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Tuesday, 14 November, 2000, 16:49 GMT
November 16, Blackburn
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A cash injection for hospital food

Audience question: Does the panel agree that in a climate where the NHS appears to be lunging from crisis to catastrophe an injection of £40m to improve hospital food seems inappropriate? You said:

I cannot believe the comments of some of the people on the panel and public. We are meant to live in a civilised, democratic country which is the 4th largest economy in world. I have just experienced my father nearly dying from malnutrition in an NHS hospital. If my mother had not prepared food and drink for him and then fed him, he would be dead.
Nigel Godden, Ballyclare

People complain that Labour isn't listening, but this is further proof that they are. I've never been to a hospital where patients AREN'T complaining about the quality of food.
Wesley Streeting, London

I think the money would be better spent trying to recruit more doctors and nurses, that might help to reduce waiting lists and prevent elderly patients sitting in a hospital corridor for six hours before a nurse can even come and issue painkillers to a new 'emergency'. If they can provide this money now, why could they not provide it earlier to provide more beds?
Heather Kneale, London

I think everybody would applaud efforts to improve patients' experiences in hospital - including the food they are served. But employing TV presenters with a passing interest in food seems to be a cheap (or do I really mean expensive) publicity stunt.
John Scott, Nottingham

Whilst I laud attempts to make food in hospital more appealing, it must be recognised that anaesthetic and treatments affect the taste buds.
Tom, Perth, Australia

Why should people get free food in hospital? The NHS should pay for medical treatment, patients should pay for their own food whilst they are in hospital. This would have the greatest impact on improving standards and of course release countless millions for use on medical care and who knows maybe even cut waiting time a bit.
Mike, Singapore

The cost of food for the NHS is much too high. As most people have to pay for their own food when they are at home, or on holiday, why can't they pay a nominal sum when they enter hospital? This would cut the NHS food bill and funds could then be directed to patient care.
Mary Kallagher, King's Lynn

Having worked in the catering industry, I understand the need for research into hospital food, but many people don't seem to realise how important 'diet' is to the welfare of a patient.
Heather Nelson, Crossgar, Northern Ireland

There are many times when one looks forward to food as a break from a particular situation. Fortunately I have spent no time in hospital, but I can imagine it can be a pretty boring existence. I think the thought of a tasty meal can lift the spirit, and I hope these improvements are in place by the time I may need hospital treatment.
John Puddifoot, Basingstoke

£40m sounds a lot of money to the general public to improve hospital food. However in real terms this amounts to an extra 2p per patient meal. I will find it very interesting to see what improvements can be made with this money.
Shelley Gooding, Newport, Shropshire

I clocked up nearly a year as an inpatient back in the mid '80s and I appreciate why the hospital food has to be 'awful' for the following reasons:
Many patients have false teeth so the food has to be overcooked to make it soft enough so that they can manage it.
Up here in Aberdeen we get patients from country areas. Not everyone in the UK has a Pizza Hut, Chinese or Indian takeaway on their doorstep!
Janet Potter, Aberdeen

I was disappointed that everyone was getting in a stew about Loyd and his £40m - this is less than one tenth of 1% of the NHS budget. Will Question Time ever actually make people aware of the real cost of the NHS?
Neil Rowntree, Saffron Walden

Having been with a seriously ill patient in hospital last year, my mother, I believe that the biggest problem is that the catering is contracted out and that the nursing staff now have no responsibility for the food and the patient.
Ann Trimmer, Nottingham

As a nurse in East Lancashire, I have taken exception to the comments of your audience and panel. Part of essential nursing duties are to ensure that patients have a good diet and if they need help to meet this need then they receive assistance.
Mark, Blackburn

I find any argument that demeans Labours efforts regarding the NHS very distasteful. The general public have to understand that it has been the previous government that helped put the NHS in the state it is today. People are too impatient for change. It takes long term solutions to fix problems that have taken a long time to create.
John Gray, Marlow

I support what Geoff Hoon said about army chefs. Having eaten in numerous army camps during the miners' strike in the 1980's I found their cooking excellent.
Simon Dicketts, Reading

I spent two months in hospital. There is very little variation, some of the food is absolutely foul and it is especially difficult if you have restrictions on your diet. People spending a long time in hospital need food that is edible. It is an important part of getting better.
Jo Turner, Leeds

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Should air traffic control be partially privatised?

Audience question: After the Hatfield train disaster isn't it sickening that the government is about to sell 51% of the air traffic control? You said:

Comments were made about needing money for the air traffic control system. People were worried that it would end up like the trains. However, a new air traffic control building has been built between Portsmouth and Southampton and never used. So my question is how can they justify creating a new building and then saying they have no money?
Holly Hallman, Portsmouth

Theresa May said that rail passenger numbers had risen "because of privatisation". It is true that more people are using the railways since they were sold off, but the rise we have seen is only the result of the reasonably healthy economy we are currently enjoying. She was very quick to disassociate the recent spate of fatal rail accidents with privatisation pointing out that accidents happened before too.
S Lowe, Glasgow

As someone who lives under a flight path alongside Heathrow, I am extremely concerned about the prospect of Air Traffic Control becoming partially privatised. There has not yet been a major accident in the area where a plane crashed on a residential area. I feel this is far more likely to happen if privatisation goes ahead - as profits are always more important than safety. Local councils already have contingency plans for an emergency of this kind. I feel that this 'privatisation' should be put to a public referendum.
Jacky, Hounslow, Middlesex

Air Traffic Control in the UK has been safe for many years. Why does this government wish to sell off an industry which last year moved more than 150m passengers without accident and claim that this will improve air safety? Air Traffic Control doesn't cost the taxpayer a penny as it stands and it should remain a public service.
Caren Adams, Prestwick

I agree 100% with what Loyd Grossman said in that not only just the Airline Pilots Association disagrees with the partial privatisation, airlines and a huge percentage of controllers within the NATS service - I stress service here, it runs - do not believe that this ridiculous proposal should go ahead. If the government is not able to listen to advice from the people who really know best about such an important service, how can it even suggest such an idea.
Matthew Taylor, Reading

The Conservatives shambles in selling-off the railways has resulted in the indisputable safety failures. How can Railtrack give their shareholders their dividends without taking money way from investment. It is absurd for the government now to allow the same to happen to air traffic controllers.
Fawad Mir, Woking, Surrey

The obvious solution to raising money for investment in air traffic control is to put a tax on aeroplane fuel. It is insane that there is virtually no tax on aeroplane fuel when air travel is even more environmentally damaging than cars. Such a tax might also do something to curb the projected further increase in air travel which is cited as a justification for the privatisation plan.
Brig Oubridge, Carmarthen

Why does the panel seem to think that privatisation means a reduction in safety when the evidence shows the opposite? According to the safety statistics the railways are safer since being privatised.
K S Williamson, Stafford

I am a private pilot myself and I am worried by the privatisation of NATS. In the USA the air traffic system is funded by the FAA as a public service. Here the CAA has to break even, and now NATS is going to have to make a profit. The net result must surely be profit and economics above safety, since accountants can measure profits and losses, but not human lives until they are lost.
Adrian Beney, Durham

With possibly tens of millions of passengers a year in total using air transport, why don't the government put the issue to the public domain by way of a referendum? After all, if they are sure of their facts what do they have to lose, apart from possibly a large majority of the electorate on this issue!
David Salmon, Redhill, Surrey

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Is it vulgar for pop stars to squander their money?

Audience question: In view of the number of homeless and destitute people in the country does the panel think it right that a pop star should be able to spend £40m in 20 months? You said:

In Britain it's a depressing fact that we knock success. It's the politics of envy, not present in the US, and not so pronounced in other European countries. This aspect was not covered well in the panellists' responses. It's a sign of a healthy free country that people with money CAN spend it in a vulgar way!
Richard, Leiden, NL

I feel equally galled by the obscene amounts of money paid to professional footballers these days. I am a father and a teacher and find these extremes difficult to rationalise.
Jonathon Hemingray, Derby

What a silly question! Elton John has brought pleasure to millions. He can spend his own money as he chooses. This smacks of nothing more than envy.
Simon Dicketts, Reading

If Elton John wants to spend £40m of his cash why shouldn't he, he earned it? Shouldn't we ask why the lottery is not spent on the really needy good causes?
Sue, Blackpool

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The route to European federalism?

Audience question: Do the panel think the move to assign British troops to a European rapid reaction force is one step ahead along the route to European federalism? You said:

I fully support the man in the yellow shirt, and Loyd Grossman. We should have a European rapid response army to act fast and effective on matters that we believe in without having to get the go ahead from the USA. Especially in Palestine where innocent children and civilians are being slaughtered whilst we are waiting for the USA before we can act.
Ammar, London

Euroscepticism is a British illness! Firstly, let us correct the misguided notion that we are not Europeans. We are and always were geographically and politically European. Secondly, it is about time that excessive nationalism was abolished and co-operation fostered by everyone.
Andrew Kirk, Hemel Hempstead

I was aircrew in Bomber Command during the war and I swore allegiance to the sovereign. My oath still stands. To whom or what will the European rapid reaction force swear allegiance when they put their lives on the line? Or will loyalty be replaced by money?
H Norcross, Farnham Royal, Bucks

This country needs to stop dragging its feet over Europe. Yet again we hear the cry "we are being sold out to the French and Germans", when, in reality, the biggest sell out is that this country is in danger of being left behind by the rest of Europe.
Martin Malone, Bicester

I find Theresa May's scare tactics insulting. Does she really believe that other European countries with immensely strong senses of their own national identities are, in some mysterious way, more stupid than us Brits? Or conversely, are we the only nation with enough insight to grasp that we are the sole victims of some type of conspiracy to rob us of our sovereignty? Eurosceptic doesn't really do this type of mindset justice - it's just plain old-fashioned paranoia.
Adam G, Norwich

How dare Theresa May discuss the rights and wrongs of Europe collectively deciding whether our young people go off to war. I seem to remember the Conservative party volunteering our young people for two conflicts in the last two decades - the first of which seemed to me to achieve nothing.
Christine Ainsley-Cowlishaw, Oxford

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How do we alleviate the north/south divide?

Audience question: Does the panel concur, given the comments of Stephen Byers about the growing economic divide between the north and south, and if the panel does concur how do we set about alleviating the divide? You said:

It is disingenuous for Labour to say they care so much about the north south divide when most of them are clearly very much in love with life in the south, London in particular and central London most particular of all.
Laura Marcus, Leek, Staffordshire

I understood that in some parts of north England they were almost giving houses away because there was no one to buy them. A considerable number of people had got on their bikes and headed south to find work. Surely the first thing to do is create employment in the north and perhaps people will be encouraged to move back to the north.
Alex Ward, Wool, Wareham

All companies have a tendency to congregate and we now see the result. Some people move south to get work and good wages only to discover that they cannot afford the house prices. Also, if all the jobs are in one corner then it is no surprise that you create congestion. Why not have policies to encourage businesses to locate to the north as well as punitive policies for locating to the congested areas.
S Crawford, Dundee

The trend for home working and hot desking would seem to argue against migration from south to north. The key manufacturing industries in defence, shipbuilding, steel making, car manufacture, cotton industries and many others have been decimated by political apathy in allowing unfair competition practices to go unchallenged and unsupported.
Tony McGarry, Lancaster

A member of the audience made a very good point about the Conservatives destruction of the northern economic base by closing all the coal mines, shipping ports and farming communities. The government should be more active in giving tax-breaks etc to persuade companies to locate north.
Fawad Mir, Woking, Surrey

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Should there be more eroticism in newspapers and magazines?

Audience question: Would eroticism help sell more copies of The Spectator, the Daily Mail and the Guardian? You said:

I was particularly outraged by talk of eroticism on the programme last night. This used to be a decent programme, for decent people. Now David Dimbleby and crew seem only interested in gaining wider audiences with talk of porn and erotica.
Martha Johnson, Portsmouth

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General comments on the programme:

I would just like to congratulate you on the inclusion of Loyd Grossman on last night's panel. He was forthright, well-informed and didn`t have to toe the party line.
Ian Munro, Warrington

Once again Question Time has opted out of an equal debate and taken on a left-wing bias! Most of the comments on this edition have been anti-tory or pro-left. Theresa May was the only member of the panel who was spot on about a European Army! Labour are the ones in power not the Tories, and therefore they should be the ones who face all the grief!
Robert, Wrexham

It riles me when politicians blame the other party in a lame attempt to win over the public. It is like a playground. 'But Labour introduced it¿' 'But Conservatives followed it through¿' It is so annoying to see these people lay the blame on each other, ruining what is otherwise a great debate. Don't let this continue to ruin Question Time... please.
Justin Saunders, Orpington

I agree with the current general comment that politicians need to understand that many of the voting public are more articulate and intelligent than they are. It is utterly insulting to be fed negative remarks about the other parties. MPs are elected and employed by us to improve matters not to spend TV license fees in arguing who ruined what when.
Stephen Porter, Kortrijk, Belgium

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