Students at Cockermouth School put parliamentary candidates for Workington through their paces at a hustings session.

Around 200 pupils aged from 11 to 18 packed into the eco centre yesterday to hear five candidates speak on a range of subjects and answer questions that students of all ages had set them.

The Green Party's Jill Perry, Conservative candidate Mark Jenkinson, Labour's Sue Hayman, David Walker for the Brexit Party and Neil Hughes for the Liberal Democrats were grilled for two hours by the pupils on issues including spending priorities, trade deals, achieving net zero climate emissions, NHS, mental health services and varying the STEM curriculum.

Independent candidates Roy Ivinson and Nicky Cockburn were not present.

Maddie Caress, Ben Mancebo, Stella Short and Aeron Ambrose, all 17, organised the event and were happy with the turnout which was more than they expected.

Ben said: "I think it really shows the prevalence of politics amongst the young people. It's something we strongly believe in as a group we're interested in politics, we really wanted to get the message across not only to the politicians but to the students that this is something they are allowed to be interested in no matter what their age."

Maddie said: "It shows there is an interest, if 16-year-olds did get the vote it's not a wasted vote."

Stella said: "We had five main candidates here and a whole crowd of students who are willing to listen and take part. Year 7's standing up and asking questions shows how great the student body is here."

They thought that the candidates did well and that most had answered what they were asked, but after deciding to organise the event only a week ago the young people were grateful that the candidates had come.

Most of the candidates said that December 2020 was an unrealistic timescale to negotiate a trade deal with Europe. Only Mark Jenkinson thought that this is achievable. He said: "Yes. It is about how we move forward and deal with divergence."

Jill Perry disagreed and said that it would only be possible by lowering standards of food regulations, hygiene and welfare. "We don't want to jeopardise animal welfare and our welfare to do a deal, why would we do that?"

David Walker said: "No, it takes three to eight years to negotiate deals with the EU and move on. Our party prefers a clean break Brexit and we should reduce things immediately like tariffs on clothes etc."

Neil Hughes said a 2020 deal would be absolute nonsense. He said: "The estimated time is seven years at least."

Sue Hayman said: "It's absolutely absurd that we could have any sort of trade deal by next year. It's about what benefits the country not about undercutting of animal welfare standards," she said we have to be extremely careful about deals and said that the Canadian deal took 10 years.

Mark Jenkinson said: "The lack of ambition at this table staggers me, we have some of the highest animal standards, protected in our manifesto. It is believing we are not big enough to stand on our own two feet."

The panel were divided on the question of whether 16 and 17-year olds should get the vote. Jill Perry, Sue Hayman and Neil Hughes thought they should but Mark Jenkinson and David Walker said no.

Scott Ashworth, history teacher at the school who suggested that his students organise the event, said: "I think it was a fantastic event and good opportunity for the students to engage with the process. The questions put forward were excellent and it was really reassuring to see the youngsters engaging with politics.

At the number of 11-year-old pupils that had turned out for the debate he said: "I was not surprised to see year 7s interested in politics. I know how involved they are in climate issues and human rights, I teach a subject where these issues are often talked about in the classroom so I wasn't surprised at all."