CANDIDATES vying to be Oxford’s next MPs clashed over election issues at a hustings organised by faith leaders.

More than 100 people gathered at the Wesley Memorial Hall in New Inn Hall Street to hear the debate, which covered topics including poverty, homelessness, the NHS and immigration.

It was hosted by the Oxford Council of Faiths and representatives from each party standing in both Oxford East and Oxford West and Abingdon took part.

Council of Faiths member Penny Faust, who chaired the discussion on Monday, said: “We had an excellent turnout and there was some really good debating.

It has reminded me of why hustings events are so important.”

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Questions were taken from members of the audience and candidates were given two minutes to provide answers.

Maggie Walker asked how the gap between the rich and poor should be closed.

Labour’s candidate for Oxford West and Abingdon, Sally Copley, said her “entire working career has been about this”.

Among policies the Oxfam employee said Labour would back was a tightening of tax laws so that big businesses paid more.

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Mike Foster, standing.

Mike Foster, of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, said capitalism was “inherently unfair” and that the removal of money and property would lead to a fairer society.

But Ian Hudspeth, representing the Conservatives, said the best way to lift people out of poverty was to create jobs. He defended the coalition Government’s record and said it had cut the national budget deficit and raised the income tax threshold from £9,440 in 2013/2014 to £10,000.

Mr Hudspeth was standing in for Oxford West and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood, who said she could not attend because Parliament was still sitting.

Green Party candidate for Oxford West Larry Sanders said people also needed help with energy bills.

He suggested his party’s policy of a “Green New Deal” could bring insulation to homes across the country, as well as renewable sources of energy such as solar and wind power.

Also at the debate was the UK Independence Party’s Ian Mac- Donald, running in Oxford East, who told the audience: “Contrary to popular belief, Ukip is not full to the gills with bigots”.

During a discussion on immigration policies, Mr MacDonald said the European Union agreement of free movement between member states was piling too much pressure on public services.

He said a points system, similar to that used in Australia, was required.

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Alasdair Murray, standing.

But Alasdair Murray, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Oxford East, said a points system would not work. He pointed to research by University College London that found European immigrants were on average “net contributors”, who put more into the economy than they took out.

He added: “We need to encourage everyone who comes here to play a full role.”

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Dr Helen Salisbury.

Dr Helen Salisbury, the Jericho GP standing for the National Health Action Party in the Oxford West and Abingdon seat, added the NHS relied on foreign workers. She said: “We are completely reliant on that population.

They overwhelmingly bring benefits.”

There were also cheers during the meeting when Alistaire de Voil of the Monster Raving Loony Party said politicians in Westminster were out of touch.

He said: “We are using Alice in Wonderland economics.”