Thursday 19 November, Peterborough

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 19 November, Peterborough

On the panel were:

  • Richard Littlejohn, columnist and broadcaster
  • Paul Heaton, singer-songwriter
  • Virginia Bottomley MP, former Conservative Health Secretary
  • Baroness Hollis, Social Security Minister
  • Lord Rix, chairman of Mencap

    Drugs in schools

    Audience question: "Should pupils found in possession of drugs in schools be expelled?"

    Baroness Hollis said: "This is a decision for the head teacher."

    Richard Littlejohn said: "Whether you exclude them or not I don't think is the issue. More needs to be done to stop them getting hold of the drugs in the first place."

    Paul Heaton said: "Drug dealers did not create poor housing estates. It was government after government that created poor housing estates, poor health etc."

    Virginia Bottomley said: "We should back head teachers and not be forever telling them what they should do and naming and shaming them. To have a black and white rule seems to be not the answer. There are other punishments apart from expulsion."

    You said:

    The pro-expulsion lobby would like to see drug use/experimentation punished without exception. However, we are also being told simultaneously that a significant minority, if not a majority, of schoolchildren HAVE experimented with drugs. Are we calling for the expulsion of all these children too? Do we want to see the lives and careers of 60%+ 18-25 year olds ruined because THEY have experimented with drugs? How much longer can we continue to compound the misery of drug abuse with criminal penalties for people who, ultimately, are only hurting themselves?
    Luke Kelly

    The problem lies at the feet of all of us, in our constant struggle to live in an evermore liberal society. We cannot continue to allow social standards to drop in the way they are currently going. One reason seems to be the lack of accountability for individuals actions.There seems to be no stigma attached to any wrong doing anymore. The suggestion of 'social drugtaking' is ludicrous.
    David Booker

    Surely we'd prefer to have the child in a place where they can be watched and helped ie at school. It must be the decision of the teaching staff (along with the parents) to treat each case on its merits. Expulsion is effectively "throwing" the child out.
    Stu Neville

    I fail to understand how denying children an education helps them to abstain from drug use. Isn't school the ideal place for education?
    Rob Goodwin

    Anyone found with drugs in schools should be expelled and left to the authorities to deal with, including the parents and they shouldn't take it lightly. It sets a bad example and ruins the school's reputation. Schools should be drug free.
    Zia Kurtha

    What a lovely black and white world we live in... ie expel youngsters carrying illegal drugs, no matter what the reason. And then another school has to take them anyway. Seems like a buck-passing case to me with the root cause never having been addressed.
    Paul Kearslake

    If children caught with drugs on them are expelled as a matter of course, is there not a danger that an innocent child could have drugs planted on him? I feel that a head-master's discretion is important.
    Roger Banks

    Under the age of 16 it is illegal to smoke cigarettes, never mind marijuana. Are we going to ruin the lives of young children for what is perhaps a first offence?
    Charles Gormley

    I'm a student (15) and am studying for my exams which I'll be taking in a few months. I don't think students should be expelled. By doing this, resources that could have been made available to other school-going students will be wasted on the few rather than the many. Instead they should be made an example of, and dealt with publicly and severely, as an attempt to stop other students mimicking the same stupid behaviour.
    Kyle Alexander

    As a parent of two teenage children and a longstanding governor at two schools, I think that most of the audience live in cloud cuckoo land. If you cannot trust the judgement of your Head then you should replace them. If you exclude children for all drugs related incidences they will be on the streets with access to even more children.
    Jane Tanser

    I am a school kid from Sheffield and I know what it is like to be pressurised into carrying certain substances as a friend asked me to, and you can say it's easy to refuse but if you're faced by people twice the size of you there really is no option but to accept.
    Ian White

    It has been known for a long, long time that a problem would result with young children trying / using drugs. It is about time that young people (15/16 years of age) are recruited to see if they can assist.
    John Bird, Tayside, Scotland

    The House of Lords

    Audience question: "Is it not ironic that the unelected House Lords is opposing legislation on the basis that it's undemocratic?

    Virginia Bottomley said: "I want a powerful Lords. They gave us a lot of grief when we were in government - it probably did us a lot of good."

    Richard Littlejohn said: "You have to look for the vested interest. We have this strange dilemma where a profoundly undemocratic institution is voting against a profoundly undemocratic measure which is being introduced by a government which pretends to be a friend of democracy."

    Baroness Hollis said: "It's five times the Lords insisted upon its amendment, three times the government offered an alternative..and the Lords said, 'No'. What we've seen is an exhibition of arrogance, incompetence and effrontery. I'm very ashamed of being a member in that respect."

    You said:

    I am so tired of hearing people lambasting the Lords from the misguided viewpoint that anything that is not directly elected is 'undemocratic'. We do not need TWO elected chambers - what a pointless duplication! Thank heaven for the Lords in opposing the profoundly undemocratic Closed List Bill. My own suggestion for the Lords would indeed retain the hereditary peers, but force them to earn the right to keep the title in their familiy only by attending regularly as proper 'working peers', It would provide automatic succession to the Lords for all long- serving MPs (15 years, say?), and a modified form of life peer that could only be offered to non- politicians, thus ensuring a better balance for the arts, industry, unions, and the professions.
    Michael Kilpatrick, Cambridge

    It is indeed ironic that criticism of a system as undemocratic should come from an entirely unelected upper house. But the fact it has done surely proves what an effective check on the government it is. The closed list system of PR is opposed by many Labour MPs, who rightly see it as flawed. The fact that their discontent was ignored and the bill passed by the Government's huge majority shows the dangers of increased party control over candidates. It is only the Lords' independance from such control which allows them to judge legislation on merit alone. We need elected representatives with the power to stand up to the party leadership - both in Europe and in Westminster. Power brings with it the responsibility to exercise it wisely. In his arrogant attitude, Tony Blair has neglected these responsibilities - that is the real affront to democracy.
    Nigel Fletcher, London

    We should not forget what democracy means. "Rule by everyone" means the leaders and administrators should operate in a way that pleases the people, i.e. understand and implement public consensus. Voting is just one means to find out what the public consensus is. Voting is a sham if there are no desirable alternatives offered. It suits the party machines if they take control and tell you what you have to think. The Lords have shown that they can be more democratic than the elected chamber since they are not answerable to anyone other than their very real duty to protect the public from the potential abuse of a self-centred government. The present government had no mandate for PR. Only a single-issue referendum can do that. Closed lists run counter to any notion of natural democracy. We have to be able to reject our representatives and do so without having to elect someone even worse.
    Brian Shaw

    I left the UK some 15 years ago and was glad to leave behind the iniquitous system of British life as represented by the House of Lords.True democracy does not exist if some people govern by default of birth.
    Julie England

    Just two points to make,1) although the hereditary peers are unelected, so are the life peers and 2) The hereditary peers are the only group who ensure a cross section of public life. There is a common misconception that all the life peers are rich toffs, however this is not true as many lost their family fortunes many years ago.
    Chris Lightowler

    The truth is that neither the Lords nor the Government have the moral high ground on this. The very existence of the House of Lords is an affront to democracy, but so is denying the electorate the right to choose their representative. The adoption of an open list PR system is the only way to ensure that more voters have a say. As for the House of Lords, it's existence drags our democracy back to the Middle Ages. If we are to have a second chamber then the last people we need to keep a check on politicians are more politicians. I suggest a Citizens Chamber which is populated by 500-1000 voters selected at random from the electoral register, who are conscripted into the system in the same way that people are called upon for Jury service. This chamber would then be able to call upon outside experts to advise on any technical matters.
    Christopher Goddard

    It seems to me that this government is hell bent on crushing everything that disagrees with it. Democratic ramifications aside, among my generation (20 -30) the number of voters who chose a parliamentary representative that they believed was there to represent them is alarmingly low, whilst the number who have chosen to take matters into their own hands and operate outside the democratic system and the law is also alarming. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction - every step towards greater control creates anarchists and that, as the previous administration learnt, can prove expensive. The need for representatives to stand up for the little guy against government is vital and if Mr Blair doesn't like that, tough.
    Will Rees

    The House of Lords is this country's perennial conscience, unswayed by trendy "spin doctor" politics. Please keep it intact to prevent "back door" dictatorships. Do not trust politicians who want to adjust our democracy for their own political ends.
    Graham Buckley

    Critics of the House of Lords slate it as undemocratic. The assumption is that democracy is totally perfect. I'd like a system with a little less democracy as practised today, and a bit more true representation of the people. How about a second chamber composed of responsible adults selected at random, like juries? Members could be there for say 10 years during which time they would have to put in a certain specified amount of service to complete their duty, with enough new people selected each year to replace those whose term had expired.
    John C Smith

    What makes life peers better able to represent the interests of the British people than hereditary? Baroness Hollis is clearly only capable of slavishly following the party line and not of looking at issues on their merits, as would life peers with a life devoted to one of the other parties. At least with hereditary peers one is, to a degree, taking pot luck. A peer's upbringing may predispose him or her to the Tory party but not necessarily so.
    Dr Paul Buddery

    I believe passionately in a good system of PR, but applaud the Lords for rejecting the worst system of PR - the closed list. However, after making their point in a couple of rejections, the Lords should have retired gracefully and let us have a provisional transition to some sort of PR.
    Ken Sargent

    The Lords supporting democratically elected individuals? Clearly Lord Rix has the monopoly on make-up.
    Peter Brough

    Even what the PM is suggesting is not a fair system. What we really need is an elected senate.
    Tom Mcewan

    The Lords, especially the hereditary peers, bring a unique wealth of specialist knowledge and independent opinion. This is a refreshing alternative to the tightly controlled spin-doctored drivel we receive from political parties in the Commons. They may not be democratic but the Lords have a very positive effect.
    Oliver Brooks

    Blair is the only undemocratic one in this.
    Graham Haggar

    Why on earth the government couldn't have compromised on an open-list system, I have no idea. The only justification I can see for closed lists is to force voters to choose party-approved candidates, which would weaken democratic choice.
    Julian Morrison, Stockton-on-Tees, Yorkshire

    The Lords dissent on the closed list system is good for democracy. Indeed, it is far better that Blair's 'power-crazed' tendencies are being held accountable in some way.
    Dan Bulley

    Farming subsidies and supermarket profits

    Audience question: "Is it right that excessive profits are being made by supermarkets at the expense of livestock farmers?

    Richard Littlejohn said: "Tragically, governments of both colours have neglected our farmers. They've allowed British farming to be decimated...Profits are not being passed onto the consumers. The government should do something about it immediately and not just spout pious words about it."

    Paul Heaton said: "The amount of money that the government gave to miners and steel workers compared to the 120m that they are now giving farmers - it's a lot less. Farmers are private businesses."

    You said:

    Would it not be an idea for the government to restrict the importation of cheap European meat, and provide incentives for the Supermarkets to promote British meat at better prices?
    David Longbottom

    As part of a small family farm which finishes beef cattle we will not receive any of that money even though our profits are now non existent and we have never had a case of BSE or fed our cattle on the feed.
    L Kellas

    Is it not true that the label British Pork only refers to the country the animal was slaughtered in rather than the country that it was bred in? Therefore the concerns of cost British 45 per pig Europe 10 per pig is making a mockery of fair trade and public safety as we buy British as it's the best, yet we cannot descriminate what actually is British?
    Paul Coleman

    Tonight I saw a report that the exchequer is losing about 1,000,000,000 a year from people going to France to stock up with beers, wines, spirits and tobacco, and it was stated that whilst the French pay 4p tax per pint of beer we pay about 34p. If this were the only difference, it would not be worth going to France to stock up. The fact is the some beers can have a price difference of up to 1 a pint, or more - and the extra money is going directly to the brewers, the very people that are screaming that the duty must be reduced in order for this cross border trade to cease. We are still told that we can go abroad, buy a car originally built in this country, pay the import taxes and ship it back, saving ourselves thousands of pounds. As I doubt that the car is being sold at a loss abroad, where do you suppose the extra cost comes from? Some car companies even buy back cars from the big fleets, in order that the price of second hand cars won't fall too far, after all, who would buy a new car for 15,000 if a two year old one can be bought for 5,000?
    Colin Owrid

    The coal mine and steel areas received SRB and ReChar Money when they closed, what do farms get? And what does the government want, cheap food or a pretty countryside because you cannot have both. The supermarkets could charge slightly more and considerably increase farmer's prices but the middle men would take it.
    Philip Atkins

    It is time for strict regulation of the monopolistic and powerful supermarkets who have far to much power in controlling prices and shopping habits using dubious means. We can't have it both ways - we can have cheap goods or a robust rural economy, not both (This goes for books, designer clothes and much more too).
    Stuart Morrison

    The government's draft code of practice against age discrimination

    Audience question: Should discrimination on the grounds of age be made illegal?

    Lord Rix said: "To throw people on the dust heap in their fifties is ludicrous."

    Virginia Bottomley said: "It's a bit rich of the government identifying it now, when the whole point about the New Deal was that it was only for young people. I'm against legislation because it simply gives jobs to lawyers."

    Baroness Hollis said: "It's such a waste. What we need to get, I think, is a culture shift, a recognition of what older people, men and women, have to offer in our society."

    Richard Littlejohn said: "I'm not a fan of more laws - we've got far too many laws and far too much conflict as there is at the moment. I'm astonished that the talents that older people, fifty plus, have are not exploited by this country more. It's time we valued our older people."

    You said:

    Will we now see the end of application forms which state that applicants must be 25+? I have been refused jobs for a so-called lack of maturity.
    Lee Hegarty

    Concerning the age discrimination issue, which I can perfectly empathise with considering for the past seventeen years of my life I have had no vote and no say in the affairs of the country (I'm 17 years old), many people say older people have "priced themselves" out the market. Market ideology, whilst basically flawed in its assumption of completely open markets where labour can compete easily, still has a stranglehold on the country's thought. Of course, the truth is that older people deserve higher wages in order to support families etc., but no one seems to accept that the free-market doesn't take any of this into account - what can it say about experience? What can it say about motivation? Nothing - until we start to question our blind faith in economic "growth" solving all our problems, and similarly the myth that government can control these problems, we can never make any progress on social issues resulting from economic anathemae.
    Jamie Potter

    Does Tony Blair realise, as the second youngest Prime Minister, that he is already too old to get a job in the real world?
    Nigel Hempsall

    Positive descrimination is not the way forward when we want to increase the percentage of over 40s who are employed. Younger people are better prepared to enter the workplace and do better at interview. What we need is investment to bring the over 40s up to speed with the young, so they can compete on a level playing field.
    Tom McEwan

    Seven months ago I was interviewed by the BBC for a job as a script editor. One of the interviewers asked me how I would feel about working with younger people. I was just 39 years old at the time, and this came as something of a shock to me. But despite my ripe old age I did get the job. Most of my colleagues were in their late twenties/early thirties - and some have since been gracious enough to say that they learnt a lot from me during my six month contract. But I also learnt a hell of a lot from them, and made some very good friends into the bargain. We can all benefit from mixing with others from all generations and walks of life.
    Anji Loman Field

    Many recent graduates were also mature students. I graduated at the age of 46 with an up-to-date degree to complement a lifetime's collection of skills. Fortunately I work for an employer who recognises this.
    Jill Lock

    I am heartily sick and tired of hearing that ageism is a problem for people over 45. I am 22 and have secretarial and childcare qualifications. I have also worked for years as a receptionist. But I have applied for jobs that I have been qualified for, only to find the advert says something along the lines of "only over-25s need apply". Surely this counts as age discrimination, just as much as it does when applied to the other end of the age range?
    Sarah Balfour, Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire

    A good example of the experience and value that can come from older people was shown tonight by the panel themselves. The elder statemen/women came across as more rounded and considered, whereas the songwriter talked the modern talk but clearly had no substance to his views, nor understood the true scope of some of the questions.
    Martin Burke

    With regard to the issue of age discrimination, and in particular the comments made by your audience member who recruits graduates and who would not choose an older person for site work because they would have to live and socialise with '22 year old lads' - I have to agree with Lord Rix. Our universities are getting more and more mature students - and mature no longer means just over 21 when they matriculate but later in life. University is something of an exercise in social engineering in any case. Many of these '22 year old lads' will be living and learning alongside such older undergraduates - what is the difference suddenly when they leave university? Or has university's mission of integration failed totally too elicit such a response from a graduate recruiter. As our graduates get older, the graduate recruiters will have to modify their opinions, not the other way round.
    Jock Coats

    Making ageism in the workplace illegal will have the same effect as making sexism or racism illegal - very little. It is people's attitudes that need to change and that takes time and hard work as well as effective and fair legislation.
    Stuart Morrison, East Lothian

    I work in the IT industry, which actively discriminates age-wise by asking for "graduate-trainees" or "recent graduates". Legislation would prevent this in a similar way it prevents job advertisers asking for a particular sex (with certain exemptions). The main problem lies, however, in PROVING that discrimination has taken place. A woman who suspects that a man has been appointed who is less capable of doing a job often has a hard fight on her hands. The only hope of success is in trying to change the viewpoint of employers rather than attempting a legislative impossible to enforce solution.
    Jim Ollerhead, St Helens, Merseyside

    Saddam Hussein and Iraq

    Audience question: "Would the Middle East benefit if Saddam Hussein had an accident with a Russian umbrella?

    Baroness Hollis said: "I'm almost certain the Middle East would benefit, but that I'm afraid, doesn't give a licence to government to be personally responsible in any way for the assassination."

    Paul Heaton said: I really didn't understand what the fuss was about in the first place. If anybody can tell me what a weapon of mass destruction is compared to what America has - what's the difference? Are the USA's warheads loaded with ping-pong balls?"

    Richard Littlejohn said: "It's very convenient for Bill Clinton to have a foreign enemy at the moment. I don't understand what's in it for us. It's pick-a-dictator - Saddam is a convenient cartoon anti-Christ for the USA at the moment."

    You said:

    There is no point removing Saddam without having a pro-democratic organisation to take his place.
    Stuart Morrison, East Lothian

    If Saddam Hussein were assassinated then there would be another Saddam Hussein waiting in the wings. Better the devil you know. An assassination would motivate the Iraqis for further troublecausing.
    Mat Slade


    Audience question: Should prostitution be legalised?

    Richard Littlejohn said: "Yes."

    Virginia Bottomley said: "I would have a consultation and discussion about it with an open mind. It should be made safe... I wouldn't say instantly, legalisation is the answer."

    Lord Rix said: "To legalise it without doing something about the original problem is not correct. You've got to deal with the social problem first."

    You said:

    If we make safe houses it would make us no different to the pimps.
    Rollo Dennison

    Obviously no government would dare to legalise it, due to the fact that it could lose them votes. If one considered it to be a profession as any other, and not a sordid back of the street job, then no doubt one would see it legalised in one second flat. It is the fact that prostitution is perceived as being undesirable and for 'evil' women that it has been made illegal, presumably by men. As there seems to be more men becoming gigolos to women, then there possibly will be a change in the law. But until then, women will be raped and killed and have drugs pushed down them.
    Adam, Leeds

    Prostitution should be legalised as should cannabis and hence we could control and regulate it and exclude health and safety risks.
    Mat Slade

    Your comments on the programme

    Why on earth was Paul Heaton invited onto the programme? He did not have anything sensible to say on any of the issues raised and succeeded only in showing himself to be living in a world of his own. He condemned the US/UK threats of attacks on Iraq but at the same time said that the House of Lords should be bombed! Also did anyone else notice his ageist comment about the Lords - "old fogies". What an idiot. Can't we have some more intelligent guests on in future?
    S D Rich

    It was a total waste of time having someone like Paul Heaton on the panel, all he did was try to be contoversial. Paul obviously knows nothing about the capabilities of chemical/biological weapons and to riddle the topic with comments about ping-pong balls in warheads is ridiculous, and to go over the mining industry when talking about compensation to farmers is irelevant and farcical as were Paul's comments in general, Don't try to make Question Time trendy. Let's keep reasonably informed people on the panel and keep the questions coming from ordinary members of the public.
    Karl King, Luton

    Where did we get this panel? Sensible argument and comment seemed sadly lacking especially from Mr Littlejohn and the writer from Beautiful South. Comments like those reflect little of the complex issues involved and in respect of the Beautiful South writer especially, gives an impression of 'cheap and nasty' - but maybe that's what he wanted i.e. to attract attention to himself. Can do without it BBC.
    Mr. A. Cook

    I have to block my ears and cringe whenever Paul Heaton opens his mouth.
    Peter Brough

    How sad that one MP and one Baroness knew absolutely nothing about farming. Their answers were pathetic and did nothing to show any understanding or support for the way in which the best of our nation's professional, dedicated, caring farmers are cheated by the supermarket cartels. But well done Richard Littlejohn for talking such sense on the subject. However, please don't invite the mindless, bitter, brain-dead pen-chewing Paul Heaton again. Licence payers expect rather more intellectual capability than people like him!
    M Sims, Yorkshire

    Could you please allow the speakers to finish their questions without being interrupted, it makes for more interesting viewing. It is getting worse than Jeremy Paxman!
    Caroline Hughes

    I was surprised no-one bothered to rebuke Richard Littlejohn regarding his disgraceful comment about Agriculture Secretary, Nick Brown. His comment was totally unecessary, homophobic and insulting to Mr Brown.
    Robert Moore, Paisley, Renfrewshire

    Nice to see a more radical voice on the show in the form of Paul Heaton. Might I suggest that the producers of Question Time consider inviting Mark Thomas, of the Mark Thomas Comedy Product, on to the show at some future date. A man not to pull any punches.
    Dean Weston

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