WELSH candidates taking part in this year’s European elections set out their stall in Cross Keys tonight when the village’s Coleg Gwent campus hosted a hustings for the May 22 poll.
Representatives from Labour, the Tories, the UK Independence Party, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Greens – including three sitting MEPs – took part in the debate held by the Institute of Welsh Affairs' Gwent branch and chaired by ITV Wales’ Adrian Masters.
The event saw Green Euro candidate Pippa Bartolotti compare climate change to 1,000 “Aberfans” – before sitting Labour MEP Derek Vaughan told the audience most of his friends died in the disaster.
Around 60 people attended, including students from the Crosskeys Politics Society who helped to organise the event.
Lead Conservative candidate Kay Swinburne MEP said only the Tories were offering voters the choice of a referendum before 2017.
“Real change in Europe is what we want to deliver," she said.
Newport-based Welsh Green Party candidate Pippa Bartolotti warned of the dangers of climate change and said it was like “1,000 Aberfans happening every day”.
“Free trade wrecks economies, we want to see fair trade," Ms Bartolotti told the hustings.
After Ms Bartolotti’s speech top Labour candidate Derek Vaughan MEP told the floor he’d grown up in Aberfan, and that most of his friends died there.
He said Labour would seek to protect the 190,000 jobs that depend on the EU in Wales, and he highlighted European social legislation which gave UK workers guaranteed paid holiday.
Alec Dauncey, lead candidate for the Liberal Democrats, said it was not the time for the UK to be setting out on its own.
"If we slide out of the EU... we risk making a massive mistake in terms of our place in an increasingly dangerous world,” he said.
Jill Evans, Plaid MEP and lead candidate, said the EU was needed "to work for Wales more than ever before" as the nation's economy has been decimated by the UK Government.
She said she believed EU funds could be used to move Wales out of the “poverty bracket and create jobs.”
David Rowlands, UKIP's no.4 candidate, said his party does “not want the UK to be a part of a European superstate".
He claimed there would be be no tariffs or quotas on UK-Europe trade if the UK pulled out of the EU, and said immigration is the single biggest factor in increasing pressure on housing and schools.
Wales will select four MEPs when voters go to the polls on May 22.
Three Welsh MEPs – Ms Swinburne, Mr Vaughan and Ms Evans – are seeking re-election. UKIP’s Welsh MEP John Bufton is standing down – with Nathan Gill as the party’s lead candidate.