November 25, Birmingham

November 18, Durham

November 11, Maidstone

November 4, Glasgow

October 28, Southampton

October 21, London

October 14, Sydney

October 7, Manchester

Thursday 30 September, Bournemouth

Thursday 23 September, London

Thursday 15 July, Belfast

Thursday 8 July, London

Thursday 1 July, Birmingham

Thursday 24 June, Leeds

Thursday 17 June, Manchester

Thursday 10 June, Birmingham

Thursday 3 June, Norwich

Thursday 27 May, Bath

Thursday 20 May, Belfast

Thursday 13 May, Birmingham

Thursday 29 April, London

Thursday 22 April, Glasgow

Thursday 15 April, Cardiff

Thursday 25 March, Sheffield

Thursday 18 March, London

Thursday 11 March, Manchester

Thursday 4 March, Maidstone

Thursday 25 February, London

Thursday 27 May, Bath

On the panel:

  • Jilly Cooper, novelist
  • Alun Michael AM, First Secretary of Wales
  • Dr Liam Fox MP, shadow constitutional affairs spokesman
  • Max Hastings, editor, London Evening Standard
  • Ray Michie MP, deputy leader, Scottish Liberal Democrats

    Privacy and the Press

    Audience question: Should her majesty's loyal subjects boycott The Sun in the light of the newspaper's disgraceful decision to print a photo Sophie Rhys-Jones topless and their cynical apology?

    Liam Fox said: "The newspapers print a lot of stuff because people buy the newspapers, so perhaps we all have to raise our standards a little bit. In attacking The Sun however, I think we're missing one of the essential points, in that the greatest betrayal in all of this is by Kara Noble, her friend."

    Alun Michael said: "My instinct is, that the most important thing is that the public make their views known, as has happened in this case, and that newspapers should respond to it. All too often newspapers don't respond to public opinion and there is a very fine line to be drawn between the freedom of the press and license which takes that freedom for granted."

    Jilly Cooper said: "To me this is a young girl who's taking on a huge job marrying into the Royal Family and I just think that everybody's being very cruel."

    Max Hastings said: "Mr Murdoch and others play this game because it pays, because they know that there are lots of people out there who will buy the newspaper with it in it. Anybody who bought the Sun, or even looked at the Sun [on Wednesday] is ensuring that the next Miss Noble who's got the next set of pictures of this kind is going to find a ready buyer at this sort of price. The only way you're going to stop it is if it doesn't pay."

    Ray Michie said: "I don't actually think a boycott would work. I understand that The Sun's sales were falling and they were desperate to do something to make them rise, and they go for this young bride-to-be with some cheap journalism which really was extremely hurtful. I'm very cynical I must say, because they had the story one day, and they had the apology the next day and alongside it they had a sort of jokey cartoon which really, to me, undermined the apology."

    You said:

    When I was a boy growing up in the North-West, the very act of permitting a topless photo to be taken of oneself would have been thought of as scandalous. The lesson is very clear: if you don't want a nude picture of yourself in the papers, don't let one be taken! I don't in any way condone the breach of privacy, but one has a responsibility for one's own privacy!
    Andrew Smellie

    I think the call to boycott the Sun newspaper on the day of the forthcoming Royal wedding as a public statement of disgust at the publication of topless photos of Sophie Rhys-Jones may be a waste of time if broadcast solely on Radio 4 or Question Time. After all, how many of the Sun's regular readers tune in to either? Max Hastings rightly pointed out that it is the readership that creates the demand for such nonsense, which the newspapers, just as any successful business, strive to satisfy. With unrest over Kashmir developing between India and Pakistan, and a potential threat of nuclear war, should politicians and intellectuals (and Jilly Coopers) devote time and energy to debating issues such as topless photographs, or a sportsman trying unsuccessfully to save his skin? Or is the BBC just as guilty of sentationalism by allowing these stories to be debated ad nauseam in an open forum? On a lighter note, it was nice to see Alun Michael squirm over his appointments of his vegetarian farming representative and the custodian and promoter of the Welsh language, who can't speak a word of it. Is it any wonder that turnouts on polling day are so disappointing when the leaders are guilty of such buffoonery? If this happened in business, the city and the shareholders would be baying for Mr. Michael's blood.
    Martin Deszberg

    I do not see why the publication of topless photographs of Sophie Rhys-Jones should should been seen in a different light to the photographs of other people "in the public eye" whose prviacy has been invaded by the publication of such photographs. I didn't see the palace complain about topless photos of Zoe Ball which were published recently. I am shocked that this distressing practice only seems to be worth our outrage when royalty is involved.
    Julie Mumby

    As a liberal southern American, I've often wondered how my English cousins deal with the 'tell-all' atmosphere of the press. While Freedom of the Press is one of our Bill of rights, we also have the responsibility to act responsibly. On the other hand, our Christian teachings of 'Always behave as though God is watching, cause HE is!!!" now seems to have been supplanted by the Press replacement. She sowed the wind (Ms. Rhys-Jones). She's now reaping the whirlwind. The press, as rude and pushy as it is, must not be legally suppressed. Public apathy is the answer. But as HL Mencken said, "Whomever thinks they can underestimate the masses, can't."
    Alice Copeland Brown, USA

    I think The Sun should have their paper suspended for seven days. This would stop these scandal hungry so-called newspapers from dealing in scandalous journalism.
    Richard Warren

    People have choices. If the puplic were not interested in these kind of stories then the Sun wouldn't be the country's most popular newspaper.
    Stewart Robertson

    The continuing and highly questionable activity of The Sun in publishing scandal results from the love of money. For those offended by this sort of behaviour, the best response therefore is to hit back where it hurts - in the pocket. I suggest the best wedding present we could all give Miss Rhys-Jones is to refrain from purchasing the Sun for the entire week after the wedding. That should give Mr Murdoch something to think about.
    David Baynes, Calgary, Canada

    I try not to miss Question Time but it's programmes like this that keep that sort of private matter live and kicking. It shouldn't have happened but it has happened and it is being dealt with appropriately. Please tell others to let it go!
    Naveed Aslam, London

    While I agree with the comments made regarding the betrayal of Kara Noble, no one appears to have considered Chris Tarrant's responsibilities over this issue. Presumably he was a senior representative for Capital Radio when this all first happened. He has stated on radio both his condemnation for his former colleague and for the Sun newspaper. He appears to conveniently forget that were it not for his boorish action the photograph would never have been taken and Miss Rhys-Jones would not now find herself suffering this embarrassment. I think, instead of his campaign against Kara, he should look to his own loutish behaviour and be the first to make an apology to all concerned.
    Priscilla Ray

    The hypocrisy of Max Hastings astounds me, he seems to deliberately miss the point of the debate surrounding the press! Yes, most civilised people agree that the hounding of people in the public eye simply because they are famous is wrong and spiteful. The tabloid press hounded several Tory cabinet members out of office as they were preaching values like 'A Stronger Family' and 'Back to Basics' whilst abusing their own positions of power and the rest of the nation was struggling on the back of redundancy.
    Julian Magzian

    It is a poor reflection on the British people that they paid to read such filth and the cynical "apology" that followed it.
    Phil Butler

    I was disgusted with the Sun newspaper this week. I have read the paper for many years now, but will no longer buy this trash.
    Julie Lewis

    Let's be honest - the British media, especially papers like The Sun and The News of The World are just sensational publications and use their power to sell papers only! It is about time that there was regulation in place to ensure that someone's private life remains just that - private. To think that you can expect the public to boycott newspapers is ridiculous and would never work, even though this would be the best deterrent.
    Graham Thomas, Ayr

    Why should a paper have to apologise for showing an image of a women with bare breasts when none of their readers complain about their page three photographs? If a women is happy enough to go topless in front of her co-workers and friends she obviously doesn't mind being seen topless. So why should the Royal Family object when she herself clearly doesn't?
    John Rees

    I was interested in Alan Michael's views on the powers of People. If he honestly believed that view, he would resign in favour of whom the people of Wales wanted and not continue to be Tony Blair's puppet.
    Paul Ley

    It is very unfortunate that the Sun/News of the World are involved in what I can only see as vindictive journalism. They both seem to always want to bring down people in the limelight. The public is not interested in what Dallaglio did when he was a teenager. He was not caught taking drugs by the journalist. Leave the poor guy alone. The issue of Sophie is very unfortunate. I used to buy the Sun and have not missed the News of the World for some years now. If they do not lose anyone, they certainly have lost my patronage by this kind of writing. It is very disgusting. Take the case of Lenny Henry, Stan Collymore, the list is endless. Apology is not enough. We should all boycott the papers and campaign to have Dallaglio back in the England squad.
    Bee, Eastbourne

    Audience question: Should past misdemeanors be held against public sporting figures and why should the Sunday tabloids be able to ruin a promising sporting career?

    Liam Fox said: "The act of entrapment itself is a dreadful thing and I think there are tactics being employed by newspapers that go well beyond what would be normal investigative journalism and I strongly deplore that ... What is wrong with us in this country that we always want to destroy our heroes?"

    Jilly Cooper said: "It's an absolute disgrace these people posing as Gillette employees ... it seems to me that he's an icon for millions and millions of small boys and people all over England ... What does it matter if it's in the past? If you did something 15 years ago it's quite immaterial if you're captain of England now."

    Max Hastings said: "The press can only justify anything that we do in terms of the public interest ... Supposing one knew that a politician was involved in arms dealing. I would regard it as legitimate to get a reporter, let's say for example, to pose as an arms buyer to see if you could buy arms from a politician."

    You said:

    The shame of it all really is the fact that the News of the World could have turned the Dallaglio fiasco into a story of hope. Just imagine if they printed the sad story of a youth (like so many today) caught in the deadly web of drug abuse, to suddenly and courageously kick the addiction/usage, to make a positive acheivement in his life and eventually to rise to lead a national sports team about to embark on an international tour. What a story of hope and inspiration to many who can identify with this lifestyle who believe they have no hope, to realise that there is. If the story were printed in that fashion, Dallaglio would still be captain, hailed as a national inspiration and hero for kicking the drudgery of a drug lifestyle, the News of the World perhaps praised for their compassionate article and who knows, some kids reading it could be inspired and hopeful enough to resist that lifestyle and make a positive life for themselves and their future family. Such an opportunity wasted.
    Justin Moore

    It seems to me that to suggest Lawrence Dallaglio should not have resigned is a criticism of his decision, not of the report in the News of the World newspaper. If they reported something which was untrue, or if it was nothing to be ashamed of, he should not have resigned. If they reported something which was illegal or something to be ashamed of, then he was right to resign.
    Nigel Bywater, Leeds

    Why don't we have a pry into what the owners and editors of these papers have hidden in their pasts?
    Paul Kitchen

    The newspapers are attempting to make resignation a normal process if you are seen to be guilty . When they get it wrong (The Sun and photos etc), shouldn¿t the editors resign?
    John Perrett

    I feel that any high profile sportsperson who admits to using drugs at any time should not be allowed to represent their country again.
    Dominic Murphy

    Will the entire staff of the News of the World voluntarily undergo drugs tests?
    David Harrison, Sussex

    As an avid rugby fan and a royalist/patriot I was dismayed when Tom Parker-Bowles 'survived' taking drugs with a ticking off from Prince Charles, but Lawrence Dallaglio is forced (?) to resign his job. Is this not a case of double standards? Is it OK to take drugs if you are known to royalty?
    Ryan Hansford

    If public figures are caught pushing drugs by newspapers, it is said their careers have been ruined. If Jo Public is caught pushing drugs in Brixton, he is the scum of the earth. Double standards or what?
    Roy Hooper

    Slobodan Milosevic formally indicted as a war criminal

    Audience question: Will the indictment of Milosevic make the possibility of a negotiated political settlement more or less difficult?

    Max Hastings said: "I think it's a great mistake at this stage ... I don't think those who embarked on this indictment have thought through what this could mean ... It would be very difficult to sign any sort of treaty with a indicted war criminal."

    Ray Michie said: "He has been indicted and I think the war crimes tribunal is in fact an independent tribunal. He hasn't been convicted. If we do manage to negotiate a withdrawal and a peace deal, you're not actually yet dealing with somebody who has been convicted. He will still be there as president, so presumably they will still be able to do some sort of deal."

    Alun Michael said: "Should an independent tribunal hold back from indictment if the evidence is overwhelming, simply because that is inconvenient? It does call into question the independence and the objectivity of a tribunal if it were to be constrained in that way."

    You said:

    Milosevic cannot be part of the solution of the Kosovo conflict. There is a real problem that we lose sight of the central issue here. This would be like asking Hitler to be part of the post war peace in Europe. What the Nato allies must do is to make it plain to Serbia that they must find someone else for Nato to negotiate with. This will generate a significant amount of heat within Serbia as it becomes apparent that we are going to go in there and sort things out. Serbians will begin to realise that they must act and soon or they will stand to lose a significant part of their country. The invitation to them is to join the modern secular world and keep Kosovo within Serbia or stick with Milosevic and lose that and more. If they hand over Milosevic and agree to secure Kosovo for all the peoples of Kosovo then the West will fund the rebuilding of their country for them. If not, they are committed to the dark ages for the foreseeable future.
    Pete Paterson

    Vegetarian Welsh agriculture secretary angers farmers

    Audience question: Is it possible for a self-confessed vegetarian to understand the finer points of the meat industry?

    Jilly Cooper said: "I think it's contemptuous, I think it's absolutely appalling. It's like saying a teetotal should advertise the liquor industry."

    Liam Fox said: "It's grossly insensitive and I think, at a time when farmers have been having a very very difficult time, to put someone in charge of their industry who is basically unsympathetic to their cause, doesn't smack of any political sensitivity whatsoever."

    Alun Michael said: "She has the qualities and the experience to do be able to do the job well ... We should judge her on whether she does the job well and I'm convinced she will."

    Ray Michie said: "She should be given a chance to do the job properly. Alun can always get rid of her if she doesn't."

    You said:

    There is nothing wrong with a vegetarian being in charge at the ministry of foods - hopefully she will do something about GM foods.
    Ronnie Lewin

    Cloning research

    Audience question: With the news that the development of Dolly the sheep seems to have gone a bit wrong and is speeding up in the ageing process, is this Mother Nature's way of saying, 'Leave it alone, enough is enough'?

    Jilly Cooper said: "I think cloning is ghastly. I think they should stop it immediately."

    Liam Fox said: "I would like to see far greater restriction on it and I certainly would not like to see it done on live subjects. I think it's immensely cruel, and it's reckless until we know what the effects would be ... We seem to be led by whatever science capable of doing and simply because science can do it we allow it to happen."

    Alun Michael said: "I feel uneasy about modification, both if we're talking about plants and animals, and I want to be absolutely certain that it's been thought through, that public safety has been protected."

    Max Hastings said: "We've done extraordinarily distorting things with science and with nature ... The idea of cloning is absolutely horrible and I think a lot of the things that have been done with human genetics are absolutely terrifying."

    Ray Michie said: "We've got to be very careful mucking about with nature."

    You said:

    Maybe it is cruel that Dolly has been cloned, but the amount we could gain is the secret of youth, no less. Before a child is even conceived, the DNA is regenerated in the sperm/egg, which replaces DNA lopped off the ends of the DNA each time the fertilised cell divides into two. With Dolly, this hasn't happened, and so we are able to study Dolly for clues to whether the aging process can be slowed by drug treatments that are developed directly from research about Dolly. Isn't that a price worth paying for Dolly's premature aging?
    Ben Cockburn

    Don't play with Dolly.
    Anne Bewey

    Conflict between India and Pakistan

    Audience question: Does the outbreak of conflict in Kashmir move the possibility of nuclear conflict on the Indian sub-continent to an ultimate inevitability?

    Liam Fox said: "No it doesn't. It's entirely possible that they can move towards a settlement and it's entirely possible that diplomacy will be able to resolve the particularly difficult and long-running dispute. We should be redoubling diplomatic efforts to bring these two sides together."

    Max Hastings said: "I'm an optimist enough to think it's unlikely that it's going to come to any sort of holocaust."

    Ray Michie said: "It just brings home to us really how unstable things are all over the world now ... I think it is very worrying and there's no doubt we have to try and help diplomatically to get them to solve it."

    Jilly Cooper said: "It must happen sometime. We can't live on our luck forever."

    Voter apathy

    Audience question: Due to the poor turnout in recent elections, should voting be compulsory?

    Ray Michie said: "No, I don't really think we should do that, but I do think it is very sad when people don't go out and use their votes."

    Jilly Cooper said: "It's terribly terribly irresponsible not to vote, you've got to vote, though I don't think it should be compulsory. We can't grumble about the government and then not go and vote, it's ridiculous."

    Max Hastings said: "In an almost free society as little as possible ought to be compulsory."

    Alun Michael said: "No. What we have to do is persuade people and I would like to see everyone voting ... I think we actually have to improve the quality of political debate, so that people understand the debates that are going on, can feel attracted by it."

    You said:

    It seems fundamental that because we voted Labour but end up with a government pursuing a substantially Thatcherite economic and, therefore, social agenda, it is difficult for us to feel at all trusting. Then we are presented with the party list system. I will not vote in Euro elections because of this. I regard it as political gerrymandering of my vote and will not let the politicians decide who gets it. Indeed, the example of the way Wales was arm locked into its leader is exactly an exemplar of why the government should not be trusted with either my vote or my confidence.
    Andrew Kemeys

    If the voters don't bother to vote, it's most likely because they don't know the issues and want to leave the decision-making to people who do know what is going on. It's no good voting for somebody just because they shake your hand on the doorstep and make claims about each others parties. Many people don't bother to vote because they're fed up of politics, don't bother to find out about it and really don't want to vote in case they make matters worse.
    Ben Cockburn

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