ELECTION 2010: Candidates go head-to-head at debate
Dwindling pensions, 'out of control' bankers and the expenses scandal were all debated at an election hustings in Stowmarket last week.
The five candidates standing for Bury St Edmunds - sitting Tory MP David Ruffley, Labour's Kevin Hind, David Chappell, of the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party's Mark Ereira-Guyer and UKIP's John Howlett - faced a packed audience at the town's United Reformed Church as they tried to win support ahead of polling day.
Asked by one questioner how MPs got their expenses 'so wrong', Mr Ruffley, who paid back money he had claimed for an LCD TV, said: "In my case, my claims were allowable at the time, although that is no excuse. I didn't get all the money the Telegraph claimed I did.
"I decided voluntarily last August to pay every single penny back and, I was under no obligation to do so. But you are the bosses, and if you think I'm not an honest politician it's between you and the ballot box."
But Mr Howlett accused the MP of voting to block information about expenses claims being published, adding: "They got it wrong by being greedy. We can't make a rule book that will make dishonest people honest - it's down to you to elect honest people."
Mr Ereira-Guyer said: "People are hopping mad about this. I think there are a lot of honourable people trying to serve their electorate, but I also think there were a lot of MPs who didn't think they got paid enough.
"The thing about being an MP is that it's a different sort of job, and there should be a public duty ethos attached to it."
Mr Hind said the current voting system bred complacency in MPs, adding: "We have in this country a system where some constituencies always return the same MP from the same party. I want to see a proportional system of voting to try and change that."
Mr Chappell said: "We need to remind MPs that they are paid by you, and I agree that we need to reform the voting system so there's no such thing as a safe seat.
"If elected, I would publish all my expenses online within a month and explain why I was claiming."
Responding to a question about what 'fierce dragons' the country was facing, Mr Hind - who said he would try to be independent of Labour Party whips - said: "At present it's the global economy. From now on, governments need to adopt a more radical approach - I would like to see our banks become more socially responsible."
Mr Ruffley agreed that the economic crisis was a threat but said: "We're going to have to make difficult decisions but protect the most vulnerable. You're not going to see our pay going up - we need to lead by example."
Meanwhile Mr Howlett said Britain needed to deal with its debt problem by leaving the European Union, and said: "We need to scrap all the quangos we have, and if we leave the EU there's plenty of money there to spend on putting people from the public sector into private sector jobs."
Mr Ereira-Guyer said global poverty needed to be dealt with, adding: "Environmental degradation is happening in huge parts of the world, and this country needs to provide leadership.
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We need that approach to make this planet a place of peace and security."
Mr Chappell said his party would tackle environmental issues by putting insulation into schools and hospitals, creating more jobs and reduced energy bills.
A hustings is being held in All Saints Church, Bury St Edmunds, at 7.30pm tonight.
Candidates go head-to-head at debate
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Weather for Bury St Edmunds
Friday 24 May 2013
Temperature: 4 C to 8 C
Wind Speed: 21 mph
Wind direction: South
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Wind direction: North