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Wednesday, 25 October, 2000, 15:33 GMT 16:33 UK
October 26, Glasgow
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Audience Question: Do the panel think that John Gummer was wrong to force feed his daughter a hamburger in the light of the information revealed today?
Ruth Wishart: My experience is that people should never try to force feed their children! But we should not try to point the fingers of blame now.
John Reid: We should not try and find scapegoats in this issue.
Paddy Ashdown: The last government has been incompetent and bankrupt on this issue.
The Question Time panel really missed the point of the BSE report. It is virtually impossible to ascribe 'blame', or more importantly discern responsibility in British government today because the relationship between Ministers and civil servants has fundamentally changed. The old belief in Ministerial responsibility has collapsed, though it is doubtful it ever worked in the 'Crichel Down' sense, once taught as constitutional gospel. Instead Ministers have some sort of oversight responsibility for the managerial role of the civil service.
I was watching tonight's programme and listened to the debate on BSE, I have
to say that scientists have a lot to answer for. I always thought
scientists believed in FACTS but over the last 30 years we have seen that the
they now believe the theory more than the facts. Scientists must get back to
only giving the facts not their opinions or what they think is good for the
The audience did not seem to appreciate that BSE was caused by feeding meat by-products to farm animals as early as 1943, and blamed the Conservatives for concealing the fact that BSE, in the form CJD, could be passed to humans. This was not known until quite late on in the conservative's term of office.
It was not just the public that were deceived, but the farmers as well. Many hill beef farmers have gone out of business and lost everything when they have never had a single BSE case. It is not their fault and should stop being blamed. This is a problem that started in the south of England, but farmers in the Highlands have suffered more than anyone. The public should be made aware of this. We do not eat cow beef in Scotland. This is an English problem!
The BSE troubles are the sole responsibility of the last government. I feel that John Gummer and John Macgregor should be held fully to blame. Why elect them so that they can then pass the buck onto others.
We live in a free and democratic country where people vote for a group who represent their interests and hold them to heart - or do we?
This government is not to blame over BSE, the Tories are the ones who started this whole farce in deception and lies. They should be the ones to pay the compensation to those families that are suffering.
Can someone please tell me why it's the taxpayers that are having to foot the bill for BSE compensation? Why not the firms that made the feed? Or the farmers that chose to turn their herbivores into cannibals? If every compensation claim was settled this way, the country would be bankrupt and industries freely introducing evermore monstrous products, safe in the knowledge that they'd never be prosecuted and never have to pick up the tab.
The English disease: snobbery?
Audience Question: Following the appointment of Michael Martin as Speaker would you regard coverage by English papers as old-fashioned, home counties snobbery?
Margeret Ewing: Accents are partly what make us people.
David McLetchie: Vive la difference! Congratulations to him on his election.
Ruth Wishart: The Tartan mafia are making the natives a little restless! What would really have made them restless is if Alex Ferguson had said yes to the England Manager's job.
Paddy Ashdown: The BBC has set this question up so we can all have a go at the English as there is not anyone here to defend them! Press and politicians are like the dog and a lamp post.
I was offended by the way the panel responded to the question about the new House of Commons speaker. They seemed to use this question as an opportunity to have a go at England and the English. There was nobody on the panel to defend the English press against the obvious Scottish nationalism. It was by far the worst question time I have seen in 10 years.
I have never heard a government minister talk as much rubbish as John Reid on this issue. It is not a question of accents, working class background, but a question of ability. Betty Boothroyd was a class act as speaker mixing humour and firmness. Having watched PM's Question Time on Wednesday and his acceptance speech on Monday I believe that Michael Martin is not up to the job. Only time will tell if I am right or wrong.
I have to agree with Paddy Ashdown! Would Question Time ever dare ask the same question about the Scottish or the Welsh, or would they be frightened of being branded racist, or xenophobic? When English politicians are not allowed to have a say in Scotland but Scots can have a say in England there is bound to be controversy when a Scotsman is allowed to a speaker of the commons. I am not being anti-Scottish but I strongly suggest that the West Lothian question be answered as quickly as possible. Either Scotland and Wales go fully independent, or an English parliament is set up for English matters only, creating a federal UK!
What we are really seeing is a perfectly understandable concern on the part of our English friends that their parliament, established since the days of the Magna Carta, has been hi-jacked by non-English elements.
To my mind, this can best be addressed by having all devolved English matters being dealt with by the English parliament, and UK matters being dealt with by the UK parliament.
Yet another load of English bashing from the Scots. One lady had it right saying that Scots had a chip on their shoulders. Speaking for the majority (and do not assume my nationality) the sooner Scotland goes independent the better.
Judging someone because of his or her accent is so ridiculous and out dated, it is beyond belief that it still happens in the 21st century. Surely it is just another label that people use to compartmentalise life to make us feel safe.
My mother is Scottish, I was born in Scotland and my father is Irish. I have lived in England since I was 5 but still retained by "Celtic" pride. All I can say now is that I'm ashamed of the lot of you - self-serving politicians. Scotland remained sensible when it didn't have it's own parliament. Now it's all party politics - just like down here. Where's the common voice gone?
When is enough?
Audience Question: After several years of so-called rehabilitation, is it right that the Jamie Bulger killers go free?
Paddy Ashdown: It is a matter for the judges and it is as simple as that.
Margeret Ewing: The point is that the judge at the time of sentencing made a recommendation that the boys' sentence should be evaluated at this time.
Ruth Wishart: I think that Lord Justice Woolf got it absolutely right in this matter as I find that public opinion runs contrary to good practice.
John Reid: This is a hugely horrific crime and we all feel passionately about this. But is there a length of time that is right for killing a child. And if people are given that choice to decide on it - we are going down a very dangerous path.
Its ok to say that politicians should not intervene in individual cases. But in the absence of the death penalty there must be a statutory minimum sentence for murder - 8 years cannot be enough. If this were to be 25-30 years then we could have judicial (or jury) discretion thereafter. Done this way the public wouldn't be so outraged - and unrepresented.
All to often in our society, we fail to remind parents of their responsibility for their childrens' actions. The parents should also have been 'punished'.
A civilised society cannot treat children in the same way as it treats adult criminals. The suggestion that these children were simply evil is ludicrous. They are now young adults and it is up to those who have had charge of their upbringing and the judiciary to decide whether they are of any further danger to the public. They too are victims and will have to live for the rest of their lives with the knowledge of what they have done.
Three families have been wrecked, and two children have a chance to rebuild their lives. We have delegated justice to the judges and childcare to social services. Let's give them the chance to show what they can do. We must never forget Jamie or his mother and father, and we must all realise our responsibility in caring for our own and other people's children. Then we won't have to consider mob rule.
It is not for us to contradict the decision that was made with regards to the sentencing in the Bulger case. We need to invest in rehabilitation and not retribution - one life has been lost; to subject the two young offenders to the same perpetual lack of liberty is to do the same thing.
I think that the home secretary should set the sentence for high profile unique cases because it gives the chance for an elected parliament to challenge it. I think that Michael Howard's decision to set a 15-year sentence was a correct one.
I feel it was inappropriate for the judge to take into account the 'good behaviour' of the two murderers.
That would be appropriate for the parole board after the original 10-year minimum (with which the judge agreed) had been served.
The question which fails to come up during any discussion of the Bulger case (or indeed the Hindley case), is why in our society we consider the murder of a child worse than the murder of an innocent adult?
I believe that a jury should have the final say as to when a person is serving an indefinite sentence.
May I say that this is serious as any person that commits an offence of this nature should be put away for their natural lives.
Audience Question: Was Henry McLeish's appointment today as Minister of Scotland another Labour fix?
David McLetchie: Given the problems with appointing someone following Donald Dewar's death and constitutional rules they came up with a compromise which gave prominent influence to parliamentary party in a Scottish parliament.
Margaret Ewing: It has been a disservice to the democratic process in the way first minister was elected. Donald Dewar was elected through a broad movement of the Labour Party to lead his party and became first minister.
Ruth Wishhart: Under the circumstances, I think the process was acceptable, if Donald Dewar had had a chance to resign a n election campaign would have been held and maybe there would have been a different outcome.
More important let's judge the new speaker on the job he does and let's have a more modern way of election.
I would like to say that the MP's who made money directly or indirectly from betting on the position of the speaker were greedy and selfish and showed themselves as underhanded and deceitful. I am a labour supporter because I feel that they are supposed to stand for the good of the majority however these people seem to be just the same as the self centred Tories whom were ousted in the last election.
Audience Question: If the parties have decided on a coalition before an election, should we know in advance?
Margaret Ewing: Yes of course we should. This ties in with proportional representation (PR). Coalition could be considered in Westminster but after proportional representation in the UK.
John Reid: What Tony Blair did say was that he would work we any party that shared the same common goals. No party goes into an election saying "we are going to lose and if we do we'll have a coalition."
Paddy Ashdown: If Margaret Ewing believes in PR then we're bound to have coalition politics. PR would have had a very weak government if this had happened in Scotland. The liberals are prepared to work with Labour. If there was a coalition deal it failed with Tony Blair.
The Lib Dems are prepared to join forces with whoever offers them the opportunity for power and influence (mainly New Labour) to compensate for their lack of coherent policies and electoral support of their own. Not all (if any) of these 'deals' have been effective and leave the impression of a minority party desperate to gain ANY influence, regardless of principle.
General comments on the programme:
I am sorry that 2 of your correspondents failed to recognise that my earlier contribution was a tongue-in-cheek response to the allegations every week on these pages that Question Time panels have a left-wing bias.
I found the programme last night very informative, as always. I do feel however, that the BBC should have held such a high profile debate in Edinburgh, the country's capital and the home of the Scottish Parliament. This matter seems to reinforce the idea that the BBC seems to think that Glasgow IS Scotland.
Where were the big international issues of the day i.e. Middle East, the rise and fall of the Euro, American election etc?
Sorry Stan M, but its about time Question Time took a fair and balanced left/right approach instead of a left-wing balance as it has done before!
A programme consisting of the most cant I have heard since before the last election.
What a boring panel!
Good show but a pity you didn't have Robin Harper MSP on.
I'm sure his contribution would have enriched the programme. I am pleased
that the environment was briefly mentioned by Paddy Ashdown (with ref to a
coalition with Labour) but perhaps we should recognise that the future of
British Politics will be in the hands of our children and grandchildren and
the way things are going it looks like they're going to be pretty angry at
our lack of responsibility unless Green Politics is given more credence.
Stan M from Birmingham has shown his total ignorance of the PR system. The Tories have MSPs. May I also remind him that without Scotland and Wales, England would have been ruled by Labour governments a lot less frequently, but that is democracy.
The programme is spoiled for me by Dimbleby's constant interruptions and comments. We don't want his views.
Another biased panel! Why did you have a Conservative on your panel? They have no Scottish MPs and virtually no support in the country.
Great to see him (Paddy Ashdown) back on the box again.
Please have him on again asap!
Ruth Wishart proved once again that a panel of non-politicians would better serve the Question Time audience and viewers. Re the Jamie Bulger question, she showed high levels of insight, foresight and plain common sense without having to resort to framing her answer for political reasons.
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