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Thursday, 26 April, 2001, 16:01 GMT 17:01 UK
April 26, Manchester
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 programme online in Real Video by clicking on Latest edition.

The topics discussed this week were:

Cash to newborn babies an investment or electioneering?

Audience question: Is handing cash to newborn babies an investment for the future or simply blatant electioneering? You said:

With regard to the baby bond it seems to me that there is an assumption that poor parents can afford to have 500 tucked away for their child's future. It costs a lot of money to feed, clothe and raise children and 500 in a savings account is not going to help parents now. Is this a bribe to 'middle class' parents? Probably yes!
Helen Elliott, Burnham on Crouch

What is most laughable about the baby bond is the fact that people on benefits are given x amount a week and then have the family allowance deducted. This is a benefit every parent is entitled to and therefore shouldn't be deducted. This money would be better spent on giving more family allowance/or returning the right of an unemployed parent to expect that cash.
Rob, Hastings

How can people say that the baby bond is an electoral bribe when it will be at least 18 years before anyone cashes in? It is a tempting POLICY, not a tempting bribe. And why shouldn't the Labour party wheel out its tempting policies at election time?
Richard Bartlett, Nottingham

The government are considering handing out baby bonds but are still looking at ways to guarantee that 18-year-olds spend the money sensibly on their further education. If they hadn't abolished student grants then they would have had just that! An expensive u-turn indeed!
Paul Dinkin, London

Why doesn't the government simply pay a lump sum to all 18-year-olds of around 40,000, to spend as they please, on the condition that a reasonable standard of literacy and numeracy is achieved and they understand that there is no welfare state for the individual thereafter if they take the money?
Eve Cartier, Bradford

The money for this gimmick could be better spent bringing back student grants and allowing more people into higher education who cannot afford to do so.
Derek Hamilton (Student), Glasgow

Once again, how much more are the government going to penalise those without children in order to subsidise those with children. If you can't afford children in the first place, there is an alternative, 'contraception'. Where has the money come from to fund this? Answer, abolition of Miras relief, married allowance etc. Families who are struggling require help now, not in 18 years' time.
Tracy Shock, Preston

The so-called baby bond is an interesting idea but definitely unworkable as given. Would it not be better to give the money to the pensioners who need it now!
M Chinn, Ipswich

It is one of the biggest and sleaziest political bribes of all times. While the sentiment may appear to be well-intentioned the technicalities of the proposal have as usual been completely over looked. The most obvious is that a difference in the total amount will depend on whether the child is born into a rich or a poor family. As the money is given to the child and not the parent/s it is not taxable and therefore wealth cannot be defined. To make a judgement would of course be against the child's human rights.
Dominic Felice, Reading

The important point everyone is over looking is Labour's baby bond policy is a waste of time. In 18 years' time 3,000 is going to be worth less in relation to the cost of living compared to today. Mr Portillo is right - savings should not be taxed in any way shape or form and made effective immediately. Labour has got a cheek to give us back money that they stole from us in stealth and think we should be grateful for the miserly amount they are giving back. Someone at No 10 is in for a shock this June.
Graham Stein, Colchester

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Tories using the race card a stunt by Labour?

Audience question: Does the panel agree that Labour's accusations of the Tories using the race card is a mere stunt to divert attention away from its failings in their asylum policy? You said:

The question of who should sign the CRE statment is begining to sound like "are you now, or have you ever been....."
Anthony Higham, London

Andrew Bower, when you say the Tories are hardly racist, you should remember that they were actually in favour of apartheid in South Africa. Is that what you'd call "not racist"?
Rosa, Birmingham

I would like to ask the question why is it that every time the race issue is mentioned it is immediately turned to the issue of asylum seekers? I do not dispute that this is a very valid issue just that it is not the only race issue in this country! There are many other issues at stake here, such as how Asian, Indian, Pakistani and other races are treated in this country.
Mairi McManus, East Kilbride

The Tories racist? Hardly. William Hague has stated on numerous occasions that he looks forward to the day when Britain has a black prime minister. If the Tories feel this way why are they opposed to asylum seekers? The Consevatives know what the strength of feeling is on this issue amongst the electorate, and are quite cynically adopting a 'hardline' on immigration just before a general election is due to be called.
Andrew Bower, Burton-on-Trent

Racism is an emotive issue and should not be used by any political party to score points. At present all parties are guilty of playing the "race card". Politicians should realise that the electorate is not stupid and can see through their posturing on these matters. Every race should be treated equally and with respect.
Mary Kallagher, King's Lynn

The CRE was formed to act as champion for racial equality, independent of party politics. Recent events have shown that the commission has become another wing of the Labour party, used to paint the Tories as racists. Labour have acted disgracfully, and the commision should be shut down.
Aaron Hanlon, Lincoln

With reference to the comment posted by Mr Or-Bach, I'd be fascinated to hear his articulation of precisely what the problem is that the Tories have with race. Nobody else seems to know so his views should be illuminating. As usual, this whole affair is yet another batch of opportunistic and mutual political muck slinging and should be treated with the contempt it deserves.
PRB, Witney, Oxon

How was Robin Cook declaring 'the English have a propensity for violence' not racist?
Adam Penny, Downham Market

The Tory party has a problem with race. Because of this, it has tried to smudge the debate on to Robin Cook's speech. The fact is that if the Tory party had no major racist element, it could cope with such an accusation.
Alan Or-bach, Golders Green, London

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Foot-and-mouth policy on the hoof?

Audience question: In view of the Phoenix the calf affair is the government making foot-and-mouth policy on the hoof? You said:

During the foot-and-mouth debate the Tories, both on the panel and in the audience, claimed that Labour does not understand the countryside. As a Labour party member who lives in a city I understand the countryside enough to know that you don't feed herbivores on offal. I also understand it well enough to know that people choose to live and work in the countryside and expect me to pay them for the privilege.
Barrie Holmes, Stoke-on-Trent

Peter Ainsworth and the whole Tory party needs reminding time and time again that the biggest crisis in the countryside is not foot-and-mouth but the nationwide crisis called BSE. Foot-and-mouth will be over in a few months but BSE will go on and on affecting at least the next generation all because Thatcher wanted to relieve industry of "red tape".
Martin Taylor, Dartford

How can you blame the government for foot-and-mouth? It wasn't the government who transported knowingly infected animals around the country, it wasn't the government who were against vaccination of any kind and it wasn't the government whom didn't disinfect their lorries. It's about time that the farming industry took a good look at itself and started to accept some responsibility for the poor state of farming today.
David Jones, Somerset

The hypocrisy of the Tory MP and all those moaning Tory voters on tonight's programme is unbelievable. They talk about the government's handling of the foot-and-mouth crisis as if it's some catastrophe to mankind. Foot-and-mouth is not life threatening to human or animal. It only threatens the profits of exporters of a sickening trade in live animals. On the other hand the potential time bomb we could all be harbouring as a result of Tory incompetence over the killer BSE/CJD outbreak is a catastrophe. Speak to any relative of a CJD victim.
M Lemmer, Homiton

Whilst not a member of the Labour party how can you blame the government for the actions of a few farmers who did not follow the advice in using pigswell and under the counter movement of animals. This has spoilt it for the other 99% of honest farmers who have had their lives devastated because of the disease. Don't the people in the audience listen to the media so they would know that it is a highly virulent disease that can spread in the wind with ease?
Cllr Jonathan Coles, Harold Wood

Listening to the debate, there is a lot of blame put on the government for the mistakes made. However, the blame lies firmly at the door of MAFF. The Tories would have done nothing any different and would have taken "scientific advice" from MAFF scientists who have no interest apart from preserving export industries. No account has been paid to animal welfare, the tourist industry, the rural economy and just a small minority interest in exporting sheep.
Martin Southward

The British public jumps at any opportunity to criticise. It is very easy to complain about decisions with hindsight. But if less animals were culled and foot-and-mouth spread further, the general public would have immediately complained that the government did not do enough.
Alan Or-bach, Golders Green, London

The lesson to be learned from the foot-and mouth crisis is that the government needs to examine the economics of the agricultural sector. The sector may well be too large and uneconomic. Are the funds devoted to this sector creating the greatest social benefit? There must be more efficient ways to maintain the countryside!
Richard Davis, Radlett

I am dismayed that the press considers itself to have such a high degree of influence in such matters of policy. It is yet another example of the country being 'governed ' by the press rather than than by those who are elected. Who voted for them I certainly did not. The press should stick to reportng events instead of trying to manage them.
Anne Rowlands, Stockton-on-Tees

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Use foot-and-mouth vets to despatch the Dome?

Audience question: When foot-and-mouth finally ends should we use the vets to despatch the 880m white elephant, the Dome, that continues to eat 1m in a month? You said:

The Dome was created with money attained from the lottery. How many people actually care what their 1 is going towards when they hand it over for the chance of winning 14m back. The money was NOT yours dear public, you BOUGHT a service not a failing Dome. Utter Hypocrisy. The Dome was a challenge that no other country in the world could match but it was destroyed by the media on day one. I think the main issue about the Dome is....why London?
Stephen Porter, Preston

I feel that Mr Dimbleby should have had one of his straw polls, and asked the audience whether they would like Lord Falconer to make a public apology. Inevitably it would have forced the issue, and at last Falconer would have had to comply. I went to the Dome on day two. It was boring, uninspired, and a disgraceful embarrassment, not to mention the dreadful waste of money.
Gus, Cobham

Lord Falconer's handling of the Dome is a disgrace and he is still wasting lottery money, which should have gone to good causes on this white elephant. Would he at least admit his mistakes, say sorrry, and now donate the Dome to good causes, ie sports, exihibition ventures, music etc so that he can maybe at least justify having plundered the lottery money, which is our money, and not spend more of it.
Ursula Breadmore, Chatteris, Cambs

With a little imagination, going to and from the Dome by river, put it on a virtual island. The fundamental design of the Dome is a very close match for 'Inigo Jones, Stonehenge reconstructed 1655'. A centre for the reflection of human life. The Dome being on the Greenwich time line, is the reason why it's here and nowhere else. If you want a project to take off in England, don't ever give it negative publicity. One amazing day was had.
A Fletcher, Bracknell

I agree with Tanni, yes the Dome was a flop but who could have predicted that (maybe everyone) but it was done in the "interest" of others. Let's make the most of what we have left, as the saying goes: "Don't cry over spilt milk."
Matt Beecroft

What a disgrace Lord Falconer is. He was asked three time to say SORRY, for his mishandling of the Dome and the waste of over 700m of our money. All he could do was tell us that the Dome has regenerated a poor area.
Ronald Banks, Barnstaple, Devon

Tanni's presence on the panel was a welcome contrast to the articulate hacks around the table. For example she made far more sense about the need to think and talk positively about the Dome than the hacks' attempts to blame each other and sound contrite at the same time. We cannot roll time backwards, but we can be much more positive about our future.
Tony Thake, London

On the question of the failure of the Dome, the problem wasn't the contents but the site itself. It should have been more centrally placed in the country therefore making it more accessible and affordable to a larger amount of people.
Alison, Wilmslow, Cheshire

The Dome is an economic debacle. Can the government not learn from their past mistakes regarding this project. At this point let them contribute the Dome to an economic joint venture with a syndicate of private and public developers in return for an ownership percentage resulting in a payout as the project is developed.
Richard Davis, Radlett

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People's peers?

Audience question: How can knights, professors and an ex-minister's wife possibly be classed as people's peers? You said:

I am disgusted at the appointment of the new set of peers. It was the high and mighty appointing the high and mighty. The criteria of ' outstanding' automatically excluded the vast majority of the population because I know of no outstanding brick layers, plumbers, bus drivers etc. It is little wonder there is such apathy amongst the electorate when these appointments have been made.
John Ainley, Alnwick, Northumberland

I do not know why anyone would want 'people's peers'. The Commons is supposedly made up of them and I would rather listen to hereditary peers rather than our corrupt, self-seeking and contemptuous so-called representatives of the people, who taker their place in the Commons. Nethertheless, it is disgraceful!
Alex Brodkin

I believe the House of Lords is a corrupt system. We, the people, should be voting representatives to represent our views.
Derrick Scott, Newcastle

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General comments on the programme:

This week's programme was the best one for ages. Never a dull moment. Very entertaining. I've just read some of the comments and am amazed some e-mailers really expected Lord Falconer to apologise. Come on get real folks.
Anthony Midgley, Leicester

What a depressing experience last night's programme proved to be! Where was that audience dredged up from? The level of moaning and whingeing had me shouting at the screen, "If that's how you feel, try and change things." It didn't matter what the issue, there was always somebody with a gripe on-hand ready to shout out, with the chairman making no attempt at all to keep order or introduce a sense of perspective. I'm no fan of Labour, but the level of abuse hurled at Charlie Falconer was ridiculous.
Stephen Tall, Oxford

This is just a quick note to congratulate David Dimbleby on his handling of the programme! You do a very difficult job very well and long may it continue! Last night, the Dome minister was really ripe for a good pasting and the audience was really up for it but your handling of the situation was great, and stopped it from getting too nasty! Well done!
Allan Monkhouse, N Yorkshire

I am heartily sick of those who oppose our cynical, manipulative government labelled as Tories. Why can't the audience disagree with snide electioneering, ill thought out reforms and shambolic crisis management without being accused of Tory leanings. I favour no political party but am willing to praise Labour if they have a rare bright policy and or the Tories/LibDems if they proffer also. I thought the show was lively and heated, but that's what I expect from my native Manucunians!!
Dave Goodman, London

It is interesting to see so many letters accusing Question Time of being biased against Labour. It is only a few programmes ago that I suggested that both the programme and David Dimbleby were blatantly left wing. I must admit that it is a long time since I saw Labour policies take such a pasting on the programme. Could it be that the show reflects the views of the audience who in turn reflect the ever changing views of the public?
Arthur Herring, Mansfield

It seems that the same filter is being applied to the comments on the web site as it is to the nature of the programme. Every week race has been a big discussion point. WHY? And why has the audience been so right wing?
Bharat Nathwani, Pinner

Yet again, another Question Time with two Tories and not a single Liberal Democrat. Question Time is slowly losing credibility by failing to have panels that reflect the diversity of opinion in this country.
Jeff Evans, Newport, Gwent

I have to agree with many comments made by other viewers. It did seem to be insult after insult. However, much of it was taken with a laugh and a smile. I do not feel the topics discussed are in any way amusing. We were discussing the way taxpayers' money is spent. This isn't a game, it's our lives!
Jim Parker, Nantwich

Personal abuse, shouting from the audience, and a chairman who seemed to encourage it. I am not a member of the Labour party, or even a supporter, but I do believe in balanced debate, and not a choice of questions which seemed to have the sole object of insulting one member of the panel, and an audience which could have been drafted in from the local Conservative party headquarters. Cheap jibes should not take the place of intelligent argument!
Mrs J S Miller

I am tired, sick and totally cheesed off with Tories like Ainsworth and especially Heffer. They destroyed the health service, they destroyed public transport and they destroyed the education system. Why haven't they learned from their own destruction in 1997? Thank God that Labour are at least trying to recover something from this destruction.
Leighton McKibbin, Bebington

It is about time the British people had a chance to choose someone like Martin Bell as prime minister! We are totally disgusted with party politics and wish someone like Martin would add some respectability to British politics!
Kaz Kowalski, Bristol

A little over a month away from an expected General Election, does the panel consider it democratic that the Liberal Democrats have no representation on tonight's panel?
David Sharp, Grantham, Lincolnshire

This week's programme is ludicrously biased against the government with a right-wing Tory MP and Simon Heffer, known for his vitriol and unbalanced views. Tanni Grey-Thompson is talking some sense. Lord Falconer is swamped by the two right-wingers and David Dimbleby's snide comments. This edition is a disaster.
Keith Tunstall, Bletchingley, Surrey

Brilliant. One of the best programmes for a very long time.
J Mitchell, Chippenham

I've been watching for about 20 minutes now and wondered if you intended to ask Tanni Grey-Thompson for her opinion on any issue?
Carol Freeman, Cambridge

Can the people in tonight's audience openly declare their political views? It is plain the Conservatives have taken over tonight's show.
Roger Kemp, Barnet

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