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Thursday, 8 February, 2001, 18:14 GMT
February 8, Lincoln
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The topics discussed this week were:

Does everyone have access to higher education?

Audience question: The government wants to attract people from disadvantaged backgrounds into higher education. Is this really possible with tuition fees and the fact that the student grant is no longer available? You said:

As a teacher of predominantly special needs pupils as well as the father of a student in his third year at university I would point out that I hold no brief for the university students who regard free education as their right. The pupils I teach will leave school and start work, paying tax from day one. If they reach £8000 a year they will be fortunate. My son is likely to go into a career which could peak at ten times that amount. Why should the underpriviledged pay for the elite to receive such an unfair advantage?
John Shaw, Totnes

How out of touch can your panellist be? A student at London University has a student loan is nearly £5000 per year. The student loan does not cover the full costs of being at university, it barely covers the cost of accommodation. The true debt is considerably higher than the basic loan. I find people in general have no idea of how much debt students face when they leave university. Such comments, as made by Jackie Ballard, mislead rather than inform.
J Roach, Manchester

I believe that paying tuition fees is only fair in return to the government which is supplying a world-wide admired facility. I am on my way home to university and the government pays my fees as I am a low income student. I am obliged to return this once I am qualified and earning over a certain threshold. This seems only fair.
Holly Ludeman, Craven Arms (Australian)

So anyone who wishes to should be able to go to university! What a ludicrous proposition! As a former state scholar from a single parent family I resent intensely the manner in which graduate qualifications have been continuously debased. Why not just collect cornflake packet tops. By definition a degree should be intellectually beyond all but no more than 10% of the ability range. It is not vocational training. If the standards were appropriate there would be no problem funding it for all who could genuinely benefit and who will subsequently benefit the nation. It's just a joke! A gigantic con. When everyone is a graduate no one is.
T Wakeling BSc (Hons) London

As a (lower) sixth form student myself, I quite frankly despair, although I undoubtedly have the potential to do so, at even entering one of the Oxbridge colleges, especially were I to apply for one of the more prestigious subjects, eg medical science. With prestige, course costs increase proportionally and I am therefore doubtful as to whether my family could finance such a move.
Josh Payne, Kenilworth

Why does Belgium manage to provide its university education virtually for free when Britain can't? Belgium also democratically allows anyone who wants to try out university - regardless of qualifications - so long as they manage to keep up with the standard. This semi-utopia is reality here. Belgium has arranged its priorities to do this and one obvious enabler is through income tax which is higher here than in Britain for the relatively well-off.
Anna Wood, Brussels, Belgium

I think that when the subject of university costs in relation to tuition fees and student loans are being discussed it should be remembered that what has not been discussed is the introduction of top up fees. Do we really want young people to decide which university they attend mainly on the basis of what level of fees they can afford to pay?
Deborah Smart, Nottingham

An interesting programme tonight and, in particular, the audience's reaction to the question on student tuition fees. There was applause all round when free university tuition was suggested. However, when it was mentioned that this was achievable but everyone would have to pay more tax - not a single person applauded. What hypocrisy!
Raman Patel, Bracknell

With reference to Roger Bowles... what on earth makes you think an individual is going to say "I have very little to contribute to society, therefore going to higher education is not going to help"? Surely an education benefits more than just the individual in any case?
Ian Renwick, Windsor

As a single parent mother of three, students and parents find it hard enough to get through university as it is. Putting poorer families under further financial hardship could make it impossible for any other children attending university, knowing the difficulties my son and myself are already experiencing financially.
Anita Powell, Liskeard

Just as banks try to gain favour with young students, so would technical companies. Discounts are given to educational institutes, both in software and hardware. Why cannot all UK institutes band together and buy laptops in bulk at a considerable saving. Perhaps another scheme would be where local businesses donate laptops to students.
Ramesh Suren, London

Rubbish! A university education is for an individual. It is for each individual to decide what contribution he can make to society and whether a higher education can improve that contribution. The financial risks should be assessed by that individual and any PRIVATE institution who may benefit from any possible education - industry, universities themselves etc.
Roger Bowles, London

Enough of this blatant elitism that still exists within the British education system - abolish tuition fees now, Mr Blair!
Matthew Downes, Cardiff

Here in the Netherlands, you start to pay at the start of secondary school, around £900 a year plus school books have to be paid for as well. Will the UK come to this as well?
F Leurquin, Maastricht

It is down to the government to remove tuition fees. The Labour government emphasised the fact that their main policy is education, education, education. This surely cannot be the case if tuition fees increase by £25 every year on top of the £1000. This only makes it unfair on everyone, no matter how well off you are.
Andy, Birmingham

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Allegations against Keith Vaz bona fide or is the race card being played?

Audience question: Keith Vaz's friends have stated in the media this week that the allegations against him are fuelled by racism. Are bona fide questions being asked or is the race card being played? You said:

So if Jackie Ballard thinks it's understandable for Asians to feel comfortable going to Asian politicians, would she equally find it understandable if a white person felt more comfortable around a white politician, or would that be racist? Racism and racial hatred comes from all different races, and it doesn't matter if you're black, white or Asian, no one has a right to be racist! Who cares what race Keith Vaz is, he is a politician and all politicians get criticised at least once in their career!
William, Manchester

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Opposition to the euro based on xenophobia or sound economic arguments?

Audience question: Does the panel feel that opposition to the euro that we've heard expressed is based on xenophobia rather than on sound economic principles or arguments? You said:

I find it deeply worrying that the issue of joining the euro will be put to a national referendum. The majority of British citizens are completely unaware as to the econimic factors that lie behind the issue and seem to be putting sovereignty and patriotic nonsense in front of what may be best for Britain in the long run.
Guy Adams, Harpenden

The Keep the Pound campaign is run by people who believe in Britain's right to govern its own affairs and not by "Xenophobia" as implied by Charles Clarke. My Best Man was part German, I have Chinese friends in Singapore and other friends in Canada and Argentina. Yet because I do not want Britain's economy to be handed over to external control I am dismissed as a "Little Englander", a "Xenophobe" or an "Extremist". It's a pathetic and desperate accusation made by those who are clearly losing the arguments.
Tim Spencer, New Milton

What a pity that the those pro the euro have to resort to implying that those against suffer from some irrational condition, such as xenophobia or jingoistic nationalism. I would also like to point out to James of Norwich that a common currency didn't prevent one of the bloodiest conflicts - the American Civil War.
John Smith, Lincoln

I am saddened that people who claim to be "proud of being British" think that our currency is so important in defining "Britishness". I'm proud of Britain for its multicultural/multi-faith/forward thinking attitudes, and a huge history. Not some Queen's head on a coin! I'm proud of Britain no matter what currency we use.
James Tucker

It was surprising just how little some of your panel actually knew about the EU. Karan Bilimoria said nothing of any relevance. He should stick to selling lager! Andrew Lansley was in a state of confusion throughout the programme. Charles was well informed and spoke clearly, and I thought honestly, about Labour's intentions in regard to the euro. The most informed panellist was Jackie Ballard of the Lib Dems. What a pity that we probably won't give them a chance to govern the country.
Jean Giusti, Stranraer

Watching tonight's programme showed me how very little is really understood by the Conservative Party about the EU, the euro currency or the modern world in general. The chap in the audience who proudly announced his Tory convictions (he's actually a Conservative councillor in Lincoln) really put their case well. If that is how most Tories see Europe, I'm quite happy not to vote for them.
Kevin Webster, Lincoln

Although the Conservatives and a number of right wing extremists are against the euro purely on a xenophobic issue. It is fair to say that despite Keynes ideas, it is impossible to set one economic idea for over 15 different countries.
Robert, Lincoln

Xenophobia is a term often used by people who have been brainwashed by Blair's clever half (A Campbell). Make no mistake, the slogan 'save the pound' is an economic argument and rather than trusting countries whose manners are as warm as the weather, we ought to stick with the country across the pond rather than the unstable Europe. All this having been stated, it would be nice to inherit a few of their football players.
Alexander Brodkin, Edgware

Diversity of people and culture is what makes Europe such a great place. In the UK why do a lot of people seem happy to live in a culture standardised and influenced by the US but run from an opportunity to be who and what we are, British and European?
Stephen Porter, Kortrijk, Belgium

In reply to Steve Fuller: in the days of multinational companies, moving, hiring, sacking as they move money, in the days of the global village, the Web, do you really think that Britain is independent? While Britain has some power over key features like taxes and interest rates to pitch its currency, a recent past has shown that markets have their own mind and do not care what "independent" governments decide to do. Do they have the real power? We have a saying in French "l'union fait la force". Maybe the euro is not a bad thing after all.
Pascal Jacquemain, Croydon

In reply to Richard Mott of Aylesbury. That age old economic cliché still applies - 'When America sneezes Europe gets the flu.'
Tony Kynes, London

What's to stop the UK keeping the pound but pegging it to the US dollar instead of the euro? Isn't that the best of both worlds in that we are already more economically coherent with the US?
Nick Wing

If the ero is so great why are the two richest countries in Europe not in it? They are Norway and Switzerland (which is a major financial sector player).
Peter Jones, London

The euro represents the economy of the European Union, the largest and most powerful economy in the world. Britain's best interests would be to join this currency as everyday prices of goods and services would become cheaper, as they are in the United States. The euro would also unite the West European peoples indefinitely, causing dreadful wars like the Second and First World Wars to be consigned to the books of history.
James, Norwich

I'm so disappointed at the public's opinion towards Europe in this country. So I've decided to move to Germany. I am sure like many jobs that have been lost due to the strength of the pound, many more will be lost. Is the Queen's face on our currency worth the possibility of financial ruin, or maybe it could be a lot of old people scared of having to wipe the dust off their calculators to work out their unemployment benefit in "old money".
Daryl Walshe, Sawbridgeworth

I expect the politicians of this country to respect our democracy and debate the real issues of Europe, not those they think will win the most votes.
Gregory Lupton, Cambridge

Jackie Ballard made the point exactly when she said: "We don't want the economy to be run by the world's richest companies." By entering the euro we are allowing ourselves to be governed by the world's richest companies as this is what the richest countries want. Never should we allow a company like Nissan to dictate to any elected government.
Neale Raleigh, Exeter

I am amazed. I cannot believe that the woman on the panel is filling my mind with ecu-propaganda! I am 19 and I hope that my life is going to be is clear the pound is symbolic for my nationality, pride and sovereignty.
Lee Cameron, Fareham

Nationality comes from within and certain values. I do not mind using the pound. I am Dutch and using the pound or the euro or what name you give the money you pay with, does it really matter?
S West, Bristol

The issue of whether or not we join the euro has nothing to do with losing our sovereignty. It has everything to do with losing a major global currency, ranked alongside the US dollar and the Japanese yen. The one other major currency that did join is surely now regretting the decision (German mark). What is the incentive to join a currency that lost nearly 50% of its value in the first year? We face the same fate as Germany if we do. We need to look at the global impact of our choice, and not look inwardly all the time.
Jonathan Sarafian, Bristol

I think we should join the euro, then at least we will be able to compare prices and wages with other European countries and see how much the British people are overcharged for goods and under paid for work.
Karen Pole, Sleaford, Lincs

The arguments for not joining the euro are compelling and the Conservatives are right. Why do the Liberal Democrats always have to waste time and votes arguing for things simply for the sake of arguing - it is they who would hitch their caravan to any passing vehicle - what a sad waste of votes.
A Hall, Wimbledon

I think we should keep the pound for the forseeable future. As a member of the audience said, many men and women fought two wars for our independence. I do not want to see a federal Europe. Let's stay as we are.
Steve Fuller, Brighton and Hove

It is often declared that the UK will join the single currency when the economic conditions are right. With the loss of 6000 steel jobs at some of the most efficient steel making plants in the world due to lack of economical viability, is it not already past the time when Britain should have been in the euro?
Terry Nightingale, Scunthorpe

If we are so financially dependent on Europe, why does our major FTSE investment index follow those in the USA most closely? Any knee jerk reaction to the stock market in the UK is initiated by the US stock market exchange, not Frankfurt or Paris.
Richard Mott, Aylesbury

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Should the slate be wiped clean for those with minor drug offences?

Audience question: Jack Straw has announced that the slate's to be wiped clean for people who have been cautioned with minor drug offences. Would he be quite so forgiving had his own son not been cautioned in the past? You said:

Jackie Ballard stated that people who used hard drugs started with either or both tobacco smoking and alcohol. The Tory panellist was equally adamant that people who used hard drugs started by using cannabis. What was the source of research for making such categorical statements and why was this not questioned? Who are we to believe?
Denis Coberman, Margate, Kent

There was, as expected, yet another debate with opposing views from different panellists regarding whether cannabis is harmful and whether it leads to users moving on to harder drugs (surely a well conducted survey could save us this tedious discussion and it would be the truth). The Conservative representative even talked about the CARCINOGENIC effects of cannabis!!!! (there is absolutely no evidence that cannabis causes cancer).
Nitisha, London

For minor drug offences the slate should be wiped clean especially as warnings for things like air guns are and other offences are wiped off the record at the age of 18 given the person does not commit other offences. My point is that had those Tory cabinet members who confessed to having experimented with cannabis been caught would they have succeeded in getting where they are. I don't think that all of them would have.
Burhan Hayat, London

Assertions that Jack Straw wiped the slate clean because his son was caught in the act are repellent. Yet, the current way in which drug offences is dealt with in the UK is half baked. Maybe we should explore the American way. I am by no mean a fan of their justice system, but the drug courts may be a good idea.
Pascal Jacquemain, Croydon

If drugs are supposed to be harmful that is just a matter of information for potential users or current users. It is not the government' business to interfere if people decide to harm themselves (remember that people who die early cost a lot less in social security and pensions than those who live a long time). I wouldn't let any politician or electoral 'majority' dictate to me what I can do with myself.
Paul Anderton, Sheffield

I have to agree with a point Andrew Langley made. Cannabis becomes very addictive and is damaging to health over a long period of time. I have been smoking it regularly for around two years now and my mental health has suffered because of it
Owain, Cwmbran

When will politicians realise that the vast majority of people who use cannabis will never go on to use other drugs? If cannabis was legalised the government would be able to collect tax from its sale as they do with cigarettes and alcohol. I am a mature student and considering the number of students who use cannabis the government may be able to collect enough tax to re-introduce grants and abolish tuition fees.
Dan Neale, Canterbury

My son is suffering severe paranoia as a result of smoking cannabis. This aspect of taking the drug is not emphasised enough. He has been ill and on medication for almost two years and has had to drop out of his university studies. The psychiatrist who is treating him says he sees hundreds of similar cases.
Pamela Butterworth, Sheffield

Charles Clarke and Jackie Ballard clearly think that alcohol and tobacco are as harmful as cannabis. Would they like society to enjoy three harmful substances or have alcohol and tobacco banned? There is no other logical permutation.
John Malcolmson, Bath

My son was done for having cannabis. Because of his conviction it stopped him from a very downward path that he was on.
Peter Dee, Weymouth, Dorset

The people who are pressing for cannabis to be legalised are totally irresponsible - do you not think the police have enough to do trying to stop drunk drivers without having the added problem of drivers under the influence of drugs. Have these people no idea of the damage that will be caused to the rest of society by these idiots who think that they can smoke pot and then take their cars on the road.
Daisy Flower, Basildon

On the issue of cannabis, the reason that the statistics show that cannabis is move potent today is because the 1970's samples were kept in unsealed containers, open to the atmosphere and as such have lost their potency. In actual fact the real samples that were kept properly have been proved to be MORE potent than nowadays!
Andy, Herts

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What does New Labour's logo mean?

Audience question: Could the panel explain New Labour's logo in about 30 seconds? You said:

New Labour, New Logo. Great. To adapt a Tory saying: They paid the image-makers, so where're the votes?
Graeme Dawson, York

A pity that the New Labour logo produced nothing but light-hearted banter and abuse. For me it says "communicating with the heart of the people", for in it is a heart and two legs indicating a person and within the heart is a sign similar to the "orange" communications symbol.
Mr J Thursby, London

Nobody mentioned concerning the new labour logo that also it could read LIVE.
Chris Hart, Norwich

The letters e,i,l,v were noted and suggestions of evil and vile were made. The real meaning was not spotted, however. The letters also make the word veil, no doubt intended to obscure its inherent threat - or is it meant simply to be drawn over the whole shebang?
Derek Cannon, Faringdon

Don't you think it's a bit petty to pull to bits the new logo for the labour party? I would have thought that people would have had better things to discuss. Shame on you!
Gail Graham, Pontefract

Labour's heart has developed legs to walk away from the rejection of the current Labour government of its core values.
Bob Evans, Stourbridge

My immediate reaction to the meaning of the new Labour logo was "I LOVE PEOPLE" "I" in the middle, "LOVE" the heart and PEOPLE" - it has legs.
David Lynch, Ipswich

The new 'New' Labour log is, of course, an E with an X below. Therefore it must say vote Labour, vote euro.
Bob Wood, North Weald Bassett, Essex

Will you be mine?? (14 Feb)
Lynne Broadbent, Charlton, Wiltshire

You can, actually, find the letters V i l l e in the logo, suggesting that, under Labour, the UK will become a town in Europe and, of course, that the common language will be French.
Roger Zambonini, Stratford-upon-Avon

Surely it's obvious to all who care to look that New(no substance)Labour's new logo is Tony Blair holding aloft the euro in anticipated triumph!
Geoff Hooton, Bisley

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General comments on the programme:

Just a general point to say that David Dimbleby hosted the Lincoln edition really well. It was good to see him put panellists on the spot and insist that they explain the background to their comments.
Chris Burke, Lincoln

Would someone please stop David Dimbleby from talking over members of the panel. It spoils what they are trying to say and doesn't do anything for what is an excellent programme.
Frank Hulbert, Sale

I was very disappointed that NONE of the participants in tonight's programme were known to me. Where are the famous people we have been used to seeing on Question Time?
David King, Hayes

The most sensible comment of the evening was from Andrew Rawnsley who made the point that if people want such a perfect world then they have to pay for it - usually those people that demand the perfect world are the first to scream when income tax goes up to pay for it.
Richard Evans, London

David Dimbleby was brilliant - its about time these politicians had someone 'independent' question them on the shortfalls, hypocrisy and pure contradiction of the policies that they impose or want to impose on us all.
Richard Evans, London

I thought it was a very amusing programme with plenty of variety.
Sam Boxall, Cranleigh

If you are having a special debate in Birmingham on Europe in two weeks' time why waste so much of the programme tonight on the subject?
Ian Jones, London

After last week's lively debate I tuned into Question Time hoping for more of the same fiery political discussion. However I see you're back to the regular format: five neo-liberalist panellists with almost identical views on all issues. I won't bother watching next week.
Lemming, London

Has David Dimbleby forgotten that he is supposed to be the chairman? Questions and comments are supposed to come from the audience and panel, not him, especially not interruptions to the speakers.
Mike Peacock, Nottingham

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