Thursday 12 November, Glasgow

Thursday 5 November, London

Thursday 29 October, Birmingham

Thursday 22 October, Cardiff

Thursday 15 October, Leeds

Thursday 8 October, Bournemouth

Thursday 1 October, Manchester

Thursday 24 September, London

Thursday 22 October, Cardiff

The panel was:

  • Michael Winner, Film Director and Restaurant Critic
  • Ron Davies MP, Secretary of State for Wales
  • John Redwood MP, Shadow Trade and Industry spokesman
  • Helen Mary Jones of Plaid Cymru
  • Mary Ann Sieghart, Assistant Editor of The Times.

    Here is how you reacted to the issues raised in the debate:

    The sacking of Blue Peter presenter Richard Bacon for taking cocaine

    Audience question: "Wouldn't it have been more beneficial to put him on Blue Peter and show his remorse there rather than in the newspapers?"

    Mary Ann Sieghart said: "I can't believe they sacked him. How are they going to find another 22-year-old who's never taken drugs in his life? It just seems incredibly petty. He had a good night out. Cocaine is not dangerous if it's taken recreationally."

    John Redwood said: "He agreed he should be sacked and I think that's the one decent thing he did in this whole saga."

    Helen Mary Jones said: "The way that they did it was really patronising to children and young people. It could have been used as a proper debate."

    Michael Winner said: "Had he been a movie actor...his box office would have probably risen, no mother would have objected."

    You said:

    I support the idea of a Royal commision on drugs. I think too much of the debate on this subject is poorly informed. We must decide whether certain drugs should be decriminalised and possibly even licensed. Firstly we need to consider the health of the individual. Additionally, the effect on crime and the impact on society as a whole must be assessed.
    Hannah Quaintrell

    The somewhat hysterical response to Mary Ann Sieghart's comments by members of the studio audience and contributors to this page was as depressing as it was predictable. One of the key problems with drugs in this country is that a rational debate on the subject is precluded by the fear of a backlash for even daring to mention such a taboo subject. For some reason, when a public figure advocates "a sensible debate on the issue", many people hear the words "let's force-feed heroin to five-year-olds". If we were able to have a proper debate we would see that the current approach isn't working, and that new ideas are needed. It might also help to emphasise the distinction between the genuine problem of drug abuse, and the far less harmful issue of recreational drug use.
    Nigel Fletcher

    Right on, Mary! Most drugs are great stuff as long as it doesn't turn into a habit. I myself use Ecstasy and cannabis down the nightclubs to have a good night out, not as a way of escaping reality. I hope that the Government will see the light and legalise some drugs, although some drugs are dangerous and shouldn't be legal.
    Alex Buell, a Brit in the USA

    Some people drink a couple of pints of ale, some a couple of martinis and others smoke a joint. What's the big deal? It's about time we stopped playing morally outraged over relativly harmless pastimes and legalised drugs. It would make more sense to be outraged over the damage done by prohibition.
    John Yates

    The double standard is an outrage. Cocaine is no more dangerous or addictive than alcohol. Addictions are a function of personal mindstates. People with addictive personalities should stay clear of anything which could harm their mental or physical health.
    Christopher Green

    Mary Ann's comments were intended to shock and I am glad they did. What a shame that it was only the politicians that didn't think there was a problem. I thought the leaders were supposed to keep their finger on the pulse of the nation. It is clear that they have no concept of the realities affecting society. The attitude that there isn't a problem is wrong as it is too akin to stuffing your head in the sand. We should acknowledge that drugs of all types are endemic within society. Only then can we do anything about it.
    Paddy Paddison

    I would have thought that to be assistant editor of The Times one had to be a responsible citizen. Mary Ann Sieghart's assertion that all 22 year-olds have taken drugs and that cocaine does no harm if taken occasionally is a very questionable view, coming from someone so very high up in the pecking order of one of this nation's greatest newspapers. Like everyone, she's entitled to a personal opinion on anything, but I hope the BBC will not invite her back on this programme again.
    Kevin Webster, Lincoln

    I too like many others found the comments of Mary Ann Sieghart deplorable. Although I am now in my mid thirties I have many younger friends in their mid twenties who I know for a fact have never indulged in the taking of any illegal substances. Who does this woman think she is? She is obviously out of touch with the real world and maybe she is just relating to her social circle when she makes these comments. Considering the organisation she represents I think that she should think a little more before making rash statements as aired on Question Time.
    My other comment relates to the labour spokesman referring to the BBC as "the state broadcasting company". I hope this was an unintentional slip on his part or does this reflect the way the rest of his party think about the BBC?
    Paul Carter

    I felt that Mary Ann Sieghart made a great deal of sense. To assume that all cocaine users are down-and-outs is simply not true. For my generation, cocaine is socially acceptable - far more so than amphetamines and LSD. I personally choose not to "snort cocaine", but in my social and professional environment, I encounter many who do. This is a personal choice and it is utterly preposterous to conclude that they are in some way a danger to society. Using drugs in a personal capacity does not put a person into the same bracket as murderers and paedophiles. Until we start tackling this issue with some rational logic, we can never reach any compromise on how to deal with this contentious issue.
    Nicola Ferguson

    Sigmund Freud was addicted to cocaine for 40 years. However, it was the cigars that killed him, through cancer, as is quite usual for tobacco smokers. Illegal markets allow for little regulation and control, e.g. Alcohol Prohibition in the USA in the 1920s. A legal market for cocaine, or indeed any drug, would be less harmful than the currently existing illegal markets. There is no evidence that decriminalising any drug would increase consumption - if anything the contrary!
    Brian Milner

    I must come back on Brian Milner's comment. Sigmund Freud was not addicted to cocaine. The sad fact is he did not recognise that it could be addictive until too late, after he recommended it to one of his friends who did become an addict.
    Frank Little, Pontardawe

    I watched the programme and was very annoyed by the comments made by the Times assistant editor. The fact that she said that it would be difficult to find a 22 year old who had not taken drugs is absurd. I myself am 22 years old and can't begin to understand how she could prove these allegations. Do The Times have access to 22 year olds and their drug taking habits. I think not. I wonder if she'll be asked to sit on the panel again.
    Jamie Morris

    Mary Ann Sieghart's remarks about drugs were completely irresponsible. I notice she would not answer fully when asked if she engaged in so-called "recreational" drug-taking. For someone who is supposed to be among the most intelligent women in Britain, her flippant and dismissive attitude to an issue of such gravity was an absolute disgrace.
    Kay Carson

    Mary Ann Sieghart's comments about all 22-year-old taking drugs is not entirely true. It would have been more factual for her to have said, most of society takes drugs. It's a simple fact that some people still seem unable to grasp and understand. Most of society takes a drug in one form or another. Some illegal and others legal. While the pompous middle class would have you belive that drug taking has reached epic proportions, I say to you that it's the same as it always has been. Only now the difference is people are a little more open about it. Drug taking is here to stay. What is not so clear for the middle class to understand is that we are in the current situation even with prohibition. For a vast majority of the country, drug taking is normal, just as the lives they continue to lead are. The sooner we all wake up to this simple fact, the sooner we can get on with our lives and stop being so reactionary.
    Steve Freke

    Recreational drug use is not a problem - drug abuse and the current unworkable prohibition is. Again this has been demonstrated to us: a reputable presenter recreationally did a line of cocaine and had a good night out. He is not an addict. He worked hard and had fun. He may have been stupid in his position to use but it is his body and he knows the risks. Why should the government tell people what to do with their bodies? They shouldn't.
    Pete Henshall

    It seems quite clear that Mary Ann Sieghart's life as 'high flier' has left her head in the clouds over the issue of drug abuse. The glamorous 'recreational' drug lifestyle, which she seems to suggest that she has experienced, does not reflect the reality of the lives of people that have been wrecked, not to mention the social breakdowns associated with that. Ms.Sieghart does have a point that alcohol is a drug as well and that abuse of that also has serious effects on the lives of those addicted and their families and friends. Adults need to be held accountable for their actions. Children should not have the responsibility of 'choosing' to take drugs/alcohol thrust upon them; this is reflected in the laws against under age drinking. Blue Peter has a recognised responsible format that is trusted by parents. The role of presenters carries responsibility to be role models. Richard Bacon is grown adult, he should have been aware of his responsibility and in choosing to take cocaine he took a risk, that I'm sure he regrets. We all make mistakes, some bigger than others, but due to the nature of his and Blue Peter's responsibility, he must go. Richard Bacon should be grateful that he lives in a liberal Britain rather than stricter country such as Thailand or Malaysia where his actions would not be taken so lightly.
    Peter Jones

    How cocaine can be considered 'okay if taken in moderation' by Mary Ann Sieghart is ludicrous. It shows total disregard for biochemical fact. Cocaine IS addictive and can be starting from the first introduction of it to the brain.
    Roger Franklin

    Having seen people on Question Time talking about drugs I as an 18-year-old student, find it tedious to watch middle-aged people like this Times journalist trying to be cool by speaking as if "yoof" culture is a drug culture, and thus associating themselves with a way of life they think will improve their image. For a start, it is not true that we spend all our time off our heads, and secondly, how would she know anyway? No one I know would go out clubbing with someone as establishment as a middle aged Murdoch journalist.
    Rachael Saunders

    I think that the way in which the matter was handled is indicative of our society's attitude towards drugs and drug abuse. The BBC may have shown a strong hand in dismissing the quite rightly foolish presenter but I think there has been an opportunity missed in making an example of him. Instead the matter has been swept under the carpet and ignored in the hope that it will go away. It is common knowledge that drugs in this country are very easy to get hold of and in some cases it's the norm to take soft drugs, especially for the younger people in this country. People tend to look upon TV personalities and the like as role models and most probably Richard Bacon too, so perhaps it would be better to use him as an example to show how drug taking can wreck people's lives both personally and career-wise. If football can allow Paul Merson the opportunity to rehabilitate and have a second chance why not the BBC? This positive approach towards the recovery from drug addiction would, I feel, be a far better education to the Beeb's viewers rather than the ignorance of the reasons why illegal drugs are taken not just in this case but in others across the country. The hard line shows only the superficial consequences of this man's actions but covers the underlining fact that the issue of drugs is still looked upon as a dark social taboo which everyone ignores. To fight against drugs you need to be able to understand them and I fear that too few people in this country really understand. I believe also that some MPs have a selective stand on drugs, frightened to be seen as having a 'soft' attitude towards drugs in fear of losing a precious few votes.
    Mark Gray

    Of course he should have been fired, I personally would have had him arrested. Isn't it a shame that people in influential public positions such as the lady on the panel can feel so passionately about legalising and downplaying the use of cocaine, especially when the influence on young children is being discussed. How would you feel if someone was giving cocaine to your child? shame on you!
    Asante, Bradford

    I think it is a little hypocritical of the BBC to sack one children's presenter for taking drugs and yet give air time to another of its children's presenters, Zoe Ball on her FAMILY breakfast show to boast about her drinking binges from the night before, saying that she can remember nothing about them because she was so drunk. The age range of the viewers on her show Live and Kicking is around the same range as Blue Peter and many of the viewers of that programme would be listenning to her radio breakfast show as well!
    Jeff McCrory

    Why do football players who take drugs get counselling for addiction and drug taking when this guy is treated as the antichrist? Does the law not provide legislation that should have at least got counselling?
    Gerry Doherty

    I am 25. I have never touched drugs, nor, to the best of my knowledge have any of my friends touched drugs. I have a good career and a good life ahead of me and for people like Mary Ann Sieghart to imply that people like me don't exist, I'm here to say that you don't need drugs of any kind to be a normal human being. I am disgusted at her insinuations that taking cocaine is merely indicative of a "good night out". I only hope that there were no impressionable young people who have heard her words and have now decided to see what cocaine is like. That, to me, is truly irresponsible.
    David Chmiel (Chislehurst, Kent)

    How dare Mary Ann Sieghart insult the many millions of young people who do not snort cocaine by claiming that every 22 year old does. What sort of message does that send to 15 year olds, "All 22 year olds do it, so I may as well do it now!" We have to crack down on drug abuse by teenagers, television presenters and newspaper editors.
    Peter Smith

    I can't help but wonder whether Richard Bacon would rather have been simply sacked or required to stand in front of millions of television viewers and admit his "faults". Personally, I'd rather have had the sack and disappeared quietly for a while. I wonder if he had any input into the matter?
    Kevin Naughton

    After watching tonight's programme I really do believe that a lot of older people including J Redwood need educating on drugs more than young people. That lady that declined to answer because of her lack of knowledge sets a fine example for many in her age group. I am 40 years old.
    Kev Stenning

    The arrest of former Chilean dictator, General Augusto Pinochet

    Audience question: Should dictators be held responsible for their actions or is it the case that the more people you kill the more untouchable you are?

    Helen Mary Jones said: "I would lock him up and throw away the key. This man made a decision to come here. We should be sending a very clear message to these dictators that there will be no place to hide."

    John Redwood said: "The due process of law has to be gone through. He deserves a fair trial."

    Mary Ann Sieghart said: "If anyone should be prosecuting Pinochet it's the Chileans...He killed a lot of people but he didn't commit genocide."

    You said:

    I am a Chilean citizen and I liked to hear the debate about Pinochet. However, as good as it is to have different opinions in a discussion, some are really outrageous and demonstrate such a lack of knowledge, that they are very annoying, especially considering that they come from a Time's analyst. Chileans cannot judge Pinochet because it is part of a deal (as it was pointed out many times today). Our democracy is still in an early stage, but to say that is VERY VERY fragile as Mary Ann Sieghart observed, and that this situation could lead to a new coup, is frankly pure ignorance about the Chilean situation. I do not know very much about British law, therefore if asked for my opinion about it (even if I was a lawyer and was supposed to know) I would say 'I don't know about this particular matter, so I won't commentate'. But to give a cheap opinion based on images of a few people protesting in Chile in favour of Pinochet, is irresponsible and demonstrates a very poor analysis of the situation in my country. The majority of the Chilean people (the majority that voted him out of his dictatorship) are extremely happy. I do not agree at all with the attempt of political manipulation by Lady Thatcher. But if it is true that Chile helped Britain in any way in the past, this is a great way of paying the favour back!
    Jessica Gimpel

    General Pinochet is an evil person, he has tortured and killed people at his discretion to meet his own ends. I can appreciate the fact that Mrs Thatcher found him to be an ally during the Falklands conflict, however I would be surprised if this was bourne out of a genuine interest to assist Britain rather than a means to his own political ends. I think that the whole of the "civilised world" should pull together and demonstrate that evil will be punished in order to improve the lives of those in the future regardless of origin.
    Pete Barclay

    It is clear that Pinochet only supported Thatcher because of his hatred and opposition to Argentina.
    Jeff Kenyon

    Pinochet committed crimes many thousands of miles away from these shores, we should focus on punishing the criminals whom we are now allowing to kill without prosecution in Northern Ireland.
    Allen King

    As an African I'd just like to show my disapproval at the comment made by one of the panel members that half of African leaders have come from tribes which do away with people from other tribes! This is clearly prejudice and it would be good to remember that Hitler, Pinochet, and Stalin have all come from Europe. World War 1 and 2 also clearly outdo any African tribal war that has occurred. Now on the issue at hand, I have to say that the action of the British against this old and frail general has caused and will only continue to cause turmoil in Chile. Chile was on its way to peace and democracy and now the British have destroyed whatever calm that country has tried to build. This man helped your country during the Falklands war and now that you don't need him anymore you kick him up the backside, shame on you! Where is your honour where is your gratitude? If Mandela had thrown Botha in jail the British would have most likely cried foul and asked for reconciliation. Most of Africa's past dictators such as Banda from Malawi were propped up and supported by the British government, so how can you now attack this man who who helped you during the war!
    Asante, Bradford

    The comments of Bank of England governor Eddie George on unemployment

    Audience question: Should unemployment in Wales, Scotland, and the north east of England be permitted to rise simply in order to impose controls for the benefit of the south east of England?

    John Redwood said: "This government has put up the cost of employing people. They are making the manufacturing industry, especially concentrated in the peripheral regions of the country, take all of the burden of the adjustment."

    Ron Davies said: "The decision to vest the power in the Bank of England was the right thing to do. Eddie, frankly, was unwise because he allowed a journalist to put words into his mouth. What Eddie George was trying to say was that in this county you have to have one interest rate policy."

    Helen Mary Jones said: "The Welsh economy is close to being on its knees. I actually feel slightly sorry for Eddie George because he's actually only said what Westminster based politicians have actually thought for a very very long time."

    You said:

    I find John Redwood's comments on the decline of Britain's manufacturing industry and the resulting loss of jobs frankly nauseating. This from a man whose party, for 18 years, showed no compassion to the communities and people whose lives were, and still are, being ruined by their destuctive policies. That he should say it whilst being in a part of the country that bore the full brunt of Tory rule, shows just how insensitve and out of touch he really is. New Labour may not be as perfect as they think they are, but at least they have taken some steps to addressing the iniquities promoted so vigorously by Redwood and his ilk.
    Scott Mackenzie-Smith

    The attacks on John Redwood were scandalous. Ok, the Tories made severe mistakes in the economy but should be compared to the Labour policies in the Seventies. In 1997 Britain had enjoyed five years of solid economic growth and bequeathed a very strong economic base to Labour which has been seriously undermined by their policies. It was apparent that the audience in Cardiff were merely motivated by hatred of the hard policies which were necessary to bring Britain into the twentieth century, which necessarily had an impact upon the economy of parts of Wales. Some people have very short memories indeed. Have they forgotten the golden legacies of Tory rule: choice, individuality and freedom?
    Kristian Ulrichsen

    Mr E George speaks the truth, the Bank of England defends the primary interest of the City i.e. maintaining high interest rates and inward CASH investment to the detriment of industry.
    Chris Boone

    I have never seen a MP so uneasy as John Redwood. He seemed to have no half decent reply to half the comments from the audience. I think he did the Conservatives no favours by his performance on the show.
    Bob Leeuwerke

    Welsh referendum campaign

    David Dimbleby started the debate by quoting from Lord Neill's report that there might have been a "No" vote in the Welsh devolution referendum if the campaign had been less "one-sided".

    Audience question: "Do you believe that because of what Lord Neill had to say, that the referendum result should have been declared null and void?"

    Ron Davies said: "The Conservative party were frightened to campaign for a no vote. There was an imbalance in Wales because the majority of the political parties wanted a yes vote."

    John Redwood said: "I accept what Lord Neill has said. It is very unfair to have massive state funding in referendums on one side of the argument but not the other."

    Michael Winnerr said: "The Welsh did the right thing. They're quite capable of making their minds up."

    You said:

    A major cause of the narrowness of the "Yes" majority was the restricted choice available to the Welsh voter. I'm surprised that Helen Roberts did not point this out, as Plaid Cymru - as well as some of us Liberal Democrats - called publicly for a four-question referendum (i.e. status quo, Labour's assembly, LD's Senedd with some power, and Plaid's full independence). I feel sure that such a choice would have inspired more people to vote, and the majority in favour of some form of devolution would have been greater.
    Frank Little, Wales

    0.6% of those who voted cannot be a mandate to change the constitution.Who will pay for the cost of running the new Assembly? More to the point, who is willing to pay extra taxes to pay for it? What will be discussed by the Assembly that cannot or might not be discussed in Westminster!
    Alf Thomas,Cardiff

    Why should we always lose out in North Wales? why has the government snubbed us yet again by deciding to allow the proposed Maritime Museum to be located in Swansea and not here in Caernarfon? Has this something to do with the fact that the Welsh Assembly is to be located in Cardiff I wonder? Why should we have to suffer just so that the government can say sorry to Swansea?
    Lynwen Williams

    Why does Wales not get the same powers as Scotland? What is the essential difference between the two countries?
    Matthew Dean

    Mike Tyson back in boxing

    Audience question: What are the panel's views on the lifting of Tyson's boxing ban?

    Michael Winner: "He's very entertaining. I can't wait to see what damage he does next time."

    Helen Mary Jones: "The man's a convicted criminal...There's no why this man should be making money out of his violence."

    Ron Davies said: "If Michael Tyson wants his licence, as far as I'm concerned he can have it because I'm not going to argue with him."

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