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Thursday, 21 June, 2001, 11:19 GMT 12:19 UK
June 21, Reading
You can join Question Time's internet debate by emailing your views on the topics discussed in the latest programme to:

You can watch the latest programme online in Real Video by clicking on Latest edition.

The topics discussed this week were:

Audience question: Should corporate manslaughter charges be brought against Railtrack following the Cullen report and if not why not? You said:

Although I confess to not knowing the full facts of the case, I believe that if had driven my car trough several red traffic lights and then crashed into, say, a bus and killed my passengers and some of the bus passengers then rightly, I would be prosecuted for causing death by dangerous driving. However, if it were found that the traffic lights were found to be faulty, I would expect the company responsible for those traffic lights to be charged with some criminal offence. I think parallels can be drawn here.
John Juerss, Bracknell

I, like most of the panel and audience was of the impression that the poor unfortunate train driver was at fault, which somewhat diverts the blame away from the operator, Railtrack or the government. When we were enlightened by at least one survivor that the driver was in fact in no way responsible I began to wonder why and how we were led to believe that it was a horrible accident where the unfortunate driver, who would never have been able to explain the truth, was to blame.
Padraic McGuinness, Liverpool

The charge of corporate manslaughter should be brought against the then management of Railtrack. This is the only way passengers will get a safe and sound rail journey. All management must take responsibility for the safety side of the businesses they run. Profits for shareholders in public transport services should be bottom of the agenda and safety should be the main priority.
Steve Fuller, Brighton and Hove

This monstrosity was born out of the previous government's philosophy. They should, therefore accept responsibility for the actions of their "baby". In saying that, all parties have failed to invest properly in the rail infrastructure and we are now paying the price for their combined failures.
Ron Campbell, Aberdeen

After the first successful prosecution for corporate manslaughter how many competent company directors would you have left? Why will nobody on your programme point out that the split between the train operators and the track maintenance is an EC-imposed requirement.
Bernie O'Connor, Pipewell

The Paddington crash happened after three years of Labour rule. Why, given that Cullen criticised the management infrastructure, was it allowed to get like this?
Nick, London

My worry is that Railtrack will make noises about safety for a short while and then forget it as happened to the Hidden report after the Clapham disaster. The Hidden report recommended such items as a regulation on the maximum working week and the amount of hours worked per day but these have been forgotten after privatisation.
Stephen Brown, Newmilns, Ayrshire

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Audience question: Should New Labour send an unreserved apology, via mobile phone text message, to all the young voters for promising to reform the licensing laws? You said:

As and young first time voter I received a text message and can say quite categorically I was not registered with any website and have never given out my mobile number to anyone apart from my friends. This was clearly just another cynical ploy by the Labour Party to bribe young voters, who they insult by considering them superficial enough to have their vote swayed by as insignificant an issue as licensing laws.
Chris White, Egham

Alan Or-bach suggests that because he registered on the Labour site the SMS message was OK. I don't think that it is the message that is important but the principle. Either Labour invested time and effort in this exercise for fun or they did it to gain votes. Now people suggest that this is a frivolous matter. Police forces around the country would argue that this measure would reduce street crime.
Paul, London

As someone who received a message myself, I do not feel as though I have been 'targeted' as I had signed up to a website for information for first time voters, choosing to disclose my mobile number. This website was a link from the Labour Party website. So yes these messages were sent, but the numbers were given by first time voters of their own free will. And the fact is, Labour never pretended this was a key pledge, there are far more important issues for just now.
Jessica Lee

I received the text message and it was sent to everyone who registered at the Labour site. Boris is speculating as usual - Labour does not send unsolicited text messages.
Alan Or-bach, Golders Green, London

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Audience question: Is the Tory party finished as a mainstream political party or are they about to self-destruct? You said:

Much as I would like to see it replaced by the Lib Dems as the official opposition, the Tory party is sadly not finished - it has just had its equivalent of Labour's 1983 defeat and is about to elect its Neil Kinnock, who will, as he did, need to silence or even remove the party's extremists. I expect it will undergo a 1987 defeat as well, but the result of the subsequent election is naturally dependent on Labour's future failures and unpopular measures and the way the new leader responds to these - and whether his suggested alternatives would be more palatable.
Aidan TA Varney, West London

In 1992, after four election defeats people questioned whether Labour would ever govern Britain again. The Conservative Party will rebuild and then return to power within 10 years.
Andrew James, Tamworth

As a young Tory, I would like to see Boris Johnson running for leadership - has he thought about running? He'd get my vote. I'd also like to say what a great politician I thought William Hague was - I will miss him.
Dan, Redhill, Surrey

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Audience question: What does the panel think of private companies delivering public services? You said:

Thank God for Ken Loach - the voice of humanity and reason. In the midst of all this flim-flam about private companies somehow 'working' in the realm of fundamental national provisions we need to remember some honest truths about business. People who run businesses do so for profit. That is not a bad thing necessarily, but that is what they do. There may well be some altruistic side-lines and tax-saving gifts but businesses are not your friends. Thinking that they are is foolish. nt.
Isobel, London

Once again, Conservatives, exemplified by Prue Lieth, fail to see the consequences of their profit-motivated actions. She is proud to tell us that 'her school' is improving and that her company will make a profit in time. Where will that profit come from? Either money that is paid by the education authorities will be 'used efficiently' and savings will be creamed off to pay dividends to share holders, or, families of pupils will be asked to 'contribute' and that money will go to share holders.
Steve Fittock, teacher and ex-lifetime Labour voter

I find it most disconcerting the government is considering the use of private companies in running schools and hostpitals. Have we not learnt from the disaster of putting a private company in charge of the rail infrastructure? One only needs to look across the Atlantic to see the detrimental effect this has had. It also poses the question where does it all stop, the goverment has put us on top of a slippery slope in which we can only go down.
Rick Elston, Chester

I think the whole idea of privatisation of anything is wrong. It seems that the Labour government just wants everything privatised. I would be concerned especially about safety issues and it seems that Labour and all its local authories can't control public services.
Clive Chapman, Birmingham

As I sat in the audience, I was deeply offended by Ken Loach's assertion that all private concerns and companies are merely interested in profit and the balance sheet. While it is true that as MD of a small but profitable company I need to place a high priority on profits and balancing the book, it is also true that I care deeply about my community, my company does pro bono work for charity (with no advertising I might add) and we pay wages that are far in excess of the minimum wage for Europe (let alone the UK) upon which Ken Loach seems to place so much importance!
John Juerss, Bracknell

Why should the 'pursuit of profit' lead to lower standards? If the standards aren't high enough, no one would want to use the school, and there would be no profit! The higher the standards, the higher the profit! (Does Ken Loach not make more money for a good film than a bad film?)
Diana Seymour, Guildford

In the matter of the privatisation of certain aspects of the educational system the profit motive is an irrelevant criterion. The valid criterion is whether truly educational objectives are better achieved in this way or not.
John Melia, Southport

With the private sector taking over the responsibility for schools what will happen to the schools further down the league tables. Will these be ignored, or more dangerously, will they be seen as easy targets for 'brain washing' advertising?
Martyn James, Crawley

I could not complain about the level of teaching given to me and I can only compliment the involvement of the private sector (and the replacement of a head teacher albeit temporarily by a chief executive) in the running of my school. Not only has it provided me with a clear understanding of the business world it has prepared me for a world where life isn't controlled by prefects and old school ties. To the old guard who scream about how bad this type of education is: it works, it's sucessful!
Richard Beeby, Oxford

Instead of looking to use private contractors within the NHS, would it not be more sensible for these organisations to look into improving and developing what resources they already have in place. After all when private companies were introduced when the Conservatives were last in the standards fell below that of acceptable?
AP Graham, Cambridge

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Audience question: Should the minister of sport be able to answer simple sport questions? You said:

Having spent lots of time fighting an election it's probably fair to cock-up a few answers. I must admit I would have gone for Keith Wood as the Lions captain. What's more I would have been right! Keep up the good work!
Paul, Wimbledon

The new minister of sport should have known answers to more of the questions than he managed. None were any more than any follower of sport in the national press would have known and surely any minister is expected to do some background reading. What his performance did indicate is that this government is only concerned with subjects selected by the national press and radio/tv. This means that anything that is not to do with soccer can be safely ignored or glossed over and so called minority sports left to wither.
Graeme Currie, Birmingham

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Audience question: In the event of Venables and Thompson being released how would the panel feel if they were to be found to be living next to them? You said:

Venables and Thompson living next-door I'd have to live with, albeit unhappily .... their term of detention should be lengthier by some four to seven years!
Winston B Cockburn, Pontefract

Perhaps it is a little soon to be releasing Venables and Thompson, but in any event, I don't know for sure that no one in my street IS guilty of a crime as dreadful as theirs, but just hasn't been caught. If they lived next-door to me I would keep quiet about it - a civilised society attempts to exact justice by means of the courts and prisons, not via the lynch mob and certainly not via the death penalty. Even in the US, 10-year-olds are not executed. I also agree with the comment that they will need friends who can help them back into mainstream society and away from crime.
Aidan TA Varney, West London

"Little Jamie Bulger" was only slightly more little than the children who killed him. They were 10 and 11. No one in their right mind can surely believe that they knew what they were doing. The fact that they were locked away out of sight of a shamed nation that is now baying for their blood speaks volumes. The only reason we feel so strongly about this is because each of us can remember being cruel in one way or another when we were young. It's a shame that this makes us angry rather than sympathetic.
Ben Gibbs, Cambridge

James Bulger's killers may be rehabilitated but they still commited an evil deed and the question should be not can they become decent members of society but how can they ever pay for what they have done because they will never be able to undo it.
Kevin Reid, Harlington

I agree with the email comment that Boris was good for a laugh but he redeemed himself only by ending the programmme with a voice of reason. We must not perpetuate the lynch mob mentality.
Sam, Liverpool

John and Robert should never have gone to prison in the first place - they should have been rehabilitated in society. Their parents have lost their children too because of the cruel vindictive self righteous society we live in.

I wouldn't like the young men who killed James Bulger to live next to me, nor do I think anyone would if they were completely honest. I feel so sad for James's mother. I can't begin to imagine the way she must feel when people talk about those two boys.
Christine, Haydock St Helens

One of the panellists, I think it was Ken Loach, mentioned the background of the boys and what may have led them to commit their horrendous crime. I tend to think prison will have only exacerbated their tendencies but until their psychiatric reports are public I don't think anyone other than the experts is in a position to make any judgments. They will serve life sentences whatever happens.
Ros Wilden Brown, London

Why did no one say they would befriend them and try and help them to not re-offend?
Jeff Jenkins, Southampton

Zac Goldsmith's comments on the potential release of the Jamie Bulger killers were perhaps the most straight forward and sensible that have come about in recent months.
Jack, London

Like everyone, I am appalled at what happened to Jamie Bulger. His mother in particular has been cruelly punished for her neglect in allowing the toddler to be abducted in the first place. I do sympathise with her. But she and her supporters are inciting others to break the law, in order that - what? - presumably the boys responsible should be lynched in the most dreadful way. I should have thought that she and they could be stopped from this incitement. Is that not possible?
Geoff Woodhouse, London

A life sentence is 30 years minimum and the Bulger killers have served less than 10 years. They should not be released for another 20 years, whatever Europe says.
Andrew James, Tamworth

Little Jamie Bulger will never be brought back to normal life. The boys who committed the crime should serve life.
J Mitchell, Chippenham

Even the police who investigated the case were shocked by the atrocities of the injuries. If this was the USA they might have been executed - would that be wrong?
Gareth, Basingstoke

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General comments on the programme:

I really enjoy watching your programme on c-span here. I only wish that our politicians would stand up to that kind of public scrutiny!
Keaton, Norman, Oklahoma, USA

I am disappointed that Donald Lewis' only contribution to the debate is to criticise someone's diction.
Paul, Wimbledon

It seems to me that the e-mailer from Kelso must have had his/her eyes and ears shut, because I do not think this was a partial audience.
CR Mennell, Bradford, W Yorks

Has Ken Loach thought of going into politics? It's a long time since I heard a politician talk so much sense - he'd get my vote.
Sue Tyzack, Stafford

Superb programme as always. A well mixed audience.
James Dealtrey, Kelso

If you are going to have people as attractive as Zac Goldsmith and as funny as Boris Johnson on Question Time more often, I might make the effort to watch it more often!
Claire Brown, Swindon

For Boris Johnson: How can anyone take him seriously when he obviously can't tell the difference between a hairdresser and a council lawnmower!

I am disappointed that a man of David Dimbleby's education and age described Prue Leith as a "restauranteur" when the word is "restaurateur". There is no "n".
Donald Lewis, Heddington

I note that both Boris Johnson and Zac Goldsmith are old Etonians. Why is that OE's continue to exercise such a disproportionate influence in public life? What is Eton's secret?
Adam Cooke, Oxford

I am so delighted to see a man with the integrity of Ken Loach appearing on Question Time. I fully endorse all Ken's points. What about the people? Always remember them!
Anne Birch, Edinburgh

I wish to complain that the bias of the Question Time panel was far too biased towards the right of the political spectrum. The only person on the panel giving a left of centre/centre view was Ken Loach.
Ann Mosley

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