Theresa May: You Ask The Questions

The Tory spokeswoman on Work, Pensions, and Women answers your questions, such as 'Why do you want us to work longer?' and 'Who's your best mate in politics?'
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The Independent Online

Since 1997 everything has been taxed, including employment, effectively at 12.5% through employer's national insurance contributions. How will your party, when elected, address this problem and reduce unemployment and from where will you replace revenue lost from any reduction in the direct and indirect tax on employment?

Keith Williams, by email

One of our main priorities if elected will be to Get Britain Working again. We have announced a package of measures to do just that, including hundreds of thousands of new apprenticeships and training places and a new scheme to reinvigorate self-employment and enterprise. We will also support new jobs by making the first ten jobs created by new businesses in the first two years of a Conservative government exempt from national insurance – creating 60,000 extra jobs over two years.

But we have been clear that to build a strong economy for the future we also need to tackle our debt crisis. We have been straight with the British people about the tough decisions we need to take in order to get the debt crisis under control; for example, we have said that we will need to introduce a one-year public sector pay freeze, that does not apply to the one million lowest paid, in order to help protect the jobs of 100,000 people working in public services.

Why is it that the Tories want us to work longer? Who is going to employ us? Why should we? We have paid dearly for our pensions.

Sam Johnson, by email

We want to increase the value of pensions for everybody. That is why we are committed to re-linking the State Pension to earnings and we have made clear that we are prepared to make the tough decisions needed to ensure that all pensioners receive a decent state pension. The Government has already agreed that the state pension age should rise to 66 in 2026, but Adair Turner’s Pension Commission recommended a review of the timetable. As I say we are committed to re-linking the rise in state pensions to earnings and to make this more affordable we would hold that review with a view to bringing forward the date at which the state pension age rises to 66. But we are clear that any change should start no earlier than 2016 for men and 2020 for women.

Why does the Tory party aspire to end child poverty by 2020, rather than commit to its elimination?

Sarah Taylor, by email

We all want to see child poverty eliminated by 2020. But child poverty has risen in recent years under Labour and the Government has shown no sign of having any new ideas about how to tackle it. Their approach, which is to rely simply on means-tested benefits to address the symptoms of poverty, is unsustainable and is not working. Instead, we must tackle the root causes of poverty, such as educational failure, family breakdown, drug abuse, indebtedness and crime.

Private firms charged with getting people back to work are expensive and ineffective. Why do you think more of the same is the answer?

Neema Shah, by email

One of the key elements of our plans to help people get back to work is payment by results. So back-to-work providers, whether they are from the private or voluntary sector, will receive most of the payment for their services not only when they have helped someone into a job, but also when they have helped someone into sustainable employment.

They will also be paid more for those people who are hardest to help back into work, to make sure that they don't just deal with the easy cases and leave others languishing on benefit. I believe our programme to Get Britain Working will make a real difference to thousands of lives.

Will your party address the issues of immigration, asylum seekers and the spread of radical forms of fundamentalist Islam in the UK? These are the issues that most people want a debate on, but no one in Westminster faces up to.

Paul Bastier, by email

The latest population projections show how irresponsible Alan Johnson was when he said in July that he does not lie awake at night worrying about a population of 70 million. Labour's failure to control immigration has left us in this difficult position. A Conservative government would introduce a limit on the numbers allowed to come here to work, as well as measures to fight illegal immigration, such as a dedicated border police force.

If elected, will you be getting rid of bureaucracy, especially in the NHS? If you got rid of Primary Care Trusts, Strategic Health Authorities and non jobs, it would save millions.

Sue Francis, Wakefield

We have promised that we will cut bureaucracy in the NHS by a third, saving £1.5bn. We will also scrap Labour's top-down targets, which mean nurses spend one million hours a week on paperwork instead of doing what they do best – looking after sick people.

Are women in the Tory party to be seen and not heard?

Barbara Cowell, Scunthorpe

David Cameron made clear from the day he was elected as Leader of the Party that he wants to see more women Conservative MPs. He has also said that by the end of a Parliament in which we are elected into government he would want a third of his ministers to be women. You only have to look around the shadow Cabinet table – Cheryl Gillan, Caroline Spelman, Theresa Villiers, Sayeeda Warsi, and Pauline Neville Jones – to see what a key role women play in the party. We have also just seen the excellent Chloe Smith elected in Norwich North.

However we recognise we need to get more women into politics and we will continue to fight to ensure more female representation. That's why I co-founded an organisation called WomenWin, which works to encourage more women to stand for parliament for the Party and gives them training and support through the selection process.

Women shortlists are discriminatory, patronising, ineffective, anti-local and chauvinist. Is that why they are Tory policy?

Andrew Cameron, Oxford

There have been plenty of all men shortlists in the past and no-one suggested they were "discriminatory, patronising or ineffective"! I reject your view of women shortlists and your view of the Party. Women who want to be Tory candidates go through the same selection procedure as men – first to get on the list and then to be selected in a seat. From January, our party will move to our by-election procedure which means that if any MP stands down, either shortly before that date or after that date, the Party centrally will provide a shortlist of candidates to their association. This is normal practice. It is David Cameron's intention that some of those shortlists will be all-women short lists as a recognition that there are many very, very talented women on our candidates' list who haven't yet been selected.

Wouldn't your party be taken more seriously if you allowed [George] Osborne to do what he enjoys, which is political strategy, and let someone who knows about economics be Chancellor?

Roy Harding, by email

George Osborne is a talented politician who has consistently made the right calls on the economy. He called time on debt, opposed the ineffective VAT cut and he made the right call on spending. It was George who forced Labour to finally admit that spending cuts are inevitable after the next election if we are going to get this country back on track. And on Saturday in this paper a poll showed George had the backing of the City.

Do you realise how uninspiring 'Broken Britain' is as an election slogan?

Richard Gratton, London

Let's be clear, Britain is a great country but the sad reality is that it's badly broken. If we are going to re-energise and re-engage people we need to be brutally honest. The public are fed up with being spun countless half-truths. On Gordon Brown's watch gun crime has nearly doubled, inequality is at a record high and the country is on the brink of bankruptcy. The only way of solving these problems is by admitting they exist in the first place, something Gordon Brown is incapable of doing.

To what extent do you think David Cameron's extensive experience in public relations – which is the only thing outside politics he has extensive experience of – influences the modern Conservative party?

Toby Agnew, by email

David Cameron has continually shown he has the character and judgement to lead this country. He has consistently led the way and made the tough choices on key issues such as the economy and parliamentary expenses. Crucially he has the foresight and honesty to realise that politicians don't have all the answers. Cameron Direct, which has seen David hold 50 old-style town hall meetings up and down the country where people can put their concerns to him, just shows how much importance he places on listening to people. Labour's big failing has been the fact it talks to itself and not the country.

Who's your best mate in politics? And who do you hate most in the Labour Party?

Salil Anderson, Luton

My best mate in politics is my husband, who is a great supporter in everything I do. I'm not someone who goes round hating people in the Labour Party, but I am very angry with Gordon Brown for the damage he has done to our country and particularly the damage he did to people's pensions.

Do Tories still read books? What was the last one you read?

Neil Cove, Ludlow

Of course we read books – we're just like anyone else. I have just finished Kingdom of Shadows by Alan Furst.