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Thursday, 15 March, 2001, 16:43 GMT
March 15, Glasgow
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The topics discussed this week were:

Government's handling of foot-and-mouth crisis a scandal?

Audience question: Would the panel agree with me that the British government's handling of the foot-and-mouth crisis is a scandal as claimed by an Irish minister during the week? You said:

Unfortunately we continue to read the same sorts of comments wher blame is aimed at, governments, supermarkets, abbatoirs, foreign meats, feed manufacturers. I have some unpleasant news, the ones who are to blame are us, the consumer. If it wasn't for our demand for a greater 'choice' of cheaper food (a lot of it sourced from abroad) our food chain and our population would be in better health. We get what we pay for.
Chris, Crediton, Devon

I was amazed to find myself agreeing with Tommy Sheridan, notably the only panel member to mention animal welfare. Sadly if this rather than profit was the basis in this enforced age of intensive farming we might not be facing the current crisis nor had to deal with BSE.
Leslie MS Johnstone, Beauly, Inverness

Jane Earl wants people prosecuted and so do I! I have waited with baited breath for farmers to be prosecuted under the animal welfare laws but shockingly no prosecutions are pending, despite the obvious contempt for the law, cruelty and disregard for animal welfare which has brought about this present sickness and also e.coli, BSE, swine fever, salmonella and all the other epidemics. Let's face it, the farming industry have been getting away with murder and still are.
Lynda Gooding, Manchester

Surely the largest carriers of foot-and-mouth, who are free to travel the country unchecked and even rest on the infected cattle and dead carcasses are the birds. There is really nothing that can be done to restrict their movement. Also as the rest of Britain travels normally throughout the country the disease is going to continue to spread unchecked.
Karen Wright, Harrogate

It is obvious to the logically minded that the culling strategy is doomed to failure. If the world has so far evolved quite nicely without government intervention, why not leave it to natural selection? If those animals which are immune to foot-and-mouth are allowed to live and reproduce the future livestock gene pool will become suitably resistant to this disease
Alan Stanton, Surbiton

The draconian actions of this government in its handling of the foot-and-mouth crisis are the actions of a government running scared. Why do they not inoculate beasts in a two or three-mile radius to create a 'fire-break' around an infected area rather than continue with the wholesale slaughter of perfectly healthy animals? God help the British farming industry under Blair et al.
Neil O'Brien, Cardiff

If the disease free status of British meat is based on the measure of antibodies in the bloodstream surely it would be responsible for meat exporters to stop live export thereby controlling bloodlines and reputation. There can be no real justification for the way that animals are treated and this is maybe another in a long line of wake up calls.
Dave Marsh, Amsterdam

In reply to previous comments, you CANNOT let this disease run its course as by its very nature this will cause it to spread even more rapidly. The government is not to blame for the spread of this virus, but modern farming methods are. No government could have foreseen or prevented the current situation.
T Doherty, Glasgow

The government's handling of the foot-and-mouth crisis is a DISGRACE. Why slaughter innocent animals? Let the disease run its course - that way the infected animals will recover and probably become immune - vaccinate the others. Or is this too easy for the Blair government?
Jeannette Thompson, Stanley

This government says it has foot-and-mouth under control - yet cases are increasing. Healthy animals are killed and farmers' livelihood destroyed. But yet I have not heard of one prosecution of individuals who break the 'no go areas' and many are! Why is it?
Jane Earl

In view of the scale of the problem - how certain are we that the disease is not being spread by the rubbish being fed to the animals?
Michael, Bromley

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Government insensitive to continue plans for May election?

Audience question: Is it insensitive of the government to continue with plans for a May election when the countryside is in such an upheaval? You said:

Ms Liddle said that tourism could not be given compensation because you could not trust them to make honest claims. May we remind her that in NI foot-and-mouth was brought here by dishonest FARMERS who buy sheep to slaughter but sell them on for greater profit, and by moving them over the ROI border they were defrauding the VAT.
Mr and Mrs Rossborough, Portrush

Come on, Anita Mohan. A civil war? Total ruination? I and most of the population of the land am free to move and go on with my daily duties. The affect on farmers and tourism is bad but even such a crisis would not stop elections in your country. Even shady dealings and voting uncertainties did not stop the result being proclaimed in Florida. You even have a system that allows legislature to decide the result if the vote cannot take place. So please, let the PM choose the election date he wants.
Pascal Jacquemain, Croydon, UK (Frrench)

Whilst sympathising with the farming community, it is important to remember that tourism is THE most important industry to Scotland and we simply cannot turn people away from the countryside. This crisis will become an all-out disaster if people don't visit Scotland. Tourism employs more people than any other Scottish industry and it must be protected at all costs.
Nick Roche, Edinburgh

There was some discussion of calling elections - Malcome Bruce said that he favoured the USA system of fixed terms instead of our system at the goverment's pleasure. Instead of either of these systems, why not give the opposition party or parties the right to call elections - surely it would help keep governments up to their performance targets?
Richard Browning, Beckenham

I say May 3rd. The questioner from the audience was ignored when he quite rightly said schools were not affected and let's not forget most of Britain is still OPEN. Farmers and other Tory countrysiders stop scare mongering, we will get through this, it will all be over in a few weeks.
EM Dower, Kensworth

In the context of foot-and-mouth doesn't the question of May elections pale into less significance when you consider that the 10-yearly census is to happen shortly in which it is intended to visit every residence in the land?
M Hawkins

I will admit that the tourist industry may be losing a small amount of trade but compared to what it is costing our sheep farmers who are losing a large percentage of their year's trade due to them being unable to sell their early lambs I feel that their losses are minimal. When this crisis is over they will have an industry to go back to but some of our farmers they will be left with nothing.
Tom Sedgbeer, Frome

I think the General Election should be postponed. With the crisis in the countryside at the moment it cannot be right to hold it at this time. It is all right saying there are postal votes, but people may wish to meet, face to face, their prospective candidates. I think farmers and other people who work in the countryside, have more urgent problems to worry about at the moment.
Steve Fuller, Brighton and Hove

I believe that the General Election should go ahead as soon as possible so that the present government can get it out of the way and then continue with solving the foot-and-mouth crisis.
AC Betts, London

How can the government stay focussed and dedicated to the foot-and-mouth crisis and conduct an election campaign at the same time?
Mrs AC McKechnie, London

How can Tony Blair claim that he is 'listening to the countryside' if he ignores their pleas to delay the elections? Only by sheer arrogance on his part!
John McGowan, Lynton

I am horrified to think that anyone would want to have an election at a time that is nearly comparable to civil war. Please help these poor farmers from total ruination and help restore the faith and respect the rest of the world have always had in all things from England - as safe, well-made and the best available. This is more important than who sits in what office - this could dictate the future of the country.
Anita Mohan, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

We provide B&B in the Snowdonia National Park where bookings are between 80% and 100% down due to the foot-and-mouth crisis. Accommodation providers are NOT insured against foot-and-mouth as stated by Mrs Liddell. Operators have been told that companies would not provide such insurance. The only people who may qualify are farm B&Bs that have to shut if there is a case of foot-and-mouth on their farm.
Peter Melling, Betws-y-Coed

I have this morning had a confirmed case of foot-and-mouth resulting in the slaughter of my 760 ewes with lambs and 42 cattle. How can the UK hope to keep a foot-and-mouth free status when we constantly import from countries with foot-and-mouth?
Mr J Hughes, Pen-y-Bont Farm, Malltraeth, Anglesey

Can we go to the countryside or not? The farmers say keep away but the tourism industry are saying not to keep away. Can someone clarify what the public can do to help the crisis.
Lee Webster, Blackburn

May 3rd what is the problem? I am sick and tired of hearing about whingeing farmers. What about the rest of us or don't we count? And do farmers realise that part of the money they will receive in compensation will be made up of the fuel tax that they did not want to pay?
Elaine Spink, Bedfordshire

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Executive's decision to ignore a vote an affront to democracy?

Audience question: Does the panel believe that the Executive's decision to ignore a vote in the Scottish parliament last week was and is an affront to democracy? You said:

With regard to the comments of Mike, he is totally right and justified about what he says. There was a report wriiten before the devolution vote which said that even with North Sea Oil, taxes in Scotland woud need to rise. In Scotland pensioners who need care do not have to pay for it, they have smaller class sizes, teacheres get a 21% pay rise, students are charged no tuition fees, and yet they are a subsidised country.
Ed Barham, London

In response to Mike from Plymouth who pointed out that Scotland was subsidised. I would like to point out that almost all British oil comes from Scottish water, therefore we wouldn't need subsidy if Scottish resources were only used to fund Scotland.
Robert Neate, Galashiels, Scotland

In reply to Mike, Plymouth regarding taxes. He falls into the trap that the majority of taxes raised in Scotland still goes to the Westminster parliament (which by the way is NOT an English parliament). To clarify Mike's geography, Scotland is a country and not a region.
Fraser Galloway, Perth

The Executive's ignoring of the recent vote in favour of including a tie-up scheme as part of the deal for fishermen was a travesty of the democratic process. Helen Liddell would have served herself and her party better if she had admitted the blunder and addressed the meat of the question rather than simply continuing the justification of a flawed action.
AJ McLay, St Andrews, Fife

Why do the SNP and SSP seem to view any given vote in the Scottish parliament as final? The idea that it is wrong to revisit debates or votes is as bad for democracy as ignoring votes in the first instance.
Greg MacKenzie, Kilmarnock

The trend of not consulting parliament, which started seriously with the election of a Labour government four years ago, has spread to Scotland. Members of the Executive seem to think that they are in office to put their ideas into practice regardless of what parliament thinks. Their arrogance is breathtaking. It makes a mockery of the idea of a parliament for the Scottish people. Scotland now has its own group of politicians who think they know what's good for us. Tommy Sheridan was the most succinct speaker on this (and the other) issues.
Margaret Hunter, Ayr

I respect democracy, but only when you pay your own way. At the moment the Scottish region is subsidised significantly by the rest of the UK under the Barnett formula. This must undermine their right of self-determination if not their pride. I am sure that the Scottish region will be much more content when it is paying its own higher taxes to fund its parliament decisions rather than looking for the enhanced support from elsewhere which it receives at the moment.
Mike, Plymouth

Why not worry about the fish first and their conservation rather than the wealth of the fishermen. Plenty of people survive a short time on benefits even if it is to renew the stocks that the fishermen have fished out.
Mrs Reeves, Truro

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Lone parents into work?

Audience question: In view of the Rowntree report should the government push forward with its proposal to put lone parents with young children into work to reduce unemployment figures? You said:

No one forces couples to have children. If a couple wish to have a child one of them should be prepared to stay at home to look after that child, with no financial incentive. It is time parents took responsibility for their off-spring instead of wanting someone else to pay for them ie the government. If a couple wishes to have a dual income then don't have any children, there is no excuse these days, becoming pregnant is preventable! It is time we stopped pampering to the family.
John Ainley, Northumberland

The way in which the SNP and SSP talked down the young people who have gained jobs and training through the New Deal was disgraceful - to talk down the opportunities through which many young people have achieved success and pride denied to them by previous governments. For the SNP who didn't even bother to vote for a minimum wage to lecture on jobs is barefaced hipocrisy.
Gordon Macrae, Paisley

I have an inkling that there could well be an increase in teenage pregnancies if mothers were paid to stay at home with their children.
Mrs P Binder, Maldon, Essex

The state sponges off of you all the time and when they make mistakes they cover it up, cost =b's every year yet hard up people looking for 50 a week to feed their children are the scum of the earth.
Rob Ford, Ashford

I am astounded that so many people in the audience seem to believe that the state should subsidise whatever lifestyle choices that they make. Paying people for having children is utterly ludicrous. Having children is a lifestyle choice that for the majority of people will involve them in foregoing many things and making personal sacrifices. If you are not prepared to do so then you should re-think your choice...the rest of society does not owe you a living.
Dick Robinson, York

What gives the government the right to decide whether a mother returns to work or not? I was a single mother for many years, and had to return to work to survive. During this time, I have studied through Higher Education and am now studying for a Masters. I have, on many occasions felt guilty about working and admire any parent who can make the decision to stay at home, often whether they can afford it not.
Sue, Swansea

People need to work and look after their children. My wife and I claim WFTC which enables both of us to work part time and spend time with our children whilst scraping by. Though we live in a low cost county (West Yorks) the benefit has enabled us to start a business from home. I do not wish for both my wife and myself to work at the expense of our time in nurturing our children. More so I applaud a system where we can manage financially and try to create our own business to provide, whilst still have precious time for our children.
Gary Archer, Dewsbury

I disagree that mothers (single mothers) should be made to take a job once their child reaches the age of 11. Once a child reaches the age of 11, the parent no longer qualifies for child care. What will happen to these children during the school holidays if the parents are forced to work? Are they expected to look after themselves all day, everyday while their mother is being forced out to work?
L Clover, London

It just makes me so cross that people who have decided to have children have not thought through the monetary consequences. Why should the state, which infact means me through taxation, support people who have decided to have children who in reality cannot afford to support them without resorting to support from the state.
John Timson, Bedford

All the emphasis seems to be in getting people into paid employment. There are many disincentives for a parent to stay at home to look after children. It is stupid to force people into working when they have to spend most of their income on childcare. Parents are the best people to look after their children and they must be allowed to do so.
Mark W, Cheltenham

If people want to have children they should be themselves responsible for the cost thereof. Paying them directly or indirectly is a cost that should not be borne by the taxpayer.
Jack Oliver, Newark

I feel that if you choose to have a child it is important to give that child the care and security that only a parent can give. Why have a child that you only want see part time. I loved being at work and dearly miss it now. I have a daughter who is autistic and don't know when it will be possible to return to work.
Michelle Mould, Norwich

I am listening to your debate about working mothers, and agree with the panel member who asserted that stay-at-home-mothers should be paid. I have stayed at home for years looking after my four children, enduring borderline poverty, even though my husband works. I did this out of a sense of the profound responsibilty of parenthood.
Madeleine Simon, Gateshead

I totally agree that mothers with children under five should be encouraged to stay at home and look after them. Women get help to go out to work but if you choose to stay at home and be responsible for your children you have chosen to bring into this world then you are totally forgotten about!
Mrs Karen Trout, Plymouth

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Total sun block on the NHS?

Audience question: In light of the recent decision to give nicotine pads on the NHS does the panel agree that we should be given total sun block on the NHS as a preventative medicine? You said:

In reply to Mick Staley - would he also apply this rule to those who have contracted HIV and Aids through unprotected sexual intercourse?!
Jim, Glasgow

Having had skin cancer I would like to advise you I was given sun block on the NHS!!!!!
Janet Antrobus, Holmfirth

If we are to consider the prescription of nicotine patches on the NHS then the issue of of free dietary products is not a trivial one. If the costs to the NHS of my smoking are to be introduced into the argument then the tax I have to pay on my tobacco should be the part of any such cost benefit type analysis. In a society where obesity is a growing problem, are we ready for the fat tax?
Dan Mason, Liverpool

It was refreshing to see the panel focusing upon the needs of young children in their first years of life. It was also clearly obvious that more money needs to be poured into health promotion via the NHS in order that the public wll reflect upon their lifestyles as opposed to attending GP clinics when the lifestyle has triggered illness. As a psychologist, I would urge the government to appoint more medical advisers in the field of health psychology, who would be able to advise of the most efficient method of getting health information across to the public.
Luisa JM Sadler-Coats,

If the government feels a need to assist smokers to give up their self inflicted problem would it not then be logical to assist young fair skinned children exposed to harmful rays from the sun? Sun block is overpriced and as a cosmetic is subject to VAT. None of the panel addressed this issue.
Malcolm Wheeler, Isle of Arran

The real reason the government has taken so long to address the problem of nicotine addiction is simple - those who smoke pay a huge amount of extra tax - this more than pays for their own health care - if everyone stopped tomorrow the country would collapse.
Wendy Macdonald, Aberdeen

It is all very well to promote the use of nicotine patches to reduce the "1.4bn" cost to the NHS of smoking related illnesses. The problem is that if every smoker gave up tomorrow, the treasury would be 8bn short in its income. Consequently, the country/NHS would be a nett 6.6bn worse off.
Terry Foskett, Wolverhampton

The question on sun block was a serious one. Although I disagree that it should be provided free, it should certainly be made cheaper. At the moment it's classed as a cosmetic, and I believe is therefore subject to VAT, which should be removed. Those who claim that nicotine patches on the NHS is a waste of taxpayers' money do not realise the billions that it would save, and also the "human cost" that would be saved.
Daniel Summers, Birmingham

With reference to the recent approval of nicotine patches on the NHS we must ask where does this stop? Sun block has been mentioned in tonight's programme - it's about time we introduced some accountability into people's actions and created a culture where people work for such items - even for health products.
Iain Stanton, Oxford

I am asthmatic and have had eczema since birth not from choice and I have had to pay when on a low income for my medication, surely this is not fair. If someone has no will power and smokes, then they deserve all that they get and should not sponge off the state, when people like myself have non-self-induced illnesses and we have to get through as best we can.
Anna Baker, Llanfairfechan

Who had the stupid idea of giving out nicotine patches and other anti-smoking aids on prescription? This is a waste of NHS resources, when it could be put to better use on people who need it on conditions which are not self-inflicted, such as diabetics and asthmatics who have to pay for drugs without which they could die.
Mick Staley, Nottingham

I'm overweight. Will the government provide me and others with dietary products?
David Boyce, Flimwell

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Which panellist would you evict from the Big Brother house?

Audience question: If the panel were the occupants of the Big Brother house, based on tonight's performance, who would you evict and why? You said:

The panellist I would most like to evict would have to be Mrs Liddell. The main reason I would select her would be it was she who set up the ill-fated higher still programme. This was something that the teachers' unions reluctantly accepted and were never ready for. Had Mrs Liddell not forced this through many students would have been spared the mental torture of incorrect results.
David Millar, Glasgow

I would evict Helen Liddell as she seemed unable to adapt her pre-prepared speeches and electioneering and actually answer the questions. She also scared me because I woke from a doze and thought I had been time travelled to 1980 and was watching a young Maggie.
Robert White, Glasgow

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General comments on the programme:

When a gentleman in the audience raised his hand to ask a question, Mr Dimbleby referred to him as 'the man in black'. Surely, a man of Mr Dimbleby's standing could see that the 'man in black' was a priest! I thought the way that the priest was addressed was most rude, and was surprised by the lack of respect shown.
Tricia Prescott, Abertillery

When will we get to hear the views of some real, sensible people from the community instead of the pompous, pretentious, self-opinionated, party political school children, whose contribution to the running of the country amounts to very little.
Keith Pearson, Gloucester

Why did David Dimbleby constantly put down Helen Liddell when she was trying to make her points? He constantly interrupted her, and once again your audience seems full of farmers and once again there is no expert on the panel.
Elaine Spink, Bedfordshire

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