Susan Parker

party: Guildford Greenbelt Group
constituency: Guildford

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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

We can use the same legal process to determine that carers are given access to hospital as has been done for children. I fear that this will need to start with a media campaign to educate both public and politicians about the lack of such rights, and then there will be a groundswell of public opinion in order to support this right, which is demonstrably necessary and appropriate.

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

I wasn't aware that the laws in Scotland and Northern Ireland are different, but would like to know more about this. Please contact me and inform me about the detail of this; I would like to know more. I think freedom of speech is important.

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

Yes. It is unacceptable to offer unsafe housing that has (for example) an unsafe boiler that could give carbon monoxide poisoning. Both public and private landlords should offer acceptable minimum standards in order to rent.

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

organisation: Open Rights Group (ORG)

I'm not keen on control of the Internet by the state or by private companies. Personally I think that there is too much surveillance by the state and too much restriction of what is available. I think that there is a risk, as I think Dr David Starkey has said, that we are "sleepwalking into authoritarianism". Since Dr Starkey is not the most vocal advocate of liberal values, nor usually mans the barricades, this warning from an eminent historian should be heeded. We need to have less surveillance of surfing on the internet.

I am in favour of freedom of speech; freedom of thought; freedom of expression. I believe that everyone has a right to speak, and with Voltaire I believe that I may not agree with what people say but I defend to the death their right to say it.

I would also (somewhat tangentially but it is related) be opposed to the UK becoming party to TTIP where private companies' rights to control national laws would allow the profit motive to be the overriding principle governing our country. I think that as a nation we should be able to make our own laws, and that no entity is so large or so important that they should be above the law.

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

organisation: Generation Rent

Yes. House prices have been encouraged upward by a number of government initiatives, including Help to buy. We need a period of price stabilisation so that those who are currently renting can get on the housing ladder. The housing market is cyclical and it will, in due course, stabilise. It will happen in due course.

The first thing that should happen is release of empty homes, which is a much faster solution than building, and less liable to control by developers. (New homes are almost always significantly more expensive than comparable existing homes). Currently there are ~700000 empty homes in the country, not including homes over shops. Encouraging use of empty homes, taxing empty homes (that's not 2nd homes, that means homes which are left empty) and forcing building of the existing planning permissions ("use it or lose it") will solve a lot of problems. The issue is not planning permission or green fields -it is that developers control supply to maintain high house prices. We need to break that stranglehold by freeing up empty homes fast.

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

Yes. Building homes owed either by housing associations or by local councils is a good way of assisting those who are otherwise unable to afford a home.

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

I think actually we should be taxing those who leave properties empty for capital gain more heavily than landlords. Provided that rented accommodation is of a decent standard then we should encourage rather than disincentivise this; a rent tax could actually precipitate homelessness because those who own homes may not make them available for rent but just keep them for capital gain. This is already a major problem and this is the one that we need to address; there are 700 000 empty properties in the UK, not including homes above shops (estimated at another 400 000); 1.1million empty properties which could be made available within a very short period to provide immediate housing supply. But we should also provide good quality social housing from local authorities and housing associations which will undercut the private rented sector and which will therefore ensure (through market forces) that rent levels are not forced upwards. At present, councils calibrate public sector rents on the basis of market rates: it should be an absolute figure, not 80% of market rates, and so reduce the price of housing.