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, 1 March, 2001, 13:46 GMT
March 1, Stockton-on-Tees
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 were:

Audience question: In view of the current foot-and-mouth outbreak following on from swine fever and BSE is livestock farming in Great Britain doomed? You said:

I found the initial comments by Dr David Starkey on the foot-and-mouth crisis interesting, namely that the disease is non-fatal to animals, no danger to humans and that a cheap vaccine is available. The other panellists did not seem to address his contention that the widespread slaughter and restrictions are not necessary.
Philip S Hall, Northampton

I find it outrageous that Dr Raj Persaud was allowed to blame Europe for the outbreak of foot-and-mouth. It is true that vaccination was banned by European regulation. But it was the UK who made this a condition for joining the EU. Is blaming Europe becoming so popular in Britain that the facts don't mattter any more?
Johan de Waele, Brussels

This audience seemed to be made up of farmers and Tories, and all were too busy turning a blind eye to the truth that this outbreak of foot-and-mouth and BSE originated in Britain. They were blaming everybody except Britain. Self-denial? Europe is petrified of what deadly disease British farmers will export next.
D Thorburn, Glasgow

Nobody really answered the question: 'Why can't we vaccine?' There is a place in Africa that has foot-and-mouth on a regular basis, but they vaccinate their stock and carry on. Why can we not do the same? It has been said that we should not vaccinate stock because we are not sure that they will be immune to foot-and-mouth, but what difference does that make? No one is sure that a vaccine for a child against measles is assured to work.
Jodie Watts, Berkshire

Having watched Tim Yeo on Question Time, I cannot help wondering how the Conservatives can continue to call themselves the opposition. On foot-and-mouth disease, as on so many other issues, they seem to have given up speaking for those of us opposed to the Labour government. The Tories simply offer the same policy, but with a different emphasis. Farmers are understandably shaken by the foot-and-mouth crisis. Yet there is no reason why the rest of us should subsidise them.
Barney Smith, Cambridge

Martin Johnson states that foot-and-mouth disease was controlled by vaccine in Europe. Vaccination is not realistic because as you vaccinate against one strain so another appears. There are seven strains and many sub-strains of the virus. A vaccination programme would mean vaccinating every animal on every farm as each new strain and each new sub-strain appeared.
Elaine Dower, Kensworth, Bedfordshire

David Starkey's aggressive and noisy opinions are an excellent example of what happens when an academic strays too far out of his sphere of expertise. As he pointed out last night, everything he said was "technically correct". As Tim Yeo pointed out, he only hit one out of three. Being closer to the suffering foot-and-mouth causes to everyone and everything associated with it, I could not bear to live in a country which accepts this hellish disease as a day-to-day fact.
Bob McIntyre, Aberdeenshire

Why did the local farmer commenting on tonight's programme say that he had to export his livestock across the country because all the local slaughterhouses have closed? There is a working abattoir less than a mile from where I live and I know of others in the local area as well.
Nathan Cooke, Stockton-on-Tees

Most farming people I know are also involved in tourism in one way or another. If funeral pyres and exclusion zones spread across the country we are in for a very rough time indeed. A lot of farms survive on tourist money to supplement their incomes. Once you have lost a season it is gone and there is no way you can retrieve the lost income.
Jennifer Steel, Denny

Elaine Dower casts doubt on the effectiveness of vaccination against foot-and-mouth disease. How does she account for the total freedom of Europe from the disease while vaccination was universally practised there, and the upsurge that has occurred when it was stopped? Britain should go it alone, and vaccinate, starting tomorrow if possible.
Martin Johnson, Pathhead, Midlothian

Why has Crufts been cancelled because of foot-and-mouth when other events with large crowds are still taking place? Humans can carry foot-and-mouth the same as dogs. Also as the disease is air borne isn't it a bit pointless? I can understand stopping people and animals (dogs) from tramping through the countryside via footpaths and on farmland but not otherwise.
M Barnell, London

I strongly disagree with Muriel Gray's opinion that supermarkets are to blame for the plight of the country's farmers. Supermarkets react to the demands of the consumer to make profits - in this case the reaction being in answer to a demand by consumers for cheaper food. If the farmers cannot produce food at the prices that the market (ie the consumers) are willing to pay, then is it not better to simply admit defeat?
David Curran, Glasgow

How does the eradication of foot-and-mouth by fire have any real scientific basis, when disease can only be fought in the long term by building up livestock immunity through antibodies passed down through breeding.
Dominique Egre, Jersey

It saddens me to hear misleading facts being put around by theorising 'historians' on the programme. The foot-and-mouth crisis has to be solved at the moment by a slaughter policy because in this country thankfully it is a rare item. Until a world wide vaccination programme is introduced with a no holds movement of stock after vaccination then we have to slaughter to maintain our present situation of being able to export our meat and livestock. Foot-and-mouth does not kill but has a catastrophic effect upon the animal and the animal involved will never be economically viable.
Simon Welburn, London

Why did you ignore the comments by a member of the audience regarding the source of the current outbreak of foot and mouth? He had the right to a reply or is it that the idea of this debate was to promote Tory policy? The audience seems to be full of farmers.
Mike Rigby, Nottingham

In the eyes of a conscientious, vegetarian, tax payer, how do you think they feel - subsidising something they are completely opposed to?
Dave Norrie, Inverkeithing, Fife

Why is it that nobody has mentioned the fact that birds can carry the foot-and-mouth disease?
Stephen Mckay, Edinburgh

Isn't it time we realised the future of agriculture lies in organics and locally produced food, hopefully ultimately in a vegetarian society where the mass exploitation of animals is minimised to the physical and moral benefit of all.
Roger Smith, Cornwall

Muriel Gray was absolutely correct in stating that the supermarkets have been responsible for bringing British farming to its knees. As a farmer myself, I can say that the prices that have been returned to the farm for produce in any sector are ridiculously low. It is a pleasant change to see someone on television that understands and can comment on the situation.
Andrew Caunce, Ormskirk

As one who lives in rural Wales I am now convinced that a radical re-think of farming methods, industrialisation of food production needs urgent attention. The evidence as presented on your programme seemed to suggest that the spread of foot-and-mouth was linked to lengthy transportation of animals to abattoirs, a necessity designed by supermarkets. This is a serious question that really deserves careful analysis.
Michael Langstaff, Llandrindod Wells

Why the national hysteria and the slaughter of thousands of animals when any beast infected with foot-and-mouth left to its own devices will recover fully in about a fortnight?
Dr Peter Smeaton, Chester

Can the cramped conditions in which animals are kept and transported, be responsible for the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease?
Kristian Langbridge, London

Why are farmers yet again to receive payouts from public funds? As someone who does not eat meat I resent paying taxes to fund the torture and mistreatment of animals. BSE and foot-and-mouth are nature's way of saying enough is enough. Instead of giving money to the farmers give it to the health service who are forced to treat the many illnesses caused by such a high fat and cholesterol diet.
Victoria Rowell, Wakefield

Why is it that every time the farming community has a major problem they rely on the government to bail them out? Do they not use insurance like the rest of us? I personally do not support the farming of animals for food and would prefer that farms were switched to growing more vegetables, preferably organic, using methods that support wildlife and do not pollute our waterways.
Derek Eastwood, West Sussex

Can someone please explain to me why after what seems like years of farmers telling us all that they're livestock is worthless, that they should be compensated up to £460 per head for any losses that they incur through the present foot-and-mouth outbreak? It is guaranteed that some of these people must be rubbing their hands with glee!
Steve Matthews, Exeter

It seems incredible that the media has not made more of the geographical picture which is taking place in relation to foot-and-mouth. We know that this disease spreads with ease. Therefore, I am baffled why we haven't seen more attempts to explain how the disease has spread. We know where the disease started and we know that haulage has played a part but how significant has it been in causing the spread?
Arthur D MacMillan, Edinburgh

Who on earth does David Starkey think he is? He is an historian NOT a vet. Yes there is a vaccine for foot-and-mouth but not for every strain of the disease. This is NOT a political issue, it is one of national importance and for Dr Starkey to try and make it political is disgusting and cheap.
Elaine Dower, Kensworth, Bedfordshire

This is just a theory, but is it not possible that by creating these numerous funeral pyres of livestock and setting fire to them, the virus is not actually being killed but is being released into the atmosphere, hence becoming wind-borne. Surely this must in part be one reason for this nationwide epidemic. Have the vets shot themselves in the foot, thereby exacerbating, not solving the problem?
Ian Frain, Ramsbottom, Lancashire

Please stop the mindless slaughter. Animals do not die due to foot-and-mouth - it is a virus. Innoculate please! This would save the lives of so many. Everybody is so worried about the farmers. I am devastated by the deaths (currently) of more than 25,000 animals. We should be encouraging farmers to feed animals what they would naturally eat not the mashed, preserved remains of other living creatures. I hope that following this crisis the government will address how farmers treat and feed livestock.
Angela Brewer-Miller, Chester

Muriel Gray - "the supermarkets are responsible". My opinion: yes, and also we, the consumers shop where milk is cheapest, meat etc are the best price. On an encouraging note, organic produce has become much more accepted.
Urs Kiefer, London

The distant movement of livestock has been a welfare issue for years, and now the public has become more aware of what our livestock goes through. Slaughter - foot-and-mouth causes extremely painful mouth and foot sores. Vaccination - there are at least seven different types of foot-and-mouth, and the vaccination needs repeating every 4-6 months. Humans - humans CAN catch foot-and-mouth although it is rare.
Richard Harding, Crewe, Cheshire

It is depressing that David Starkey and Tim Yeo are more interested in arguing with each other and blaming the past practices of governments rather than trying to suggest ways out of the current crisis. Nick Brown has acted with haste in dealing with the crisis. No person can nip this problem in the bud overnight and constructive support will be more helpful than adversarial conflict.
Arthur D MacMillan, Edinburgh

When are we going to realise that we cannot continue to feed herbivorous animals to themselves? The main reason put forward for the cause of BSE was feeding animal products to beef stock. It is looking very likely that the cause of this outbreak of foot-and-mouth is due to either pig swill not being cook correctly and then being fed to livestock, or 'vegetable' waste containing meat products being fed to livestock. When will we learn out lesson, we cannot continue feeding cows to cows, pigs to pigs and sheep to sheep?
Ben Perry, High Wycombe

Return to the top of the page

Audience question: Why has it taken Chris Woodhead four years to announce that the government's education policy is badly flawed? You said:

Cannot the politicians see that what everyone wants in this country is a good quality education system that gives people opportunities, backed up by a job market that gives people a chance to develop and improve their skills. The Labour mantra that no one can be allowed to fail inevitably lowers standards and goals for all in the system. Life is all about success and failure!
Darryl Bryant, Hounslow, Middlesex

I don't believe that standards are going down in our education system. We seem to have a thing in this country about inventing flaws for anything that is improving. The numbers of people passing GCSEs and A-levels is rising, therefore the tests must be getting easier. Why must we degrade young people's achievements like this?
Stephen Mould, Sheffield

I am taking my GCSEs this summer, and I couldn't agree more with David Starkey about the lowering of standards in education. What amazed me was that the audience and other panellists seemed surprised about this. Of course exams - especially at GCSE - are getting easier every year. Surely nobody involved in education honestly believes to the contrary.
Nathan James, York

The reality is that what Dr Starkey said is true - over the last 15 (or more) years teachers salaries have been allowed to fall further and further behind. So now they are much lower than any other comparable graduate, and more importantly they reach a ceiling which is insultingly low for a good honours graduate with Higher qualifications. No wonder no decent calibre graduate wants to come into the job, and those who do realise the reality and get out as fast as they can.
Trevor Hanson, Leeds

Dr Starkey may well be correct in saying standards in education are falling. Three teachers have told me when asked about the increased pass rate of exams that more are passing because the pass rates are lowered. What is the point of having a society where everyone has 9 GCSEs and 5 A levels when we have such a poor level of citizenship, fail to live in a civilised manner and have no respect. So much for higher standards of education.       
John Ainley

How refreshing to hear David Starkey revealing what really goes on in higher education. Those of us in the HE sector have had to lower standards year on year to meet targets as described by Starkey.
David Hughes, Harrogate

Whatever the views on Chris Woodhead, it should be remembered that his comments in public were not made until today because prior to that he was bound by his contractual obligations in the period following his resignation. In that, at least the man has acted honourably - sadly a rare quality today - in all walks of life.
PRB, Witney, Oxon

When the falling standards of education are discussed it always surprises me that no one ever mentions the fact that the amount of time our children actually spend at school has drastically reduced over the last 25 years. It has been proved that British children receive less than half the amount of formal education of their German and French counterparts. What chance are they going to have in the global economy with such a poor start?
M Townsend, Edinburgh

Teachers had very little respect for Chris Woodhead when he was chief inspector. This is a blatant attempt to undermine the progress that teachers and the DFEE has made in recent years. Odd how he made these comments in an election year.
John Fraser, London

What a shame that a person who REALLY understands education ( ie Dr Starkey ) has to debate education with people who know NOTHING about the subject - 'I went to school therefore I'm a specialist on the subject'.
Steve Charley, Letchworth

As a former member of the further education system, I strongly agree with the comments made by David Starkey regarding education standards. Yes, they are going down and have been for some years now. My own experience has been that college staff are under great pressure to admit as many students as possible regardless of their qualifications and to fail as few as possible. This cannot be good for anyone - students, employers or society in general.
GR MacBride, Glasgow

Teachers regard themselves as professionals, but are not represented by a professional body. Like tradesmen, they are represented by unions.
W Gaul, Romford

I am currently studying towards an MSc in land management having completed a four year undergraduate degree. I will be starting a career as a chartered surveyor at the end of my course. My starting salary will be around £14,000 pa (or £19,000 pa in London). Personally, my current debt is in excess of £16,000. Teachers' salaries are no worse than most graduate sectors and it is unfair that they should benefit from 7% pay rises when no other professional sectors can enjoy this level of salary.
Victoria Steventon, Reading

Thank God for David Starkey's whistle-blowing comments on lowering educational standards! I have long realised that the ever-increasing numbers of GCSE's and `A' levels gained by pupils nowadays didn't make any sense. My daughter has been persuaded to do a four-year science degree by lecturers telling her that three-year degrees are not rated by potential employers. Degrees have been totally de-valued, and the concept of education for education's sake has gone. Only an increased pay packet is the goal these days.
Paula Smithurst, Sheffield

It is sad that teachers are undervalued within this country. I once was a successful science teacher, with excellent pass rates at GCSE, A level and BTEC. However attempting to pay a mortgage in London on a teacher's pay is very difficult. Eventually I returned to industry and doubled my salary, having previously been at the top of the main pay spine with the addition of a head of department allowance. With teacher recruitment becoming more difficult, salary rises may not now be enough. Perhaps the concept of tied houses should be brought in.
Ian McDonald, Kingston Upon Thames

Chris Woodhouse seems now to have lost any credibility and appears a very bitter man.
Nigel Simpson, Southampton

Return to the top of the page

Audience question: Following yesterday's tragic accident in Selby and the Hatfield train crash last October how would the panel convince the general public that trains are still a safe way of travelling? You said:

To Takahiro Tamura of London: yes the rail network is a monopoly but it should be broken down into five different companies (with stricter safety regulations enforced), not run as a political tool between Labour and the Tories. Competition in the travel industry should be run by different individual companies, not political parties trying to get more votes!
Andrew, Bristol

The privatisation of the railways in itself is not the problem, so much as the way in which it was done. Splitting the system into many different parts means that no individual organisation is prepared to make any investment that does not produce a short term gain. A longer term investment programme in the interest of the consumer was never going to be likely under these conditions.
CB Davidge, Wantage

I come from York the home of GNER, I work in the Selby district area, and knew people on the 5.59am express from York which crashed at Great Heck with the devastation and injury and loss of life. Can I thank Muriel Grey for her sensitivity in dealing with the question re rail safety, and her acknowledgement of the pain and suffering and grieving which is going on in North Yorkshire. It is a shame no other panel members had her humility.
Debra Woodhall-James, York

I cannot see how Tim Yeo can draw parallels with the railways and the airlines. The airlines industry is not run by a monopoly but the railway industry is. This strengthens the case for state ownership of railways. If the railways were owned by the state we can hold the elected government accountable for any failure in the service and not the private companies.
Takahiro Tamura, London

What is Muriel Gray saying when she is going on about the latest rail crash - this crash was not the railway's fault and she is trying to blame the railway when they are not to blame. I find it disgusting that this view is allowed to be aired when it is so incorrect.
Julian Price, Hook

The Selby crash and others have been a serious blow to the public perception of safety. But the more dangerous aspect has been public enquiries that have attempted to engineer and invoke solutions to try and prevent further incidents without looking at their sense (Automatic Protection Systems etc) in keeping the human drivers on their toes. Safety cannot just be a "political" issue to gain public confidence and opinion - it has to be based on scientific and practical investigation.
Dominique Egre, Hatfield campus university of Hertfordshire

On the issue of this week's train crash, while of course, it was a tragic occurrence that everyone no doubt deeply wishes hadn't happened, we should also remember that life is not 'safe'. And while every sensible precaution that can be taken should be taken, this accident is not an argument for moving the railways back into public ownership. I agree wholeheartedly with the gentleman in the audience who asked why we should trust this (or any other) government with the safety of the railways - it would be no different I am sure.
Phil Crowson, Chingford

Return to the top of the page

Audience question: How do you feel about today's revelation that William Shakespeare wrote some of his greatest works under the influence of drugs? You said:

I think that if Shakespeare was under the influence of mind altering drugs whilst creating his literature, then it would be a whole lot more imaginative and fun to read, although A Midsummer Night's Dream is a bit whacky!!!
Jeff, Berlin

Return to the top of the page

General comments on the programme:

I totally agree with R Anderson of Sunderland, please could we have more from the delicious Dr David Starkey.
Yves Defoe, Hull

Yet again the questions selected are becoming more and more predictable! How obvious was it that there would be a discussion about foot-and-mouth, and the recent train crash. The panellists are not suppose to have a clue as to what questions will be asked, so why not make them more unpredictable?
Robert, Swansea

David Starkey was an excellent guest on Question Time. He answered the questions very well and was not afraid to raise a few home truths and questioned mainstream thinking. He was BRILLIANT - please get him back asap.
R Anderson, Sunderland

The historian, David Starkey, who was such a refreshingly honest change from the failed old politicians such as Shirley Williams and Ted Heath who David Dimbleby seems more at home with. His views, based on common sense and the evidence of his own eyes runs contrary to the current BBC ethos of preferring political claptrap as their version of the truth.
Paul Hancock, Sheffield

This must have been the worst Question Time yet. No one had very much to say (but that didn't stop them saying it). Is it now policy to have one right-wing bigot on every programme?
Michael Mather, Hull

Well done BBC for inviting David Starkey onto the programme. I had given up watching it because issues rarely seemed to be discussed in a deep or objective way. Panellists seem to state the obvious, try to score points or play to the audience. How refreshing to hear someone on television express logically thought out views, regardless of the reaction those views will provoke in the audience.
Kieran Brickley, London

Yet again, we have no Liberal Democrat on the panel, but two conservatives. The result was a debate that was dogmatic and polarised. Ler's have a panel that fully represents the spread of opinion in this country.
Jeff Evans, Newport, Gwent

David Starky certainly lived up to his reputation as "rudest man in Britain". I suggest that he sits down in a darkened room with a cup of tea and watches a good Australian soap opera.
Chris Davidge, Wantage

Dr Starkey is a star! Why don't MPs have his sense of morality? MPs should be on performance related pay! Then perhaps we might get some effective people in charge. The time of the "do-gooder" has been and proved to be useless. No more jobs for the boys!
Mrs Lunt, Bolton

Once again David Starkey proved that he is the most arrogant and rudest man in Britain. His cheap jibes against Nick Brown were uncalled for, and his whole attitude towards the crisis left a sour taste in the mouth. Perhaps Dr Starkey should stick to teaching, making TV programmes, and being generally obnoxious.
Steven Gavrilovic, Cannock

I was very disappointed in your choice of panellists for your programme. What resulted was a very misinformed forum on the current foot-and-mouth disease situation with nobody on the panel really understanding the first thing about how this particular aphthovirus works. In my opinion it would have been a lot more sensible to invite a an eminent scientist/veterinary surgeon working in the field of foot-and-mouth to comment on some of the questions raised by farmers present.
Chris Jewel

It seems that when the debates on Question Time are opened up to the audience, Mr Dimbleby invites a much higher percentage of questions and comments from men than from women. Last night's programme was a case in point, and the predominance of male opinion sought by the chairman was becoming embarrassing (`I'll take a question from the guy with the beard in the back row and then I'll come to you, sir').
Mark Bryant-Quinn, Aberystwyth

Oh how I wish David Starkey was prime minister! His views on both the countryside crisis and standards in education hit the nail firmly on the head.
Jonathan Rhodes, Rye, East Sussex

I was just horrified at the sexist and patronising language used by David Starkey and Tim Yeo when referring to Muriel Grey and her opinions... if she had been a black panellist and the language had been racist surely the chairman would have commented?
Michelle Pusey, London

Dr Starkey must be the Labour party's secret weapon. Enough to put anyone off voting Conservative. As for the way he patronised Muriel - I would love to have heard what she said to him after the show!
Brambley, Devon

If you are going to discuss a veterinary problem, why on earth do you not have a veterinary surgeon on the panel? Once again, the BBC demonstrates a perfect example of the blind leading the blind. What does a consultant psychiatrist and an expert in Elizabethan history know about foot-and-mouth disease? About as much as I know about their subjects I suppose.
John Mackinnon, Saxmundham

Return to the top of the page

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 |