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Thursday, 23 November, 2000, 16:07 GMT
November 23, Leeds
You can join Question Time's internet debate by emailing your views on the topics discussed in the latest programme to:

You can watch the latest programme online in Real Video by clicking on Latest edition.

The topics discussed this week were:

Audience question: Since Nato and the US government have both welcomed the European rapid reaction force isn't the opposition to it fundamentally dishonest as Tony Blair said? You said:

Do UK forces possess the manpower to take on both roles in the EU and Nato, in addition to our other responsibilites around the world? If the link between the EU force and Nato or the US is lost, then who will provide the transport?
Andy, Phoenix, USA

It is interesting to note that, regardless of the importance of such a force, there remains a certain apathy amongst the British public as to the real requirement for such a force. Defence is for the majority of the time not required, however, a trained strength is always a "popular choice". Hooray, democracy!
D Fox, Plymouth

I support the principle of a European army, but would have severe doubts regarding its command structure, its funding, and who would be its political boss. It cannot be an amalgamation of different governments as nothing would ever be decided, so it is hard to understand who actully would deploy this force.
Jim Tozer, Brighton

When will it be right for the UK to stop following the US blindly and have the same pride in a united Europe as the US has in itself. Stop worrying about the US and move forward in Europe and maybe the US will follow our lead, into a safer, cleaner world.
Mr M Bowen, Carshalton, Surrey

As a wife of a former soldier and having friends that are still in the forces, I know the pressure faced by families by their husbands being constantly away on tours. This will only increase the pressures. Unless expenditure and recruitment is rapidly increased family life for serving personnel will be a thing of the past.
B Williamson, Newcastle

Is it not time that we in the UK woke up and realised that we are European, not the 51st state of the USA.
Andy Roxburgh, Birmingham

The ERRF could potentially involve states that Nato is effectively barred from working with owing to Russia's concern about Nato influence in its former Warsaw Pact and Soviet satellite states. If we can work constructively with them this can only be a good thing!
Keith Jones, Bristol

I would like to bring the Tories to account over their attitude towards Europe. Europe is one of our major trading systems and will remain one for many years to come, please God! The European Army, as the Tories would like to call it, is a form of collaboration between ourselves and various other countries against whom we fought in prev
Simon George Spratt, London

As a former soldier I agree with the government joining the EU as part of a new rapid deployment action force. The real problem was when the Tories as part of their defence cuts wiped away regiments that were steeped in history taking away the pride that men had.
Eck Barclay, Hawick

As Britain has the best forces in Europe, then surely joining a European army eventually, will mean that Britain will be able to boss this organisation. Surely this will count in our own favour, as it could be used as a valuable tool in having an influence on other issues in the EU?
Richard Waterfield, Newcastle

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Audience question: Is Thatcherism finally dead and buried? You said:

The Tories were vilified by the Labour party when they introduced the poll tax. But all the Labour party has done is change the name to council tax. We pay enough of our wages out in taxes as it is.
Paul Cox, London

If we had not gone through the 'baptism of fire' in the 80s, we would be a less structurally sound nation today as are several of the larger European states. Retaining objectivity and with an historical perspective, we will view the 1980s and Thatcherism as a very valuable high level contribution to the development of the nation.
Stephen Dixon, Windsor

I was a single parent during Thatcher's reign and I desperatly wanted to get a job. I was better off on income support, because there were no tax or benefit concessions to help pay for childcare. Thank God for Labour and their policies which recognise the needs of families and the importance of assistance to get decent childcare, get off benefits and into work.
Jacki Holmes, Scarborough

What a pity that the audience was not told more forcibly of the shambles the country was in at the end of the last Labour government. They had to call in the IMF to bail out the excessive spending. No wonder it took the Conservatives so long to sort out the economic mess.
H Norcross, Farnham Royal

Tim Yeo said that one of the great legacies of Margaret Thatcher was allowing everyone the right to buy their own home. She created 4.8 million unemployed!!! How does he work that out. She told everyone they could buy their own homes and then set in place policies which stripped them of EVERYTHING.
Christine Ainsley-Cowlishaw, Oxford

I was visiting Italy during her leadership and everyone I met said: "Can you please send her over here". She had a vision of what she wanted to do. Never mind that some people didn't agree with it. The point was that she was firm in her resolve which is more than can be said for this pusillanimous prime minister and his obsession with image.
Elizabeth Aspel, Surrey

Thank you Benjamin Zephaniah - fantastic - true intelligence is when you use the least words and say the most. Thatcher as a fallen women who should stop trying to get up will stay with me for years as will her knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing.
Dan Preece, Leeds

New Labour would not be in power today if Thatcher had not reversed socialism, extended choice and curbed the corrupt and wasteful activities of the mainly socialist local Government direct labour organisations. Couple this with the abolition ofprice controls and trade union reform and the realisation is that Thatcherism provided a golden age.
George Galbraith, Stirling

By smashing trade unionism and encouraging a culture of private ownership, Margret Thatcher's main accomplishment was to create a politically 'powerful' middle class in the UK. Sadly, 'powerful' is hardly a way to describe a typical middle class individual. Anyone with a car, a mortgage, a pension, a television, and perhaps a new video is hardly an individual to join a picket line. With enough small comforts allowed to the middle class, the individual voice is muted and political power is greatly decreased.
Logan Waters, Tottenham

It seems to me her legacy is increased inequality, with the poorest quintile still worse off than they were in 1979 (in terms of share of the national wealth) and the creation of ghettos of poverty on council estates for the unemployed.
Eric Bignell, Brighton

Doesn't time cloud judgement? What had BSE to do with the Thatcher era? It evolved under, and contributed to the downfall of, John Major. Could someone please also explain how an inherited economy with 6m unemployed, a basic rate of tax at 33% and a top rate of 98% compare favourably with Baroness Thatcher's political legacy?
Ian Godwin, Bournemouth

Thatcher's legacy is the run down inner city areas, death of manufacturing and heavy industry and the complete breakdown of community "life". She created a country of desperate individuals who no longer cared for each other. Thankfully three years of Labour rule has started to change that.
Jennifer Green, Salford

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Audience question: Should public money be paid to private companies to manage education services? You said:

I found Thursday's programme quite insulting because everyone on the panel seemed to think that all the teachers we have now are useless and as long as we get all these amazing young things to join the profession instead of doing big money and prestige jobs everything will be all right.
Anne Brimacombe, Birmingham

The panel member correctly pointed out that private education is a matter of choice: those who can afford it do so, at no cost to the government or to state schools. To this, the woman in the audience repeatedly shouted 'garbage!' without elaborating why. There is clearly room for both a public and private sector.
Rick Dickerson, London

It's all very well and good paying teachers who have reached the threshold an extra 2000 and offering incentives to new teachers coming into the profession, but it is the teachers who are in the middle that are in the greatest financial hardship having lost student grants while at university and having to pay back large student loans as a reult of a four-year degree course.
Jo Desbois, London

Teaching is one of the noblest occupations. They spend more time with our children than we do and through their occupation they inform, enlighten and encourage a desire for knowledge. In the private sector, which is itself an anathema they are paid more and so perform better. Once our state teachers are given the same rewards for their work then they will feel enobled, enriched and so will our children.
Miles Anderson, Hampton

Private investment in schools has resulted in school managers spending a disproportionate amount of time bidding for money rather than doing what they are both paid and trained for. We want leaders in schools not out of school meeting new initiatives. Let teachers teach and leaders lead. Financial whizz kids and deputy heads and heads are worlds apart.
Clare, Manchester

Having just listened to Nigel Farage's very valid point on LEA's, I was astounded to hear David Blunkett quote information technology in education as an example of how well they think they're doing. As the managing director of one of the UK's most successful IT recruitment consultants, I would like to ask Mr Blunkett why the government seems to have no idea as to the skill sets required in the real IT world.
Nick Madgett, Oxted

Having benefited from private education because my parents worked hard to get where they are today I am wholly in support of private education. I would also like to say that my school is in no way exclusive as it has tried to replace the assisted places removed by the government by introducing a bursary fund but can no way meet the numbers supported by the assisted places scheme.
James Torrance, London

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Audience question: Will televised debates between the party leaders improve democracy? You said:

It isn't very democratic at all as who decides which parties to include, who should have their say. It would be impossible to include all leaders in such a debate. However as David Blunkett suggested if it encourages people to take an interest then surely that is helping the democratic process.
Rayleen Kelly, Paisley

As far as the debate between the three main political leaders is concerned, a lot will depend on the even-handedness of the chairmen! David Dimbleby was very kind to Tony Blair when he was last on Question Time but gave William Hague (quite rightly) a difficult time.
Mary Kallagher, King's Lynn

It is not possible to conduct a live TV debate with potential PM's like they currently do in the USA. In the US of A they only conduct it with TWO candidates. In the UK it is with three. It is not possible to conduct such a 'bout' with three participants.
Patrick Cosgrove, Coventry

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Audience question: Isn't it time the government rewarded parents who choose to marry? You said:

I found Janet Street-Porter's comments on "breeding" very offensive. Yes it is easy to "breed", but bringing up children demands great commitment. The way children are brought up affects the whole of society and the whole of society should take responsibility for our children. I don't see why those of us who choose to have children should be sneered at!
Helen Chadwick, Melton Mowbray

If the Government decides to go ahead with their plans to reward parents that get married, they are going to unfairly penalise tomorrow's generation. Children do not have a say in the marital relations of their parents and it is therefore unfair to disadvantage them!
Barbara Kidimu, Maidenhead

Well done Janet Street-Porter for making the comment about 'breeding'. Absolutely brilliant and exactly the way myself and my husband feel about the Working Families Tax Credit. Becoming a parent is a choice and if parents can't afford to have children then they shouldn't have's that simple. I myself have chosen not to have any and do not see why my tax should go towards 'rewarding' those who make a different choice.
Julie, Southampton

Let us remember that succesive governments have penalised the family both by removing miras and the married couples allowance. The Labour government removed married men's allowance last April saying that they were replacing it with a child tax credit which does not come into effect untill April 2001.
Colin Grayson, Dalry, Ayrshire

I was dismayed to hear once again the number of people asking for tax breaks for getting married and having children. Well, as a single male, with no children, when am I going to get a tax break for not being a burden on the taxpayers? My tax goes to education, yet I have no children, I pay tax for the NHS, yet have Private Healthcare. It should be single people that receive tax breaks, after all, we are not the drain on the financial resources of the country!
Dr LM Simm, London

Why reward parents for being married? I come from a single parent household - exceptional experience - if we are to reward anyone we should reward our children by giving them the educational opportunities they need to do justice to themselves in this highly competitive world. Higher education should be a choice for all children - they must know that they can aspire to that!
Penny Crawford, Hull

Isn't it time the government rewarded parents who choose to marry? I wish to express my concern with regards the discussion about marriage. It is not a contract between two people, nor is it a temporary arrangement for tax purposes - it is a covenant where two people solemnly vow always to put the other first for the rest of their lives whether it suits them personally or not - it is a lifelong commitment to stay together.
Mr Clarke, Nottingham

It is always disappointing to hear people with a voice (Janet Street-Porter) put down marriage when they don't understand what it entails. As David Blunkett pointed out, there is no better environment for raising children than within a good, strong heterosexual marriage. This in itself goes a long way to providing the acceptance a child needs, and makes a huge leap along the road of education.
David Fox, London

The fundamental value of marriage has already been degraded enough in our "modern" society, and such a governmental proposal will in effect be saying that "we will now pay you to perform a sacred rite, and keep ownership of a certificate." Such a mentality from the government just cheapens the more widespread value of marriage even further.
Chetna Kohli, London

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General comments on the programme:

What a biased audience! Whereas most people's view of a European superstate army ranges from sheer horror to mild concern the most vocal parts of the audience appeared to be EU fanatics on the issue! Cannot the BBC ensure that a glut of extremists do not get selected for the audience just because a certain person is on (namely the UKIP chap, this time)?
Stephen Humphreys, High Wycombe

The programme is too bland, the debate appears too scripted. The only time it touched on anything contentious - the cost to students and parents, of higher education - the chairman cut it off!! Question Time is a toothless, paper tiger and a disappointing programme to watch!
Ken Jackson, Swansea

The factor most evident to me is how sneaky and underhand each Conservative panellist is. Before they speak, you can see the equivocation running through their minds - spin over substance one might say. We saw it with John Redwood, Francis Maude and, most recently, Tim Yeo. Whereas the Labour representative, Diane Abbott and David Blunkett particularly, simply speak what they believe.
Frasier McKenzie, Durham City

It seems to me that QuestionTime is simply a club for Blairites. Not only does the panel have a left-wing bias but the audience seems to be packed with Labour supporters. How can you expect a real debate to take place in such a forum? I consider it disgraceful that the BBC is being used as a propaganda tool of the government.
Catherine Castree, Gibraltar

Well the aliens have finally landed! Where did this biased bigoted bunch come from? What a shame, it detracts so much from the balance of the programme...of course I mean the audience. More of Tony's cronies?!
Mavis Smith, Sutton, Surrey

I suggest that you have on the panel people of substantial merit in various fields, but fewer "well known personalities". I feel that, for tonight's programme any political or social commentator could have written the answers to all questions that were given by Janet Street Porter and, to a lesser extent, David Blunkett, because their views are so well known.
APH Jennings, Swansea

Sad to see that you didn't allow or invite any Liberal Democrat representative on tonight's panel - yet you always make sure that the Labour and Conservative parties are always represented.
Mark Farmer, Leicester

Once again we have to wait for the Education minister to answer a question on higher education! This time the chairman stopped the debate heading that way!
Dr RI Grosvenor, Cardiff

Please, please can Question Time be on for longer. It is often the only chance the public have of making their views known to politicians. It is too short and just a little too late starting. Watch with great interest every week...LONGER please!
Pamela Hill, Potters Bar

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