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EDITIONS
Thursday, 24 January, 2002, 13:28 GMT
January 24, Sunderland
You can join Question Time's internet debate by emailing your views on the topics discussed in the latest programme to: questiontime@bbc.co.uk

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


The topics discussed this week were:

Audience question: Does the Rose Addis case indicate that the health service is in terminal decline or that the politicians will go to any length to score a point? You said:

Paul of Sunderland seems to think that the case of Mrs Addis is a 'tiny issue'. Would it be of such little importance if it was his mother?
Colin Bridger, Camberley

On behalf of my partner and I we think the NHS is wonderful. Eight weeks ago he had a quadruple heart by-pass operation at Manchester Royal Infirmary after being diagnosed with angina last May. Incidentally we are both OAPs. Most of the incidents one hears of seem to be that the end result is how much compensation one can get out of the NHS rather than praise for the thousands of people who are treated successfully. If anything deserves money put into it it's the medical profession.
Mrs J M Allsop

All this twaddle about the lack of investment in the NHS under the Tories. Indisputable fact - under new Labour, during the last five years, less has been spent than under the last five years of the Tories! And that's not allowing for inflation.
Bill, South London

I wish everyone would stop blaming NHS managers for everything. They are working under difficult and under-financed conditions and most are surely trying to do their best. I care about the NHS and am currently working for the NHS as a smoking cessation advisor whilst doing a psychology degree. I have been considering a career in NHS management as I have a genuine desire to help improve the services available to the public. I am now having serous doubts about this as a career option because I think it is about one of the most thankless jobs in the country.
Claire Broomhead, Mansfield

Five years has been a very long 24 hours which the invincible Mr Blair told us he needed to save the NHS. Now he says that the opposition parties should not criticise the NHS, but rather praise it to encourage the brave and dedicated people working in it. I cannot remember a single politician who made more political points by cynically criticising everything that the Tory administration did over the 18 years that they were elected, elected and elected by the people of this country who knew when their real interests were being protected, but were conned by well honed spin to alter their allegiance.
Tom K, Pinner

We should take a step back and think about what we really want from the health service. The hospitals are too big and we have lost the personal touch which we had when there were more smaller local hospitals. Perhaps we should look at local doctors/health centres having small wards which could take up patients recovering or small operations done by local GPs. But I do feel that elderly care is specialised enough that elderly units should be set up especially around cities.
John Johnson, Leeds

The NHS exudes a culture of a pre-occupation with medicine and neglect for human dignity. This must change before any amount of money will improve things. When NHS hospitals open their windows to let in some fresh air, keep their corridors clear of garbage, replace decaying furniture and fittings with something pleasant, paint the walls and woodwork regularly, clean the floors and put up a few pictures, then I'll believe that something important is happening.
Jonathan Chapple, Wimbledon

The reason the NHS and other public services have not been up to scratch is that the electorate of this country are not prepared to put their money where their mouths are - we can't keep voting for whichever party promises to take less in tax and expect them to form a government which increases NHS spending. Politicians will never promise to increase taxation because they know it would lose them elections.
G Currie, Kilmarnock

It makes my blood boil to see and hear the Conservatives criticising the NHS, it was THEY that were banging nails into its coffin during the 18 long years of successive Conservative under funding. Has everyone forgotten the massive Tory policy flop that was 'Care in the Community''? Talk about two-faced hypocrites - have the Tories no shame? Under Labour things are improving albeit slowly however, under the Tories we wouldn't even have an NHS to debate about, they would privatise it like the proverbial shot. Bye bye NHS.
Elaine, Dunstable

Muriel Gray appeared to contradict herself on the subject of the NHS. On the one hand she said that she was sure that Labour was doing much good in society, but that tangible results of their policies might not be seen for some time. Then she said she couldn't SEE much evidence of improvement in the NHS. If she's right on the first point, then how can she be sure of her second?
Robert Crosby, Nottingham

I have noted on a number of occasions during PMQs MPs having raised individual cases of mistreatment in the NHS. It is no different that IDS does the same. What do people expect, that he stands opposite the PM and agrees with his policies, ideas, pats him on the back and says good job. Having an official opposition ensures that the government are being constantly watched and held to account. It's a disgrace that the PM and ministers refused to speak with the family concerned and based their investigation on the information given by those who wish to protect their own jobs.
Darren Perks, Manchester

In all this debate one question seems to remain unanswered, for me at least: Why did it take close relatives three days before visiting the old lady?
David Blyth, Cromer

Of course Duncan Smith has every right to raise the concerns or complaints of his constituents. What he should have done in the Rose Addis case was to check with the hospital first and if still not satisfied raise it privately with the secretary of state or the prime minister. He should not have raised it at the very public PMQs. We know and he knows the only reason he raised it in the Commons was to embarrass the government and to create the perception that there is nothing good in the NHS.
Peter Haymes, Felixstowe

John Bercow is nothing but a hypocrite of the highest order. How dare he sit there like a smug wise monkey pretending to have all the answers to the problems that his party created, especially when the Conservatives do not have one single policy apart from forcing the elderly, disabled and needy to buy expensive health insurance where even if they could find someone to insure them they would not be able to afford the premiums. Opposition parties and the rabid right wing press ought to stop undermining the excellent work done by my colleagues and they also ought to stop frightening vulnerable sick people and their relatives.
Lucy, Luton

Because health care is a noble and righteous profession can we stop letting doctors and nurses off the hook as if they are all victims of government manipulation. Five thousand people die each year because of lack of basic hygiene in hospitals. That is not because of too much bureaucracy, red tape or intervention. It is because staff cannot be bothered to wash their hands, change dressings or needles, wards aren't clean, viruses abound and frail people are left unattended for hours.
Neil Price, Leighton Buzzard

I liked your show tonight. But how can a Tory minister say the NHS is in a bad way when we know the reason for this is that if we still had his party in power we would not have the NHS.
Scott Campbell, Edinburgh

I have been a patient in local hospitals several times in the past number of years and I must say that I have noticed a steady decline in the level of service. On my last stay in hospital I was admitted at 1.45 am in the A&E dept with a blood infection, and I was on a porter's trolley in a side corridor on an intravenous drip for 36 hrs before I was found a bed. This is just one example of my personal experience of the NHS slowly dying a death. I deeply sympathise with Mrs Addis' plight.
Steve Ball, Ballymena, N Ireland

Yes IDS using the story about Addis in PMQs was disgraceful, especially when it seems he didn't know all the facts. It's also ludicrous to think that the government is responsible for every nuance of hospital life. Yes the health service needs improving, but what it doesn't need is IDS using the tiniest issue to try and score political points over the government.
Paul, Sunderland

There will NEVER be enough funding since costs continue to rise and medical advances keep pushing the frontiers of what can be done and what people expect. Why not ask instead of pouring money in where costs can be cut by a) efficiency eg collective buying power and b) reassessing what the NHS pays for and c) who is eligible? We MUST establish some criteria to prevent those who have contributed nothing from receiving treatment at the expense of those who have paid in all their lives.
Janis, Tunbridge Wells

I totally agree with Muriel Gray's point on the morale of staff in the NHS, during this current situation. We do not, I think, know the whole story of this case, and it is wrong to blame the hospital for this current situation. There must be thousands of good stories about the NHS which we never hear about. We must start supporting the doctors, nurses, and all NHS staff. The NHS cannot operate without them.
Steve Fuller, Brighton & Hove

I'm a GP working in the "front line". The NHS IS in terminal decline! There are no beds into which acutely ill patients can be admitted, corners are cut when they do reach hospital and if they do get in, they're out before they're well.
Dr J Lancastle-Smith, Northampton

As co-ordinator of a charity that supports carers for eight years I am an informed observer from the voluntary sector. In the last year the infrastructure has been in place to improve the social and health needs of the population. Unfortunately the management structures seem incapable of applying the policies. I could highlight many instances of bad practice but these are personal issues and should not be used as political fodder.
Malcolm Batty, Clacton, Essex

Iain Duncan Smith has absolutely every right to criticise and contest the current government over the management of the NHS in its current form. Mr "President" Blair and the NHS management are simply covering up for the real issues behind the scenes that everyday 'Joe Bloggs' from the public does NOT see, or hear.
Mr A Bishop, Croydon

This is a case of a very large mountain being made from a molehill - accidents and oversights will be made in every walk in life, say no more!
Andy Shore, Nottingham

The behaviour of this New Labour government is mind-boggling. Any sign of dissent or criticism is either ignored, laughed off, or even worse, shameful allegations made against the so-called 'accuser' trying to turn the allegation around.
Andrew C Robson, Gateshead

I am a student nurse in Southampton and I am fed up with everybody slagging off doctors, nurses and every other profession within the NHS. If people can do better then they should have a go as it is not as easy as it looks.
Paul Eyre

The health service is in this state because of massive under-funding during the Tory years. I am a biomedical scientist - we're the people who do all the tests requested by doctors. We as graduates, are exposed to harmful chemicals, biohazards ie HIV, CJD, TB, HEP B etc and yet have been forgotten year on year by successive governments because nobody sees us, nobody knows what we do. Window dressing the NHS by throwing money at doctors and nurses does nothing for the morale of us or other vital support staff, who also have trouble recruiting and retaining staff.
Helen, Leicester

How the Tories can pontificate on any matter concerning public expenditure and services after years of cutbacks and giving massive tax cuts to the rich is beyond me.
Paul Cryan, Woolwich

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Audience question: Should the Royal Family be worried about the apparent lack of interest in the Golden Jubilee celebrations? You said:

This is classic news management. The Palace's spin doctors (paid for by the taxpayer, naturally) will lower our expectations. When the number of street parties exceeds the direst predictions, it will be a "massive triumph" for the monarchy. All the supine monarchist papers will happily print this cynically manipulated tripe. As a standby, they already have local government "red tape" (always an easy target) and insurance costs lined up as alternative excuses. Tom Shakespeare has the right idea, booking a holiday to get away from it all.
Jeremy Wright, Liverpool

I wish to comment on the abominable attitude of Tom Shakespeare to our Dear Lady the Queen. How dare he publicly say he has booked a holiday to Italy during the best celebration this country will see. Perhaps he would like to live as he advocates - in a republican regime. People like him should emigrate and see how his rights will be taken away.
Kathleen J Shopland, Plymouth

From a question asked by one of the audience it is apparent that people are not sufficiently educated in our Constitution or politically aware enough to know that our monarchy is not supported by taxpayers. Nor did the panel do anything to enlighten the questioner or the audience.
H Norcross, Farnham Royal

If the monarchy's right to exist isn't questioned by the republican section in society, surely it should be examined on the grounds that its members privacy and by extension their human rights are compromised. How can a child have a normal childhood in such a goldfish bowl? Not only is the monarchy illogical, it's cruel and barbaric.
Brian Chapman, Newport, South Wales

Tony Blair is currently trying to reform the House of Lords to increase democracy and end hereditary powers. Isn't the biggest example of this the monarchy and shouldn't it be gotten rid of?
Gareth Roe, Birmingham

Kings, queens, princes, princesses and all the other titles are very familiar to children as heard in fairy tales! All so idealistic... Yet we now see Prince Charles facing the horrors that the 'commoners' experience as parents - their flesh and blood want to be as ordinary as the next person, and peer pressure tells on most individuals. Not the stuff of "fairy tales."
Ken Topping, Fife

Too much is taken to heart when at the end of the day all it is is a 'holiday' - a celebration. With regards being a 'subject' as a member of the audience mentioned, like it or not this is the nation that you were born in! Change the words and the substance is no different to any other democratic nation!
Andy, Pontefract

The country is no longer interested in the monarchy. I look forward to the re-release of The Sex Pistols' "God Save The Queen" and another number one.
Ian, Stockport

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Audience question: Rather than reward Mr Martin McGuinness with a parliamentary office why don't we try him for treason? You said:

I agreed with the member of the audience who asked why Martin McGuinness and Jerry Adams et al had not been charged with treason. William Joyce was hung for far less, and the determining fact that established his guilt was that he held a British passport.
Derek Batche

In reply to Mr R Murphy in London: As a resident of Northern Ireland all my life up until six months ago, and still seeing myself as a Northern Irish citizen, I have never seen anyone in Northern Ireland, Protestant or Catholic living like a pig. Unfortunately constituents of the four Sinn Fein seats in Ulster have no say in bettering the hardships they face as they are being represented by terrorists.
Gareth Pinkerton, Brentwood, Essex

Whatever is said about these elected members they are very brave. There is a split now between Sinn Féin and Republican Sinn Féin in Dublin and they are in danger of reprisal from supporters of RSF who believe they have abandoned the principles of Sinn Féin. In their favour Republican Sinn Féin have done nothing for 83 years. The action of these MPs is a welcome move towards settlement in Ireland.
George Partington, Cambridge

Having Sinn Fein take up offices in Westminster is a further insult to the unionist people of Northern Ireland. These are men and women who have been responsible for 30 years of barbarism and murder and countless cases of intimidation of both Protestant and Catholics. Now they stand in the great halls of Westminster the centre of our democracy. The Labour government like the Ulster unionist party has capitulated to Sinn Fein on every occasion and on every issue.
A McKinley

I don't totally disagree with Sinn Fein having offices at Westminster for the advantage of all their constituents. (I'm not totally enthusiastic about it either). But I am totally against them being able to fly the flag of a foreign country in the seat of our government. After all was it not Sinn Fein who were the driving force behind the flags and emblems legislation here, where the flag of the country cannot be flown on public buildings.
Marion Shaw, Belfast

There is a simple solution to the question of members of parliament taking all the trappings of office without the responsibilities that go with them. The electoral law should be changed so that when a parliamentary candidate submits his/her nomination papers to the returning officer for the constituency he/she is required to swear the Oath of Allegiance before the returning officer, without which the nomination would be invalid.
Ted Bugler, Farnborough

Were it not for him and people of the same persuasion the Roman Catholics of N Ireland would still be jobless and living in worse accommodation than pigs.
R Murphy, London

British soldiers are in a part of Ireland that many consider itself to be British. They are not an occupying force. These people, many hundreds of thousands are descended from English and Scottish settlers. They consider themselves to be as British as anyone else in the UK.
Paul Kelly, Belfast

It should not be forgotten that four constituencies in Northern Ireland have been effectively disenfranchised by the refusal of these MPs to take up their seats and take part in the normal democratic process. Is this not a denial of their basic human rights?
Nigel Simmons

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Audience question: Tomorrow the House of Lords debate is giving privileges reserved for married couples to homosexual couples and cohabitees. Does the panel think that marriage should lose its special place in public policy? You said:

The idea of discriminating against cohabiting or same sex couples is absurd! All people are entitled to the same rights regardless of whether they are married. As for the email shown here on Christianity, might I point out that not only is it not that popular but the vast majority of people who claim to be Christian are mere hypocrites!
Sarah Rix, London

I would wish to be the last person on earth to discriminate against somebody based upon their sexual orientation. I would wish to try my utmost to treat others equally, in a way that I myself would like to be treated, regardless of this issue. However, I believe that both evidence and experience teach us that the traditional family is not only important, but absolutely crucial to a successful and balanced society. We ignore this at our peril.
D Sandford, London

On the marriage issue, people seem to forget that many people do not conform to the 'norm' of being ordinary heterosexuals. I would like the ability to get married but I cannot because I was born in the wrong gender, which I have now corrected. I have an affidavit from my surgeon to say that my birth certificate is wrong, and only the UK, Ireland and Albania refuse to accept this and allow me to marry a man. High time for a change!
S Richards, Newcastle upon Tyne

Marriage is not just a good way to bring up children it is by far and away the best one. Homosexuals should not under any circumstances be allowed the same rights and privileges under law as married couples who actually respect God's law. Homosexuality is a sin and it is high time legislation recognises this.
A, Essex

It is high time that there was a total separation between Church and State. Leave issues of sanctity to the religions, leave issues of partnership rights to the State. Why is it against the sanctity of marriage, to such a degree that the law prevents it, for people of the same gender or people who co-habit, to have their relationship acknowledged and to benefit from partnership rights when atheists of the opposite gender can marry in a registration office?
R Gellissen, London

Question Time this week has horrified me to say the least. The rules and rights on marriage and the perception of marriage appear to have been lost. I don't see money or rights having anything to do with a marriage regardless whether the couple is same sex or not. Marriage the last time I looked was a legal contract between two people in the eyes of the law - it also declares your love and devotion to that one person.
Lucy, London

I consider it a personal insult, from both the questioner and the Reverend, to suggest that I must be in a less valuable or stable relationship than anyone who is married. My partner and I (of opposite sexes, therefore unmarried by choice), have been in a stable, committed, faithful, loving relationship for 12 years, and have lived together for 11. We own our house, bank accounts, dogs, cats, cars and debts jointly, we are in respected employment, and are decent, law-abiding citizens. As such, are we somehow inferior to a couple who stay married despite infidelity, domestic abuse, criminal or antisocial behaviour, etc?
G, Kilmarnock

Although I would not categorise myself as religious, I have, as have most of us in this country, been brought up with a firm Christian bias. It seems to me that giving cohabitees (with no preference to the gender issue) the same rights as a marriage between Man and Woman fundamentally wrong. If this were to be encouraged it would be a major step toward the acceptance of gay relationships at a constitutional level. Since this society is mainly based on Christian teachings, the same teachings which are against same sex relations, how can these relationships be accepted?
Charles L Patterson, Orphir, Orkney

It was extremely encouraging to hear Rev Sandy Millar standing up for the Godly principals that this country used to have. Unfortunately so many people, MPs and some clergy, don't. In fear, of not being elected again for the MPs and fear of being criticised for not being politically correct. So many people follow the crowd and unfortunately they aren't aware they are making our society weaker by trying to allow everything. By having a society that has a mentality that allows anything and everything there is no order and you are without God.
Mark Wortley, Bournemouth

Surely, the thing which holds a relationship together is love rather than marriage. Marriage is a mere ritual. There are dysfunctional marriages, where all the love has gone. Surely a relationship where there is love without marriage is far more stable and functional than a relationship where there is marriage but no love. Family fundamentalists, who ascribe to the view that all families must be based upon marriage appear to be the Biblical Pharisees, obeying all the rituals but ignoring the most important thing, LOVE.
Julian Borrett, Leeds

The proposal for registered partnerships deserves wholehearted support. It's time for the legal and social discrimination which unmarried couples face to be addressed.
C Thomas, Conwy

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Audience question: Booze and gin or Niall Quinn - which of these best depicts the current state of English football? You said:

Whilst I applaud the generosity of Niall Quinn, I despair of the state of a society whose misguided priorities impel him to make such a gesture and provide him with the means to do so. I was disappointed that none of the panel saw fit to comment on this during a programme when much time was spent discussing health service finance.
Robert Graham, Blackburn

One of the panellists along with the others applauding the move stated that they wish David Beckham would take a leaf out of his book. This is a terrible slur on David Beckham. Whilst I am not a Man United supporter I am aware that David and his wife have given a lot of their time to charity and helping young children.
Charles Gallichan, Acton

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General comments on the programme:

Unbelievable. I was appalled at the comments by Tom Shakespeare. Throughout the whole of the programme, I found his constant tutting and ridiculous comments quite offensive. It is about time people in this country began to show some respect for the ways of the land in which we live.
Chris Smith, Folkestone

Good to see Sandy Millar on the programme. A voice of wisdom, something so sadly lacking in an age of information, statistics and spin.
C Lindley, Halifax

I was delighted to see Dr Tom Shakespeare on the panel. He put forward a logical view both on Northern Ireland and the monarchy.
Alon Or-bach, Golders Green, London

To the Rev Millar: Sir, whilst as a Muslim I deplore proselytising, I must compliment you for being the only panellist on this evening's Question Time to display consistent and reasoned intelligence on all subjects discussed.
NF Parker, London

What a great programme tonight and how impressed I was with those who were not professional politicians! It is so interesting to see how politicians' instinctive reaction to any contentious question is to slip into ingenuous mode. In this respect, both Labour and Tory spokespeople were poor. On the other hand, what a delight it was to listen to the very intelligent and transparently honest Dr Tom Shakespeare. This man has it all - presence, wit, conciseness (Lord be praised!) humility, manners and truth!
Tim Swain, Deri

As an avid and regular viewer of Question Time, I was delighted that this week, for a change, there was a representative of my own community on the panel - the community of believing committed Christians. So often one gets the impression that all sections of the media are biased against Christianity - if one only believed the picture of the UK depicted by the media one would think that Christianity has no support in this country at all.
Jenny Perrins, Hertford

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