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Thursday, 22 November, 2001, 16:52 GMT
November 22, London
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Audience question: Is there a real rift in the relationship between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown or does the panel believe the latest spin that Gordon and Tony are best friends? You said:
It doesn't matter if Brown and Blair are best mates or can't stand each other. They should both be judged on their performance both individually and as a team. If the political press invested more effort holding them to account on proper serious issues and stopped making a soap opera out of politics then turn-outs at elections might not be so low and people might once again begin to take politics seriously.
If there is any truth in these rumours about rifts between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, then I think they should be put aside for the sake of the country. Both men hold very important jobs and should be working together in putting the countries internal problems right. This sort of thing in politics is not new, and does not make for good government, whoever the party is in power.
I believe the dispute between Blair and Brown is Brown wants to spend money on tax credits and Blair wants to line the pockets of private interests by wasting public money through the PFI.
Police using limited resources to arrest recreational drug users?
Audience question: Should the police be using their limited resources to arrest recreational users of ecstasy and cocaine? You said:
Terry. On the drugs question, as with others, it is not discipline that is the issue - this is about power. Respect, however, would be a good start. This would start with us respecting and understanding the perspective of the youngest in our society, rather than merely trying to bend them to our will. After all, it is not like the approach of the adults in this world has made a great success of things is it?
I propose that an independent international body is set up to deal with (a) the facts and fiction, with cultural significance in mind - to give an accurate basis for true bands of classification and what it means, and (b) the implementation of these works to all nations to give a global recognition of drugs overall good and bad.
Does the panel agree that to legalise cannabis would only encourage people who take it to move onto harder drugs, because the so-called buzz of taking something illegal would not be
I think the most important point was made by both Charles Kennedy and Caroline Lucas. We should open up the forum, and pave the way for a government investigation into the effects both long term and short term of recreational drug use of drugs such as ecstasy.
I agree that we have a huge problem in enforcing laws on drugs, and that police do perhaps have more pressing issues to deal with. However, this is not, in my view, a reason for slackening off on the issue of drug use. How can it be responsible to sit back and say 'it's their choice' , it's for a "good time"? I think we need to look beyond our own noses and think what we'd want for our children.
The government needs to stop playing politics with the issue of substance misuse. Education, education, education. Let's get away from criminalising people for minor offences and target dealers.
When I qualified as a pharmacist in 1961 the presence of as little as one tenth of a grain of heroin under a fingernail was sufficient to attract a custodial sentence and disgrace in the community. Society and our judiciary decided to get soft with criminals caught in possession of class A drugs for personal use and look where this has got us.
How can those who need help with a drugs problem receive it when the fear of being criminalised prevents them from coming forward and why criminalise people who use drugs without causing any social problems or cost?
The desire to use drugs for recreational purposes is an inevitable consequence of liberal morality. Agendas of power and greed have imposed prohibition for their own ends and forced our society into a state of critical self-contradiction. Drugs don't ruin people's lives: life ruins people's lives - drugs just accelerate the process. People need to be re-associated with their community not alienated from society. Decriminalisation is a very small step on the road to coming to terms with drug use.
My daughter is just 22 and was a very pretty girl until she took heroin. She became a serial thief to support her habit. She has been sent to prison for three months today. Her son, my grandson, at nine-months-old is in care. Her life and ours have been destroyed by drugs and the inability of the system to break the cycle of drug misuse and crime.
Who was the front line police officer mentioned in the programme?
Probably a chief officer who knows nothing of working on the beat. Sergeants and PCs should be canvassed as they are front line not senior officer who just rely on statistics.
Certain members of the panel were saying that drugs/ecstasy use ruins lives. My boyfriend was randomly stopped by police in London. He just so happened to be carrying two pills of ecstasy and half a gram of cocaine just for our personal usage. He was arrested and after being treated like a criminal he was fined several hundred pounds. The judge seemed to almost dismiss the usage of cocaine (as if this was almost more acceptable) and focused only on how ecstasy is a killer.
'Recreational use' of class A and B drugs should continue to be discouraged. If you take this dual road of helping those who take drugs, and arresting, sending to jail those who deal, a more even balance in the system could be found where the police can deal with the real problem of drugs and social services can deal with the fall out from drug use.
If the government legalised cannabis and ecstasy, they would gain greater control over supply, thus allowing them to target their efforts on the harder drugs. It is that simple.
Whilst indeed there may be a sensible case against decriminalising soft drugs, opponents of legalisation do their case no good by plodding out the old "gateway" argument. As an illegal drug, cannabis is probably more of a gateway than if it were a legal drug, obtainable from a licensed outlet. If cannabis users need to go to an illegal dealer, surely they have a far greater chance of being offered hard drugs.
To say we need to help people who use drugs we need to remember that the majority of cocaine users are middle class white collar workers who simply use drugs for recreation and nothing more. They are not "addicts". It is on a par with having a few glasses of wine as the majority of your panel may do.
Not one of you has touched on the real problem, yet you are the very people who did away with the only thing that would have any affect against it - DISCIPLINE.
What next in the war on terrorism?
Audience question: As President Bush announces that Afghanistan is only the beginning what does the panel think should come next in the war on terrorism? You said:
With regards to Bob Kiley's reaction to Caroline Lucas' assertion that Bin Laden should have been pursued legally not militarily, Kiley earlier - when discussing drugs - rued American prohibition as being the founding era of organised crime. Why does he take a different view of America's knee-jerk killing spree in Afghanistan? Personally, I agree with Lucas - America, look at your foreign policies and start showing respect for the rest of the world's citizens.
To Gordon J Sheppard: What a twisted, narrow-minded short-sighted, self-centred and superficial approach to the problem. I won't even bother to argue it because it will be beyond your comprehension. And it will only make your pressure rise.
Caroline Lucas said we should send Afghanistan the most 'massive aid'. Surely, all rogue states need to do in future, is to murder 5,000-7,000 people by hijacking an aircraft and crashing it into high buildlings, to be rewarded by the 'victims' with all the aid they want. I am sick to death of being told we shouldn't walk away from Afghanistan this time, that we should face up to our responsibilities. I have no responsibilities to Afghanistan. And I resent constantly being told that I have.
Charles Kennedy seems to believe that "this time we will not run away from our responsibilities as we have done in the past". America is already doing so. Britain, as we know always follows America. Successive British governments have a shameful and unforgivable record of running away from their responsibilities - particularly in Cyprus where the problem has remained unsolved for 38 years - thanks to Britain's refusal to exercise its powers under the Treaty of Guarantee Article IV.
Shahera Rahman, asks: 'What has the bombing achieved?' Well it has rid Afghanistan of the Taleban for a start, thus allowing aid workers into the region unhindered, and now Al-Qaeda no longer has a safe haven to operate from, two pretty big achievements I'm sure s/he will agree. Also the allies waited a full two weeks before bombing, during which diplomatic efforts were made to extradite Osama Bin Laden. The Taleban refused knowing full well the consequences of that refusal.
Everyone must support more humanitarian aid and all cannot but agree that the world's resources are unequally distributed. The solution to terrorism however lies in disabling those fundamentalist Arab regimes that, despite their fabulous wealth, deny economic freedom and basic human rights to their subjects. Unfortunately the likes of Cook and Straw go cap in hand to these regimes motivated only by their own self-interest.
Caroline Lucas's observations on the west's war against terrorism conform to the technical definition of appeasement, and - if adopted as public policy - would have the same effect as when it was last attempted against a nihilist enemy. In implying that the US provoked the mass murder of her civilians by these theocratic fascists - for there can be no other interpretation of her claim that US foreign policy needs to change in order to prevent further outrages - Dr Lucas managed to be simultaneously frivolous and morally obtuse.
Hasn't the aim of the conflict in Afghanistan lost its meaning? The original plan was to find and destroy the people involved in the September 11 attack. But to me it seems like now the allied nations are setting up to change the whole country! How is it that we know how to sort out the problems of other people but never our own?
As a Muslim, I am not only upset but also bewildered by the actions that have taken place in Afghanistan. I do not understand what this bombing has achieved, with regards to catching the culprit responsible for the actions of Sept 11th. Surely the correct action, under the circumstances, would be to start a dialogue, and then, maybe we could solve the root problem of terrorism, rather than make it any worse?
Am I missing something? When people say we must bring Bin Laden to justice, is this at any cost? What justice is there for all the people who really don't want to be involved, but because they are Afghans and their rulers supported Bin Laden are? Is it right that these people should suffer and die because America wants to kill one man?
Can I just ascertain my agreement about the absurdity of Caroline Lucas' comments about her non-aggressive reaction to September 11th. This was an absolutely insulting comment and does not reflect a realistic attitude in the slightest - is she living in La La land?!
Robin Cook almost seems reasonable in his views on the current conflict. No wonder he was moved from the foreign office.
The Balkans remains an area affected by terrorism, Macedonia in particular is under threat, when will the fight against terrorism be addressing groups that have in the past been allies of Nato.
Why is it that as soon as the word 'terrorist' is mentioned, the panellists immediately refer to Bin Laden, and the term 'war on terrorism' is referred to as the war in Afghanistan. There are terrorists worldwide, other than al-Qaeda. It would seem now that the Americans are pumped up for a fight and all comers will do.
Appropriate that powerful Christian women be issuing criticism of the burqa?
Audience question: Is it appropriate that powerful affluent Christian women should be issuing a blanket criticism of the use and wearing of the burqa when, abuses apart, it should be a matter of personal choice? You said:
If Britain cares so much about women in Afghanistan and whether or not they should be seen in public, why on earth did it take the deaths of 6,000 people for us to do anything about it? I find it strange that we are now fighting for the rights of people we didn't care about three months ago. Yes I agree that this kind of oppression should be stopped, but I do not agree with the way the west is dealing with it!
This is to Maryam. I do appreciate your comment but would like to point out that there is a huge difference between covering your head with a veil (living a normal life) and putting oneself in a box with a narrow slit to peek through with strained eyes, being prone to tripping and falling over. These are the indignities and health hazrads that Afghan women have been subject to.
I am very concerned about the comments I heard about Muslim women and burqa. Everyone was talking about choice - "Muslim women must have the choice". This is a misconception that I would like to clear up. Under Islamic law it is a 'MUST' that women cover themselves as prescribed by the Quran and traditions of the Prophet Mohammed. It is just like following the law "Do not steal". I cover and I do not steal. Simple.
Burqas have become a symbol of oppression and evil that the primitive government of the Taleban imposed upon its nation. When forced to wear burqas women are deprived of the basic human right of freedom of choice. But as long as there is a choice for women to wear whatever they want the argument is over and so is the need of issuing Cherie Blaire-like statements. There are so many women in the western, so called civilised countries who wear oppressive garments like high heels and skimpy dresses with plunging necklines. But it is entirely up to the woman to make a statement about who and what she wants to be and what degree of body coverage appeals to her.
Mubs, Leicester: This is for you. Nuns in the west choose their "veil". It is not foisted upon them by a medieval society of male dominance. Give me one good reason why females should have to cover themselves from head to foot in order to be accepted by any society.
Mohammed Khalil, Birmingham. This question is for you. Would you choose to wear a burqa? Why not? Because you're a man and don't have to think about it? Why is that, then?
It isn't about the wearing of the burqa. the US state department has released a nine-page report, "The Taleban¿s War Against Women". It was also reported in the media last week that Cherie Blair attended the Asian Woman Awards to honour Kiranjit Ahluwalia, who poured petrol over her sleeping husband and then set him alight, thereby murdering him. The feminist strategy starts to roll.
This is a personal option for a Muslim woman whether she chooses to wear it or not. It is not a sign of oppression. Women are very badly exploited in the west. They did not even have the right to vote until recently in the UK. They are used as marketing tools for the selling of products and of course you have the largest porn movie productions.
How come Muslim women are oppressed when they are in burqa, but it's OK for a nun to be covered?
Charge motorists a £5 congestion charge for entering central London?
Audience question: Ken Livingstone is introducing a £5 congestion charge for motorists entering central London and has sacked Steve Norris for his opposition to his policy. Do the panel favour this controversial scheme or will this bring overwhelming problems to the underground and suburban railway networks? You said:
Wouldn't a tax based on the fuel efficiency of the individual vehicle be a fairer option? This could be extended throughout the UK, to do away with road tax where fuel would be further taxed, thereby charging the owners of less fuel efficient and more polluting vehicles.
Restricting traffic in big cities is not new. Tehran has a bigger population than London and a huge traffic problem. The authorities there introduced permits for the centre of the city in the hope of cutting down traffic, early 1990s. When I was last in Tehran it was working a treat but the only private cars in the centre seemed to belong to the mullahs and government officials. I suppose our politicians will all claim they live in the centre and want free passes as well...I suggest they walk or take the tube.
The scheme will not work - people will simply pay up what will become another tax - note the panel remark that 'funds raised should go into improving public transport.' But if it works as intended (ie to reduce the numbers of cars in Central London), there won't be any new money generated. So it's clear that the planners expect people to pay up rather than abandon their cars!
£25-£35 per week to enter the City of London might be all right for the affluent overpaid workers of the South but it would be as much as a third of the wages of a Northern employee. All businesses should move out of the City of London, taking their commuters with them, and leave Ken Livingstone and his ilk to deal with the furore when London becomes a derelict wasteland.
We must look at both sides, not just focus on one. It will be impossible to improve public transport if cars continue to use bus lanes and cause severe delays to travel journeys. However at the same time, it will be impossible to get people to stop using their cars as much, especially for unnecessary journeys into the capital, unless they feel their is a safe, efficient, and not too crowded alternative in the way of public transport.
Singapore operates an electronic road-pricing scheme and it has had the desired affect on traffic and relieved congestion in the city centre. They also had an efficient, safe, cheap public transport system in place before adopting such a scheme. The government is I hope learning from such schemes instead of claiming that we are about to embark on a grand trial scheme as was suggested tonight.
All I keep hearing is people speaking out against cars in central London. What about the disgusting buses and taxis that are chucking out diesel fumes into the air? Why doesn't the government consider using a cheaper, cleaner alternative fuel which is easily available and which we know as LPG.
I live in South London in an area that already is overloaded with commuters parking their cars and catching a train for the last 10 minutes of their journey. I fear that the £5 congestion fee is just going to put more of a problem on my doorstep.
It was said that there was no city where such a pricing system had been tried, but that is not so. Singapore has successfully diverted excess traffic from priority routes by pricing cars either onto other routes or staggering their times of movement.
How will this affect self-employed small businesses who have to deliver in and around the centre of London - what if they have to go in and out of the centre more than once during the day?
Why try to implement congestion charges when previous attempts to improve traffic flow have failed (red routes, bus lanes, etc). Why not an assault on the one in five cars that are on the road illegally - no insurance, no road tax, unroadworthy vehicle, banned driver, etc? Get rid of these and watch the roads start to clear...
What will happen to those people who have disabilities? The underground network does not cater for the disabled, nor does the bus system. Charging the disabled to come in and out of the city would make it more restrictive, so further isolating and discriminating against those with disabilities. Shouldn't disabled drivers be exempt from this system?
I was astonished to hear no mention of the charge system in force for at least 15 years in Hong Kong. Nor the system in Boston, Massachusetts, for one city, where there is a fast lane for cars containing three or more people.
Why don't you increase the price of petrol in London by 20 pence a litre, then maybe not so many people in London would drive cars and it would put them on an equal footing with those living in the north of Scotland! Also, has anyone looked into the Singapore model?
A £5.00 congestion charge is an economic tax that will hurt the lowest paid disproportionately. Ken should think back to his old days in the GLC and resurrect a Fares Fair Policy. Anyone who pays this tax should be given a voucher which could be redeemed when purchasing tickets on public transport.
It's all very well to say that people should use public transport when travelling to London's city or west end, but I recently took the tube with a female colleague to go to a theatre and we travelled back on the underground at around 10.30pm. We were first confronted by a beggar sitting on the steps of Oxford Street tube station. As we walked to our platform we came upon a man urinating and finally a musician who was begging for money. As two women travelling at that time of night it was very intimidating and a good reason not to use the tube or public transport late at night. There was no security present and if either of us had been alone we would have been very frightened.
General comments on the programme:
To Mr Rivers: I was merely pointing out that I thought the tie unsuitable for the tone of the programme, far be it from me to thrust myself forward as the all-round arbiter of good taste. I must admit actually that, at the time of writing, I was fired up by a few sizeable G&Ts. I hope you get your tie for Christmas, I suppose, on balance, it was quite jolly. I most certainly would agree with Blanche Clitheroe on the silver fox front!
Where did David Dimbleby get his tie from?! I'm going to put one on the top of my Christmas list. I loved it!
In answer to Paul Williams' question, "When will Caroline Lucas be back?" Hopefully not until such time as she's learned something about Middle East culture and customs, if the views she expressed on this show are anything to go by.
The Green Party's Caroline Lucas MEP was positively inspiring, compared with the others on the panel. Only one question: when will she be back?
I couldn't agree less with Marjorie Needham (Mrs) a propos David Dimbleby's tie. I thought it rather jolly and added a much needed dash of colour to what were, on the whole, rather bland offerings from the panel in the wardrobe department. I actually think he's a bit of a silver-haired fox.
Impressed with last night's programme, though very hasty on each subject. To have a real debate, you really need more time for each subject, or extend the programme an extra half hour. I also felt that the panel on the whole shared much consenus, something increasingly evident in British politics. Look forward to the next time!
Charles Kennedy shines again - give me a ballot paper X!
A very good programme tonight. It was good to hear such common sense from Caroline Lucas and Bob Kiley - a refreshing change from the party political lines. Good too to get back to some 'local' issues although Afghanistan still remains uppermost in our minds. DD was wonderful as usual!
The opera goes to plan week on week. It's not too difficult to guess the answers of the three main political parties. Their stance is obvious on most issues. What made last night's programme more interesting was that Bob Kiley, who had little political affiliation, was able to give direct answers (with some caveats now and again). This is obviously due to him being a non-MP.
What was David Dimbleby thinking of wearing that tie on last night's programme? It looked like a firework display! I like to think of myself as broad-minded, and even considered voting Liberal Democrat at the last election, but I really do think it was entirely inappropriate for a man of his stature and standing. Surely something a little more sober would be more in keeping with the tone of what is a very serious discussion programme not an all night rave party!
David Dimbleby "chastened"? David and the team have transformed boring politics into a lively, interesting, stimulating, relevant debate, letting us feel the real emotion of heartfelt opinion from all sides giving minorities a say alongside the powerful. Many thanks for this valuable service to Britain. And please, carry on knowing you have our support.
Congratulations on an entertaining and engaging programme. The panel, Cook and Letwin in particular, were well informed and articulate, the topics of discussion were interesting and relevant, the audience appeared both balanced and civil and Mr Dimbleby carried the debate with his usual professionalism. Excellent programme.
I note that the panel for tonight's programme is once again unbalanced. Robin Cook is from the government hierarchy, Charles Kennedy rarely attacks the government and is to the left of them, Bob Kiley works for the left-wing mayor of London, the Green Party member is probably the most left-wing on the panel and this leaves Oliver Letwin as the sole panellist who has moderate right-wing views.
It's a good programme. I have learned a lot from it and would wish an extension of the time given.
Bob Kiley is the sanest person I've heard in years. Will he consider standing as an 'independent' PM?
Does the BBC really believe in democracy? I am currently watching QT and am amazed that every time Mr Letwin says something he is shouted down - not by the audience but by Dimpleknees!
I feel that not only does Bob Kiley's down-to-earth common sense approach to all the questions to which he gave answers show a degree of understanding sorely lacking in the vast majority of politicians that appear on Question Time, for the first time I have to agree with the confidence shown in him by Ken Livingston that he would surely organise the transport system in London to the benefit of its citizens.
Once again a very good show. It was good not to have any back biting or political scoring. Well done everyone.
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