General election 2019: Welsh politicians clash in TV debate

Image source, ITV Wales
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It has been the first TV debate in Wales of the general election campaign

Senior politicians standing in the election in Wales have clashed in a live television debate.

Nick Thomas-Symonds told ITV Wales that Labour would scrap Universal Credit, while Liberal Democrat Jane Dodds said the benefit had been a "disaster".

Liz Saville Roberts said Plaid Cymru would lift children out of poverty, while Conservative David TC Davies focused on getting people off benefits.

The Brexit Party's Nathan Gill said Universal Credit was "horrendous".

"Nine years of austerity have decimated public services," Labour's Mr Thomas-Symonds told the programme.

"We have to end austerity and end the disaster that was Universal Credit."

Plaid's Ms Saville Roberts said many of the means to lift children out of poverty "have been in the hands of Labour in Cardiff in the Senedd for years" with "so little having been done".

Image source, ITV Wales
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Labour's Nick Thomas-Symonds, Plaid's Liz Saville Roberts, and Conservative David Davies challenged each other on jobs, the economy and spending

The Brexit Party politician added: "The Government has to be there to give a helping hand when they need it."

Ms Dodds agreed the implementation had been "a total disaster".

She said her party would reduce the waiting time for the first payment from five weeks to five days.

"We would also invest in free childcare, meaning women and mothers and parents would be back to work," she said.

Responding to the panel on Universal Credit, Tory politician Mr Davies said: "I'm sorry to hear people haven't been told they can borrow the money at low rates of interest if they need to wait.

"The reason we've had nine years of austerity is that Labour collapsed the economy."

Questioning Nick Thomas-Symonds about Labour's plan to scrap Universal Credit, the debate host ITV Wales' Political Editor Adrian Masters said Labour would have to start again.

Mr Thomas Symonds said: "You would have to immediately be able to prevent the worst excesses of the current system, and the current system is failing on its own terms. It is driving up poverty."

But his Conservative opponent said while Labour wanted to talk about what they want to do for the benefits system, his party talks "about how to get people out of the benefits system".

"We've got the lowest levels of unemployment in this country since the seventies," added Mr Davies.

Ms Saville Roberts accepted she would want the powers relating to this policy devolved, which Plaid estimated it would cost about £525m a year.

"Someone has to grip the nettle of this," she said.

Image source, ITV Wales
Image caption,
Lib-Dem Jane Dodds and Brexit Party's Nathan Gill both criticised Universal Credit

The Brexit Party's Mr Gill said: "Let's look at ways of trading our way out of poverty… we would raise capital as the country increases its income, GDP, as the tide rises… we would all benefit from that, people would get well paid jobs."

For Labour, Mr Thomas-Symonds said Labour's plans for borrowing would be revealed on Thursday, with the launch of his party's manifesto, and would be clear as to where taxes would come from - with "those with the broadest shoulders" bearing the biggest burden.

Challenging the Conservatives on their spending plans, David TC Davies responded: "We are borrowing this money to invest, we can put this money into the NHS and into education."

Jane Dodds for the Liberal Democrats said her party has a full set of costed proposals, partly funded by raising taxes and by what she called a "Remain Bonus based on the UK staying in the EU".

She said it would provide £50bn "over the life of the next Parliament".