Election 2022: Liz Wardlaw of the Conservative Party

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1.Tell us about yourself and why you are standing I’m Liz Wardlaw and I’m the Conservative Party candidate for the City of Chester by-election. I’ve been a nurse for over 40 years, and I’m married with two children and two grandchildren. I’m standing in this by-election because I believe we need an MP with real life experience, who will work with the government to get the best deal for our area. We’re electing an MP at this by-election to serve Chester until the next general election, so I’m asking people to vote on 1st December and give me two years to make a real difference for the city.

2.What qualities can you bring to the role of MP ? I bring experience and commitment to the role. I’ve dedicated my life to helping people as an NHS nurse and also as a local councillor, so I’ve seen people at their best and at their most vulnerable. I have compassion and the skills to help. My experience as a nurse gives me a real insight into the everyday issues people face.

3.How would you assess the record of the current Government ? None of us could’ve predicted the last few years – a pandemic, war in Europe and now the economic challenges we’re facing as a result of both those things. Our Prime Minister did everything he could as Chancellor of the Exchequer to protect people and businesses with schemes like furlough. The steps he took protected jobs and livelihoods through the pandemic. The vaccine roll out was a huge success as I know from my experience helping to vaccinate people against Covid-19. And the government has led the way internationally in its steadfast support for the people of Ukraine. Now our country is facing profound economic challenges and there will be difficult decisions to make, but the government is focused on overcoming these challenges to build a more prosperous future for our country.

4.What would be your 3 main priorities for Chester ? My three main priorities are health, jobs and investment, and the environment. As a nurse, I know how important the NHS is to local people. That’s why during the pandemic I came out of retirement to help deliver jabs into people’s arms and then managed a vaccination hub. I also want to see more investment in Chester to help support jobs and local businesses – and that includes working with the government to bring more levelling up funding here. Protecting the environment is also one of my key priorities. We’ve kept the ban on fracking, and I’ll work with residents to make sure our environment and green spaces are protected.

5.How would you support constituency SMEs through the economic crisis ? Our small businesses are the lifeblood of our local economy, from Chester’s historic Rows to local shops in places like Westminster Park and Hoole to the businesses that are run from spare rooms and garages. One of the biggest challenges they’re facing at the moment is inflation, including the cost of energy, which is impacting the overall cost of living. Putin’s war in Ukraine pushed gas prices in Europe up to unimaginable levels and people need immediate support to get them through this winter. The government has announced a new Energy Price Guarantee, saving the typical household £700 on their energy bills this winter. This is in addition to the existing support worth up to £1,200 for vulnerable households, and there’s equivalent support in place for businesses. As Chester’s MP I’ll always fight for support for our small and medium businesses.

6. What works well in Chester ? Chester is a close knit city, yet one full of diverse communities, small enough for people to know each other, but a city that punches well above its weight in terms of its cultural offer. The Storyhouse project, for example, shows what can be achieved when all parties work together to deliver something of value to the city and which everyone can be proud of. The city is the focus of so much that makes it unique – from the Cathedral to the many parades that punctuate the yearly calendar – and which bring people together. Despite all the challenges the last few years have thrown at us, the city is often buzzing with activity, from people enjoying the many restaurant and eating options, a casual coffee, or a day at the races.

7.What doesn’t work well in Chester and how could you improve it? I believe in a positive vision for Chester. But there are issues across the city, like bus services in need of improvement, access to the city centre that needs to be made easier parking issues that urgently need resolving so we can secure the future of our fantastic high street. How would I improve it? By working with the Government and the council, to secure more funding and support for the city while pressuring our local authority to spend it where is most needed.

8.What steps should Chester take towards relieving the climate crisis ? How would you encourage green investment ? As Chester’s MP, I will always fight to protect our environment and green spaces. We’ve kept the ban on fracking, and I will oppose any attempts to frack here, just as our local Conservative councillors have. Tackling climate change is a priority for all of us and the Conservative Government is doing a lot in this area. We’re leading the world in working to achieve our net zero target by 2050 and investing in cleaner, greener jobs for the future. We’re also working towards energy security and to do this we need to invest in nuclear and renewables as well as increase our domestic energy supply and production, unlocking North Sea oil and gas resources.

9. Do you support sending asylum seekers to Rwanda? We need to take action to end the dangerous illegal immigration we are seeing. But we also need to stop the people smuggling gangs and make sure it isn’t profitable to traffic people across the Channel. The UK provides generous protection to those directly fleeing the worst of humanity by settling thousands of people every year through safe and legal routes such as those fleeing Syria, Hong Kong, and Afghanistan. The Government has taken further positive action in recent days to help deal with the challenge of migrant crossings which is ultimately how these issues will be resolved. A strengthened agreement with France will see the number of officers patrolling the French coast increase by 40 per cent so that attempted crossings can be stopped before they leave the continent.

10. How has Brexit affected Chester and how could we maximise any current/future benefits? Nearly 17.5 million people voted to leave the EU in 2016 – more people than have voted for any other single democratic decision in British political history. Their reasons for doing so were complex and varied but for me, looking to be elected to the Westminster parliament, I ask myself, what would be the point whilst we were still members of the European Union? Before we left the EU, European law took precedence over UK law on many matters, and I simply don’t believe that’s right. This fact affected every single resident in the city, even if they didn’t realise it! I believe our parliament should be sovereign. Brexit means that our Parliament decides all UK law lives – from environmental legislation to our future trade relationships with countries around the world. As an independent country, we can go further and faster than the EU to tackle climate change and meet our ambitious net zero commitments. It also means we can go further to protect our natural environment and support our farmers. Our departure from the EU has given us an unprecedented opportunity to forge new alliances and strengthen our partnerships around the world. The interests of the British people now lie at the heart of everything we do around the world—from our trade policy to our sanctions policy. All these points mark positive ways in which Chester residents can feel the benefits of the UK once again being able to determine its own destiny.

11.What are your aspirations for the next phase of the Northgate development? The first phase of the Northgate development is fantastic. The new market has a great atmosphere and it’s bustling with visitors. The next phase is a good opportunity to rethink how people live, work, and spend their time in the city. It should deliver a complementary offer and attract people for a mix of food, shopping, leisure, and accommodation.

12.How can we better maintain and support the city walls , in particular the collapse of 2020 which remains unrepaired? Chester’s iconic city walls are the most complete Roman walls in Britain and a significant part of the city’s history and heritage. Unfortunately, they haven’t been maintained as well as they could have been in recent years and it’s disappointing that the part of the walls that collapsed back in 2020 is still in disrepair. As Chester’s MP I would work to secure funding for the repairs needed but longer term, Cheshire West and Chester Council need to ringfence funding to ensure the walls are properly maintained and protected as part of Chester’s heritage.

13. Dee House remains in a state of disrepair, how could we speed up progress on this divisive issue? What to do with Dee House is definitely a divisive issue. It’s been vacant for many years now and unfortunately has been left to rot. The Labour council has spent half a million pounds on Dee House and there have been stakeholder meetings, public drop in events, reviews of the site and a range of recommendations, but we still don’t have a clear plan for its future. As Chester’s MP I would not have the power to decide what happens with Dee House, but the building is in a poor state and despite all the money that’s been spent, it’s still empty and still rotting. I will make a strong case for the Council to decide a plan for Dee House, so it is best used for the benefit of Chester residents.

14. Would you support the Ginger E scooter trial being made permanent ? The scooters are an easy and environmentally friendly way to get around Chester, but they’re not universally popular. I haven’t seen the results of the trial, but I will continue to listen to residents before a final decision is made. If the scooters do become a permanent fixture, then we should look to introduce some basic skills training for users and a clear set of regulations that everyone must abide by, at a national level, to regulate their use and deal with the legitimate concerns some people have.

15.Our former MP said he would fight the closure of the Countess with every drop of blood in his body – do you enjoy the same level of conviction?  I’ve been a nurse for over 40 years and the NHS runs through my veins. I am as passionate about protecting and supporting the NHS as anyone but I don’t believe it is helpful for politicians to raise fears within our community unless they are grounded in fact. I will always fight for the Countess of Chester Hospital and all our local NHS services. We want the very best possible facilities and support for residents locally – free at the point of need – and I will be the strongest possible voice the for the city.

16. What are your views on the future use of Chester castle ? Like the walls and rows, Chester Castle is part of our city’s history and a fantastic tourist attraction. The Castle is managed by English Heritage who have the skills and experience to maintain and restore it which has ensured it is preserved for the future. I’d like to see the Castle opened up to visitors as often as possible so more people can visit and learn about the historic significance of our city.

17. How would you tackle the further regeneration of the rows? Chester’s medieval rows are another significant asset for the city and should be treated as such. As Chester’s MP, I will encourage investment into the city so that the rows are used for a mix of shopping, eating and accommodation. I would also like to see the Council investing in the rows and in Chester more broadly, beyond the resources that have been made available to it from a national perspective. Chester is already benefiting from the £95 million government-funded High Streets Heritage Action Zone programme, with over £1 million of support. This is being delivered by Historic England, helping to unlock the potential of high streets across England by fuelling economic, social, and cultural recovery, and breathe new life into them for future generations. As Chester’s MP I will work positively with the government to unlock further investment and support to protect and revitalise the Chester Rows which are unique in Western Europe.

18.What support could you offer to Chester FC? I will work with Chester FC and Chester FC Community Trust to support them where I can. As the local MP, I will champion Chester FC at both the local and national level to ensure Chester’s fantastic football team is on the map and gets the support it needs to grow.

19. What is your definition of a woman? A woman is an adult female and sex means biological sex. It is vital that we shield women from erasure. That said, I know there are sensitive issues around people who want to change their gender, and this is allowed in law.

20.What are your views on a form of proportional representation for Parliament and House of Lords reform? The First Past the Post voting system is very well established in Westminster elections. It’s a fair and simple system, where everybody casts a single vote and the candidate with the most votes wins. It ensures that every constituency has an MP to champion its interests in Parliament and constituents easily know who to go to with issues or concerns. Changing the electoral system was overwhelmingly rejected in a public referendum a decade ago and I continue to believe FPTP is best for UK elections.House of Lords reform is not a priority for local people – there are more important issues to tackle. People want politicians to focus on issues like the NHS and investing in jobs, not trying to tinker with the political system.

21. What are your views on the cost of parking in the city particularly the new Market Car Park ? Parking fees are an issue in most places. They’re determined by who owns the car park and it’s not something an MP can directly decide or change. However, the cost of parking can put people off coming into the city which impacts local businesses. Residents who live close enough can walk and the bus can be an option for others, but it’s often the case that people need to drive into Chester and if they’re deterred from parking in the city it has a knock on effect for businesses. In the past, local Conservative councillors have called on the Council to take a pragmatic approach to parking at key times, such as Christmas, and offer incentives to attract people into the city. I’d add my voice to those calls – we should be making it easier for residents to access the city and supporting our key businesses at this crucial time for the economy. I commend Chester BID for example who are acting to help consumers in the run-up to Christmas by supporting free parking at Chester Racecourse each weekend from late November to Christmas Eve. This will help shoppers save money – fantastic!

22. How would you improve transport links to the city? Manchester/London/Flintshire etc. Also rural transport links  Chester needs an MP who will work with the Government to deliver better transport links. For the last seven years we’ve had an MP who consistently criticised the Government instead of making the case for investment in rail and transport for our city. It’s incredibly frustrating for local people that we don’t have fast, direct train services to key destinations. Improving transport links between Chester and London, Manchester and North Wales is part of my plan. It will require investment in infrastructure – including much needed electrification. Rural transport links are also a problem for some residents, such as children who can’t get buses to school. As Chester’s MP, I would work with councillors and the bus companies to improve these transport links.

23.What are your views on an English assembly/ Parliament ? I don’t believe we need to tinker with the political system and add yet another layer of government, especially not when there are other issues facing the country. We’ve had ‘English votes for English laws’ since 2015, which ensures that any laws that only apply to England must have the support of a majority of MPs in English constituencies.

24. What are your hopes for the local housing market ? We need to strike the right balance between providing homes for the next generation and preventing overdevelopment of our green spaces. For me, the greenbelt must be protected. Therefore, we need to identify the right areas, especially brownfield sites, for new-build homes. For those who are in rented accommodation, the Government has set out plans to protect renters from unfair practices, including no-fault evictions which can turn a family’s life upside down and poor-quality social housing. We have introduced the Social Housing Regulation Bill to Parliament to empower tenents, ensure rogue landlords are properly investigated and increase fines for landlords who fail to fulfil their responsibilities. As your MP I will support these measures and champion the interests of homeowners, aspiring homeowners and renters in Parliament.

25. How would you tackle the increasing number of street drug/drink users? The rise in drug use in Chester is sadly obvious to many people who go into the city, with the smell of cannabis in the air most days. It’s often dismissed as not a big issue, but it needs to be addressed because drug-use fuels other crimes, impacts on ourcity and many people feel less safe after dark. I know Cheshire’s Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner, John Dwyer, cares a great deal about drug related crime and wishes to see the root causes tackled as well as robust enforcement action taken from police officers on the beat when possible. If elected as your MP, I will make it an urgent priority to join a patrol in the city to help understand some of the challenges we face and liaise proactively with local residents to deliver on their crime and safety priorities in the months ahead.

26. The Chester constituency has a collection of varied wards , some affluent, some not, how would you bring economic equality to the city so all residents are involved in opportunities and investment ? In many ways, Chester reflects the entire country – it has some wealthy areas, yet also some where too many people are left struggling. The challenge is to make sure that no matter where you live, opportunities are equally spread out throughout the city. What does that look like in practice? A good school for every child. Effective transport links, including for rural areas, so everyone can access quality jobs. Support for businesses and investment in community assets in all parts of Chester. Not all of these are down to the MP, but if elected on 1st December I will work tirelessly with Government, the council, our community groups and others to help make this is a reality for people in Chester

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