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Thursday, 11 January, 2001, 14:22 GMT
January 11, London
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The topics discussed this week were:

Audience question: In the light of the protection of the identity of James Bulger's killers does the panel believe that the pendulum has now swung too far from the victim and to the criminal? You said:

People flippantly use words like 'rehabilitate' to support their sympathy case but punishment is also essential and these kids have not been punished in accordance with the crime that they committed. Regardless of whether they both never do a bad thing again, it sets a poor precedent for the so-called morals and values of this spineless country.
Alexander Brodkin, Edgware

I find it hard to understand attitudes like that of Melanie from Brighton. Would she really advocate the state murder of children? The opinions of Jamie's own mother were a great deal more forgiving.
Sarah Devlin, Penzance

I would like to see the reaction of the "soft brigade" if it had been their child who had been killed instead of Jamie Bulger. These murderers should be locked up for at least 25 years, with no time off for good behaviour.
Kay, Hertford

The kids in the Bulger case have indeed served a life sentence. Can you remember how long a week seemed at 10? How many convicted murderers at aged 40 serve 32 years? It's all well and good James' mother appealing for public sympathy but when is she going to explain why her two-year-old was out of her sight for more than a split second?
Al, Warrington

The claim by Simon from Northampton that as they did an adult crime they should do adult time is just a meaningless oft-repeated populist soundbite, and displays a wanton ignorance of crucial questions of moral, and hence, criminal culpability. How can we place the test for criminal liability entirely and exclusively upon the crime itself without also examining the responsibility/blameworthiness of the individual concerned?
Jonathan Lewis, Cardiff

I agree with David of Shrewsbury. What a strange legal system we have when a man who kills an intruder he catches in his house in the night is given life and these two are given eight years for brutally torturing and murdering a two-year-old. They should have been given 30 years and made to serve it.
Jon Allen, Stoke-on-Trent

Listening to the revenge/mob rule brigade and reading their comments on this site, I'd much rather have a reformed Robert Thompson or Jon Venables living in my street next to my family than any of the lynch mob types. We saw a little of their activities last summer on the Paulsgrove estate.
Tim, London

Jane Cooke of Leigh on Sea obvious never rehearsed doing damage or murder before committing it?
Steven Gratrix, Blackpool

I think people forget that the two 10-year-olds who killed Jamie Bulger committed an adult crime. If you commit an adult crime you should serve adult time. They knew exactly what they were doing and displayed little remorse. If this crime had been committed by an 18-year-old we would have all been saying throw away the key. Don't forget the Bulgers will never see their child enjoy life, so why should the two killers be given a second chance?
Simon, Northampton

Do we have double standards? Are people's essential expectations of children and women so unreal that society cannot cope when they err seriously? There must be thousands of men - paedophiles and murderers - receiving limited sentences for what they did and which was as bad, if not worse, than the crimes those boys and Myra Hindley committed.
Bobbie May, Reading

Thompson and Venables have not been in prison for long enough. I think the person who said that they are getting better treatment than people who have committed lesser crimes was spot on. They are getting off far too lightly and a lot of money has been unnecessarily squandered on so-called "rehabilitation".
Hugh Oxburgh, Cambridge

I think it's disgraceful they are being let off the part of the punishment that other criminals have to face when they leave prison. They shouldn't have their names withheld. As Thomspon said he wants kids, what about his poor wife, who won't know she is living with an evil murderer!
Nick Lovett, Brighton

If the murderers of James Bulger ever get married would their wives be told?
Iris Mccaffrey, Merseyside

Last year Tony Martin got life for killing an intruder in self-defence, yet these boys get only eight years for brutally killing a toddler and dumping his body on a railway track! If Tony Martin is ever released will our justice system grant him secrecy and protection, or is self-defence a bigger crime than kidnap or murder?
David, Shrewsbury

I am utterly disgusted that these people who are running our country and are supposed to be making it safe can use any reason to justify even releasing these two people let alone making it possible for them to lead a normal life without people around them knowing. It is times like this when capital punishment should be brought back if only to protect society.
Melanie Bridge, Basingstoke

In years to come when Thompson and Venables are no longer under supervision what is to stop them applying to become care assistants, babysitters or applying for any other job that puts them in contact with young children?
Bryn and Sarah, Penzance, Cornwall

If the killers of James Bulger served a heavy enough prison sentence then there would be no need of anonymity because they would never be released.
Wayne, Stoke on Trent

I suspect those who want eternal retribution against these young men have no memory of their own childhood. I was a gentle child, never intending harm to anyone, but I nevertheless recall on one occasion swinging a smaller child in a manner that could have caused him serious injury. In those moments I was oblivious to anything but the exhilaration of the motion. Luckily an adult saw what was happening and intervened to stop me before any real harm was done.
Jane Cooke, Leigh on Sea

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Audience question: Are we likely to see a new election slogan from Labour: that three out of five ain't bad? You said:

All FIVE pledges were made at the time of the election, at a time when NEW labour should be competent enough to know what it is capable of delivering.
Steven, Glasgow

Why did the chairman not chastise Julie Kirkbride for saying that under this government, mortgages had gone up when it was a lie. Interest rates under the Tories were in fact double for most of their time in office.
AE Thomas, Sevenoaks

Margaret Beckett was treated unfairly. A supplementary question was invited and Margaret Beckett was asked to reply. She then asked to be allowed to answer the original question but was told there was not time for this. It was unreasonable that she was not allowed to defend the Labour party's position.
Bert Raymond, Swindon

Why do people fail to realise that you cannot have lower taxes and improved public services? The Tories' lawyers claim to be able to cut "red-tape" which translates to low taxes and no public spending. People have got to realise that you have to pay if we want improved public services.

At this rate, if Labour are in power for 18 years, they will still be blaming everything that goes wrong on the last Tory administration and claiming credit for anything that goes right. A better comparison would be that it took the Tories 15 years to reform and stabilise the economy after the last Labour administration and Labour is now reversing that process.
Brian Worboys, Chelmsford, Essex

The debate about the five election pledges touched onto a valid point regarding the length of a parliament to achieve these. Isn't it time we considered having fixed terms say four years which would stop all pre-election speculation, also ensure a government could be better judged by its performance rather than manipulating the election date to a time of its choosing.
Mr A Penn, Leicester

Why did Margaret Beckett not feel comfortable in committing her government to an election in May 2001 or to an election in 2002?
Ian Griffiths, Bridgend

I had to leave the room at the point tonight's debate reached talking about the shortage of teachers in Britain. A lady in the audience mentioned how foreign teachers are being employed, only to be told that teaching is 'international business.' The members of the panel missed out, however, on the key reasons for the shortage of teachers, those being: appalling work conditions, ridiculous levels of bureaucracy, poor pay and ever changing governmental demands.
Liam Horrigan, Warrington

In response to Andrew Kelly's comment on the last government I would say that he should consider the fact that at the current rate this government is going in merging with Europe by stealth, we will soon no longer have the ability to vote out in or out a government whether they meet any of their manifesto pledges or not as Westminster will no longer have sovereignty to make law.
James Glancy, Oxted

I feel that the present government is doing a good job and is well on target to complete their pledges. I was horrified to learn some of the Tory pledges submitted by Julie Kirkbride insomuch as people would be forced to take a job they didn't want rather than wait for one in their own field and that mothers would be forced to go out to work before their children reached sixteen.
Wendy, Hockley

A theme that perpetuates throughout Question Time is that Labour is battling against previous Tory government misrule, to put right education, the NHS, defence, transport, tax, immigration and employment, but the present good state of the economy is solely down to the present government. S'funny that all the bad things are down to those terrible Tories. A pity the youngsters don't remember the last Labour government - strikes, rubbish uncollected and bodies in mortuaries lying unburied.
Chris Ratcliff, Middlewich

Whilst Labour may,just meet their five pledges given enough time, they should be judged on what they have achieved elsewhere. Despite an increase in public spending from 270bn in 1996/97 to over 370bn now, what improvement have we seen? So what justification is there for Gordon Brown to promise to spend another 60bn of our money, when 100bn has so obviously failed to make much of a difference?
John Moss, Walthamstow

The last Tory government destroyed this country and I think three out of five is brilliant for this country. The Tories where in for 18 years and they did nothing.
Andrew Kelly, Bedford

I'm absolutely stunned by Margaret Beckett's claims about the government's achievements. Tony Blair was extremely worried by the fuel crisis which could have been avoided by a temporary reduction in duty on fuel. Instead we were over taxed and promised a cleaner fuel that would be 5p per litre cheaper. Has anybody been able to get some?
Alistair, Conwy

How can you ask a question about the Labour pledges and not let the Labour MP address it but let all the other members of the panel address the question in detail?
Lee Webster, Blackburn

Why is the discussion focussing on class size when the lynch pin to our education system, the teachers, are desperately unhappy about the funding, their role, the wasted resources, being publicly pilloried. If your teachers morale is so low and conditions are so poor that even student teachers are dropping out in droves what matter class size?
Jon Parkinson, Langport

Might I suggest that rather than arguing about which party will provide the best public education, that we reduce taxes in such a way to allow private school to be more practical for parents. As we reduce taxes we can wind down public education and indeed public health. This may allow the middle class to take the private option, while there might well be enough for the very needy due to the reduced stress on these services.
Raymond Gaffney

Miss Kirkbride seems to be out of touch with what Labour have done. I think she has the cheek to say that they would make women go back to work after the child is of school age rather than 16. I am a single parent working full time, and I miss out on taking my children to school and picking them up as well as spending more time with them.
Yemi Odemo, London

I was disgusted to hear Margaret Beckett suggest that nearly half the electorate wanted to see failure. I would suggest that we want to see politicians honour their promises and give us sensible reasons on their failure. Never mind her waffle on youngsters learning Latin.
K Drummond, Yeovil

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Audience question: In joining the armed forces do you waive the right to health and safety at work? You said:

Depleted uranium weapons give the best chance to our forces of achieving their aim in destroying enemy targets - thereby saving lives in the quicker achievement of victory. Yes it is harmful, and efforts to reduce the effects should be made, but so are unexploded munitions, abandoned or looted weapons and many other features of a battlefield.
James Denning, Croydon, Surrey

DU has helped in reducing the casualties among our own troops in wartime, by eliminating hostile targets which conventional weapons could not penetrate. Banning it would be a rash decision, until all the evidence has been examined and the cause of the illness amongst Nato soldiers and civilians has been established.
Adrian Cooney, Bradford, West Yorkshire

I am in the Royal Air Force and I am bemused by the comments of David Boer, James Peckham, John Finnon and others. While I accept the fact that as a member of the armed forces I am prepared to put my life on the line, surely this is not the case when injuries or deaths are due to problems in the weapons we use ourselves, even in peace time!
Nick Connolly, Brize Norton

The A-10 has been firing its GAU-8 cannon on test ranges for the last 25 years. Of course most of these will have used conventional rather than the DU rounds. Even so there should be quite a long baseline of exposure to DU residue. What is the health status of the range staff?
Graeme Buckley, Wellington, New Zealand

Using DU weapons should be unconditionally banned by an international treaty(s) as soon as possible. These weapons kill and injure indiscriminately many people including civilians with the dusts of uranium oxide caused by DU bullets. This effect remains for a very long time after the battles end.
Eisuke Naramoto, Sagamihara, Kanagawa, Japan

In conflict the cutting edge of victory is the advanced technology that can deal the lethal blow against the aggressor. Until a better product for cutting through armour is developed then we must maintain DU weapons. War itself is far more dangerous to a soldier than DU weapons.
John Ashton, Washington DC

As an ex soldier I would prefer to survive battle and run a small risk of long term illness, than die on the battlefield due to inadequate weaponry in dealing with tank warfare.
James Peckham, London

Never mind the fuss about radioactivity - that is a red herring. Uranium is a particularly toxic heavy-metal poison, and that has been known for many years.
Roger C Haslock, London

It seems prudent to me, that in the light of the evidence reported (concrete or not), that until further significant research can be done, depleted uraniun weapons should be withdrawn from use. It is not worth the potential risk to people's long term health, military or civilian.
Daniel Waldock, St Ives

Obviously, outside a conflict this makes some sense, but even then the soldiers must have adequate training, and this must be at some risk. But during an actual conflict, the Soldiers lives are probably going to be at risk. They are Soldiers. This is War. It's their Job!
Andy GM Wood, Kingston Upon Thames

As far as DU is concerned it is fair to say that presently its use is proven neither to be substantially safe nor significantly harmful, and more research must be done. Against any risks which may be proven in due course must be set the immediate, obvious and significant risks to service personnel if they are not provided with effective means to destroy enemy vehicles.
Ben Turner, London

I am highly amused by Emma Newton's response about soldiers wearing dosemeters. She claims to be a radiographer, but obviously does not understand that the radiation from DU is of alpha particles rather than gamma radiation that she might be exposed to, and therefore the dosemeter idea would not work, as the danger only really lies in breathing in the DU dust, not in being close to a source. Maybe the NHS needs more funding so that radiographers can be taught about radiation!
Tom Rowntree, Blackburn

In light of the recent topic of soldiers serving in the Balkans being contaminated with depleted uranium, will this not affect recruitment? Should the ministry of defence be making more efforts to show immediate support of troops placed in situations such as this?
Emma Newton, Oswestry

I would like to congratulate Lord Puttnam on his refreshing maturity on the panel. I agree that the blame culture has a lot to answer for, we should expect people/governments to be accountable, but accept/understand that mistakes, failures will occur. However, the failure to learn from such 'mistakes,' and politician's seemingly inept ability to accept that they make 'mistakes,' and that policies do fail feeds the culture of blame.
Robert Yates, Hove

As a serving member of the armed forces, I am more than aware that the MOD see serving members of the armed forces as mere condiments, to be picked up and put down in war or peace keeping roles, without due care or concern for health and welfare. This is greatly seen in recent events and is commonly seen as a key reason for lack of recruitment in recent years.
Anne Mcleod, Dundee

I find it ironic that action is only being taken on the issue of depleted uranium when it is feared some Nato troops have been exposed. Nobody took any notice when thousands of Iraqi children have been dying of mysterious cancers since the end of the Gulf war in 1991.
Christopher Hopkins

Depleted uranium is an immoral weapon, and should be banned just as surely as poison gas was banned by an earlier generation. It harms non-combatant civilians, it contaminates the earth, it even harms the soldiers who use it.
Don Fong, Santa Cruz, California, USA

Since depleted uranium has not yet been linked to the illnesses among Nato soldiers, it would be irrational and imprudent to ban DU.
Jason Iversen, Minneapolis, USA

DU ammunition should not be banned by Nato. It was developed to do a job and that is to destroy enemy armour. I believe there is a minute risk of contamination due to dust particles being dispersed in the air when a target is hit, but the main problem will arise when trophies are taken from the target by individuals.
John Finnon, Bellshill, Scotland

Uranium tipped weapons must be banned. They are as bad as landmines because the danger is not obvious/seen but the effects can be fatal.
Anna, Nelson, New Zealand

Why has this only become an issue when it affects western Europeans? DU has been an issue in Iraq for over 10 years costing hundreds of thousands of lives.
Jim, Calgary, Canada

Yes, we need to end our use of depleted uranium!! It's time we humans start maturing. We've been on this planet too long to still be acting like caveman!! How many ways can we torture and kill?? I mean really - let's move on.
Maria Bowen, San Francisco, USA

Don't be absurd. You'll be wanting to ban bullets next, because they kill soldiers too. What are we going to use to defeat Saddam Hussein next time? Harsh language, perhaps? Or maybe we could tickle him with a feather?
David Boer, Colchester, Essex

How can the government put their heads in the sand about DU weapons? It is common sense that anything to do with radiation would be a health risk. Also the govt can't then complain that they are having recruitment problems in the armed services!!
Nick Howlett, Leicester

I am a radiographer and am required to wear a personal dosimeter at work. This is because I work in controlled areas of radiation. The personal dosimeter gives a personal reading of any dose I may have received and should I receive over a set level, requires me to time off work. Why can't soldiers working in areas of known radioactivity be provided with personal dosimeters so that there working radiation doses can be recorded?
Emma Newton, Oswestry

If the government is so keen to implement health and safety within the armed forces, why is it that in Banja Luka, Bosnia, our troops live and work in a factory which has been found to be unfit to spend more than 1/2 hour a day in due to carcinogens? Surely exposure to this type of environment poses more of a potential health risk than occasional exposure to depleted uranium!
Philip Davy, Kenley

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Audience question: Is public nudity a public nuisance or simply the right to express oneself? You said:

I say, if you've got it, flaunt it!
William O'Shea, Tunbridge Wells, Kent

I don't see a reason to ban it. Why can't people have the freedom of choice whether it's in Scotland in the winter or going for a stroll up Hoad Hill. Ian, what do you find intimidating about a naked person? I find entering a pub more intimidating. As for children, they just find it funny.
Mike, Birmingham

Anyone who feels that wandering about in the nude is a good idea should come and live up in Scotland during the winter. They'd soon put their clothes back on!
Keith Tait, Livingston

Consider the lone woman, or woman with young children walking down a lonely street faced by such a person (it is irrelevant how innocent the perpetrator considers this to be). I feel this would be a serious abuse of other individuals' rights not to feel intimidated and to feel safe in normal public places.
Ian Shaw, Ulverston, Cumbria

I was pleased to see the positive reaction of the panel to the question of public nudity. As a naturist, I believe that there's a time and a place for everything, and whilst I have no wish to strip off in my local high street, I do enjoy visiting beaches and naturist clubs etc. Lord Puttnam hit the nail on the head when he said that nudity is so ordinary, and the sooner we in the UK grow up and get used to it the better!
Jon, North Wales

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Audience question: Isn't it about time that all parties should be state funded on a fair and equitable basis to remove any taint of bias and underhand influence? You said:

I believe that individuals have a right to donate to the party of their choice. However I think it is wrong for parties to receive funding from businesses small or large. I also feel that any individual from whatever background, should not have to reveal a donation providing it has been made from his or her personal funds.
Chris Ryan, Bernera, Isle of Lewis

I'm with Michael... So if you have 2M to spare you can buy yourself a bigger slice of the vote eh? So that's what we call democracy is it?
Andy GM Wood, Kingston Upon Thames

God forbid that this should happen simply for the reason of the circumstances that will happen soon in the EU where only APPROVED pan-European parties will be accepted, and only accepted if they are NOT against the institution of the European Union. A great way of removing yet more of the little democracy the EU still has.
Steve James, London

I would not support state funding for election campaigns - we do not state support many worthwhile charities. The wording "what do they think they are buying in to" is rather emotive and if we go with "what they believe they are supporting" may well be a better indicator of why large donations by individuals and companies appear to be a case of switching sides.
Gill Lees, Sandhurst

To relieve the burden of political funding on the taxpayer, should such a policy be adopted, I suggest that any company or organisation that has contributed to political parties in the past should be required by law to continue to contribute the same percentage of their annual turnover (averaged over the previous 10 years) to the central fund.
Peter Curran, Kirkliston

I think that there is a great need to have political funding both capped and declared. Companies and individuals should also produce statements as to why they have given money. Also no media organisation should be permitted to donate through their parent company or should be allowed to declare any political allegiance, the latter takes part at present. We live in a modest democratic system which should not be bought or influenced for company gain.
Andy Kef, London

David Puttham says he gave money and encouraged his friends to give money to stop the Conservatves from holding power. So there we have it. Forget democracy. Forget what you and I chose as our next government. Film makers and their luvvies will decide who we get by loads of dosh.

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General comments on the programme:

Best debate since Question Time went prime-time. Even the audience behaved sensibly. However this will change of course next time the euro is mentioned.
Carlo Plasman, Ghent

I just wanted to say thank heavens that you have got rid of that dreadful set behind the speakers - it was one of the ugliest I have ever seen. A great improvement!
Paul Stringer, London

The worst programme to date. Where did you get your audience, Dulux? On a day when every politician could be burned at the stake!!! I've heard louder debates at the Deaf and Dumb club.
Steve Flanigan, Blackpool

Sorry, David, but your chairmanship was off tonight. I felt that Margaret Beckett received short shrift in the first half of the programme. When the discussion had gone round and Margaret came to speak not only did David allow her to be interrupted but he guillotined her contribution.
Duncan Williamson, Abingdon

Just who is Julie Kirkbride? Is she capable of any serious discussion without the fixed half-smile and the Tory brainwash? Was she speaking from a script? Thanks Lord Putnam for a pleasant sensible contribution. As an ex-soldier I had to laugh at the stupid dolt who asked if the depleted uranium shells were safe. If any shell is SAFE, it must be out of a child's playbox. My 303 was definitely NOT safe, it was a killing instrument. Time the programme was extended to 90 minutes, David.
Malc Thomas, South Kirkby

I think tonight's panel was unbalanced in favour of the Labour party. I have no objection to a Labour government, but I do object to the BBC showing bias. The programme is less sharp and interesting when several of the panel are saying the same things. Tonight we had Margaret Beckett and Lord Puttnam in complete harmony, and very often the Sun journalist and the Liberal Democrat too.
Linda O'Rourke, Leamington Spa

I think that in order for the panel to accurately reflect the political make up of parliament Liberal Democrats should only be invited on once every three weeks, also no more Joe Brands, Eddy Izzards or Jim Davidsons or for that matter Poet Laureates - none were really politically aware enough to really make a comment on anything discussed. Let's have a draw (run by Sir Richard Branson of course!) and select a member of the audience to take part on the panel.
Mark Woodruff, London

Another panel of labour luvvies. I really don't know what you expect to get out of it you are meant to be fair, but the enjoyment goes out of the window when you pack the panel with the Labour slant and your host should really be wearing a red shirt. When are you going to get the balance right?
Alan Gollop, Sleaford

This is to complain that the question master did not allow Margaret Beckett to answer the question about the Labour promise card. Instead he forced her to use her time in answering another audience question about the length of the present parliament.
K Beardsmore, Rotherham

Such very poor chairmanship displayed by Mr Dimbleby during the pledges question. He diverted Margaret Beckett from her answer then refused to give her time to respond to the question asked, implying she was taking too long. As a regular listener I find I am increasingly disappointed with his handling of the questions and his lack of fairness.
Joan Alexander, Dunoon

Tonight's show has been the best for a long time - it's been nice not to have any bickering and cheap scoring.
B W Ley, Paignton, Devon

Did David Dimbleby wear that tie for a bet or to raise money for charity?
Stephen Murphy, London

Welcome back Question Time! I think David Dimbleby should be made a 'Sir' for his handling of the panel each week. I was privileged to be in the audience when QT was in Norwich. This week - Lord Puttnam - money for honours, no question of it.
Mary Kallagher, King's Lynn

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