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EDITIONS
Thursday, 18 October, 2001, 10:19 GMT 11:19 UK
October 18, Cheltenham
You can join Question Time's internet debate by emailing your views on the topics discussed in the latest programme to: questiontime@bbc.co.uk

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


The topics discussed this week were:

Government right in rejecting plea for a ceasefire in Afghanistan?

Audience question: Do the panel feel that the government is right in rejecting the plea from aid agencies for a ceasefire in Afghanistan to enable essential food to be distributed? You said:

I am absolutely sickened by the opinions of Tony Benn. If he is so against the United States, might he be reminded that it is the US that came to Europe's rescue twice during the first half of the 20th century. It is the United States that rebuilt Western Europe after the Second World War and it is the United States that pledged to treat an attack on the UK as an attack on it. It is the United States that gets blamed for every fault and problem in the world and none of the praise when something goes right.
Vince Pedicino, Acworth, GA, USA

I think Tony Benn, as a learned man of politics, as well as an ex-soldier, has more insight into the issues involved and is entitled to his valid socialist views. However, a war is necessary and the US is already losing its war on terrorism even if military forces win the battle in Afghanistan. Imperialism is coming to an end through resistance of the people not through the manipulation of politics.
Simeon Wardle, Salford

If the Taleban are so detested by the Afghan people why has the population not risen up against that regime/government? One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. The war on Afghanistan is a desperate attempt by the US government to maintain imperialist hegemony over the world at all costs with little consideration for the human race as a whole.
Simeon Wardle, Salford

Being 16 I may not have a vast knowledge of the world but in last night's programme Tony Benn was right to the point that I felt that what he said was what every Muslim thinks. I believe that although there should be a war against terrorism America should look closer to home. I have never witnessed such an act of hypocrisy - the list Tony brought with him proves this. America has bombed so many countries in the past.
Muna Said Elmi, London

Mr Benn who is highly ranked in the world of history should research topics slightly better. His references to the invasions of Afghanistan fail to note that in the 1880's under Disraeli troops entered the area without authority or his permission. The reason for the large loss of life was due to no troops being sent to support them, as Disraeli himself refused to fuel the matter.
Peter Roberts, Bath

A contributor on this forum has incorrectly stated that only 650 British soldiers were killed in Afghanistan. There were in fact 16,000 as Tony Benn correctly mentioned (though Tony Benn was incorrect on a number of other issues, most specifically about American aid to Afghanistan).
Soyeb Aswat, London

I'm particularly anxious to establish whether the long list of towns alleged to have been bombed by the Americans is factual. Although agreeing with most of what Anthony Wedgwood said, he is given to gilding statements dramatically, but if this claim is actually true then I, for one, would want to resist even more the indiscriminate bombing of Afghanistan. Can anyone help me please?
Phil Roe, Dartmouth, Devon

Tony Benn was quite wrong when he said 15,000 British soldiers were slaughtered in the 1842 retreat from Kabul. The truth is that just approx 650 British troops and family were massacred as the result of military incompetence and Afghan treachery. What Benn did not say, of course, was that in the following year, the British retook Kabul.
Clifford Myhill, Vancouver, Canada

I was extremely impressed by the historical perspective provided by Tony Benn especially with regard to the war on Afghanistan. Like Tony Benn, I have no time for Bin Laden, an atrocious human being, but bombing Afghanistan and compounding the human tragedy is a ludicrous and dangerous response that I fear will fuel even more terrorism in the future. I wish Tony Benn's wisdom and impassioned reasoning could be heard on US television.
Sanjiv Shah, MD, New York

Tony Benn has finally lost the vestiges of respect I had for him as a principled man. His list of countries the USA has bombed was quite simply inaccurate although no one challenged it. His assertion that the USA provided no aid to Afghanistan was shown to be completely false. He seems to increasingly feel that 'facts' in a case are irrelevant and that invective unsupported by evidence is acceptable discourse.
Ella, London

Tony Benn seems to be the only politician who actually speaks the truth as he sees it. Even if he does stray from the questions asked. Pity there aren't more like him, especially in the US.
D Munn, Kettering

It seems to me that the allies are fighting a just war. If we allow this kind of terrorism to continue, we will all suffer. Tony Benn should remember appeasing a potentially catastrophic situation will create a much worse period later.
Darren Light, Salisbury

I agreed with nearly everything Tony Benn said last night. At times like this you can't possibly ignore history - after all past actions determine what happens in the future. Tony did say that spending on nuclear weapons is a waste of money and that we should put all resources into aid. This may sound ideal but, if we have no weapons we are open to threat from the 'enemy' be it terrorists or whoever.
Vedia Halil, London

I have to say the if all politicians were like Tony Benn, then the world would not be in the mess it is in now! Tony Benn was the only one on the panel who seems able to see through the fog of what's going on. His comments about the US leaving other countries alone to govern themselves is a point which no one seems to be discussing. Why does the US have to bomb and meddle in other people's affairs without provocation as it has done for so much of its history. Sept 11 was an appalling tragedy, and surely would not have occurred had the US not made so many enemies.
M Ahmed, Leicester

I feel a great relief to hear the comments from Tony Benn. It was fantastic to hear his views on national TV being expressed in a bold and truthful manner. Excellent, his views merely echo the views of many Muslims in this country. Well done Tony Benn!!!!!
Abu Bakr, Birmingham

I have been against strikes on Afghanistan from the start and think that Tony Benn forgot to say that the amount of aid being sent to Afghanistan is miniscule compared to the amount required. I did think it was great that he brought up all of America's past crimes.
Niall Mullen, Birmingham

Tony Benn is right to point to history as a guide to current activity in the Middle East. Hitler came to power after the allies forced Germany into a period of oppression after WW1. Why shouldn't the west reconsider its actions in Afghanistan? It is not working. We have been bombing Iraq for how many years? Has Saddam Hussein been removed from power? For that matter, didn't the US subsidise the "terrorist networks" they so hate?
Ben Patient, London

I think the only person who has grasped the reality of today's problems, is of course, Tony Benn! It is a shame so many people are blinded by propaganda, and lack of understanding.
Akbar S, London

As a Welshman, from a nation which has decided not to use violence against our fellow humans in protest, but have diligently used political and peaceful means to demonstrate, it does make you think that the only way to get attention and investment in community regeneration is to start a violent campaign. Should there be some reward for peace?
Aled, Prestatyn

There are two sides that need to solve this crisis and the refusal by the Taleban to negotiate and the terror they harbour and support, has left no other course of action but war. I find it sickening that both Tony Benn (and all other pacifists) seem to believe that only one party can achieve the goal of peace. This is nonsense and they do not condemn, criticise or even encourage the Taleban to do the right thing.
Neil Price, Leighton Buzzard

Surely bombing an already devastated country will cause the condition that creates terrorists to intensify.
Blakeley Nixon, Nottingham

Is there any reason why frozen assets of terrorists, drug lords and other organised criminals can't be taken and used for such causes as the refugee crisis in Afghanistan, or to alleviate other humanitarian tragedies?
Jason Walker, Colchester

It made me sick to my stomach the way in which other members of the panel (Max Hastings, Caroline Spelman etc) showed contempt towards Tony Benn's very valid and widely shared views. The bombing in Afghanistan will serve no purpose but to result in a great loss of life, an increase in poverty, deprivation and hatred. Western leadership needs to be less myopic and populist.
Mohamed Serokh, Essex

We appear to have heard very little condemnation of the Taleban for hijacking the UN aid which was intended to feed up to half a million civilians. The Muslim community tends to be too ready to support the fighters in the name of Islam but rather slow to condemn such behaviour in the name of Islam.
Kevin Leary, Sunderland

The Kosovan conflict aided by bin Laden? Where does Tony Benn get this rubbish from? The al-Qaeda camps built by the Americans? Garbage! I don't care if he has a degree in history - he is obviously too blinkered by his political, right-on, flag-waving, card-carrying CND, peace-nik world view that says ANY military action is unjust, to actually see the truth.
Callum, West Byfleet

It goes without saying that the role of the aid agencies serve an important function. HOWEVER, I refuse to believe the assertion that there is a humanitarian crisis/catastrophe going on in Afghanistan. People like Tony Benn are simply trying to guilt trip people in the West, for their own self-gratification, into believing that the whole idea of the attacks on Afghanistan is wrong by claiming that the bombing is partly inducing the catastrophe.
Danny, London

I think Mr Benn is typical of the left wing in this country he is so far out of touch with public opinion as usual. I totally support the attacks on Afghanistan.
George Bias, Chapelton

Would Tony Benn please, for once, answer a question rather than launch into his regular anti-American tirade. As Donald Anderson said it's inconvenient for Mr Benn but the USA was the biggest donor of aid to Afghanistan even prior to September 11.
John Bates, Ipswich

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Difficulty in restraining Israel's response to assassination?

Audience question: Do the panel feel the US/UK coalition will have difficulty trying to restrain Israel's response to the assassination of a cabinet minister in view of their current activities in Afghanistan? You said:

Will Emma Garoushe recognise that there are some 2m descendants in Israel of Jews who were expelled from Arab lands but because they were integrated into Israeli society are not heard of? In contrast the Palestinians have been abandoned and kept landless by their Arab brethren. Will Emma also recognise that displaced Arab persons are entitled to, and have claimed compensation from, the State of Israel.
Michael Lewis, Hendon

For all those who continue to insist that Arafat was offered a fair deal at Camp David, please read the reports about the talks and you will clearly see that what the Palestinians were offered was anything but fair. If you are to engage in this debate, at least get your facts straight. The Palestinians were offered a pitiful amount of land which was to be surrounded by ILLEGAL settlements (please see various UN resolutions) and nearly 4m refugees were not allowed to return to their homeland.
Emma Garoushe, Surbiton

I cannot but commend Tony Benn's remarks with regards the issue of Palestine. The blinding brutality with which tanks and bombs are used against guns and stones coupled with the frightening disregard of international feeling on this issue dictates that it is time for Sharon to go.
Zam, Glasgow

It is amazing to see the reaction to US/UK involvement in Afghanistan and the tremendous support that both countries both seem to be enjoying, despite the difficulties. And all this for one day of infamy. Yet, after more than 7000 terrorist attacks in the space of one year, there is no action that Israel can take without being subjected to the most intense criticism from all sides. The US/UK retaliates against Osama bin Laden, yet restraint is urged for Israeli action after terrorist attacks. This is very confusing...
Edward Solomon, Northwood

I totally agree with Tony Benn that US foreign policy in the Middle East is very unjust and must be reconsidered otherwise the cycle of violence will never end. I have been a political refugee from Iraq since 1984 and I can talk a lot about the double standards of US foreign policy in the Middle East.
Amir Salih, Paisley

A new law being introduced to outlaw incitement to religious hatred strikes me as being the first step towards a Taleban type government in England.
TP Bragg, Bridgwater

Why is it that we expect Israel to exercise restraint when suicide bombers walk daily into Israel with the sole intention of killing as many innocent women and children as possible? Couldn't the West perhaps learn a lesson from Israel who target such terrorists at a time chosen by the Israeli military so as to almost eliminate civilian casualties?
Michelle Lewis, London

How was the Muslim member of the audience allowed to get away with the suggestion that the fatwa against Rushdie was issued by "terrorists" and condemned by his co-religionists. It was issued by an Islamic government leader and heartily endorsed by Muslim leaders in this country. They burnt the book without reading it.
Stan, Birmingham

I am appalled that no one on the panel picked up the Muslim gentleman in the audience when he said that 'the problem with Britain is that it is a secular state'. Our secularism is what we should be defending and I was particularly disappointed that Tony Benn of all people, who generally argued very strongly with panel and audience alike, became meek in defence of his own views when this gentleman spoke. In our desire not to offend, we seem to be frightened of promoting and defending the values that we hold dear.
Judy Pearson, Bradford

The Palestinians were offered a state (bigger than Israel) in 1947. They refused it. They could have had a state on the West Bank and Gaza at any time between 1948 and 1967 but they didn't. Arafat founded the PLO in 1964 when there was not a single Jewish resident in the West Bank. Who is really to blame for the present problems?
Brian Gedalla, London

I found the comments already on the site very disheartening. Do people forget that the West Bank and Gaza are illegally occupied territories? Do they realise that there are UN security council resolutions calling for the FULL withdrawal of Israel from these areas? Do they realise that settlements are illegal? That Israel handing land back to Palestinian control is not a 'concession' but LESS than they are required to do by international law? I would ask people whether if their home was taken away from them, if they lived under occupation without proper rights, in daily humiliation, would they not fight back?
Sharon Jay, London

Yet another disgusting display of pro-Arab, anti-Semitic rhetoric. The West Bank is NOT occupied illegally. How dare this go unchallenged. Tony Benn is well aware of the Balfour declaration of 1917 when ALL of Palestine was to be the Jewish Homeland, not 15% as he would like to see, although the Arabs would reduce this to ZERO if they could.
Philip, Windsor

I find many of the comments alarming in defending Israel's right to use their aggressive tactics. It seems there's a lack of awareness throughout most of the UK regarding the history of this conflict, in that Palestine has not been gifted land, rather they are under illegal occupation. While I don't defend reported terrorist activities engaged by some Palestinians, Israel regularly engages in assassinations or so-called "targeted killings", but are not called terrorists because the hide behind the mantle of the state.
Sameer, London

I found the anti-American stance by Tony Benn and Irvine Welsh very alarming, but obvious. I am a Christian, and I believe the words of the Bible, when it states that Palestine will once more be occupied by all the tribes of Israel - as of old!
Derek A Jones, Knottingley

If this is a war against terrorism, is America going to stop supporting terrorists in Ireland and Israel?
Beth Tilston, Preston

Almost 100% of the violence in Israel is initiated by Palestinian militants and terrorists. Israel should be applauded for the restraint it has shown against the terror it has faced for decades, the same terror that is now wrought against other Western nations. Why should Israel be expected to continue to negotiate with a Palestinian authority when the land that Israel has already given to Palestinian control is used as a base to send mortars into Israel and to plan more wicked suicide bombings to kill as many innocent civilians as possible?
Michelle Lewis, London

Although I was horrified at the attacks on the World Trade Center, I feel that America as a nation is reacting out of revenge while counselling Israel not to react to the recent assassination. I think it's time that the superpower began practising what it preaches.
Ned Ramsay, Burton On Trent

Once again the facts appear to have been ignored in regard to the Palestinian issue. Max Hastings and Tony Benn stated their hope that Israel would be persuaded to agree to a Palestinian state as a result of events in Afghanistan. Israel offered a Palestinian state as part of a peace settlement but the offer was refused and the intifada started. What democracy would not act to safeguard its citizens?
David Marks, Manchester

As usual the panel and audience seems content to attack Israel, while ignoring many of the true facts and simply appeasing Arab views.
Katie Goldsborough, Leeds

It is important to remember that Mr Arafat instigated another intifada following his rejection of a major Israeli peace deal by Ehud Barak in July 2001 - his missed opportunity. Since then he has refused to rein in Palestinians launching terror attacks on Israel. If he will not do this, then Israel must do it for him to defend their citizens. Israel assassinating Palestinian terrorists can in no way be equated with Palestinians assassinating democratically elected Israel politicians.
David Fullman, Leeds

Israel's answer to the killing of the minister was to kill a wee lassie in her schoolroom.
Alba, Perth

Is it obvious to the panel that Israel provoked the Palestinians by assassinating Palestinians in an attempt to spoil any chance of the West seeking a 'just' solution to establishing a Palestinian state and that they are forcing the west to choose between Israel and Arabs, seeking to provoke a confrontation, perhaps even a third world war.
Paul Gilhooly, London

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Fear of germ warfare greater threat than likelihood of it occurring?

Audience question: Is the fear of germ warfare a greater threat to us than the likelihood of it occurring? You said:

The comments made from the Tory MP regarding anthrax and the media were just ridiculous. The media have totally over-reacted. The threat of anthrax becoming a major threat to everyday people is very, very small. She should be ashamed of herself saying that the media had not over-reacted!!
Tom, Bristol

Of course the fear of anthrax is greater than the reality of contracting it - the USA has had only six confirmed cases out of a population of almost 300m. But how can people stay calm when most newspapers are running scare stories on their front pages every morning? We need some rational reporting please.
Travis Roberts, Birmingham

What on earth was America doing supplying anthrax to Iraq in the 1980's? Unbelievable.
Peter, Worthing, West Sussex

I feel that it's not so much the fear of contacting anthrax it's getting on the waiting list to see a doctor before it's too late.
John Bell, Sunderland

I feel that the chances that Bin Laden and his terrorist group al-Qaeda are behind these attacks are minimal. The attacks are more likely to be from bored extremists with nothing better to do but cause panic across the nation. Besides, this type of biological warfare is not as effective as first made out as it is not contagious and can be readily treated. My message to the general public is to stay calm and keep your thoughts on all those innocent victims and troops in Afghanistan.
Alix Pashley, Chesterfield

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New anti-terrorist bill mean the end for British satire?

Audience question: Do the panel share Rowan Atkinson's view that the new anti-terrorist bill which seeks to prevent the incitement of religious hatred could mean the end for British satire as we know it? You said:

Considering the government's continued attempts to manage racism and intolerance in society, I find Mr Griffiths of Nottingham's comments on the need for subtitles when Mr Welsh was speaking highly offensive. Irvine Welsh may not have the Oxbridge education of many of the panellists, but spoke perfectly understandable sense to myself and many others who judge people by their abilities and successes, not their nationality.
Mark Renton, Edinburgh

I agree with much of what the web audience has said, in that Muslims in this country have double standards. Do Christians get to pray five times a day at work? Do they get their own prayer room as many Muslims do in commercial companies as well as in colleges? I can't understand how so many Muslims agree that, '...it is a war by the west on Islam', but yet are happy to live in the west and enjoy all the freedoms that come with it. Do you believe that if a Christian or a Jew wanted to preach in an Islamic country he would be allowed?
Vega Santana, Birmingham

David Dimbleby made the great point on the subject of religious hatred that there should be no more Glasgow Rangers, Glasgow Celtic football matches. What a terrific idea! Just a pity that the Scot on the panel decided to body swerve the question.
Les Logan, Edinburgh

Is it not time that many members of the Islamic community showed a great deal more tolerance towards other people's opinions? Yet again we heard calls that Salman Rushdie should have been prosecuted and his book The Satanic Verses, an anti-racist book, banned. The Muslim people have and still are subjected to racism in this country but to show this type of intolerance is not the way to solve the problem of racism in Britain but only divides people more.
Colin, Clydebank

A new law against incitement to religious hatred is futile. All it will do is suppress free speech. The violent, extreme elements in society will continue their disgusting activities until existing laws are enforced properly and backed up with draconian penalties (and I mean draconian, ie the reintroduction of corporal and capital punishment). Laws against racial hatred failed to prevent the murder of Stephen Lawrence.
J Malcolmson, Bath

A gentleman in the audience tonight - presumably Muslim - in complaining about Salman Rushdie's book, and its implied insults to the Islamic faith, said: 'The problem with this country (England) is that it is a secular society'. Why is that a problem? It has been good enough for my family for the last 500 years, and I am a Christian - I have no problem with this being a secular society. If people do not like this society, why are they still living here?
Stan Cook, Staines, Middlesex

I don't believe that any laws should be enacted to protect the myth of any religion.
Vernon Wiley, Bracknell

Many people may not have noticed the intolerance of some right wing evangelical Christian groups towards those of other faiths. They are not content with expressing their keenness for their own particular ideology but feel the need to criticise other religions as 'untrue'. These allegations, as can be seen under serious scrutiny, are against a background of prejudice rather than considered judgment which stands the normal rational tests of evidence that we usually apply in modern western civilisation. Will right-wing evangelicals fall foul of the new law of David Blunkett?
Peter Brookes, Birmingham

Having listened to the supporter of Islam I get the distinct impression he has no sense of humour. He seems to think that we should all stand in awe of his religion. If he wants that he should go to a Muslim country...much to his surprise, no doubt, this isn't one!
Alba, Perth

How is it that Muslims in this and other countries want concessions for their religion, but the main Muslim countries in the Middle East and elsewhere do not tolerate any other religion or allow the practice of other religions to the extent that pictures, statues or literature of religions other than Islam are confiscated and destroyed at the ports of entry.
Jayson, Harrow

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Should Diane Pretty have won her high court challenge?

Audience question: Does the panel believe that Diane Pretty should have won her high court challenge to allow her husband immunity from prosecution if he assisted her in committing suicide? You said:

I was appalled to hear a couple of the panel suggest that doctors ease some patients into the next life. Having been a nurse for over 30 years I have come into contact with many terminally ill patients in many different hospitals both here and abroad. I have never seen or heard about doctors either giving or prescribing medication to end the life of a patient. It was a stupid and very irresponsible thing to suggest.
Isabel Telfer, Surrey

A person who is terminally ill and wishes to end their suffering, should be listened to and their wishes granted. We give more care and compassion to our animals than people. When told by a vet that the kindest thing we could do is to put the poor animal out of its misery and to prolong its life with drugs would only make it suffer even more we would not hesitate in agreeing with the vet. As painful as it may be to other members of the family we know it is the kindest thing to do.
Mrs Marie Eldridge, Leicestershire

I would like to commend the lady who defended the medical profession for alleviating pain and giving comfort to the dying and not ending life. I know many doctors and none wish to terminate life, otherwise we could end up with many Harold Shipmans. Although I sympathise with the couple affected by today's verdict I know many similar cases who only wish to survive.
Jo Bryson, Sheffield

We must remember that suicide is not illegal. If you and I have the right to commit suicide, why should we discriminate against people who are disabled and physically not able to do it?
Jenny Backwell, Brighton

My grandfather suffered from motor neurone disease and I had to watch while he went from a very active 78-year-old to a cripple, unable to even lie down for a sleep in fear of choking to death. He had never been afraid of death, only the manner in which it occurred. Thankfully, his suffering was shorter than most. On behalf of my grandfather and the rest of my family I would like to know why people must suffer in this way? If death is inevitable, why prolong it?
Diane Robertson, Glasgow

The only way this would work is via a rigid verification system. When someone wishes to die a third or even fourth party would be required to verify the request (a solicitor, judge for example) then no foul play may ensue!
Alistair Macdonald, London

People should be able to choose if they want to die under circumstances such as terminal illness. They should be allowed to retain their dignity. Is not keeping alive someone who is suffering and mentally depressed inhumane?
Jonathan Griffiths, Hull University

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Public apology recompense for insensitive email?

Audience question: Is a public apology sufficient recompense for a very insensitive email? You said:

I was shocked that nobody defended the naughty email lady. But I suppose that's politics. I was amused that your panel and the audience agreed that firing/resignation was the honourable way out, but then not shocked as this is obviously politics/propaganda in action. The lady was simply doing her job. If we as a democracy don't like, or don't have a need for people in those jobs, then surely we are talking redundancy not sacking!
Mr P Haskell, Fareham, Hants

Jo Moore's apology may have been 'in public', but the greatest problem was that it was not directed to the public - not the relatives of the dead, nor citizens, but at the government (her employers). She is one of a great many spin doctors, and may be a scapegoat, but she should be sacked and made an example of.
Greg, Birmingham

Jo Moore should be removed from her post. She was all coy and sorry but did not have the common sense to keep the smile off her face before she was out of camera view. What does that tell you about her so-called sorrow! My husband and I were absolutely livid and thought she was putting on an act but on seeing the big grin were even more incensed. One wonders if she got her direction from Mr Byers and this is why she is managing to hold on to her post.
Helen Skinner, Aberdeen

Not only did Ms Moore fail to mention the victims and their families in her apology but it would appear that she feels sorry for herself in stating that 'it is something that she will have to live with for the rest of her life'. I would suggest that someone as insensitive and unprincipled as she is should not find that to be a problem.
Colin Bridger, Camberley

Sadly the comments from S Beesley sum up attitudes within our society today. Of course Jo Moore is paid to be sensitive, if that's what prevailing circumstances require, the same as any other employee, public servant, or government officer. Her behaviour and attitude was not being tough or steely eyed, it was behaviour that was gross and a disgrace to her office.
P Barrow, Oxfordshire

I feel sorry for the poor girl who was speaking the truth about burying bad news. I think the majority in her position would have sent the mail too.
Mr M Lee, Barnsley

In response to David Raughter, London's, comments: Yes, but you cannot be condemned for what you are thinking. It's what you do that counts.
Stuart Sutherland, Ellesmere Port

Well done Donald Anderson! I agree with you about that woman, she has now made two mistakes:
1) the e-mail and
2) her apology missed out the victims and their relatives...she should go!
Alba, Perth

Maybe I'm an old cynic but her only crime was to put in an email what every politician was already thinking.
David Raughter, London

The so-called insensitive email was written by an employee doing her job. She was not paid to be sensitive. Her role was to give advice and this she did. The advice was factually correct and this was what she was paid to do. The advice did not have to be accepted.
S Beesley, Wigan

Yes. I have made the odd insensitive remark in my time. This is political opportunism, not a crime. The crime is the killing of innocent Afghans. Burying information is just a hobby in Whitehall. The problem arises when we are given a story by politicians about the use of force, but actually it is untrue. Where are our targeted missile attacks? No civilian casualties? For the taking of one Afghan life George Bush should be held accountable in an international war crime tribunal.
Ben Patient, London

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Teach punctuation at schools?

Audience question: Following the award of the Booker prize yesterday should we bother to teach punctuation at schools?

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General comments on the programme:

It was a lovely surprise to hear Tony Benn express his view. This is the first time I have seen someone in such a position whose eyes are open to both sides of a story and who has the gall to say what he sees is wrong. His fair and just remarks obviously come from a greater understanding and knowledge of politics, people, religions and world history than most ordinary people. He should never have left politics, I think he has a very honest heart, he should be spreading the truth. The world needs leaders like him. I would vote for him to be prime minister any day!
Rubina Khan, London

Nice to see Caroline Spelman on the panel. She is a rising star and we need more women like her in the Conservative party!
Phil Bousfield, Nottingham

Mr Benn should get his facts right.
Mark, Abilene, Texas, USA

Tony Benn was a breath of fresh air on this programme - not worried about being punished by party bosses, and using the force of history to back his arguments up. A pity our "normal" politicians are so boring, bland and "on line". Also, people who forget their history are condemned to repeat the mistakes that are made in the past. Well done Tony!
Leighton, Wirral

Well done to Tony Benn for making us see sense and telling us to learn from history!! When will our leaders heed.
Mike Perry, London

I really must protest. Where do you get your audiences from and how do you "ensure balance"? It was quite clear last night that most of the people who were allowed to give their opinion were very anti the air strikes on Afghanistan, anti-American and against our support of the war on terrorism. Poll after poll reveals that well over 80% of the British public are for the current war, and nearly as many would extend this to smashing Saddam Hussein's gangster regime.
David Gatehouse, Harrogate

Thank goodness that this web forum gives ordinary people the chance to take part in the Question Time debate. As far as the BBC is concerned there appears to be only one venue in Scotland, Glasgow, an area with an obvious party political bias. When will the BBC realise that the views of the, mainly, rural community have to be heard?
Steve Crowe, Arbroath

I would like to reply to the assertion that the audience and panel of Question Time were biased. I am an ordinary member of the community and ended up being offered the chance to pose my question. It seemed to me a varied and representative audience. I was therefore comfortable to offer a point of view - please offer yours.
Ruth Bass, Cheltenham

I think the inclusion of Irvine Welsh on the panel was a mistake. He said very little, none of which was coherent or consistent. Maybe the BBC should avoid getting gimmicky panellists, and concentrate more on people who can, as Tony Benn said, argue their corner.
Peter, London

What an incisive and intelligent man Tony Benn is. I heartily disagree that he is a wishy washy pacifist. He is simply a man able to point out the general hypocrisy of both Britain and America in this war and others. It would seem from the broad agreement on the website with him that others agree.
Dave Goodman, London

Thank you so much for having a wonderful panel on yesterday's show. It is so refreshing to hear such a range of opinions - all of which were very sensible.
RH, London

A Griffiths of Nottingham is out of order with his comments on Irvine Welsh. I would like to see the comments if he had criticised the accent of an Asian on the panel... Scots have to endure endless English accents, not all of which are clear. Perhaps he should remember that the most precise spoken English is that in Inverness. Oh - and the BBC do provide subtitles - p888 of Ceefax.
Robin McNaught, Glasgow

Yet another sub-standard panel with two people I'd never heard of, an incomprehensible novelist, Tony 'rent a protest' Benn (who seems to be on every week) and a frustrated armchair colonel! Where are the front-bench Cabinet spokesmen or real statesmen?
Paul, London

Again, another Question Time with the obvious objective of choosing panellists with extreme view points, particularly to the left. There is no point having a two-sided discussion or debate when your panel and audience seem so ill-informed or extreme in either direction. There must be an increase in sales of those foam bricks used to throw at the TV at the moment.
Danny Rolnick, London

If only there were more people like Tony Benn. Hopefully his insight into politics will open the eyes of other people to the real situation and not the perceived political situation.
James Menzies, Stirling

Thanks for putting on Tony Benn!
H Thomas, London

Mr Irvine Welsh is obviously a very wise and intelligent man. Surely, having invited him to take part, the BBC could have recognised the needs of the linguistically challenged such as himself to have provided the viewer with subtitles for us to understand his no doubt brilliant contributions?
A Griffiths, Nottingham

WHY! WHY! WHY! When Cheltenham has a Lib Dem MP is there no representative from the Lib Dems on the panel. Two members are Conservative. Two members are Labour. Fair representation for all parties please.
Bob Cross, Torpoint Cornwall

We must admire Tony Benn for at least one thing - he shows great passion without ambition. In this he is a welcome relief from his deeply populist colleagues in politics, who seem content to merely capture the mood of the public.
Steve Baker, Caergeiliog

Is Tony Benn sane? He should be deported to Iraq or Afghanistan or sent to the tower. He obviously does not like living in this country. Agreeing with terrorists - he should be ashamed of himself.
Derek Millar, Glasgow

Again as usual the BBC includes a majority left wing panel and invited audience. Do you think no one has noticed or do you not care? When will the BBC invite normal members of the British public into the audience instead of the biased anti-American people you invite to the show.
Darren W Lloyd, Stockport

I think Question Time is a must-watch programme. The panel is contributing to both sides of the debate. I think Tony Benn made a fabulous comment on the bombing in Afghanistan and how the US uses its military power to bully a weaker country.
Shahid, London

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