BBC News UK Edition
 You are in: Question Time: Your Comments  
News Front Page
N Ireland
UK Politics
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
Thursday, 15 February, 2001, 14:03 GMT
February 15, Caernarfon
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:

Windfall tax on oil companies' profits?

Audience question: Are the panel in favour of imposing the windfall tax on the profits of the oil companies? You said:

This government takes up to 80% of the price of petrol in tax and duty. For this government to criticise the oil companies for the price of petrol is breath-taking hypocrisy. No to a windfall tax, yes to lower petrol taxes.
Patrick Henderson, Coventry

Tonight's panel (bar one) and the chairman were critical of the so-called excess profits of the major oil companies. None of them appeared to have any understanding of how "profit" should be measured. Unless profit is expressed as a factor of "capital employed" in the business, no one can really express an opinion on this. It is likely that these profits are not excessive considering the huge volume of capital required in the oil business.
George Galbraith, Stirling

Two years ago the price of fuel oil (paraffin) cost just 9p per litre. This year the same fuel costs 25p per litre - 275% profit. How can the Labour party justify this?
Tom Wharton, Yarm

In order to make public transport cheaper could the government not look at relaxing some of the tax on fuel for registered transport companies, reduce the tax so that the transport companies can cut their fares and encourage more people to use public transport.
Charles Ross, Droitwich Spa

I am aware of an Indian takeaway that runs their delivery vehicles, (diesel engines), on vegetable oil. Wouldn't it be possible for this to be developed and used, rather than conventional fuel? I understand that the cars run fine without any modification required. Surely this would also be more environmentally friendly?
Mr Ash

Return to the top of the page

Welsh language dead in 10 years or remark meant to cause racial unrest?

Audience question: A Plaid Cymru councillor recently stated that because of the influx of English people the Welsh language would be dead in 10 years. Do the panel think this is correct or was it a remark made to cause racial unrest? You said:

I am Welsh. Welsh is my first language. I live in Wales. I am discriminated against on an hourly basis. I cannot automatically buy a postage stamp, groceries, fuel, cash a cheque, pay my bills, telephone public services or order a drink in my national language. Do I therefore claim that the the English are racist towards me, my family and my friends? No. But if I insist that I need a Welsh-speaking directory enquiries operator I am branded a racist. Let's have a level playing field, please?
ACJ, Caerfyrddin (Carmarthen)

As the person who submitted the question I feel that no one has really answered it! The argument has ended with a great deal of mud slinging from both sides.Welsh is alive and well and living in the local schools where all the children be they Welsh or English speaking are taught Welsh. The people who are having second thoughts about moving to Wales be assured that the people are not racist. You get the odd bigot but you will find them anywhere! As for some politicians well that's a whole different story.
Sue Barker, Penygroes, Nr Caernarfon

I agree with the gentleman in the audience who suggested that English speakers living in predominantly Welsh speaking areas should take opportunities to learn Welsh. As to the issue of English speakers feeling uncomfortable when Welsh is spoken, it seems they are uncomfortable with any language other than English. You don't hear many English speakers switching to French because someone from France is in their company/hearing range.
Gareth Sheen, Barnoldswick

Ieuan Wyn Jones was right to defend what Seimon Glyn has said. We Welsh speakers are fed up to the back teeth with being dictated to by the English and those in our own country who would do down Wales. Plaid can be assured of my vote at the election.
Robert Jones, Bangor

To prevent someone from taking a job in Wales on the grounds that they do not speak Welsh is wrong, as over 80% of us either don't need or want to speak it. What possible use is the Welsh language to someone wanting to become a lifeguard as in the case of Mr Smethurst. We all speak English, whether it is our first or second language. While I have no opposition to any person learning Welsh by choice, it is time to stop using it as a rod to beat English speaking Welsh people with.
Stephen Bounds, Llanelli

As an English speaking Welshman living in 'Little England Beyond Wales' I feel disgusted by some of these anti-English comments on this page, and I'm sick and tired of being told 'If you don't speak Welsh, go back to England' when I'm not even from England! I think us Welsh should be more concerned about the country's high level of unemployment and rebuilding our economy, instead of wasting taxpayers' money on trying to keep a dying language alive!
Mark, Pembrokeshire

My wife and I, both in our early 50's are seriously considering a move to Wales in a few years to retire. However having listened to Ieuan Wyn Jones of Plaid Cymru last night I am having second thoughts. If we sell our house in Windsor to buy one in Wales, we would have a great deal of money left over, so how would we be a drain on the economy? We would actually bring money INTO the economy! Wake up Plaid Cymru, who else will replace your emigrating young people?
Richard Barnes, Windsor

As far as I was aware the national language for the UK was English. If the Welsh want to speak Welsh that's fine, and they are free to do that, but to say that someone cannot get a job unless they speak it is an absolute disgrace. A UK citizen should be able to get a job anywhere in the UK, and should not be prevented from doing so in Wales because they are unable to speak Welsh.
Richard, Oxford

The issues raised by Councillor Glyn are very valid ones and merit a reasoned and considered discussion. After all, there are very similar concerns voiced throughout rural areas of Britain. Indeed, the issue of the imbalance caused when commuters move into shire villages is aired regularly in the broadsheet newspapers. Unfortunately, Mrs Kinnock opted to play party politics and whipped up a spectre of racism.
Ellen Wiliams, Bangor

I cannot believe the comment made by Lynne Morris, Cwmbran that is typical of the arrogant English. You make me ashamed to be English. I am English and have lived in Wales for eight years. I have managed to pick up the "local lingo" and be understood. If you want to work and socialise with the community you have to learn Welsh and thats that as does anyone wishing to live in a country where people speak in a different language! How can anyone not see that?
Suzanne Jones, Carmel, Caernarfon

Last month at work while speaking Welsh with a friend the boss told me not to speak Welsh in front of him or customers as it could offend them, is that not racist? I respect people for using English while they should respect us who speak Welsh.
Ioan B Evans, Denbigh/Dinbych

I was horrified at the programme last night. I have two sons living in South Wales, and planned to sell up and join them as part of a retirement plan. I thought we were all British these days. If the anti-English feeling is so strong should I think again? I only have a few weeks to decide.
Dave Dorking, Fordingbridge, Hampshire

With regards to the Welsh being racist or not towards the English, you need only to ask directory enquiries. When I was working there people from North Wales would refuse to speak to an English speaking operator and had to be transferred to a Welsh speaking one. They were 99 times out of a hundred very rude and very ignorant. We had to comply. But if I was to ring and ask for a Cornish or Gaelic speaking operator that would not be met.
Mrs, Townsend, Redruth

I live in Cornwall and the drain here of the elderly and the second home is extremely high. Higher than Wales, but we do not bleat about it like the Welsh or incite racism. Also I would like to point out that the Cornish have their own tongue. Should we not make sure that everyone speaks Cornish first then English then we can be as obnoxious as the Welsh?
John, Porthtowan

It is ridiculous to claim that the bilingual policy (concerning employment in particular) is a "type of racism". The area where Mr Smethurst has moved into is predominantly Welsh-speaking, therefore it is VITAL that the local people are allowed to be served in their mother-tongue, be it at the grocery shop, bank or beach. Would he be pursuing the same argument were he to move to France?
Reg Harris, Menai Bridge

I am an English speaker from Quebec. My family had to leave that province in Canada because of the nationalism of the French speaking Quebecoise insisting that those who didn't speak French were second class citizens. It is racist and bigoted and I pray that a similar attitude will not happen in Wales.
Peter Hardy, Upper Norwood

To answer Mr Smethurst's point, no it isn't racist. Welsh is a language that can be learned. I wouldn't expect to get a job in Blackpool as a lifeguard if I couldn't speak English. I say this as the son of a Liverpudlian who came to Wales and learnt Welsh and integrated fully with the community.
Geraint Lovgreen, Caernarfon

Is it not about time we learnt, through the lessons of history, that we all inhabit this world for a short time and we must accept and tolerate all those who break into our sphere, especially now that international travel and settlement is par for the course.
Matt Pitman, Birmingham

Mr Simon Glyn should be forced to resign or be sacked. I am English, my wife's family are Welsh. We have lived in Wales for eight years, my son was born in Wales. I have heard racist comments against all races, and especially the English. I have not experienced racism like this in over 25 years of living all over Britain. Plaid Cymru should be concentrating on the real issues that affect Wales instead of whipping up anti-English sentiment.
Hugh, Abergavenny, Wales

I agree with the panellists who expressed grave concern regarding the racist comments made by a Plaid Cymru councillor about English newcomers. It is very worrying that Ieuan Wyn Jones was not prepared to condemn such attitudes.
Shan Rees, Haverfordwest

Presumably any Welsh person in communication with an Asian or Russian for example) would speak in English. However much I sympathise with Welsh, Gaelic, Irish speakers, English is the most widely spoken language in the world, soon I believe, to be overtaken by Mandarin Chinese.
Geoffrey Gardiner, Birmingham

The influx of English people into places like Wales and Scotland should be curbed. I resent the fact that 85% of Wales speak English. This was forced on them by previous invasions by the English. If most of the "British Empire" can cut its tie with England then so should the rest of us.
LDG, Scotland

I have noticed that there are many jobs advertised that I am capable of doing but they require the Welsh language. In areas such as North Wales where the language has been in constant use for many years, this is fine. However, I feel that in places such as the County of Gwent where mainly English is spoken, I can only feel, as a non-Welsh speaker that this is racism and that we are being pressurised into speaking this language.
Lynne Morris, Cwmbran

The Welsh language is a vital component of Welsh culture. The consistent infringement of the English over the last 500 years has led us to our present powerless position - a colony that requires repatriation. It is not appropriate to ask an electorate for their voice to be made heard when the overwhelming majority are not of Welsh heritage. For Welsh culture to be preserved it is vital that those living in Wales speak Welsh.
Dr Karl V Roberts, Wrecsam

Stereotypical resentment against the English is now clearly the only acceptable form of racism. How many people of Afro-Caribbean or Asian descent now living in Wales can speak Welsh? The people advocating an ability to speak the native tongue of Wales as a pre-requisite to certain types of employment presumably think that this rule should only apply to the English. If they do not, they are on extremely dangerous legal ground.
J Malcolmson, Bath

The programme tonight completely failed (including I regret the chair)to address the issue and allowed political party skullduggery, especially from Glenys Kinnock. Her aloof attitude to local democracy is contemptuous. Simon Glyn should not be vilified for attempting to discuss a real issue. The same debate is real in other countries. Surely second homes must be taxed in some way.
James Evans, Pwllheli

Robert Swan - why was this man on Question Time? His lack of understanding of the language question in Wales was obvious. To roughly quote "I was made to feel awkward because Ieuan and Glenys were speking Welsh". What does he expect Welsh speakers to do? Never speak our mother tongue in case we should make a monoglot like himself feel awkward? He should learn a little tolerance!
Rhian Hughes, Nr Caernarfon

In reply to Rob Smethurst of Bangor: Your attitude is typical of your ignorance. If Mr Smethurst (a lifeguard) lived in France and had a Mayday call from a French sailor unable to speak English he would have a problem - as too would a Welsh lifeguard unable to speak English but working in England - the same rule applies. Learn Welsh Mr Smethurst!
H Griffith, Bangor

Ieuan Wyn Jones sadly fluffed his response and failed to tackle the core issue. He gave Lembit Opik and Glenys Kinnock an open goal, which they fired into with understandable gusto. This is not racism, and the Labour, Tory and LibDem parties should be ashamed of trying to make out that it is. We English people in Wales MUST accept and realise that we are in a different country, with a different history, a different culture and, yes, a different language. If we can't do that, we should not live here.
Mike Parker,

Robert Swan summed it up when he said he felt uncomfortable listening to Ieaun Wyn Jones and Glenys Kinnock speaking Welsh. Typical, what does he expect when he's in Wales, if you go to Paris you expect to hear French! So if you move to Wales especially a part of Wales where Welsh is spoken you need to learn the language to get close to the local people and increase your job opportunities. If you don't like it, well you can always move back to England.
Philip Evans, Port Talbot

The Welsh Language and culture is not a toy to be played with by the political parties. Simon Glyn has raised valid issues of concern to many communities in rural Wales. If the political parties really wish to resolve this matter they should take the issue of the Welsh language out of the equation by making Welsh the language of choice in the education system throughout Wales - making Wales totally bilingual within a period of say 15 years.
Gareth Dobson

As a proud and staunch Englishman married to a Welsh woman, with Cornish children working in Scotland, I have sympathy with the implied sentiment of Plaid Cymru, with respect to the drain on NHS resources. As your audience intimated, the Welsh are a proud nation, but do have the capability to accept so-called outsiders. Ieuan was, in my mind (as a one language man) unfortunately hijacked by central policy politicians who cannot recognise the need for local debate/responsibilities.
Harry Nottley, British Isles

If someone tells you that they are from France then you expect them to speak French. If someone tells you that they are from Spain then you expect them to speak Spanish. The same is true of Wales.
Melfyn Summers, Caernarfon

The Irish have their "crack" and humour, the Scots have an extreme, proud independent history and heritage, the Welsh are a butt of many jokes, but we still have our language - a point not appreciated by 99% of people who are not Welsh, and to say we are racist is nonsense.
Dilwyn Roberts, Bangor

I am learning Welsh in England. I am Welsh, my husband is English. He is learning Welsh alongside me. I was deprived of learning the language as a child but I'm making up for it now. If a language is lost, so is the culture and heritage. Welsh is a beautiful language and worth holding onto. No racism please, but no contempt either - from the Welsh or the English.
Denise Putt

I believe that the divide between the Welsh speakers and the Welsh English speakers should be tackled before the English/Welsh divide is debated. There is a tension between these two types of Welsh people and we don't all have the resources/time to learn Welsh.
Joe Cashell, Newport (Casnewydd)

I am Welsh living in south Wales all my life. I speak very little Welsh as it is not my first language. I feel that it should be.
Steve Jones, Merthyr Tydfil

I live in Bangor and finding work around the area is difficult due to a bilingual policy. I am a fully qualified lifeguard with years of experience, yet I cannot be employed as such, because I do not speak Welsh. Surely that is a type of racism and I believe it is such policy that is affecting commercial development throughout N Wales.
Rob Smethurst, Bangor, N Wales

The problem, as Mr Jones quite rightly says, is not limited to Wales. Where I live we call them DFTs, "down from town" or "grockles". The migration of people across the UK seems to be ruining the lives of local populations, particularly here in the south.
Simon Corner, New Forest

We only holiday in the British Isles and the only place we have ever felt uncomfortable to be English in is Wales. Why is this when, in an area of supposedly high unemployment, we are hopefully sustaining Welsh tourism?
Collette Baiamonte, Burnley

The English should stop whingeing about their position in Wales - in their time, the English forced the Welsh to use a foreign language, they prevented them from learning their own language - they didn't object then, so they have no reason to object now. Wales is for the Welsh and if anyone wishes to come there, let them learn Welsh.
David Neale, Heusden, Belgium

The issue of second homes is one that affects the UK. But I have moved to Ceredigion and made it my first home. I celebrate the fact that Welsh is the first language - but I resent any racist attitude that says I should not be there. I contribute to the local economy, I pay the local taxes.
Dominic Miles, Tregaron

Return to the top of the page

Where would the panel like to have their children educated?

Audience question: Given the choice, where would members of the panel like to have their children educated - Eton, a new centre of excellence or a bog-standard comprehensive school? You said:

Cheryl Gillan is totally wrong to attack Labour for ending assisted places to independent schools. It is the role of government to provide a state standard of education of quality so that Robert Swan does not need to save for years to send his children to an independent school. Taxation should be spent on state education, not used to subsidise independents.
Gareth Sheen, Barnoldswick

I think that the reaction over education and the issue of beacon schools or "centres of excellence" are a doorway to opportunity for all. The Tory support for the private scheme is spurious at best. The wealthy will always choose this option becuse they can afford it. But those that cannot (or relied on the good offices of the assisted places people) are turning their backs on the future.
Daniel Knight, Bangkok

Glenys Kinnock and your correspondents display unabashed prejudiced against faith schools. I work in a Catholic school which has an excellent reputation in the local area for the behaviour of its pupils as well as its academic results. We teach our children to respect others much more successfully than neighbouring schools.
Sean Preston, Accrington

I was educated at a 'bog standard' comprehensive school, I am now at university doing well. I would be doing better if I didn't spend most of my time working in a part time job just to pay my bills, and worrying about the amount of debt I know full well is already rapidly accumulating. I am not saying students shouldn't have to take on part-time jobs, I am just saying that if they are spending nights working then they are not likely to achieve as highly as they could do. Where are funds and the essential materials all levels of education needs: books, computers, materials, sports equipment, etc?
Eleanor Vincent, Bradford

If it really is so bad for a child's education to send them to a public school, why do public schools almost always do better in league tables than their state counterparts. Loathed as I am to agree with a Tory, it is tue that without assisted places there will be a large number of children who miss out on a better standard of education simply due to their parent or parents' monetary disadvantages. I benefited from the assisted places scheme and it has helped me achieve many things, but similarly it prevented me from going to a school where I was not challenged.
A student, London

I would like to support the comment made by the Liberal Democrat MP from Northern Ireland on the topic of education. I fully agree that the private school scheme is wrong in that it is a means of buying knowledge and education for your children, if you are in a suitable financial circumstance to do so.
Stephen Thomson, Kirkintilloch, Glasgow

Within his answer Lembit Opik derided private education. I live in the here and now and the fact is that our state education system, with few exceptions, is in complete disarray. With regard to providing a reliable education for our son, the reasons why this is so and who is to blame are secondary. We have decided to send our son to a private school. Realistically we cannot afford it and we are consuming our savings on seeing this through. This is despite the fact that we are already paying tax for, amongst other things, the education of our child.
PRB, Witney, Oxon

I am completely in accordance with Cheryl Gillan about the 'blinding hypocrisy' of the Labour party since they abolished the assisted place scheme. I go to a private school and a great proportion of us are unfairly tagged privileged by this PC government.
Alexander Brodkin, Edgware

Labour's education policy of making more schools into specialist schools is going to make the matter even worse for comprehensive schools. There will be many schools left which will be really bog comprehensive.
Mr Nazar Hussain, Birmingham

I feel that education is as much about giving children tolerance and understanding of different cultures and religions, as it is about academic qualifications. Surely bringing back selective education and introducing these so called 'faith schools' will do just the opposite. This is one thing that our comprehensive schools achieve that private or selective schools never will.
Katherine Reil, Norwich

All my children go to good comprehensive schools. Fortunately they are all doing well, and I cannot see any reason to change this system. All children have different abilities and in general, I feel most schools realise this.
Steve Fuller, Brighton and Hove

Old friends who have failed 11 plus exams have excelled in non-academic fields. They have achieved this without being unjustly ridiculed by, often failing in later life, "brighter students". Isn't segregation necessary to allow us to achieve our full potential in a field we can excel in without hindrance or ridicule.

With reference to the remark by Mr Dimbleby that there are 600 sports orientated schools in the country. Where are they? How many are situated in Wales? And, as a follow up, how many schools employ on a "pay as you go" basis, coaches from outside to instruct their children in the various sports ie rugby, football, gymnastics etc.
Doug, Buckley

I have four kids, two had "special needs" while at their local comprehensive - one had help because she was dyslexic and the other because she was exceedingly bright at maths - she went on to take her exams at far earlier dates than her year. There have been reduced places but nevertheless they are still there.
Roger Genge, Weymouth

I don't know whether you're aware but to be a teacher in the private sector you don't actually have to be qualified at all! I know this through experience. If you want the best education for your kids save your money and send them to state schools!
Sarah Balfour, Gerrards Cross

I work for a national specialist school in Dance, funded by the Scottish Executive. I'm all for inclusiveness, but if we wait until a child decides what he or she wants to do in life, the window of opportunity for that specialist training will have been missed. If all schools think they can be 'specialist', we will have a nation of mediocrity with no particular talent in anything at all.
Michael Barnett, Glasgow

Return to the top of the page

More money for outdoor pursuits in national curriculum?

Audience question: Given the success of Helen MacArthur's triumph in the Vendee round the world yacht race should the government invest more money in outdoor pursuits within the national curriculum? You said:

Outdoor pursuits bring us into contact with nature and in our ever increasing world of silicon-based fantasy, that is surely something to be encouraged. I learned more about geography, weather and the changing seasons walking the hills of Scotland than I ever did in a classroom. And more importantly, I developed persistence, courage, discipline, self-sufficiency and hardiness at the same time.
Rhys Jaggar, Manchester

I question whether schools are necessarily the places to provide this. There are already nationwide organisations such as Scouts and Guides, Duke of Edinburgh etc which provide these activities and a vast array of others. All young people have the opportunity to try these activities, and if they enjoy them, they can progress and excel. Many do!
Colin Simpson, Wareham

I suspect that many millions of people are thrilled at what Ellen MacArthur has done and I'm proud that she is a woman but she is an example to ALL of us - men and women, boys and girls for her humility, bravery and single mindedness. I totally agree with her words 'if you have a dream, go after it.'
Jennifer Taylor

Return to the top of the page

Full taxation powers for the Welsh Assembly?

Audience question: Should the Welsh Assembly have full taxation powers on a par with the Scottish parliament? You said:

I support devolution for Sctoland and Wales, but I fear that with the high level of people claiming benefits in Wales, taxes will be too high and many jobs and businesses will be lost to England. If Wales does get taxation powers like Scotland then both countries should pay a lesser amount of taxes to Westminster then England as we would be less governed by them!
Robert, Cardiff

For all the Welsh sentiment aroused by a previous question, it is interesting to note that no one has yet grasped the opportunity to venture a worthy opinion on a measure that would provide a practical manifestation of national identity, namely dicretionary tax-raising powers.
Douglas Flemington

Return to the top of the page

Should there be a fat tax?

Audience question: The government put 20p on cigarettes to cover extra NHS costs. With today's revelation that one in five adults are obese does the panel think the government should consider a fat tax? You said:

Bring it in, please, unless there are provable genetic traits that predispose a person to largeness. I was getting a bit porky myself at the end of 1999, so I got out of my smelly tin can (car) and started exercising. Cycling everywhere is what I do now. It's tough at first but if you stick at it, not only can you eat pretty much whatever you like, but you lose fat regardless, and you really do feel so much better!
Simon Devine, Woking

Oh no! Somebody suggested a fat tax. Gordon will already have a team working on the design of fat cameras, to be triggered by concealed pads strategically located near cream cake shops, to give out instant penalty tickets for the over-weight.
John Smith, Lincoln

Of course there should be a fat tax. I cannot think of any reason why not. After all it takes resources away from other genuine causes where the taxpayers' money can be used. I do not think that any of the panel members have the foggiest idea about what it really means to deal with the diseases associated with obesity. All you have to do is to ask a medical personnel member, like myself. People are simply not prepared to do anything unless it hurts the right spot ie their pockets.

As a teacher it is extremely annoying that the solution to so many problems seems to rest with schools. Tonight it was said that to turn round the problem of obesity schools should educate and inspire children about the diet they should have, no, no. It is parents who feed children. Surely it is parental responsibility to inform children and provide them with a healthy diet. In school we teach children about what they should eat and how to lead a healthy life but we are not the ones who put the tea on their tables!
Kate Soriani, Newton Stewart

Return to the top of the page

General comments on the programme:

Shows in Wales and Scotland pretty much always have a nationalist for the respective country on the show. Would it not be possible for an English show once in a while to have someone campaigning for either an independent England or an English parliament on. Someone from the Campaign for an English Parliament or the English National Party for instance.
SLJ, London

Return to the top of the page

Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.

E-mail this story to a friend

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | World | UK | England | N Ireland | Scotland | Wales |
UK Politics | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology |
Health | Education | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |