Prime Minister Gordon Brown was in Bradford today answering questions on the city’s regeneration, Westfield, the recession, employment and education.

A specially-invited audience were at the National Media Museum at a question and answer time hosted by the Telegraph & Argus, and chaired by the T&A’s Deputy Editor Brian Nuttney.

Amjad Bashir, owner of Zouk restaurant on Leeds Road, told the Prime Minister, that his company had taken a gamble during the recession and opened another restaurant, this time in Manchester. He ask what was being done to help businesses like his export their brand abroad.

Mr Brown responded by saying: “We are trying to help small businesses get export opportunities. If you have got a good brand it’s not just about being local or national anymore, but international.”

Jane Scudder of Bradford Friends of the Earth asked Mr Brown what outcome he expected from the UN climate change conference to be held in Copenhagen in December.

He replied: “I think Copenhagen is going to be a very important moment. I think we can achieve an agreement on reducing carbon emissions.

“But we need to have a financial support package for poorer countries if we are expecting them to use more expensive technologies.”

Michele Sutton, Bradford College principal and chief executive, spoke to Mr Brown about a £120 million plan to transform the college’s campus. Funding for the scheme from the Learning and Skills Council was put on hold earlier this year as the programme was oversubscribed.

She asked: “Can you give us some confidence that sometime in the very near future Bradford will receive some funding to rebuild the college that is part of the development of the city centre.”

Mr Brown responded: “We have a plan to move forward with further education and college building. What happened was that lots of applications were invited by the LSC without them having the money to cover all the applications.

“We have announced allocations for this year and are planning to announce further allocations for next year. I hope you will find your place in that.”

Council leader, Councillor Kris Hopkins (Con), asked the Prime Minister about the outcome of a conversation he had previously promised with the Broadway shopping centre developer Westfield.

Mr Brown said: “The reason that Westfield has been held up, as I understand it, is we cannot get enough commercial firms who would occupy that space to sign up and a company like Westfield requires that some 50 per cent sign up before they go ahead with the project. That’s what we’ve got to look at and see whether in the next phase of the recovery we can get people to sign up fully.”

Jeff Lucas, deputy vice-chancellor of Bradford University, told the Prime Minister that immigration and visa rules were making it really difficult for their international students and that hundreds were being held up.

Mr Brown said: “There was a period where lots of people were coming into this country and signing up to education courses that didn’t exist so we had to tighten up on the system. I think you can look for changes in the months to come.”

Fran Warden, head teacher of an inner city primary, told the PM: “It seems to me that the things that prevent community cohesion are deprivation and poverty. Over the past three to four years we’ve seen a great increase in our area in the number of families and children who are suffering from deprivation and poverty. I am seeking some reassurance from you that in this economic climate there is support from the Government for those very disadvantaged people not only in education but in the whole aspect of their lives.”

“That is what I am in politics to achieve,” said Mr Brown, “to make sure that every child has proper opportunities and the potential of every child is capable of being developed and that we don’t put barriers in the way of that happening.”

He added that their aim had been to try and increase the family benefits available to relieve child poverty and to provide greater educational opportunity as well.

In addition he said: “I am determined to avoid a generation of young people even in a recession where unemployment becomes the norm and they lose hope about the future, because that would be the most damaging thing for social cohesion.”

Councillor Ian Greenwood, the leader of the Labour group on Bradford Council, asked about police powers to control demonstrations, saying that they currently could stop a march, but not a static demo.

And Mr Brown was pleased to hear of a possible extra vote come the next General Election, which is due by June.

Aidan Higgins, of Bradford Keighley Youth Parliament, told the PM: “I am 15 and if you changed the voting age to 16 I would be able to vote at the next election. If you do it, you will get my vote.

Mr Brown said he personally was in favour of reducing the voting age and was “prepared to take the chance on young people”.

e-mail: jo.winrow