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Thursday, 10 January, 2002, 12:04 GMT
January 10, London
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The topics discussed this week were:

Worst railways in Europe?

Audience question: Do the panel agree with Peter Hain that Britain has the worst railways in Europe? You said:

Our road network is our best transport network. Should we not use our roads more efficiently, such as running buses along each motorway stopping at junctions to link up with local services?
Jake Bourne, Nottingham

It's about time the rail network was brought back into public ownership so that it is run as a public service and not as a profit making oganisation for the share holders. And that includes the senior managment who have large share options.
RG Stockwell, Bromley

...forget the rhetoric, no government seriously wants to improve the rail network. Forcing people to remain in their cars generates huge sums of money from the taxes on fuel, road fund, speeding fines etc...
Jeff Martin, Solihull

Worst railways in Europe. Why doesn't that surprise me? Unfortunately the British people are at last waking up to the reality that they have got exactly what they have voted for. They will also deserve the euro because they will follow thy leader. Saint Tony of Westminster. Unfortunately they cannot blame the government but themselves - as if five years is not enough they go for another five years. We must be gluttons for punishment.
K Shepherd, London

Simon Hughes claims the government spent less on the railways in their first term than the Tories did in their last five years. The railways were sold off at rock bottom prices. Of course, less money was spent and the Tories would have spent the same if they had still been in power. I believe the subsidies given to the railways after 1997 were what was provided for in the botched privatisation legislation. Because of the mess made by Railtrack in particular, the government now has to pour more tax payers' money into the railways. Can anyone tell me of any other case where the government has had to continue subsidising the industry after privatisation?
Peter Haymes, Felixstowe

When will Stephen Byers do the British people a favour and resign. Just when you think a situation can't be made worse Mr Byers seems surprisingly able to offer more difficulties eg administrators to run the railways! Whoever is historically responsible for the on-going disaster on the track is no longer the issue. What is required is fresh talent, vision and leadership to take the situation forward. I also hope Peter Hain is not made to suffer for displaying the greatest bit of honesty in British government for the past four years.
Kieron Eatough, Bedford

Why does the recent rail troubles have to centralise around London, when we have been refused the convenience of a main line from Caernarfon to Bangor here in North Wales. Once again the government has shrugged its shoulders on rural Wales.
Kevin Pritchard, Cearnarfon

Is Peter Hain to railways what Edwina Curry was to eggs?
Mary Kallagher, King's Lynn

Simon Hughes said that the government was not investing in the service as much as the Tories. Surely the idea of privatisation was to save the taxpayer investing as much in the service, and that investment came from the private companies, if not why was it privatised. I am sure the action taken by Mr Byers was correct, and given time the country will have a rail system fit for the 21st century, with a government fit for the new century, New Labour.
F Marsden, Formby

It has been known for YEARS that substantial government and public resources will be required to correct the abysmal state of the rail infrastructure. Private engineering consultants have been advising Railtrack for years concerning the dangerous condition it is in. Stephen Byers' action in winding up Railtrack is a mere smokescreen. The billions they were asking for will still need to be invested. Why not come clean about it? It won't surprise anyone!
Mark Kempson,

The dire state of the public transport system is less to do with investment and more to do with designer incompetence in government and commerce. As we are after all an oil/car based economy and most people only pay the extortionate fares because they have little alternative.
David Vine, London

Stephen Byers intimated earlier today that they (Labour) held off sorting out the railways so that they could fix the economy. As it stands, the economy is not in fantastic shape, and many people are dead due to mis-management of the railways. I hope the electorate is reminded of this during the next round of elections.
Nick Field, Huddersfield

When the Labour Party came into power in 1997 one of the first things John Prescott did was to demand better time-keeping and faster journeys. The rail industry foolishly took this on board knowing that the infrastructure required investment, such as new signalling, new track etc. The answer should have been continue as before and delay any better time-keeping until improvements were completed. The unfortunate accidents could well have been avoided and the service improvement would have been achieved over a longer period and with less hassle.
JB Crockatt

There is no way that private competition can successfully collate a national network. If I want to travel to LONDON I have a choice of CONNEX (the rail operator) or take the car! I can't opt for another rail company. The whole idea of privatisation is competition. The railways must be re-nationalised with the correct amount of investment and headed by competent management accountable to government but free from government interference.
Andrew Clark, Bognor Regis

I wish your panellists would stop calling the railways a public service because since it was PRIVATISED it should be referred to as a private industry. I agree with the current government ceasing the subsidy as we were pouring tax payers' money into an incompetent management who seemed incapable of using the money wisely.
S Roberts, Lincoln

I am student that uses one of the worst parts of the rail network in the country - East of England (Lincs/Notts/Cambs). Trains never run on time, are dirty and frequently breakdown. Yet where I'm from originally in Derby, the service is much better but still limited by comparison to Germany and France. Investment is needed now!
Jon Morley, Lincoln

As public trusts they would be free to borrow to raise extra finance. They would be free from the dead hand of the treasury and the grasping hands of shareholders. The railways would again be run by railway companies. Railwaymen and members of the public would sit on the boards. The companies would have a duty to deliver a public service and low fares, allowing people to own cars and use public transport.
Stephen Nash, Folkestone

If Stephen Byers had any vision he would re-nationalise Railtrack, make sure the shareholders and employees received a sensible return and build a new TGV 300 kph West Coast main line from London to Glasgow, leaving the older West Coast line mainly for freight. Come on Stephen where is your pioneering spirit, all it takes is willpower - the time has never been better.
Malcolm Rivett-Carnac, Northampton

Surely the responsibility for the pathetic state of Britain's railways lies with the directors and shareholders of the privately owned rail companies; and as such, why should we, the tax paying public, bail out shareholders who failed to invest in the company they owned?
David Elgee, Blackpool

If the panel had a captive traveller on a route that was free from congestion why would they allow the road to subside? The railways are free from all the problems of the road so if they removed the rails and provided vehicles that went at 100mph plus would that not be better? There are no queues, no other competing users so why don't we rid ourselves of rails and use the rail areas as designate hyper roads? Sounds silly but the railroads have complete autonomy why not replace them?
Andrew Baczkowski, Leeds

Why can't the government employ whomever designed rail networks in Europe to sort our disastrous system out? I cannot understand how other countries in Europe are able to provide excellent services that run on time for a reasonable price and we have horrific accidents every year. I lived in Switzerland for a year and travelled over the summer and not once was there a delay or problem. We need to play a bigger part in Europe and use it to our advantage.
Katie Fury, Bangor

I believe the rail service should quite clearly be split into two areas, one privatised and one public. The railways are a vital integral part of this country's infrastructure for both commerce and general usage therefore the state of the track system is of public concern. On the other side to the business, services on the railways should be open to competition as services industries thrive in a private market.
Robert Chafer, Trowbridge

As I am not a regular rail user, I do not know if we have the worst railway system in Europe. But the travelling public deserves a far better system than we have at the moment. With the ever-increasing fares and old, over-crowded trains, things must now begin to improve. Whatever replaces Railtrack must be left alone to do the job, and get on with improving the railway system of this country. Stephen Byers seems determined to put the railway system right, and will hopefully, be left in place to see this task through.
Steve Fuller, Brighton & Hove

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Time for Tony Blair to end his globe-trotting?

Audience question: Does the panel agree that it is time for Tony Blair to end his globe-trotting and concentrate on the job for which he was elected? You said:

Tony seems to be damned no matter what he does. Given Britain's colonial ties to both India and Pakistan, he is in a unique position to alleviate a disastrous situation. Give him a break! He spent his Christmas trying to save the world, while the rest of parliament was on holiday. T Chant's comment stating that more civilians have been killed in the Afghanistan bombings than were killed in the Sept 11 attacks, is PATENTLY FALSE.
M Kuchlenz, San Francisco

Tony Blair is trying to help combat growing conflict in our world. Why don't we support him for that instead of criticising him?
Scott Boyle, Billingham

Clive Anderson doesn't worry about the PM's absences because he thinks politicians do more harm than good. I'd go farther and have MPs on permanent holiday except for one day a year to vote the budget through!
Jack Biggs, Weymouth

Those who have criticised Tony Blair for being out of the country during the rail crisis tend to forget that he spent a week of his summer vacation in Cornwall in order to save our travel industry, and indeed our countryside, during the foot-and-mouth crisis. Surely, once he boards one of our trains there will be no problems with our railways!
Colin Bridger, Camberley

I think Tony Blair should continue his globe trotting but not just for a week or two - how about for a couple of years. In fact if he likes India and Pakistan so much why not seek re-election there or perhaps Palestine or Afghanistan. Then perhaps we could get a decent prime minister who would deal exclusively with problems in this country. That would make a nice change.
K Shepherd, London

Mr Blair should do what he was chosen for ie be prime minister of Britain, instead of seeking glory abroad.
Sheila Fox, Greenock

Blair's got the right sense of perspective. If by spending a couple of days abroad he helps avert nuclear war, I think that's time well spent. Who else could we send? Let's be realistic and treat this situation with the seriousness it deserves.
James W Moss, Newport, South Wales

Why was the prime minister getting so much praise for travelling the world to help the 'war on terrorism' when the allied bombing has now killed more civilians than died on September 11.
T Chant, Devon

I think it's about time we all put our problems in perspective. We can't get the train on time eh? Well at least we have a house, food, health, family and friends. Some people in the world don't have any of these. Also if Tony Blair wishes to go and do what ever he can around the world then let him. The only reason the Conservatives are so annoyed with him going abroad is that they are always about one thing. Themselves! World peace is only possible if we all care and share.
Jamie Bassnett, Manchester

I accept the need for a global peace initiative, and of course someone has to take the lead in this. However, several domestic issues are reaching boiling point and they require the full and undivided attention of the prime minister. I don't believe Mr Blair can continue on both fronts and give 100%. It's been said before but isn't this what we have a foreign secretary for?
Lyn Gallacher, Glasgow

There are many like me who regard his eagerness to appear as the saviour of the world a complete joke. And since he thinks he can solve the problems of the world, why on earth isn't he here trying to sort out the never ending troubles in Northern Ireland. I'm afraid he has no credibility with me and was the cause of my not voting Labour for the very first time since I had the vote - and that is a good number of years ago. And yes, Margaret Beckett, our public services are in disarray and although costly are a complete disgrace.
Liz Bell, Rock Ferry

I have to agree with Michael Howard (wonders never cease) that it was incredibly crass of Mr Blair to try and influence the Kashmir situation - does no one in Downing Street have an understanding of the feelings of the countries involved about 'British meddling' as a result of history?
Clint Fern, Helston

With the tensions in the Middle East and India and Pakistan on the brink of nuclear war of course Tony Blair should make trips there to help resolve any problems. I'm no Labour fan but Mr Blair's efforts have put him up in my estimation. Perhaps if certain cabinet members were more competent recent problems at home would not be an issue.
David Millar, Glasgow

I accept that we need to assist other nations in their time of need but is that not what our foreign secretary is for? Tony Blair should sort out his own house before he tries to sort out other people's!
Emma Britton, Bristol

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A referendum on the single currency?

Audience question: Following the near flawless introduction of new notes and coins in the euro zone should Britain now hold a referendum on the single currency? You said:

At the end of the day Britain is a powerful economy and therefore has a duty not just to herself but to the rest of the world as well. Let's just make sure we have a referendum and make the right decision. For the record, I want my descendants to grow up in a world where rich help poor not a world where rich do whatever they like at the expense of the poor. Think carefully about what kind of future you want before mouthing off about not joining the euro.
Jonny Moss, Stockport

Germany, France, Luxembourg etc etc even now Sweden and Denmark seem to be capable of making decisions without resorting to jingoism and rhetoric but not Britain. The British nation seems always to want the best of all worlds and ends up getting the worst. Low taxes but no social infrastructure, reluctant membership of the EU with little or no influence and now entering the euro late and having all the harmonisation decisions taken before they enter. Please wake up UK - the world is moving and it will not wait while you play little islanders.
Howard Barnes, Nanjing, China

The euro has arrived and life is the same. Although there is great sadness at the loss of the franc, why England should have the euro I cannot see. America lives and trades with Canada, without it having to have American dollars. It is all about POLITICS and nothing else. So let England keep the pound, and let the politicians get on with doing what they are supposed to do - running the country.
Anne Mcdonagh, Jarnac, France

In response to Steven from Antwerp: Perhaps the solution is for the EU to expel Britain. That way we would no longer hold you back and then we could regain control of our fisheries and agricultural policies as well as overturning the many restrictive and often ridiculous laws that eminate from the EU.
Dale Mallender, Hemel Hempstead

The comments made by Michael Howard I found from one perspective laughable and from another insulting. To say that if the Conservatives were to come into power at the next election there would be no referendum, on the issue of the euro, just because the Conservatives do not want it, were very wrong. Surely it's not the goverment that makes the decision it's the public. And here I am thinking that this was a democratic nation?
Matthew Thomas, Rhyl

I'm an expat living in the US and never have I felt happier than now that I made the decision to move to the States. Britain without a doubt is a morally degenerate, crime ridden, politically inept country which is on its way to becoming a backwater province in the united states of europe. The truth still rings true: "You reap what you sow."
Ian McGuiggan

Sean Cullen (on the euro) does not seem to have up to scratch knowledge of European history. Where has he got his facts from? The French franc, for example, dates back to the 14th century. This is just an example of why I am suspicious of a referendum. First, the public needs to be educated. I do not mean this in a nasty way, but it is sadly the truth about British democracy.
Maria Felton, Swansea

Yes, we should join the euro. Maybe we will stop being ripped off by companies, as one euro will enable British consumers to compare prices to the rest of Europe and get better deals.
Naz, London

A recent report from the EU commission states that 10 of the 12 eurozone countries have the wrong interest rate for their respective economies. To give an example of the damage that this is causing look at Germany who needs a lower interest rate to boost its struggling economy and Ireland which needs higher interest rates to slow its economy down. What happens when the boom in Ireland ends? We get a bust and as we know in this country from the 1980s and early 1990s many jobs are lost.
Jeff Shepherd, Southampton

Yes! The UK must join fully with the EU and that means the euro.
Harvey Brown, Los Angeles, CA

Over the course of the discussion concerning the euro we have heard about the fable five tests before the government decide on any course of action. Therefore do you think the government would find it in the country's interest to conduct tests before throwing the taxpayers' money away eg Railtrack.
Aaron Eriskin, Exeter

The comments made about the euro never cease to surprise me. Tim Martin and others spoke of the problems of different economies having the same interest rates and the problems this may cause. The euro has now existed for three years and the introduction of the coins and notes is only a continuation of this process. Why should the UK have a different interest rate to the rest of Europe? The north east of the UK and the south east have very different local economies. Should we therefore give a different interest rate for each region in the UK?
Jon Irwin, Oxford

I believe there should be a referendum on the euro asap but I doubt if the government will call one as they are scared of the result they might get. If there ever is a referendum the result should be binding for at least 20 years. I hope whichever side loses has the good grace to accept defeat unlike in Denmark whereby if the result goes against the wishes of the government they simply have another vote until the government wins.
Tim Spencer, New Milton

I think that the government is avoiding having an open debate about the euro, partly for fear of opening up divisions within its ranks reminiscent of the Tories of old. The big fear is that by holding off, we will end up being signed-up by default after edging ever closer until there is no alternative. We should not allow this or any government to take us down that road by stealth - we need an open and honest public debate.
Stephen Leitch, London

If we are to have an informed debate on the euro, politicians and individuals must separate the economic issues from the political and sovereignty ones. The euro question and decision should be made first and foremost on an economic basis, to evaluate what we have to gain by joining the euro and more importantly, what we have to lose by staying out of the single currency. If people continue to lump the economic and political issues together when considering the Euro, too many will make the decision based on emotive issues of Britishness or Englishness, rather than on the objective economic issues, which are crucial to the continued success of our economy.
Craig Sanderson, Glasgow

I agree with Steven from Antwerp. Britain should leave the EU now, before the countries of Eastern Europe join and expect British taxpayers to fund their economies as well as funding many of the present EU members.
Keith Wiseman, Bury, Lancs

My grand daughter has just returned from Spain and it appears that although the big stores are using the euro the small shops have not even opened the packs of new coins. Many people are not too happy about the change but never had the chance to say NO!!
Les Heaton, Burnley

It will be indeed a remorseful day for Great Britain and British people alike, if we ever resign ourselves to the euro. Great Britain and British pre-eminence will demise to a non entity if it adopts the euro. We are a proud nation, let us not be coerced or beguiled into substituting our financial and political independence for a co-dependent, insignificant annexed state of a federalised Europe.
J Mead, Connecticut, USA (British Ex-pat)

Thank you Steven (from Antwerp)! Such helpful comments make me even more decided that joining the single currency would be folly for this country. Having suffered longer than most from agricultural dictates from Europe, and attempting to live with the results, has not made me feel that we should deliver our gold reserves or the setting of our interest rate, to the European Central Bank. The day that petrol is bought and sold in euros rather than dollars should be the day we might start to consider joining.
Sara Cole, East Sussex

Yes a referendum on the decision that the govt has taken without reference to parliament or the people ie that in principle that the UK should be part of a single currency. The secondary issue of timing could be put to a further vote if and when there has been a delay in meeting economic criteria.
Alan Marshall, Southampton

Why give up our sovereignty and currency, both of which have been strong and stable for centuries, to a group of countries whose currencies and governments are barely 60 years old. We are the fourth largest economy on this planet - we don't need to be in Europe to have influence!
Sean Cullen, Wroxham-Norfolk

I would like to know which planet Mr Hughes comes from, because whilst the majority of financial areas, including the Bank of England, are saying that the euro would be a bad thing for England, he and his cronies continue with there tunnel vision on the euro (no pun intended). I will say an extra prayer in church this coming Sunday asking for help for Mr Hughes and the LibDem party to get over this euro virus, that they have obviously caught from the Labour party.
Eccleshall, Burton Upon Trent

Democratically speaking, since we are part of the EEC we should go with the majority. Three hundred million people have gone for the euro so our 57 odd million can only strengthen the EEC. And to the people who bemoan the loss of the pound can I ask what of the groat?
Andrew Kirk, Hemel Hempstead

Michael Howard said he does not think joining the euro community is the way forward for the UK, therefore he would not hold a referendum. We live in a democracy and the basic principle of this is that the people's views are represented. Quite clearly Michael Howard feels his opinion on the euro is of more importance than that of the people he represents. A lack of a referendum is an infringement of our civil rights to express our opinion.
Carrie, Dundee

I simply want to express how ridiculous it is for the Conservative Party to suggest that the referendum on the euro is the next general election. I stress the fact that it is a debate on ONE political issue, therefore it is ludicrous to expect the general public to show their support for the single currency (or lack of it) in an election that is based on a whole variety of extremely important issues. Do they really expect those people who disagree with the euro to vote for them even though their policies on other issues leave much to be desired?
Vikki Smith, Huddersfield

To Stephen from Antwerp: When your economy is ruined due to inappropriate interest rates introduced to support the over heating economies of Europe I'm sure you would have been glad to keep the Belgian franc. Instead you will have interest rates dictated by unelected members of the Central European Bank....I hope you will be very happy with your new bright Europe.
David, Stockport, England

Clive Anderson perpetuates the myth that somehow the euro has plummeted against the pound. Not true, the pound/euro value is fairly constant and has been for the past two years. Both currencies have dropped against the dollar due to inward investment in the US. Also the argument that interest rates are the only way to control the temperature of an economy is flawed. This is a charlatans way to handle the economy as there are many other tools that should be used. But this doesn't seem to concern the foaming anti-euro brigade.
Matt, Amsterdam, Netherlands (ex-UK)

Restricting a debate to the matter of joining the euro marginalises the real issue, our overriding island mentality. After spending five years in Germany, upon my return it is clearly observable in the manner in which we regard ourselves in relation to Europe. We do not regard ourselves as a part of Europe. Thus, we will react in positive rejection of not only the euro but most other perceived outside interference in our chosen way of living. Far from concerning ourselves with huddling together in the corner of one continent, we should address the obvious end goal of global unity. In effect, the euro is yet more emphasis of the economic alienation facing the majority of the world.
Nick Roberts, Henfield

Despite repeated requests for definitive information, for and against entry into the euro, thus far the government have made no attempt to give it. I find this most disturbing and feel that eventually we shall find ourselves, in a sense, "press-ganged" into it still not knowing what we are letting ourselves in for. Could it be, that at the end of the day, we shall find that it is purely for the benefit of a certain privileged few, AGAIN?
NW Banks, Downham Market

Why would Britain want to be married to the European continent when it produces nothing but trouble? Sooner or later the economy will be run into the ground by their left wing politicians and Britain will be in bed with them don't you think? Wouldn't Britain be more comfortable to adopt the dollar and be the gateway to Europe for the English speaking world? We have been through tough times together in the past and history should speak for itself.
Brian LeDoux, DeRidder, Louisiana, US

The audience member who said that there was chaos on the first day the euro was introduced was talking nonsense. My wife and I were in S Germany until 6 January 2002. At all points there was calm and patience being shown on all sides. As for driving back on the French auto route the tolls were extracted with equal alacrity from my credit card account, in French francs on our way out in December and in euros on our return on 6 January. John Prowse.
John M Prowse, Swindon

I agree with Chris. If only to cut an unnatural tie with the US we should join the single currency and make the real commitment to our European partners.
Jim Dunbar, Edinburgh

The amount of negative comments here about the euro reflects two things: 1. There hasn't been enough info for the public in 'layman's terms' and 2. The 'no euro' campaign reflects the non-progressive attitude still held by the hypocritical British people.
J Morley, Lincoln

Someone has just argued that we shouldn't introduce the euro due to the level of redundancies and rising recession. Basically, the reason why some many companies are shutting down here is because it is cheaper to manufacture in Europe. Keeping the pound is pricing us out of any trade with Europe. Of course people will get confused at first, but it will benefit us all in the long run.
Annabel Terrill, Durham

The government in general do not know enough about the euro, so what is the point in having a referendum from the general public who know even less?
Andy Shore, Nottingham

Being Irish I spent Christmas and New Year in Ireland. On New Year's Day I used different notes and coins. That's all that happened.
Rob Kirwan, London

A referendum now would not be good unless the public is given the information about what we are accepting and leaving behind us. The public needs an unbiased amount of information so that they can properly decide on what they want to do, so there is a clear result.
Ian Brandon, Northampton

If the government has nothing to fear, then why not ask the electorate what they want?
James Browse, Norwich

NO to a referendum! Not for at least a year.
Andrew Devonport, Pontefract

As an American, looking from the outside at all of the goings-on surrounding the introduction of the euro, I am not all that surprised that the UK is taking a wait and see attitude. On the premise that the UK does eventually join the common currency, what will it use as its benchmark criteria for determining its success or failure, or has it even contemplated such a criteria?
David Spiro, Rochester, NY, USA

No way should the UK join the euro. Why should we give up a stable currency for a Mickey Mouse one?
Mike Gardner, USA

With the introduction of the euro, the trend, which has seen the British pound become less influential, has been given a huge boost. With Britain joining the euro, the US dollar will have a rival and anything to decrease the influence of the US must be beneficial.
Chris Lane, Hobart

Prior to the launch of the euro, other major European countries ran what was effectively a mass education scheme to educate their respective populations. Like it or not, the euro is now a part of life for Britain, especially for business. What has been lacking is an informed debate which will aid the British public to make up their minds on the euro. Instead we have had little more than bitter polemic. Will the public ever be given the facts with which they can make up their own minds?
Christopher Pye, Liverpool

I am surprised that so many Tories are against the euro and so many liberals are for it because my reasons for staying out are due to my liberal beliefs. Entering into the euro I believe will give large companies more power and will not benefit small communities. The big problem is not losing the pound but losing control over our interest rates.
Andrew Lee, Aberdeen

Joining the euro is quite clearly a political decision and to suggest that economic targets are the criteria is plain nonsense. However bad our MPs are, at least they are elected by us and we can get rid of them if they displease us. I would much rather have a bunch of our fellow countrymen choosing our country's destiny than leave it to some faceless unelected bureaucrats who have their own agenda; they currently are trying to force issues on the whole of the European people regardless of their wishes!
Ian Broadbent, Bristol

Joining the euro will be the next step on the way to a federal Europe where our taxes and national policy is set. We will have less say in the way the WORLD is governed and less say over the way our nation is governed. The argument for the euro, being the panacea for all Europe's ills, is totally flawed and will be a complete disaster for Europe.
David Peers, Sutton, Surrey

Britain should fully accept the euro as a legal currency alongside the pound. This would allow the country to withdraw into sterling if necessary and policy controls could be handled within the sterling side of the financial system. With the pound floating free those policy controls would have to earn their right to exist.
Leon Kay, Picton, Ontario, Canada

Having just returned from the Continent, driving through France, just before and just after the euro conversion... goodbye cash, hello plastic! Let the bank work it out!
Edward Leigh-Wood, Bath

We should under no circumstances join the euro. We should keep the pound at all cost. I voted no in the referendum to join Europe. I would vote yes to coming out of it now if we had the choice. There is no way to remain English now. It is classed as being racist to state that you are English and proud of it. What a sad state of affairs this country is getting into.
Michael Eckhoff, Reading

I don't think Britain should join the euro, it would only make the currency weaker. In fact, it would probably be a good idea were Britain to leave the EU altogether. It would greatly increase the decision making process in the EU and would enable the other EU states to lose the burden of a membership country that seems unable to commit to the European cause.
Steven, Antwerp, Belgium

I think that there will be a number of people being made unemployed by the introduction of the euro. These people are the people who work in exchange booths across the whole of Europe. In my mind it's a false economy.
Kevin Pritchard, Cearnarfon

I feel the UK should join. It's a brave experiment, but the transparency it promises makes it worthwhile. If it failed in the long run, there's nothing to prevent this country setting up its own currency again, so the whole irreversibility scare is just that. The single interest rate is a potential problem, but then we haven't got a different rate for the north of England and for the south. A British presence in the ECB will benefit Britain. It's time to get away from the daft idea that the EU and the euro are scams to undermine British sovereignty and interests.
Adam Bukolt, Chilton, Oxfordshire

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Mobile phone theft racially motivated?

Audience question: The Home Office reports into mobile phone thefts that was published this week said that the majority of phone robbers in London were overwhelmingly black teenagers who deliberately targeted white boys aged under 15. Should these sort of offences be treated as racially motivated? You said:

Although I agree that mobile phone companies could and should do more to make theft of phones less attractive, it is worth pointing out that in my experience the robber does not always want the phone but the remaining credit. In their eyes they are stealing money and in a lot of cases are happy to either give or throw the phone away after the credit has run out.
Ron Richards, Dudley

I have no idea whether the theft of mobile phones by black youths from white youths is racially motivated or not. I do feel however, like many other posters, that it was wrong of the panel to refuse to even discuss the idea and whether it's worth the police investigating seriously. They seemed to have no evidence to justify dismissing the idea out of hand as they did. If, after police investigations into these muggings including any possible racial motive, it was decided race was not a factor, that would be the time to dismiss racial motivations.
SLJ, London, England

Of course mobile phone thefts are racially motivated! In view of the statistics how can anyone believe otherwise? But then, I've never known a government like this one to manipulate statistics so much! Be it crime, hospital waiting lists or that 'big drop in homeless sleepers' which was queried by the actual counters.
Bill, London

With the Met police now taking traffic officers off road policing duties to catch phone thieves and the like does this mean that a lost phone is worth more than a death on the road?
Andrew Grenter, Bramshill, Hants

I was appalled to see how each member of the panel avoided the race question. They all looked uncomfortable and side-stepped the really issue. Yes there is a racist crime wave in this country, and if the politicians are not prepared to address the problem now, things can only get worse. Racial and cultural differences need to be discussed by all parties before we end up with a race war.
AT Blackman, Birmingham

Full points to all the panel for being politically correct - but let's be honest, if a white teenager robs a black teenager, it's racially motivated. But why is it not if the boot is on the other foot?
J White, London

Muggings are racist crimes. Once again a panel is too scared to tell the truth for fear of the PC brigade. When burglars target a house they do not know the colour of its occupants. Likewise car thieves do not steal cars because the owner is of a certain race. Black youngsters steal from white youngsters because they are white. They do not steal from they own race.
Dean, London

Does it matter whether a thief is black or white, or in fact whether any criminal is black or white. He or she should be treated accordingly depending on the crime committed, not the ethnic origin of the perpetrator or the victim. This analysis of colour or ethnic origin adds fuel to any perception of race discrimination.
Helga McNeilage, Annan

The craven refusal of any and all of tonight's panellists to even admit - much less discuss seriously and in detail - the blatant racist targeting of young white boys by gangs of older black criminals is a prime example of liberalist institutional conformism at its racist, sexist, extremist worst!
Terry Daly, London

Blacks seem to be targeting whites and despite what Beckett and Hughes said whites do not target blacks when they go burgling or car-thieving. This was what the question was about and everybody ducked it! What a shame - politicians failed again and fewer and fewer people will turn out to vote.
John Kelly, Cardiff

Of course not! But we should not try to avoid the issue by blaming the phone manufacturers for lack of inbuilt security. There would be no need for security if the thieves were to be caught and properly punished. If these youngsters are old enough to commit crime so readily, they are old enough to be subjected to REAL punishment, not the holiday camps called young offenders institutions.
Paul Stratton, Basingstoke

It doesn't matter what race the mobile thefts are coming from, there are too many and it is a problem the government needs to deal with. This would be by talking to mobile phone companies to see if any safety guidelines or devices can be recommended to the public, plus better legislation for those offenders including tougher sentencing and fines.
Ian Brandon, Northampton

The issue of black people committing most of these mobile phone crimes not being racially motivated is rubbish. If it were the other way round the panel would have no fear of saying that it was racially motivated.
Andrew, Cleveland

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1m guarantee complete happiness?

Audience question: Would 1m guarantee the members of the panel complete happiness? You said:

1,000,000 would not necessarily make me more happy, but it would certainly provide a much better class of misery!!!
Graham Loveridge, Pontypool

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General comments on the programme:

Funny... Clive Anderson irritated me by acting as if he was doing one of his own shows, rambling on and on without any substance and Tim Martin seemed to have no strategic or global perception at all, rather extolling his own personal, narrow minded opinions. Only non-MPs who have a strategic awareness please. If you want to express a personal opinion then be an audience member or use this website!
M Kerr, Glasgow

An excellent debate with a refreshingly balanced and intelligent panel/audience. Please can we avoid the left-leaning bias and the token uninformed, populist 'trendy' panellists from now on?
Thomas Grey, London

Thank you for one of the best programmes in recent times. You had a sensible panel who avoided the usual tendency of constantly interrupting political opponents. No one seemed to have a message to get across at all costs, even if the questions didn't lead to it, and the questions asked were debated well by all participants.
Mike Whitaker, Dartford, Kent

Tonight the guy in the 'big hat' made a good point. It is VERY important that the BBC maintains a realistic audience profile - otherwise the young and the presently peripheral will be lost to your viewing folks. Please keep up and increase the diversity.
Janet Brand, Glasgow

With the exception of Margaret Beckett and Simon Hughes, I cannot remember a more unsatisfactory panel - the other three members must have been a mistake surely?
James Fyfe, Norwich

Why is it that Clive Anderson comes across as the most honest person, and would I still say that if he were an MP?
James, In France

Welcome back David and the same to your wonderful show. I have missed you over the holiday period. Looking forward to many more nights of debate and fun. It's refreshing to see politicians and heads of companies having to argue and defend. Keep up the good work.
Neil Willis, Bury

Here we go again! First question and he starts bullying the female on the panel! Interrupting Margaret Beckett when she was in the middle of her answer. Thought he'd improved recently but sadly back to his poor chairmanship.
J Alexander

I think that this programme is very informative. My only criticism is that there are not enough non-MP guests.
Claire Jones, Newport

Very lively show. Very witty and tenacious comments from the chair. Let's have more of Clive Anderson and can you come down to us sometime.
Beverley William Ley, Paignton, Devon

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