that our farmers are the backbone of this country - managing our land and providing the most amazing food for people across our country and around the world. A Conservative majority government would match the current annual budget available to farmers in every year of the next Parliament.

This funding will support farmers as they move away from the EU’s bureaucratic, unfair and environmentally-damaging Common Agricultural Policy. In England, the Common Agricultural Policy will be replaced by new schemes to support farmers in their work to care for the environment and improve animal welfare. We will always support our farmers and getting Brexit done will also help them access more export markets around the world.

10 Finally how do you – and your party – plan to reunite the country in the wake of the deep divisions that are a direct legacy of Brexit and its wider ramifications?

Jo Swinson, Liberal Democrats:

We would Stop Brexit – which is the only way to end the process quickly. This would mean a
Remain Bonus of £50 billion over five years – we would invest this money to improve publicservices and tackle inequality.

Liberal Democrats are the only party looking to the future with a plan to kickstart a devolution revolution that will give all parts of the UK a real say backed by meaningful financial muscle. This is key to healing the divisions in our society and ensuring no one is left behind. It is also the only sustainable answer to the regional divide.

As part of this, we will introduce a capital £50 billion Regional Rebalancing Programme for infrastructure spend across the nations and regions of the UK, with local and devolved authorities given a say in how it is used, reinforced by a Just Transition Fund to support communities negatively affected by policies to tackle the climate emergency.

Jeremy Corbyn, Labour:

On Brexit, we simply cannot trust Boris Johnson to put the people first. He will continue to push for a sell-out Brexit, leading to even greater chaos, job losses and falling living standards. And under Boris Johnson’s plans for a trade deal with Donald Trump, our NHS could be forced to pay £500 million a week more for drugs. Under Labour it is the people, not politicians, who will make the final decision.

The only way to get Brexit sorted and bring the country back together is by giving the people the final say. Within six months, we will deliver a public vote with the choice of a sensible leave deal or remain. And we will implement whatever you decide.

Boris Johnson, Conservatives

The only way to bring our country together again and unleash Britain’s potential is to get Brexit done. We need to spend next year focusing on people’s priorities here in Yorkshire and across the country, investing in our NHS and schools, levelling up our regions, building the homes people need, and tackling violent crime.

Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party would simply stoke further divisions next year with two more damaging and divisive referendums, ignoring people’s voices and their priorities. The Conservative Party’s plans will unite the country and unleash opportunities across Yorkshire.