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Thursday, 17 January, 2002, 17:35 GMT
January 17, Cardiff
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The topics discussed this week were:

US treatment of captured Taleban and Al-Qaeda suspects justified?

Audience question: Can the controversial US government treatment of captured Taleban and Al-Qaeda suspects be justified in our so-called civilised western society? You said:

People are too quick to say the prisoners are terrorists. Where is the proof they were involved in Sep 11? The real terrorists are more than likely with Bin Laden right now. These prisoners are probably Afghan people fighting for the Taleban believing they were defending their country. America declared "war" on Afghanistan so they should be treated as POWs UNTIL PROVEN OTHERWISE.
Helen Osborne, Kidderminster

The prisoners are being fed adequate and nutritious food that does not violate their dietary customs, they have shelter, their wounds have been treated and they have been issued with prayer rugs and copies of the Koran. What more should be expected? They are not being beaten, or tortured, or hauled into sports stadiums for random executions like they did to the people of Afghanistan. I honestly don't know what people are complaining about.
Scott Westwood, Tacoma, USA

The number of people killed in the Twin Towers was stated as being 5,000. I believe that the latest are 2,800. Considering that unofficial figures for deaths (the US won't allow any 'official' figures) from US bombing in Afghanistan is now over the 3,000 mark surely it is time to stop the bombing. Also, if the Americans declare "war", which they did, on Afghanistan then they cannot say that the Afghan prisoners are not "POWs". If they want a "war" then they abide by the rules of "war".
Clare Dimmer, Portsmouth

The Al-Qaeda prisoners are not being treated fairly. What happened to one of America's guiding principles, innocent until proven guilty? How can the USA and other people justify keeping these people in these conditions with the line 'they're terrorists, they deserve it' when no one has seen any evidence proving this. Jane Moore's comments were idiotic to say the least. She kept harking on about how we shouldn't speculate as we don't know, then told us that they were being 'fed and watered', pure hypocrisy.
Mark Daniel, Exeter

The views expressed by Jane Moore are why British political thinking is/always will be visceral. Certain facts are incontestable:
1) If this is a war against terrorism then prisoners captured are POWs (the UN says so).
2) The American captured in Afghanistan should and must be afforded the same treatment as others captured (clearly not the case.
3) A military kangaroo court is neither 'civilised' nor 'democratic'(especially if we are the moral proponents of these two virtues). If this hypocrisy and duplicitous attitude persists, the US (and the UK unless we strongly object) should brace itself for more terrorists attacks.
Abi Bilesanmi, London

No matter how much anger we feel towards the captured Taleban fighters, we must treat them reasonably. We started this war to 'defend civilisation'. How are we doing that by behaving like the people we are fighting against? The quote by Nietzsche is appropriate here: "He who fights monsters should be careful lest he thereby becomes a monster. And if thou gaze long into the abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee."
Roland Kamsika, Belper, Derbyshire

The US is too smart to play into the hands of critics over an issue like this. Of course the prisoners will be treated in accordance with appropriate conventions, be they the Geneva Convention, international law etc etc. Can't everybody see that they're playing public hardball? And quite understandably too. Whatever the label applied to them, if the US administration and forces had been as despotic as everybody seems to be judging them to be, we wouldn't be having this debate - there wouldn't be any prisoners!
Paul B, Carterton, Oxon

Why don't we send three or four solicitors or barristers paid for out of legal aid funds, to defend those three British terrorists being held in Cuba. Who knows, perhaps they can arrange to have the trial held at Southwark Crown Court, where they will no doubt obtain an immediate release.
Brian Owen, Los Silos, Tenerife

There is one thing I just cannot get my head around. If the prisoners held by the Americans in Cuba are not prisoners of war, why are they proposing to try them by a military tribunal? There seems to be a contradiction here.
Peter Haymes, Felixstowe

If we were to put ourselves in the shoes of the poor, unfortunate people who lost family members in this tragedy then we would have some justification in voicing our opinions on how these prisoners should be treated. There are times when you have to fight fire with fire and this is one of those times. Besides, the US is showing plenty of compassion in its attempts to help the Afghans with food, shelter and monetary support to re-build their country.
Martin, Danielson

I was amazed to hear a shadow minister, a former head of a political party, and a 'Sun' journalist, say and repeat that the deaths resulting from the Sep 11 Trade Center attack were 5000! This figure is way out. Officially it is now 2890. It is worrying to hear such out-of-date talk. Also the views expressed on the treatment of the prisoners in Cuba were trite, inaccurate and mere blather. In international law the actions taken by the USA are NOT 'war'. Despite America's constant use of this word, we are not in a war. Hence the prisoners are not prisoners of war.
Dr Barry Clayton, Cleveleys

I feel I must point out that the most influential parts of the American media are controlled by the same people as those with interests in arms sales, oil deals in the Caspian Sea area, and in the highest echelons of US government. These prisoners must, therefore, be given a fair trial on as neutral a territory as possible, by representatives of as many countries as possible who don't have a vested interest in the outcome. Frankly I doubt this will happen, and fear the consequences.
Chris, London

Has anyone bothered to ask why America was bombed in the first place? The murder of 5,000 people is one hell of a political statement. Nobody as yet can say why someone would commit such an atrocity. Perhaps is has to do with the American-fuelled destruction of the Afghan economy 31 years ago.
Dave, Sheffield

My husband and I are disgusted with what we have heard from your studio audience tonight with their comments about the treatment of Taleban prisoners in Cuba. They are murderers pure and simple and cannot claim to be fighting for their country as most of them come from other countries anyway. The BBC should stop claiming that they are the voice of the people, as far as I can see they are certainly not!
Jacqui Morris, Bedford

I agree 100% with Jane Moore's comments on the terrorists. What do they want - a three-course meal and a five-star hotel?
Kate Williams, Weymouth

Having lived in the Middle East I found Jane Moore's comments sensible and factual. When will people realise we in Britain treat everyone with common sense and rationality but living outside the UK we know that other countries have no intention of living and reacting the way the British do. Why do we always have to be the ones who are going out of our way to show the world we are just and fair when no other country bothers?
Dorothy Friend, Alhaurin el Grande, Espagne

I think we should be treating these prisoners in Cuba more humanely. America should be setting an example to the rest of the world. The lady on the panel kept saying we don't know how they are being treated. That is the whole point - we should be being told, otherwise for all we know they are being tortured. If they treat prisoners, who haven't even been tried, like animals how can they complain when others treat them no better than animals. If I kept my dog in a cage, fed and watered or not, I would be arrested.
Steve, Northampton

The comments made by Jane Moore regarding the conditions the captured terrorists are being held in were offensive and from her manner she set out to deliberately offend. She repeatedly used the term "fed and watered" with the association that she thought that they were animals.
Harry Ramsden, London

Having seen what happened in this country up close on September 11 and the devastating affect it had on everyone here, yes they have got it right! Let's face it, if they were in an Afghan jail it would be an old cargo trailer with no light, no facilities, no food and a regular beating if not worse. And since when did Al Qaeda treat anyone humanely? My only problem is that they should be called 'prisoners of war' because that's what they are, and they need to be held in accordance with the Geneva Convention.
Sue Burrowes, Houston, Texas

The US says that the captives are "technically" not POWs because they were not part of an officially recognised army from a recognised government. Is there any such thing as inalienable "human" rights? When the US went into Vietnam or Korea or Haiti or Cambodia...the prisoners were POWs so that must mean that the governments were recognised. Does this mean that the US "attacked" a legitimately recognised government? All this shows double standards.
Khurram Farooquie, Dallas

The USA should not have started the war without UN agreement. President Bush should be put to trial as a war criminal - like Hitler and Tojo.
Hiroshi Ishii, Kitamoto, Saitama, Japan

The prisoners should be treated as prisoners of war, not unlawful combatants or whatever the USA calls them. The US must listen to the people of the world. It seems the terror attacks knocked off the USA's 'head', and the 'body' is now in a rage seeking revenge in a most mindless manner!
Sandbu, Trondheim

The people that complain about human rights abuses against these prisoners we have in Cuba need to wake up and realise scum like these terrorists lost their human rights when they committed these horrific acts. And even if they didn't do it themselves they supported the cause and probably would do it themselves given the chance. The rest of the world needs to back off and let us the US deal with these parasites. We are at war and as far as I can see Al-Qaeda are just as bad as the Nazis were.
Steve, Sunnyvalce, California

The three Britons who have been taken to Cuba for being members of the Al-Qaeda network should be named and shamed and should no longer be known as Britons.
Kevin Pritchard, Caernarfon

These are terrorists not soldiers in uniform. Therefore they are not due the 'rights' of the Geneva Convention.
M Cumming, Basildon

Although I do not condone what is happening in Afghanistan, I do believe that the US are totally out of order in not treating the prisoners as POWs.
John Hill, South Wigston

Thank God that the Americans have got the terrorists in Cuba because if they were kept here they'd be released next week and given housing and social security. They are terrorists and by committing this atrocious crime they should forfeit their human rights.
Stephen Mansfield, South Woodham Ferrers, Essex

Will everybody please get it right: The attack on the World Trade Center was not only full of Americans but people from many nations around the world. I am sick and tired of there only being pity and grief for the American people. What about the British nationals killed?
Gordon Rennie

Who does the audience think they are kidding? As an ex-serviceman I think the Al-Qaeda terrorists are being treated far too well. These are people who are willing to kill indiscriminately to make a point. The people who make these comments about their human rights are not in a situation to compare like with like. Let them go and serve in a war zone for a week and see if their attitude changes towards those who pose a threat.
Marc Holleran, Glasgow

I feel that pandering to these prisoners is a dangerous road to be going down. We, as a coalition, must move forward and capture all the individuals in Al-Qaeda and not allow these individuals to re-group and commit more acts of terrorism possibly closer to home. The so-called British individuals are traitors and have committed an act of treason to Her Majesty's government. They deserve nothing less than the death penalty for these atrocities.
Mark Parkes, Birmingham

I simply cannot believe the comments which are being raised over the Taleban/Al-Qaeda prisoners being held in Cuba. What human rights did those people in the Trade Center and on the aircraft have on September 11. Also what about those reporters who were murdered in Afghanistan - were they afforded basic human rights. I say let them all rot in hell because that's where they belong!
Sue Graney, Wadebridge, Cornwall

The Americans have been transporting criminals across America for years and they understand how to transport dangerous criminals safely. We do not transport dangerous criminals by aircraft.... furthermore Al-Qaeda are the most dangerous of criminals and should be treated humanely in line with dangerous criminals in America although the Americans should abide by the Geneva Convention as it is an international standard for all nations.
Colin Littley, Telford

Tonight's show talked about whether the US are treating members of Al-Qaeda humanely. Have they forgotten the way the passengers on the flights which were used for mass destruction were treated. They were not treated humanely - a stewardess had her throat cut and children were told they were going to die. Should we give them their basic human rights? No, deny them these rights as they denied others.
Kathleen Shannon, London

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Agree with handling of revelation that Prince Harry smoked cannabis?

Audience question: Does the panel agree with the way Prince Charles, the police and the media handled the revelation that Prince Harry smoked cannabis and drank alcohol as a minor? You said:

I do respect Prince Charles for his views on a lot of subjects but in this case I believe he was wrong. By taking his son to a drug rehab unit to witness the effects drugs can have on people, he was propagating the erroneous impression held by most of the unenlightened media, that cannabis is a gateway drug to further hard drug abuse. I believe the real gateway drug is tobacco, with alcohol a close second.
Graham Hunt, Andover

The amount of coverage given to the Prince Harry story has been way over the top. This is because the New Labour controlled media are desperate to keep the real news off our screens and front pages (railways, health service, incompetent ministers, PM making the UK look stupid abroad...etc...etc...etc). The Prince Harry story was yet another blessing for this government, and just another excuse to bury bad news.
Andrew C Robson, Gateshead

There were comments made regarding the Prince 'breaking the law.' The legal age for consuming alcohol is five, a person under 18 cannot consume or purchase alcohol in the BAR of licensed premises and if he did it was the landlord/staff who commits the offence. If a person 18 or over bought the alcohol for the Prince and he consumed it anywhere in the pub other than the bar ie games room/beer garden no offences have been committed.
Trevor Lumley, Ashington, Northumberland

I believe that alcohol and tobacco is equally as destructive as cannabis and I don't see why a government should choose whether we are legally allowed to use a natural substance to feel good. People are more in control than when drinking and generally do not cause harm to the public. I believe that cannabis should be legalised providing those who choose to use it do not inflict it on others.
Victoria Bailey, Plymouth

What a load of sanctimonious claptrap was aired in response to the question about Prince Harry's cannabis and alcohol usage. Why did not anyone point out that Prince Charles completely over-reacted by sending his son to a drug rehab centre for heroin addicts? I think you'll find far more trouble from young people drinking legally obtainable alcohol than you will from teenagers who have decided to have a few puffs on cannabis. Perhaps if our politicians continued their pot smoking activities after leaving college, they wouldn't be such an unimaginative and uninspiring bunch!
Dr Hemp, Totnes

I wonder how many other parents have access to sending their children to drug clinics.
Charlie, Liverpool

Poor old Prince Harry. If he was Joe Bloggs he would never have been named. How many of us have all gone under-age drinking in our youth - I did? And to have a spliff too - so what? Most kids try these things these days and in my day too. It is all part of the growing-up process. Harry must feel suitably humiliated, poor boy. I agree that Harry is technically able to marry at his age but cannot have a drink or smoke a joint. Well said.
Chris W, Southampton, UK

How can the panellists say that cannabis is dangerous after so many reports and commissions have proved otherwise?
Dave, Sheffield

The consensus amongst the panel and those in the audience who spoke out was that he was right to take Harry to a drug re-hab clinic to see what might happen if cannabis leans on to harder drugs. It seems hypocritical that no one suggests that Harry or any 18-year-old who starts drinking legally should be taken to a hospital to see patients with cirrhosis of the liver to see where alcohol can lead.
Tim Rushton, Worthing, Sussex

If you go to a pub these days you are able to make a conscious decision whether to drink or whether to drive. Other people's drinking habits don't affect your ability to drive. However, if cannabis were legalised then you could enter a pub, and effectively be 'passively stoned' for want of a better phrase. Surely this is an unacceptable breach of non-smoker's rights? You could lose your licence because of other people's cannabis smoking?
Carl Revell

As landlords in a village setting, I would just like to add that not all landlords are the same! We refuse to serve underage teenagers - and they cause the most problems when we do so, plus there can be a tendency for older people to try and purchase alcohol for these teenagers! We are responsible landlords - we work in a community environment providing many facilities for many people.
Trish Armstrong, Powys

Prohibition doesn't work. America proved that 70 years ago. It's a waste of time and money and simply increases crime rates with addicts stealing to cover their habit. Legalise recreational drugs and put the pushers out of business.
Colin Smith, London

What a load of hypocrisy from all the panel (bar Lembit Opik)! Charles should not have marched Harry off to see heroin addicts for puffing on a spliff any more than we should send our teenagers off to see homeless alcoholic winos for drinking cider. I get very depressed seeing 12-year-olds smoking on their way to school, but not at the thought of 16/17-year-olds sneaking drinks or trying cannabis. We must teach sense and moderation with alcohol and cannabis, and save our intolerance for tobacco.
Richard Bartlett, Nottingham

A large portion of the cost of a packet of cigarettes for instance is tax. I would like to know if this money is being used to fund the fight against drug smuggling and put end to the black market once and for all.
Ian Tetlow, Cardiff

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Managers do for the NHS what they've done for our railways?

Audience question: Will managers from private companies do for the NHS what they've done for our railways? You said:

The Tories have no shame at all! Nigel Evans sat there last night pontificating about the NHS and really thinks that we are all so dense that we never recognised how his party sought to concertedly wreck it over 18 years. I'd like Alan Milburn to move even quicker, but at least this government is seeking to address the underlying problems that Thatcher & Co left behind and which will maybe even take generations to redress.
Robert Crosby, Nottingham

To prove private enterprise's superiority the examples given were Water and Telecon. However consider the commodities to be marketed. Water - free at origin of supply. Telecon - since the advent of the silicon chip ridiculously cheap. Sack a high proportion of your labour force so there is no slack and it would take a monkey to be unsuccessful in operating these profitably. These are then unfairly compared with labour and material costly enterprises.
Jack Biggs, Weymouth

If managers from the private sector promised to do a better job for less money than current management receives then I would be in favour of private sector management in the NHS. Somehow I doubt that that will be the position though.
Jamie, Bedlinog

I am sick of successive governments telling us (I am a nurse) that we have to reform, when they don't reform themselves. They have long summer breaks which go back to the times when Parliament in London had to go into recession for the summer because of the stench from the Thames. That's not the case now, but they still produce the same lack of work!
Angela Gorman, Cardiff

It strikes me that over the years no government has done anything to sort out the problems of transport, NHS, education or policing. Why can't they just sort these problems out? They have been getting worse for over 20 years but nothing positive is ever done. Why are politicians so incompetent and why do we leave things in their incapable hands to sort out? If they were running a business they would have gone bust a long time ago.
Philip Tatham, Hull

The most serious problems with the NHS involve the competence of the staff - doctors, nurses and managers. Money alone will not solve these problems.
George Miller, Manchester

The 1960s and 1970s were the eras where nationalisation was seen as the great solution to all problems. In the 1980s and 1990s, privatisation became the great panacea. New Public Private Partnerships appear to be the dogma of the era. Surely the health service works better in public hands. Why cannot politicians see private and public or indeed PPPs on their merits and demerits?
Julian Borrett, Leeds

Failing hospitals and NHS trusts may not be put right by private managers. NHS trust chief executives and boards, if they must be replaced, should be replaced by experts in this field. In my view, if managers are brought in who do not know anything about the running of hospitals, then we will be in a greater mess than we are now. Morale in the NHS will be severely damaged if the wrong people take control of these hospitals.
Steve Fuller, Brighton & Hove

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Join me in congratulating Sam Hammam?

Audience question: Will the panel join me in congratulating Sam Hammam for raising the profile and standard of Welsh football? You said:

The comments from K Shepherd from London reveal a lack of cultural and intellectual reasoning, so typical of some who live in the capital. May I suggest that you need to get out to the provinces more to see how not just the Welsh, but other barbarian tribes live old boy!
Leighton, Wirrral

How the Welsh on the panel can dismiss Cardiff football holigans as jealous of the English is beyond belief. These people are supposed to represent a nation and with their response it breeds nothing but racial hatred and the sooner Wales is independent with no money from the English the better.
Ray Underwood, Dagenham, Essex

I was absolutely disgusted by the comments justifying the behaviour of Cardiff City fans. My husband is a photographer and had pounds' worth of coins thrown at him pitch-side. There was also extensive threatening behaviour and violence towards women and children who had travelled. It is in fact one of the few places you do not see a lot of families in the crowd. It is not a minority of Cardiff fans who are involved. Justifying this sort of thing as some sort of anti-Welsh behaviour is completely irresponsible, particularly on behalf of politicians.
Karen Cunningham, Winchester

The fault lies not in the spectators, but in the game itself. Football has become a violent, aggressive game, where 'anything goes'. Sportsmanship is entirely lacking and fouls are commonplace. Is it any wonder that the spectators reflect these attitudes in their behaviour? To hear football supporters in full cry calls to mind the bloodthirsty Roman mob at the gladiatorial games. Their combined bestial voice sends shivers down my spine, and I feel ashamed for them.
Brian West, Reading

The recent spate of football 'violence' is perhaps a working class reaction to being priced, and politicised, out of the game.
Sam Littlechilds, Matlock , Derbys

The Welsh people and indeed the MP shouldn't flatter themselves that a Fleet Street journalist had sour grapes. Believe it or not the English don't even give a thought to Welsh matters. As pointed out the country is so small and insignificant that who really cares anyway?
K Shepherd, London

I'd like to say on behalf of all decent Cardiff City fans please don't condemn us all - the proper fans are a great bunch of people and we want to see violence out of football too.
Miss D Phillips, Bridgend

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A reinvented Tory Party attract more Welsh voters?

Audience question: If the Conservative Party reinvents itself is it likely to attract more Welsh voters? You said:

Re-invented Tory Party attract Welsh voters? Only as a wolf in sheep's clothing!
Alan Marshall, Southampton

For the Conservatives to re-invent themselves would be a contradiction in terms at the most fundamental level. They would have become liberals in the very act.
Mick Callinan, Newcastle upon Tyne

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General comments on the programme:

I found what Ms Moore said about the POWs (yes POWs) being fed and watered most offensive, but should I expect more from a Sun "journalist"? Of course not. She followed a party line (ie what I would expect The Sun to say) more than any right wing Tory or lefty Labour person I have ever seen. I will never watch the programme again knowing this awful person is part of it.
Robert Mountford, Stoke on Trent

A very disappointing programme this week. Mainly because of the extremely poor quality of Welsh politicians available to you when setting up a Welsh location. Lembit Opik was more interested in putting across his own political points that were not associated to the question. Unfortunately your programme was put out nationwide and we, the Welsh, will be seen as a nation void of any effective political leaders. Dafydd Wigley and Nigel Evans fared little better.
Roy Alp, Crickhowell

I enjoy Question Time but felt it was a bit of a "b list" panel tonight. The constant clapping after every phrase is tedious in the extreme.
John Stratton, Strood Kent

Jane Moore was absolutely wonderful, I agreed with everything she said. The rest seemed to just want to score political points. Why is there not an equal attendance of women on the panel? We would have more common sense answers, like Jane Moore's - congratulations.
Eileen North, Winslow

The debate was bland and predictable with an unrepresentative audience. Well done.
Thomas Grey, London

Having been an avid viewer of Question Time for many years I thought the quality of debate tonight was the poorest I have seen.
Ray Nethercott, Reading

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