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Thursday, 22 March, 2001, 15:05 GMT
March 22, Exeter
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The topics discussed this week were:

Has Mr Blair been away?

Audience question: Has Mr Blair been away the last few weeks? Today is the first day he has admitted that foot-and-mouth is out of control. You said:

Do you study the contents of every tin of food you eat Mr D Harrison? When a farmer receives a sack of feed and reads '18% protein' on the ingredients label he doesn't question where that protein comes from - would you Mr Harrison? If you want to blame someone, blame the feed manufacturers who were idiotic enough to think it was okay to feed a cow to a cow!
Jonathan Platt, Warrington

Tony Blair has become the invisible silent film star. On such a national crisis as this you would have thought he might have shown an ounce of strength to lead us from the disaster strewn areas! Not a chance, he is too busy picking over his own dilemma - the problem of trying to con the public into having a General Election when they clearly could do without it.
Martin Stroud, Hull

Philip Neale should realise that the crisis is affecting the countryside and that is why the views from people in the countryside matter. They are on the front line. His ill informed views reflect what the Labour, anti-farmers would like the people to believe (particularly after the fuel protesters). Their cynical spinning of this crisis is a disgusting indictment of their policies - divisive and lacking in substance.
Matthew Jennings, London

Having visited France this week, I was asked if I had any meat or dairy produce. I then drove over a disinfected mat. On arival in France I drove through a trough of disinfectant. On my return journey, nothing, why?
Ian Wilkinson, Southampton

Two weeks ago both Nick Brown and Tim Yeo appeared on Question Time - during the programme Tim Yeo, as shadow agriculture spokesman, gave Nick Brown unqualified support and stressed that the Conservatives would continue with their bi-partisan approach. So what has happened to change this? Hague has sensed yet another bandwagon of understandable public concern as the crisis deepens and, as always, cannot resist an opportunity to jump on.
Paul Methven, Winscombe, N Somerset

Yes, I think that Mr Blair is very much out of touch!! How dare he say the foot-and-mouth outbreak is out of control after four weeks. Was he asleep when it started? I think he was don't you?
Ali Khan, Islamabad, Pakistan

A comment was made by Baroness Hayman that the British Army are not trained to herd up and slaughter 3000 sheep. Surely the Baroness is not saying that the forces trained to protect our nation are incapable of dealing with 3000 sheep. One dreads to think what would happen if they were sent into combat against another country's army!
Richard Hall, Harrogate

Until the government stops burning animal carcasses in the fields no farm anywhere in this country or even further afield will be safe from the fallout from these fires. The boffins say there will be no virus in the updrafts from these fires. These people can be wrong, although they would rather slaughter every farm animal in Britain before they would admit it.
S Wilson, Sunderland

Ben from Taunton must realise that whatever the initial source of the FMD, riddance of the epidemic in the UK, and even the banning of imported meat from suspect countries will leave us no less vulnerable to a nation-wide crisis. Banning a substance does not guarantee its illegal importation.
Tom Gray, Perthshire

It makes me very angry to hear all the metropolitan types who think the foot-and-mouth outbreak is not their problem. The farming industry is being destroyed by a bunch of Islington trendies who still think all members of the farming community are red-faced squires who ride to hounds every day. We no longer have the means to feed ourselves as a nation. How long would this country have lasted against Hitler if we had to rely on imported foodstuffs in 1939?
Gary Newman, Plymouth

How surprising that Michael Ancram and the Tories have decided to put non-partisan politics aside and found 'tractor bandwagon' and have started to attack the government. Can I remind Mr Ancram that we have not forgotten how badly the Tories handled the BSE/CJD crisis. They not only handled it badly they refused to admit there was a problem in the first place, meanwhile people were dying from it.
V Dower, Bedfordshire

Has anybody made the connection between "pet passports" and the reintroduction of foot-and-mouth? I'm off to the bookies to bet on rabies entering the UK by the end of the year!
Ian Pritchard, Chelmsford

When will the farmers shut up about compensation? In the real world people go bankrupt all the time. The people of Britain couldn't care less whether they fail or not. What we would like to see is farmers with a conscience rather than farmers that can only see pound signs. They have brought it all on themselves and should make way for people that actually care about the industry rather than the size of their wallets.
Chris Knox, Cuckfield

I too was disgusted with last night's programme. Everyone seems to be at fault except of course the farmers who are running around like headless chickens blaming everyone other than themselves. Farmers continually accuse everyone of not understanding the situation but are not prepared themselves to countenance the views of any "Townies" or in other words "the Customers".
Hartley, London

The foot-and-mouth crisis has not been handled at all well by the government. It is clear that the situation is out of control. If the government is doing their best, then their best is not good enough. The answers of Baroness Hayman were pathetic. Admit the crisis is out of control, with no spin, postpone the local elections and help the businesses in the countryside to return to profit. Who recalls the efforts they made to help Rover just over a year ago, is this a situation of double standards as these car workers were seen as key voters.
Edward Barham, London

Thank goodness some one has ripped off that Mr Neale. He is out of order putting the blame totally on the farmers. I don't know what is wrong with everyone arguing about who is to blame - that won't solve anything - the most important thing at the moment is to try and get rid of it as soon as possible, and if that takes months then we will all have to grin and bear it. What we can do is start to support the farmers as best we can. Will someone put a contact line up some where, so that the people who do care can try and help the people who need it?
Christine, Haydock St Helens

Having spent a number of years living in Devon, but managing to escape back to London, I have no sympathy for the cries of anguish coming from the countryside following the out break of foot-and-mouth disease. Farmers are a totally self-centred breed, only interested in the next available hand-out. As for persons involved in the tourist industry, they have nothing but contempt for anybody not from their local village and positively relish in the idea of ripping them off.
Mike Ludlow, London

Philip Neale has only got it half right. The farmers are not responsible for intensive farming. The EU CAP is CAP like CFP et al has been forced on us by that monster the EU - without being debated in our own parliament. Westminster has handed its power to govern us over to Brussels.
Catherine Jeffs, Leeds

Comments made by Phillip Neale on the topic of foot and mouth are outragous. How can you think that it is the farmers' fault that there is an outbreak when there hasn't been a case for 40 years of farming the same way as they always have. It's probably an external factor unless cattle have found their way to the foot-and-mouth shop to buy it themselves.
Ben, Taunton, Somerset

The Labour member said in a reply that timber yards were questioned about availability/price as part of a contingency plan - where was this plan?
Kevin Western, Colchester

I know from comments from friends in the metropolitan areas that many town dwellers think much of the present situation is a complete irrelevance to them. They appear not to have noticed that there will be a ban on imports from Europe with foot-and-mouth reported there as well as in the UK and Eire. Perhaps when they are faced with 25 a pound for beef they will start thinking between their ears instead of their stomachs!
John Howes, Milton Combe, Devon

On the question of the message that the government are sending to the world, does it not realise that the prevailing message it is sending at the moment is one of failure to recognise and deal adequately with what it has only admitted today is a national crisis. Is it aware that many British people now see it as unable to manage in a crisis?
Chris, Battle

The government response to this epidemic has certainly been sluggish, but would anyone else have dealt with it better? Thirty years of industrialised agriculture free of FMD has clearly resulted in complacency all round, and we have been caught by surprise. The countryside as a whole is in crisis, and Darcus Howe is right - we need a national, rational, Countryside Management Strategy that promotes good husbandry and preserves diversity.
Mark Angliss, London

The government's actions all seem to add up to a damage limitation exercise aimed at avoiding a major effect on the economy and the parties' election prospects - when do they concentrate on successfully dealing with the crisis?
Terry Nightingale, Scunthorpe

The guy with the red pullover and green tie is correct. The drive towards ever bigger and fewer farmers by successive farming leaderships, denying the industry the benefits of capping of support mechanisms as advocated by the EU, has driven the farming industry to the BSE crisis, umpteen other health scares and now the present crisis.
Tom Gray, Perthshire

If the government were so well prepared, by ringing around "just in case of an outbreak of foot-and-mouth", then why are we in this position now with dead animals in farmers' fields?
Alison Young, Chippenham

Labour are talking absolute rubbish that the military does not have the equipment or expertise to help the situation. We are currently siting in camp unable to train in any area of the UK, we have heavy lifting gear, diggers etc, so why wait?
Tim, Plymouth

A simple question deserves a simple answer ie Is foot-and-mouth out of control? Anyone who gives a one word answer would get my vote.
Geoffrey Gardiner, Birmingham

Foot-and-mouth demonstrates the mess our farming industry has got into. They gave us BSE and dear knows what else. I just don't trust the farmers anymore or their so called supporters.
D Harrison, Nottingham

I am quite amazed by tonight's programme, and the contents that I have so far heard regarding the foot-and-mouth outbreak. To have to listen to Michael Ancram waffle on, forgetting the BSE crises, and the lies and more lies that went on, pontificate on the problems and difficulties faces the farming industry, is quite unbelievable, but probably only to be expected.
George Cherrie, The Netherlands

I am disgusted at your debate this evening. The audience has been swamped by farmers and is completely unrepresentative. The foot-and-mouth crisis is the fault of farmers not the government. It is the farmers who intensively farm animals that is so damaging.
Philip Neale

When will the spin doctors and green wellie-wearing politicians realise that sound bites, quips and fancy words cannot cure a national emergency? The time for full mobilisation of all resources has passed by days ago. When will the government act like a government and do its duty?
Alex Paterson, Leeds

I was disgusted to hear Clarissa Dickson Wright say she was so upset by the foot-and-mouth situation and the death of all the animals. Isn't this rather hypocritical when she can stand drooling at a hare coursing meeting where she gladly will watch a hare being torn to bits.
Kevin Swales, London

Why does Baroness Hayman say the army does not have diggers etc at the drop of a hat when I know they do, and the army is British and should be deployed to help the British for once in a time of crisis. The engineers can build roads, dig trenches etc in half the time contractors and clipboards can do it - what the hell is the government doing?
Kerry Vinall, West Buckland

Complaining about Nick Brown's initial comments on foot-and-mouth at this stage is utterly futile. The fact that, while the 'under control' line was being peddled, he evidently did not know this was true, reflects that his purpose at that time was damage limitation. In particular, he had to avoid counter-productive panic in rural communities and potential 'panic-buying' causing a crisis in meat retailing. In view of the events of the petrol crisis, such goals seem understandable.
Gavin Steel, Edinburgh

If this cattle-destroying disease has indeed been imported to this country, it makes you wonder why we don't just eat British beef, if it's as safe as the government claims it is.
James Pollard

It's very easy to heap blame on the government but this is a very difficult disease. As in the last outbreak it has to run its course and the only way to stop infections spreading is for the farmers to isolate their farms. We should all be pulling together not just blaming each other.
Frank Lay, Bracknell

If foot-and-mouth is an airborne disease, why are all the precautions only taken on the ground?
Janet Richards, Barrow-in-Furness

How can Tony Blair go onto television and say that the countryside is open? I live in North Lincolnshire and there has not been a case in our area, yet our footpaths through the woods are closed and the golfers can carry on playing golf roughly in the same area.
Gillian Hurt, Brigg

The question on foot-and-mouth has been totally exploited by those on the "right" on the panel, and what seems to be a Tory dominated audience. The Tories are getting desperate in trying to put the blame for this crisis on the government. I find it reprehensible that those with no answers except for "bringing in the army" are trying to make party points over this very serious crisis. It is obvious to me that the Tories are bankrupt and will do and say anything to get back in power. What about BSE? Come on the public! Wake up! Let's have a sensible debate here.
Leighton McKibbin, Bebington, Wirral

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Rational to have an election?

Audience question: Today there have been 54 cases reported of foot-and-mouth in Devon. Do you think that Tony Blair is being perfectly rational in thinking of having an election? You said:

I'm actually surprised Tony Blair is considering going ahead with an election at all. The farmers won't vote for him after the mess he made with foot-and-mouth, the (sick) fox hunters wont vote for him, the hauliers won't vote for him after the fiasco of the fuel protests and I won't vote for him. A May election will result in a Conservative government in England with the SNP in control in Scotland. In fact, Tony, why not hold it this week!
Ryan Davie, Aberdeen

Ian Wyper raises a very interesting point. We are told that holding the election would not allow those in the country affected by the crisis from taking part. How come they were able to turn up in Exeter? The 1945 election was held whilst we were still at war with Japan. Over 2m servicemen and women had postal votes and ministers were not distracted from winning the war. An election was held during the Korean War and as Baroness Hayman said the 1974 election was held against the background of a three-day week.
Peter Haymes, Felixstowe

Is it rational to have an election? Yes. Certain council elections must take place by law on 3rd May. Unless there is a real threat, such as war, that justifies passing emergency legislation, we should not delay the democratic process. I understand that it is a difficult time for farmers but as long as people are able to vote then the local elections can go ahead. With postal voting I see no reason why people cannot vote.
Iain Porter, London

It would be impossible and unfair to go ahead as planned with the Election on May 3rd. I think Mr Blair as a true political leader will not want to be seen as uncaring about a real crisis. It is my hope that he is elected for a second term, but I think it would be wrong to go ahead at present with Election plans.
Martin MacDonald, New York

Why is electioneering and creating a "backs against the wall" situation out of the foot-and-mouth outbreak more important to the government than saving the lives of the animals with a simple vaccination programme as Holland did a few years ago?
R Patterson

I despair that (Labour) politicians still appear to think that those matters are important compared to the very real crisis gripping this country with this foot-and-mouth outbreak. Who cares if the "wrong" message is being sent out. That's beside the point. This disease must be tackled. Postponement of the elections is a very small price to pay.
Joe Buzza, Widnes

The idea that any election should be postponed is silly. There may be difficulties for a very small number of people (against the possible 25m voters), but there will always be difficulties for a very small number. I had to go on a business trip at very short notice before the last election, and as I had not registered for a postal or proxy vote, could not do so on the day. I don't scream and shout about it, it's one of those things (the party I support won anyway).
Neil, Folkestone

Will the prime minister make a fatal mistake by pushing through the General Election in May, and give the fatal impression that he is desperate.
Mike Harradine, Stockport

The foot-and-mouth crisis could last for months and months. If it is undemocratic to call an election now, would it still be undemocratic to do so in May 2002 if, God forbids, the crisis is not finished? And in that case, should emergency legislation be sought to extend the term of the current parliament beyond five years? I don't think so. Let us have the election whenever Tony Blair wants.
Pascal Jacquemain, Croydon, UK (French)

Why the venom for Mr Hague and his party? He can't win. If he makes a comment he is derided as electioneering, if he said nothing he would be castigated for not caring and hiding. This man has more knowledge in his little finger than the whole bunch of the government.
DB Jones

There were many rural people in the audience. How can they on one hand say postpone the election, and on the other all meet up together for a televised political debate for a bit of government bashing. Surely using postal votes poses fewer risks than appearing on Question Time.
Ian Wyper, Sittingbourne, Kent

One of Tony Blair's reasons for not wanting to delay the election process, is because it will send out a message that the democratic process in this country is not working. It sounds like Mr Blair believes he is the democratic process here. " Me, myself and I" democratic! He can't even spell the word.
Jane Donnelly, Slough

It is not a democracy when a prime minister unilaterally decided to ignore the clamour of concern from the electorate who put him into power. Its is politically, morally and ethically wrong to have an election while the country watches the farming community burn!!
Norman Jones, London

Conservatives will never win with Hague or Portillo as leaders, regardless of when you have it. Put John Major back in, and you stand a chance.
Andy Milne, Fife

I agree with the lady who urged us to unite in the face of this awful catastrophe. We have Mr Hague to thank for turning foot and mouth into a political football.
Stephanie Blinten, Halesowen

If Haque had a lead in the polls and (God forbid) he was in power, would he call for a delay in the election? NO!!
Graham McGrath, St Austell

I don't believe the forthcoming election should be postponed. The countryside is not shut and while the vast majority of farm workers can manage to travel to shops etc they can surely travel to vote. Those who wish to quarantine themselves do have the option to opt for a postal vote.
Tricia Weber, Derby

I think the government should carry on with its election plans as this will send an unambiguous message to the country that this is a government that cares only about its own re-election and not one jot about the realities of life or the consequences of its actions.
John Small, Faversham

I think the government has no choice but to call off the election until the autumn. The outbreak of foot-and-mouth doesn't appear to be peaking therefore any May elections would appear unlikely, to carry on would appear insensitive.
Ian Bradshaw, Prescot

No the elections should not be postponed ... another typical over reaction by the opposition. I can't see it will achieve anything constructive.
T Gill, Leamington Spa

The government is giving, as a reason for continuing to plan for a May election the bad image this will present to the world. Firstly, I cannot imagine that the world is terribly interested in our council elections, but second and most important, the world is sat at home watching TV pictures of piles of burning animals, dense smoke obscuring roads and disinfectant barriers everywhere. Surely this is already a much greater deterrent to tourism than the postponement of some parochial elections?
Howard Jones, Plymouth, Devon

We know that they say the Conservatives' biggest problem in a General Election is the lack of turnout. If they hold an election, and people are too afraid to go to the polls, is this something that Labour are counting on? And is this something that other political parties are afraid of?
Gareth Crawshaw, Olney, Bucks

The government wants an election as soon as possible, so that afterwards, the foot-and-mouth problem will not be theirs but will be the problem of a Conservative government.
Keith Wiseman, Bury

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The countryside - open to business?

Audience question: All our national parks, coastal paths, nature reserves, footpaths and bridleways remain closed. How can the countryside be described as open to business? You said:

The countryside is by no means open. I have lived and worked in Devon for most of my life, having just moved up to Somerset (only one case to date]. I have great trepidation having to return to Devon this weekend to pick up my belongings. Will I bring foot-and-mouth back up with me?
Harry Harrison, Yeovil

Clarissa's point about people keeping away from the countryside because they don't want to see funeral pyres while they're eating was valid but could have been taken to a further degree by remarking that the overall pain and suffering of the farmers, their animals, their families and people in the tourist trade is not just a deterrent to visiting the countryside but would be best given every opportunity to sort the crisis quickly so that people can return to and enjoy the countryside they love. Everybody wants this to happen as quickly as possible.
Freda Phillipson, Grimsby

Everyone talks about the farmers and tourism. What about for example 'the farming contractor'. We have a friend with 2m worth of equipment sitting idle with no hope of recovering any income under any proposals that are being discussed. He has already had to lay-off his staff and now faces financial ruin!
Roger Bailey, Stratfield Mortimer

We are family farmers and tourism operators. Our tourism income has ceased! Estimates today suggest that this epidemic could cost 10,000 tourism jobs in North Wales this year. Albeit late, what action will Mr Blair take not only to get us out of this crisis today, but to keep our businesses going so that we will be able to trade next year!
John Newton Jones, Wrexham, N Wales

It is absolute rubbish that Matthew Taylor should say that the countryside is open in Cornwall when every footpath and cycle path is closed and that includes access to many of our beaches!
Adam Batchelor, Hayle, Cornwall

I would just like to point out that my husband spent last weekend at Okehampton playing golf. The hotel and leisure complex he stayed at held about 500 people and it was packed! So much for the tourist trade being affected.
June Wilson, Exmouth, Devon

The countryside is open for business, but please abide by the rules in the area you are travelling to, not like two people caught walking our coastal path by two National Park Wardens, who, when asked what they were doing walking on a no go area said it was OK as they were not a risk because they were vegetarian!
Miss M Jones, Pembrokeshire

The idea that there are plenty of places to go in the countryside is ridiculous. I am going to visit my cousin's farm in Pateley Bridge this weekend. It is in the Yorkshire Dales and the place is deserted. No one wants to go there for a visit because when they get there, there is nothing to do, they cannot walk anywhere and what are they supposed to do - sit in the hotels all day. They cannot even go and visit country houses - everything has notices saying keep out! The panel's answers about tourism, as if going to the countryside is wonderful, is full of ignorance.
Andrew McDonnell, Oxford

For years, the Dartmoor national park has suffered by the large numbers of people eroding the footpaths and tors. There can be little good coming from the foot-and-mouth outbreak, at least this area will have a chance to recover. Let's hope that the public respect the restrictions put in place. I for one have spoken to those that are still flouting the restrictions and are walking their dogs in these areas.
Roger Smith, Cornwall

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Case of prisoners seeking the right to vote is a silly case?

Audience question: Is Ann Widdecombe right when she states that the case of prisoners who are seeking the right to vote is a silly case? You said:

Once again we see the effect of sacrificing Britain's democratic law-making process in favour of the increasingly- dubious improvement of allowing unelected EEC judges to make our rules. The balance should be redressed in favour of victims and society at large. Prisoners should have no 'rights' whatsoever other than those of being fed, watered, bedded, and treated civilly. Punishment should be seen as 'punishment'.
Howard Bayley, Brighton

Prisoners should not be entitled to vote because since the majority of them hold society in contempt through their criminal actions, I do not deem it necessary that they should be given the opportunity to have an input into society whilst they are prisoners. 'Justice must be done and must be seen to be done' and denying them the right to vote might just serve as a useful deterrent to future criminals.
Alexander Brodkin, Edgware

I agree with Dudley Swain. I'm sick and tired of our justice system giving in to those namby-pamby activists who believe in punishing the innocent and protecting the guilty! If someone is murdered their whole life is taken away from them forever, obviously denying them the right to vote! So why on earth should the murderer bear the right to vote? I find the idea that murderers, rapists, paedophiles etc, having an equal voice in democracy as law abiding citizens quite insulting!
Richard, Cardiff

Every British citizen deserves the right to vote in the election. There are many who have "sinned against society" but there are also many who repent of their sins and who I am sure are not guilty. To exclude those imprisoned from voting is morally incorrect and would harm democracy. Indeed public schooling has not done any good for the audience member who belives that those imprisoned should not be allowed to vote.
Conrad Windham, Exmouth

Baroness Hayman says there is a debate to be had on this issue but what's the point? Neither the government nor parliament will be making the decision. Unelected human rights judges will be deciding the law on this and an increasing number of other issues regardless of the conclusion reached in public debate. Surely what really needs to be discussed is whether human rights legislation is turning Britain into a legal dictatorship.
Stuart Coster, London

What a grim thought! Prisoners having the right to vote?! Do we really want prisoners to participate in deciding our future? Prison is a form of punishment and discipline, and in order for it to work we have to take away prisoners' rights. Human rights laws have brought us more problems than benefits.
John Kitson, Torquay

Not a single word was expressed to support the right for criminals to vote, apart from the bleat that "those other Europeans do it". Once again, we turn the brain off and say it's a European requirement. Totally daft. Criminals' rights appear again to be more important than those of the victims of crime. In prison means deprived of rights and that includes the right to vote.
Dudley Swain, Exeter

Surely prisoners have been punished and one of the objectives of sending them to prison is to bring them back into society. Taking away the basic right of the people in a democracy to vote must be wrong and counter productive.
Frank Lay, Bracknell

Ann Widdecombe is right on this issue. Why should someone in prison have a say in the democratic process outside?
Jeremy Stokes, Shepton Mallet

When a citizen of this country breaks its laws and is imprisoned, they forfeit their rights to take part in its democratic process. Of course they should lose their voting rights. The way in a democracy to effect change is through its democratic voting system. This can only take place in a law abiding environment.
Roger Smith, Cornwall

What a ridiculous question to put forward to a panel! Prisoners should not have the right to vote if, and I quote, "they have sinned against society". What a waste of a public education. Prisoners are PART of society, part of a society, which, in the UK at least, is a democracy. To sin against society, would be to deny any member of the said democracy the right to vote.
Tracey Creech, Hinckley

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A Vaz-ectomy for New Labour?

Audience question: Isn't it about time that New Labour had a Vaz-ectomy? You said:

With regard to Keith Vaz it may have been overlooked that he has an important job to do and is doing it quite well. He is responsible for the visa sections of our embassies abroad. Whilst we are complaining about lack of tourists our embassies abroad are busy refusing visas to people who want to come here for a holiday. Perhaps we should let him get on with his job and sort out these problems which were made much worse by the last govenment.
Peter Mitchell, Colchester

I was most surprised to hear Baroness Hayman say, with reference to Keith Vaz, that everyone has the right to an investigation. Maybe true, but has she forgotten about Peter Mandelson?
Alex Jonas, London

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General comments on the programme:

A biased show. Surely the chairman has a reponsibility to see that fair play ensues. With a farmer based audience and the presence of Clarissa combined with the predictable comments of Michael Ancram made very poor viewing.
B Newbold, Derby

Excellent debate on the 'foot-and-mouth' crisis, a real pity that Clarissa and Darcus are not politicians. Perhaps the country would not be in crisis as we are today. Foot-and-mouth will finish the farming community in this country, and I am sure if we were to put the vote about being in the EC many people would vote it out, Europe is squeezing the life out of GB. What is that saying - 'revenge is sweet'. Really enjoyed the programme.
Dawn Broadhurst, Leek

I agree that it would be an interesting idea to put a member of the public on Question Time each week. Crucially it shouldn't be someone who APPLIES to do this as they will inevitably have an agenda. I would suggust you approach individuals from different walks of life and ask them on. It would make for great TV! Does anyone think this is a BAD idea?
Alasdair Martin, Glasgow

It was a pleasure to see a mixture of people, who this terrible crisis is directly affecting. We have heard a lot from the politicians and not enough, I think, of the ordinary people in the front line. They all spoke with great concerns and I hope that all of the politicians were as one listening. I am sure the British public were.
Steve Fuller, Brighton and Hove

I felt desperately sorry for Baroness Helen Hayman last night as she appeared in the political abattoir. She was like a startled rabbit from the start, not knowing which way to turn. Sadly she is infected by Blair politics having been in the inner ring at the Downing Street market. Resulting in a desperate case of 'foot in mouth', she was indeed the lamb for the slaughter.
Nicholas Mortimer, Harrogate

How surprised viewers seem to be that a programme taking place in Devon has a large proportion of farmers in the audience. I expect that is because merchant bankers and stock brokers are a bit thin on the ground. I don't notice anyone complaining when the audience of a programme from London or Manchester contains no farmers or country people.
T Lovell, Horsham

I have been watching all my adult years and am yet to see a member of the public on the panel. Who else do we really want to listen to?
Joanne Moorhouse, Plymouth

It is a pity that you could not devote a whole programme to foot-and-mouth issues in view of the seriousness of the situation. We may then have been able to hear more on the issues of quick lime not killing the infection, the role of the environment agency. And whether we do indeed need permission from the EC before we take any decisions.
Rober and Susan Eld, Stafford

Exeter is a large town, and yet the majority of the audience was from the farming community. When Britain joined the EEC the people who gained the most were the farmers because of the subsidies they received. We the consumers lost our cheap New Zealand lamb etc. Last year the "poor farmers" held the country to ransom by disrupting our fuel supplies. We didn't give the "poor farmers" BSE. I also thought the programme gave far too long on this subject. There are other things that ought to have been discussed ie health, education, police etc.
Mrs J Hadfield, Orpington, Kent

Well presented and moderated. Great public debate. Panel need to come well prepared.
Dr Adam King, Leeds

I wonder if Clarissa will be invited back? She actually told David Dimibleby off. Most times I enjoy it but I find Mr Dimbleby sometimes very condesending. I did enjoy it tonight.
Anne Fowlds, St Albans

I was very impressed with the performance of the relatively unknown Baroness Hayman, who had to cope with what seemed to be a very biased and indeed very ungrateful (farmer dominated) audience. Also, does Clarissa Dickson Wright actually realise how pompous she comes across on the television?
Bernard, Bromsgrove, Worcestershire

Might I suggest a new name for Question Time? How about Farming Time and then it would be OK to continually fill your audience with right wing farmers and Conservative Countrysiders. Stop knocking the government they are doing their very best in a bad situation, this is a time to pull together not wrench each other apart.
Elaine Spink, Kensworth

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