Stuart Macdonald

party: Green Party
constituency: Witney

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To what degree should access to information on the internet be restricted by the state or private companies?

organisation: Open Rights Group (ORG)

In very broad terms, the aim should be to keep the norms of online activity for the citizens of a particular society as nearly parallel as reasonably possible with those that apply to offline activity. This of course raises obvious problems of technical feasibility and differences between nations and societies, but it is a point at which to start.

How would you reform surveillance law, oversight and practice to respect the rights of law-abiding people?

organisation: Open Rights Group (ORG)

In real-life terms, rather than ideal ones, it is probably a constant attention to the education of the personnel responsible for the various forms of security, both in knowledge and in attitude, that is the most serious problem. They have to understand, and act in accordance with the understanding, that the ultimate foundation of security is that the majority of the majority of people can reasonably feel that the security system really has their interests at heart in fact and not just in talk. In other words, it is nurturing the right sort of culture. This is extremely important and extremely difficult.

The right of parents to remain with their children in hospital has been established for over forty years. How would you ensure carers of people with dementia are equally welcome in hospital?

organisation: John's Campaign

It should surely be a presumptive right that carers have access to those for whom they are caring when the latter are in hospital, and in most cases it will have a positive therapeutic effect, but this should not be allowed to interfere with the performance of their work by medical and nursing staff. If a carer objects to his or her exclusion there should be an administrative channel, with some outside membership, for querying and openly discussing practical arrangements, and if necessary alter situations. It is probably too costly to provide overnight facilities for carers, except in special cases, but there should always be at least some scope for this.

Should people in Scotland and Northern Ireland have the same free speech protections from libel bullies as their neighbours in England and Wales?

organisation: English PEN

The details of the situation in the different jurisdictions are currently unknown to me. Therefore no comment for the time being. It certainly sounds odd.

The standards of goods and services that are essential, such as food and water, are generally highly regulated. Do you support enforced minimum standards in housing as a precondition of a renting?

organisation: Generation Rent

The goal is of course a highly desirable one. But when genuinely affordable housing is in such short supply in some parts of the country, it is important not to be so inflexible that the supply diminishes. Until there is a much improved supply of social housing, which is the middle-run answer, it might be wiser to develop a flexible scheme that could use financial penalties if a landlord was charging an inappropriate sum for facilities not judged fully fit for purpose, but not block renting altogether.

Governments implement policies that directly and indirectly impact on house prices. Do you think house prices are too high?

organisation: Generation Rent

It is possible to use largely prefabricated parts to build pleasant and tolerable houses for about half the present costs. (I speak from personal experience overseas.) The wider use of 'brown' land could also go a long way to easing the short supply of space for building. Doing both would require something of a revolution in planning and require adroit handling of a tangle of crosscutting complications and vested interests. It is surely obvious that something on these lines should be tried.

Private sector landlords receive over £27bn a year in housing benefit and tax breaks. Would you support a rent tax that recouped up to a third of this to fund new housing supply?

organisation: Generation Rent

As stated, doing something like this would exert unwelcome pressure to drive rents up, one way or another, quite possibly with a substantial underhand element, to try to counter the effects of such a tax. The objective motivating the question is of course a good one, but there are other ways of in effect funding additional housing, especially by shifting to a substantial component of non-traditional types of building, backed both by tax incentives and a substantial component of government involvement. It would also be worth reconsidering allowing those renting social housing to shift to purchasing their houses at a higher level in a way analogous to a mortgage, but with two crucial differences: (1) the process could be `frozen` at a moment of time if a tenant found continuing higher-level payments difficult, being resumed later if desires; and (2) immediately recycling this money into new building. This approach has gained a bad name because when Thatcher introduced something superficially similar, she absolutely refused the recycling component, which was appalling (or worse), and no one even proposed at that time making a temporary `freezing` of the mortgage add-on possible in hard times, and reverting to renting as before, while keeping the percentage of ownership acquired as a constant.

Britain spends £24 billion on housing benefit and less than £1.5 billion on building homes. Do you support an increase in the social housebuilding grant to £5 billion a year to build homes?

organisation: Generation Rent

I am more concerned about shifting to a more modern building technology, and so saving a large sum whatever the budget available. Actual figures depend on actual circumstances.

Recent polling show that people support rent control by a margin of nine to one. Do you support a rent control that limits rent rises between tenancies as well as during tenancies?

organisation: Generation Rent

Interfering directly with the market is sometimes necessary, but it tends to build up a crazy patchwork of incongruities, by, for example, dissuading families from moving elsewhere, attracted perhaps by new employment, because they have a favourable housing settlement where they are that they could not be sure of having in the place they might move to. The only rent control that really works, and goes on working more or less automatically, is ensuring, one way or another, that the housing stock, in places where it is needed, is rapidly increased.

Would you support the creation of a Royal Commission to review Britain’s drug laws?

organisation: CISTA

Too expensive and too time-consuming. The drug problem is in urgent need of treatment now, principally because it is so closely interwoven with crime, but also because it is not on the whole `good` for people medically, though in very varying degrees. The only way that these two problems can be eased has been known for a very long time: in essence, decriminalize personal consumption and `medicalize` health problems, supplying a tightly limited but quality-controlled amount of drug to registered individuals through the NHS, at roughly cost price for those who can pay it, and appropriately less for those without such means. The other key aim is to remove the profits from dealing in drugs, in part by cheaper supply through the NHS, but it should also remain a crime when it is done on a sustained commercial scale. This brief formulation obviously needs a volume of footnotes and qualifications, typically covering such issues as when and how far to allow people who regularly take drugs to perform certain types of skilled or hazardous operations (like driving or flying a plane). But there is no need for a Commission.