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EDITIONS
Thursday, 31 January, 2002, 15:09 GMT
January 31, Nottingham
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 panel think the four-year sentence for the theft of a mobile phone is excessive? You said:

Surely punishment handed out to offenders must include justice for the victims, protection for society, re-habilitation for the offender and act as a deterrent to other would-be offenders. The role of the judge is to ensure that there is a correct balance of all four. There should be a much more imaginative approach to punishment, to enable the judges to impose the most appropriate sentence for the crime and not just a 'knee jerk' reaction of 'lock 'em up'.
Bob Selway, Kidlington

Crime must never be perceived as an easy and comfortable way to make money or to acquire possessions when others sometimes go through hell to get both.
Alan Cake, Taunton, Somerset

I think the issue is wider than just an individual case. A four-year sentence probably is harsh when you compare it to other sentences for other crimes. However, it should be noted that the criminals only serves half of the sentence they are given - WHY? Judges are now doubling the sentence to ensure they actually serve the sentence they should.
Darren Perks, Manchester

Yes where on earth do you get your audiences from? The vast majority of people are sick and tired of this kind of crime, we berate the government and the judiciary to do more and NOT keep handing out ridiculously lenient sentences and when at long last the government and the judges actually start listening and sentencing appropriately, right on cue up pop the woolly-minded liberal do gooders.
Lainy, Dunstable

Never have I heard so much nonsense talked as I did last evening, especially on the subject of mobile phone theft. Virtually EVERY case involves direct face to face confrontation with the robber. There is ALWAYS the implied if not actual threat of violence. The innocent law abiding citizens must be protected. At least if a robber is in prison for four years he isn't terrifying his victims.
Dr J M London, Leicester

I do not think four years is excessive for a violent mugging. But why should this be restricted to mobile phones? Some of our judges hand out ridiculously lenient sentences for all sorts of offences. Let the law lords sit down and come up with proper minimum sentences for all types of violent crimes against people and property and then we may have a proper deterrent against the yob culture in our society.
James Fitzpatrick, Glasgow

A simple solution to all crime, mobile phone mugging or otherwise, is to build a penal colony on the moon. Let's finally have a punishment that actually fits the crime. In the long-term transportation works. Australia is living proof.
Nick Kitchen, Ipswich

Mobile phones should be licensed at the same rate as television sets. This will reduce the number available to be stolen.
Trevor Adams, Edwinstowe

Theft is theft - whatever the item stolen, the result of street robbery is the same - loss of property, injury, loss of confidence. Sentences should not vary depending on what was stolen.
G C WW, Ayrshire

Where do you get your audiences from? People are SICK of being scared on the streets. It's time the people threatening US were given something to be scared of. At the moment, nothing frightens them and they just take what is ours ... because they can.
Jon Edgington, Hillingdon

Five years for stealing a mobile phone and committing an assault - if you do it you will get it and if you don't you won't. It is as simple as that. Obviously it is meant as a deterrent which if it works will stop the crime being committed not fill the jails. If it does not work increase the sentence until it does.
Robert Titherley, Aldershot

I think national conscription for a couple of years would help to instil discipline into kids. And they wouldn't be on the streets to commit the crimes in the first place. I'd have loved that sort of thing when I was younger.
Bob Dewar, Glenrothes

I am horrified at most of the panel and the audience's lenient attitude to mobile phone theft. This is mugging. Most muggers steal a mobile phone because it is there along with the wallet and other possessions, and do so with threats and in many cases violence. Everyone seems to have taken on the media's line of "four years for the theft of a mobile phone". The victim in question did not simply have his phone snatched from him - he was mugged, had his wallet stolen and was beaten. It is about time that we as a society sent a clear message that mugging is unacceptable and will be treated accordingly.
Helen, Leeds

I don't believe that this sentence is particularly harsh, moreover sentencing across the board should be made more severe. The whole point of a judicial system is not necessarily to punish, but to deter. This happens in two ways: 1) ensuring the punishment is reasonable but firm and 2) more importantly ensuring the potential wrong doer is aware that they will not get away with the crime ie they get caught. At the moment I feel most criminals believe they will not get caught so carry on regardless of feeling towards people or their possessions.
Jon Butterwick, Oundle

Mobile phone users should be better educated about the use of their phones. Often in an environment that appears threatening (late night in car parks or train stations) people flash their phones as a deterrent to assault. This acts a signal to potential muggers that the victim in wait has a mobile phone to take. Hiding the phone might reduce the incidence of mobile phone muggings.
Gavin Pearson, London

I have just been listening to the questions relating to mobile phone theft and was appalled to hear Phil Willis, in common with a number of politicians, try and shift the blame for such thefts from the individuals committing the crime to the mobile phone companies. Of course it should be possible for mobile phone companies to embed chips or whatever but for heaven's sake, let's not lose sight of who is truly responsible. I wish I had been in the audience tonight!
Jane Dowek

Do we not want to deter recidivist violent bullies (the judge's choice of word) who seriously injure their victims more than those who take mobile phones while using lesser violence? Shouldn't the punishment fit the crime - whatever the crime?
Pete Bateman, Swansea

Why is it any more unacceptable to steal a mobile phone than a wallet, watch, or handbag? Unless you are going to hand out custodial sentences for all offences of street robbery, which I have no problem with at all, this is an extremely dangerous road to go down, and is perhaps an example of knee-jerk penology.
Simon Dicketts, Reading

The theft of a mobile phone in the street invariably involves force or an assault and is therefore a robbery. The maximum penalty for robbery is 'life'. In that context the recently recommended tariff seems entirely appropriate.
SG Zorab, Wells, Somerset

Get tough on all street crime and yobs not just mobile phones. If need be build another dozen prisons, but start jailing them all and then watch the crime rate fall.
Tony Vose, Manchester

I think a five-year sentence for mobile phone theft is fair. It would also be a good idea to have harsher sentencing for more serious crimes.
Steve Hanwell, Northampton

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Audience question: In view of the current train strikes and a general increase in trade union membership does the panel consider that the trade unions are recovering their muscle and if so is this a healthy development? You said:

It is the right of any workers to take strike action. If union membership has increased, it is because under the Tories, the unions and the workers had no rights whatsoever and, as a democracy, we should welcome this. What also needs to happen is that management teams need to be re-educated so that they learn negotiation rather than the dictatorial attitudes that they got away with under the Tories.
M Kerr, Glasgow

Mr Darling calls for arbitration in the RMT strike. However in his own Department for Work and Pensions he is opposed to talks or arbitration with the union over the health and safety strikes now in their fifth month!
Chris Ford, Harrow Middlesex

I really must correct Andrew Robson of Gateshead. Alistair Darling did not compare the strikes record during the term of the present Labour government with the whole period of the last government (ie 18 years), but with the last five years of that government. That is quite different and perfectly fair.
Peter Haymes, Felixstowe

Typical ! Alistair Darling like EVERY Labour minister comes out with utter claptrap with regard to statistics and relative comparisons. To suggest there were more strikes under the Conservative government (18 years), than the present Labour rabble (5 years) is total rubbish and spinning yet another vague and untrue message to a different level
Andrew C Robson, Gateshead

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Audience question: Mike Tyson has been refused a licence to box in Nevada. Wouldn't it be a better solution for a world-wide ban on this violent sport? You said:

As an ex-target pistol shooter, I guffawed loudly when I heard Alistair Darling say that a sport should not be banned because of the activities of one man - they say a week is a long time in politics - he has a very short memory!
Linda Talmadge, London

I would like to say how astounded I was last night when a woman who dared to say that she didn't agree with boxing was laughed at by David Dimbleby and several other panel members. First, her opinion should have been respected, particularly by the host. Secondly, my mother is a head teacher who has to clean up the mess every time a child decides he is Lennox Lewis. Violent sport is NOT harmless fun (ask Michael Watson), and I utterly resent the fact that someone who mentions this is laughed down.
Amy Caswell, Oxford

I can understand the view of banning boxing, since when does it make sense to see people bash each other's heads for 12 rounds? But I would be dead against any ban on the sport which has a lot of good people looking after their fighters from the amateurs upwards. The fighters themselves make that decision to go in the ring and practise controlled aggression and pit their skills against the other, just as in any sport.
Rod Aries, Glasgow

No, I do not think that boxing should be banned. Boxing is not a sport I enjoy, but it does bring pleasure to millions of people. Mike Tyson, until recently, had thousands of fans around the world, and I wonder where they are now? He is obviously not a well man, and should be given treatment, in my view. The sport is very highly regulated for safety reasons, and if it is banned, then the sport will go underground and this will end in the deaths of many boxers.
Steve Fuller, Brighton & Hove

Alistair Darling said when talking about Mike Tyson that "You shouldn't ban an entire sport because of one man." Didn't the government do just that with handguns?
Nigel Thain, Milton Keynes

Why ban the sport because of one small-minded and utterly psychopathic individual? He should never have been re-granted any form of licence after the biting of the ear incident. It ceased to be the "noble sport" after he was allowed back in the ring. If it is too violent, then let's consider the on-field antics of some so-called "professional football players" - their conduct is even more disgraceful at times. Boxers don't use elbows!
Ken Topping, Fife

The comments by James Mawdsley concerning the sport of rugby whether union or league are entirely inaccurate and inappropriate. The object of rugby is not, repeat not, to smash the opposing player. It is to take the ball and deliver it over the opponents try line. The opposition under very strict rules are allowed to try and stop them. Yes it is a contact sport and sometimes some tackles are harder then necessary but the governing bodies police the rules very well - hence the high tackle rule and the banning of spear tackles.
Don Patmore, Wigan

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Audience question: President Bush and his State of the Union address yesterday described Iran, Iraq and North Korea as an axis of evil and that he was planning military action. Should Britain support that position? You said:

I was amazed at the lack of knowledge about the brutal theocratic regime of Iran amongst your panel members yesterday. Here we have a regime which has executed pregnant women and teenagers, carries out stoning, public floggings and hangings, harbours and sponsors terrorists... and the list goes on. And yet we hear the Lib Dem member of the panel say Iran was a brutal regime 15 years ago but now it is OK! And the self-proclaimed feminist Ms Batmanghelidj, says more than half of the people of Iran want the clerics in power. How does she know? When did Iranians have a free election?
Potkin Azarmehr, London

In regards to Ann Winterton's comments. I found it bemusing to say the least, that she postulated that America stands for justice and democracy. Although this is true, it only applies if it is in the US's interest. One would only have to look at America's past history of supporting South American dictatorships. Furthermore, American support for the state of Israel and Israeli subjection of the Palestinians is far from democracy and justice.
Leighton Davies, Aberystwyth

With respect to Iran being singled out by America. I am confused as to why no one bothered to mention or correct the fact that Iran is not a dictatorship. Granted there is an Islamic regime installed but one must take into account that a reformist prime minister has been VOTED into office twice and that there is a genuine struggle between Iran's liberal majority against the fundamentalist minority (which criticism should be pointed to). Iran has moved a long way from what the west still perceive it to be like.
Pedram Parasmand, London

I feel that Britain should fully support President Bush. If we don't what do we stand for?
Louise, Stranaer

Once again the general naivety of both the audience and the panel astounds me. Of course we must join forces and eliminate the threat that these countries pose to the world. In addition, why do liberal-minded people always try and justify the actions of these terrorists, coupled with worrying about their living conditions in prison? It is absolutely pathetic. These people come from oppressed countries, where the undemocratic regimes turn the attention away from their own forced poverty and plights to attacking the US. It suits their corrupt leaders perfectly.
Andrew, London

George Bush and the apologists for his somewhat Old Testament world viewpoint would, I think, claim to be upholding "civilisation" in his war against terrorism. No one can argue with that aim, but it begs a fundamental question: Do the ends justify the means? In other words, can we uphold civilised values with brute force? During the discussion, several people raised the question of the prisoners in Cuba. Personally, I am not so concerned with their treatment from a humanitarian point of view as I am about the effect on us, their captors. It strikes me that we need to treat them not just decently but with exemplary mercy - by brutalising others we brutalise ourselves - and how can that benefit anyone?
Melissa Biro, London

There is always a choice and it is always the same one: Churchill (war) or Chamberlain ('peace in our time') against Nazism in the thirties; Thatcher (war) or Foot (nothing) in the Falklands against dictatorship in the eighties; now, Bush (war) or the liberalist minority (appeasement) against terrorism in the 21st century. 'Hail to the Chief'!
Terry Daly, London

It is rather interesting that Bush still feels the need to virtually declare war on Iran despite its support for the US in its anti-terror campaign. Does he intend to carry on until he has wiped every Arab off the face of the earth? This is a tactless and aggressive way to fight terrorism and I hope that Britain does not join in the campaign. In any case, I think we have plenty of our own pressing problems.
Ama Okafor, London

I believe that the United States underestimates the power of fundamentalist Islam and believe that they can defeat by the power of the gun and bomb. As a country, I believe that we have our main priorities to feed the poor, to provide a top class, well-funded free health service, social services and schools. We should stop trying to prove our power and might as a nation in warfare around the world and start acting to meet priority needs in our own country and the people who live here.
Sue Anstey, Ipswich

Phil Willis was excellent, seems to be the only person with a logical brain. I'm voting Liberal next time! As for Britain supporting Bush's arrogant, naive statement about sorting out "evil" regimes I hope Britain won't be so stupid. America's idea of sorting out is to blast them with bombs. Thousands of innocent people die but that doesn't seem to matter to the Americans as long as it's not their own people. It's not the right way forward. We should not take part in America's arrogance.
Elisabeth Rarh, Kidderminster

It is somewhat sad to see that someone with such obvious intellectual ability such as Camilla Batmanghelidjh is unable, at the end of the day and during a public debate, to grasp the wider picture of the problem and, instead, lets her judgement be clouded by unrealistic emotional criteria. Democracy must work both ways but most of all terrorism is an evil which MUST be defeated at ALL costs so that our children and grandchildren (and future generations) can live in peace.
Lilian, London

As a regular viewer it often enrages me to watch the British public knock down the USA for their intervention in world affairs. Have Britons decided to take our liberty so far that we should always try to nit pick any American action from the cosy armchair of our island, then tuck in behind the stars and stripes when our shores are threatened. Bush and Blair should not relent until the whole planet is free to have the freedom of speech and movement that we here have lost respect for.
Charlie Young, Jedburgh

I'm no fan of the Taleban but Mr Darling's claim that they were responsible for the heroin trade is simply wrong. The Taleban government opposed the trade and reduced production considerably. It is now again increasing.
Roger Houghton, Bath

I have just sat appalled at the comments made throughout the programme by James Mawdsley. I cannot see how anyone with such fascist views can be called a pro-democracy campaigner. To suggest that no one in any of the countries threatened by attack in the 'State of the Union speech' by President Bush has any rights if attacked is appalling - is he not aware that the USA actively supported the IRA for many years? Where is President Bush's integrity? Will the US army attack Boston for supporting terrorists?
Tony Byram, Bristol

Does Mr Darling seriously suggest that any country supplying drugs to this country should be bombed? What is the proportion of dead terrorists to innocent civilians killed in Afghanistan?
Diana Brazier, Leeds

I think that President Bush is right to openly warn these countries, as no one wants a repeat of Sept 11, and by avoiding or delaying any action could be drastic for all countries, including Britain.
Kerrie Milne, Clackmannanshire, Scotland

Mr Bush talks about military action against countries harbouring terrorism like North Korea, Iran and Iraq. Isn't this a pretence for preserving American economic interests? After all if they had the people's interest at heart wouldn't they intervene positively for the citizens of East Timor who are terrorised by the Indonesians or even Northern Cyprus which has been under occupation by Turkey so many years.
Panos Boletis, Slough

Britain should support the USA against Iraq, Iran and North Korea, but they should also be coming out against countries like Pakistan who propped up the Taleban and have sponsored terrorism in Kashmir and other parts of India for over two decades. Al-Qaeda has a great deal of support in Pakistan and the rest of the world should sit up and take note of that fact.
Roshan Nichani, Winchester

What a bunch of apologists. If the UK was bombed or subject to a massive chemical attack would some of the panel still be talking about civilised behaviour. The terrorists are like cancer to be cut off and destroyed by any means possible. Do unto others before they do things to you which they will if they are given the chance!
John Dixon

I cannot agree with James Mawdsley's wholehearted support of George Bush's State of the Union speech. Whilst he is absolutely correct there has been a gross degree of remiss on the part of the western countries at identifying quite terrible violations of human rights in Korea etc, didn't the US and Israel 'walk out' of a conference on human rights shortly before the occurrences of September the 11th? Is this a change of heart, or as Camilla Batmanghelidjh said merely a knee-jerk, yee-hah reaction spawned by a feeling of humiliation and the need to stamp the authority of the US of A on the world at large again?
Chris Johnson, Kingston-Upon-Thames

How can Camilla say that if people in some of the most oppressed countries in the world want rights that they should stand up for them? Especially when the people are women! If you stand up for your rights in Iraq you disappear! Wake up and smell the coffee!
Matt Watts, Market Drayton

Ann Winterton put forward the typical Conservative mentality - the human rights of the perpetrators can be put aside. If we do this, we lower ourselves to the level of the terrorists. No matter what, everyone should be treated in a dignified manner and the prisoners must be tried under international, not martial law.
Alon Or-bach, Golders Green, London

It was good to hear a young British person, James Mawdsley, say that the UK and US governments should stand against the evil regimes that provide no freedom to their citizens and support the awful terrorism we have seen pre- and post- Sept 11th. When is this country going to quit being so wimpish and weak against those who care nothing for human life!!??
Joe Dukes, Bristol

Interesting debate however it's limited in its opinions and sometimes biased. Why is it that there is never any mention of the terrorism conducted by the USA and the starvation caused by US military action in Afghanistan and also the fact that the USA have not delivered the food they have promised Iraq for the oil they have taken.
Shane Owen, North Wales

The idea that what is happening at the moment is a war on terrorism is a joke. Does anyone think that an organisation like the Real IRA would not carry out an atrocity like September 11th if they had the capability? Much funding for Republican terrorism comes from the USA. Will Bush decide to bomb his own country which so obviously and openly supports terrorism?
Ray Ashley, London

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Audience question: Do you think that the Commonwealth leaders were right not to suspend Zimbabwe despite the regime of intimidation and violence? You said:

I was the member of the audience that asked the above question, unfortunately David never got back to me! I belive that if a government such as Zimbabwe's can take away its people's rights then we being part of the Commonwealth should take away Zimbabwe's. We have all seen what happens when we simply ignore what is going on in another counrty... it will all soon catch up with us. Just like the war in some ways, this is appeasement, soon the government may try and get away with more!
Dhiren Makhecha, Nottinghamshire

The man in the audience who blamed Harold Wilson for the present regime in Zimbabwe, saying that it was due to the one-man-one-vote system instituted when the country was given independence, was wrong. It was Margaret Thatcher's government that granted Rhodesia independence in 1979.
Gordon Luton, Bristol

I was amazed when Ann Winterton was talking about helping "our people" (the white part of the nation no doubt) when the panel was discussing the dictatorial behaviour of R Mugabe the president of Zimbabwe. First of all if there are so many people in that nation that do not think that nation is worth their citizenship then they should go to where their passport tells them they really belong! Surely a nation that discusses an involuntary oath of allegiance to this nation (Britain) by every newcomer, should understand that.
Mr MS Alfarez, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Excluding Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth would have no effect on the government - the only thing that would have any effect is smart sanctions.
Daniel Neale, Canterbury

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Audience question: After years of Tory and Labour sleaze and in the light of the Enron scandal would it not be better to fund political parties out of the public purse? You said:

I think David Dimbleby let Mr Willis off the hook far too lightly on the subject of party political funding. Mr Willis made some bizarre remark about the other two parties "wanting to be in the pockets of business and the unions." But when asked whether his party accepted such donations, he blatantly tried to answer a different question altogether. I concede that the programme may well have been running short of time though.
Robert Crosby, Nottingham

It is a bit fallacious for panel members to suggest that the UK taxpayer should not be asked to fund the political parties. Where else do they think funds ultimately come from? There is no magic pot. Trade unions donations come from trade union members who are taxpayers. Company donations come from the profits being made on goods bought by the taxpayer. Individual donations also mainly come from taxpayers. If the parties were funded by the government, it is only a basic redistribution exercise - everybody pays more equally.
David Williams, Dover

During the 1970s, much was made by the Tories of Labour's donations from the unions and perhaps their argument would have had a degree of merit, were it not for their own donations from big business. It seems that both parties are now raising much of their revenue in the form of large donations from big business. Whilst of course such things usually do not involve sleaze as such, or at least not in the sense of breaking the law, my concern is that both parties are falling under the influence of the corporate sector.
Julian Borrett, Leeds

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General comments on the programme:

I thought the panel was very lightweight and the politicians bland. I do not think it is worth going around the provinces if you cannot get high standard panellists.
Roger Hurst, Dorking

Well done James Mawdsley, the only member of the panel with intelligent views. Usually Question Time is full of left wing views, with little time for anyone else.
Will Spooner, Ascot

James Mawdsley was a very welcome panellist. May he be asked again?
Margaret Eames, Devon

I was a member of the audience on the show from Nottingham last night. I would like to say how much I enjoyed being there and that I would definitely recommend it to other students.
James Skinner, Nottingham

I wonder if Nich Starling watches the programme every week as two Tories out of five is a rarity. The panel usually consists of one person from each of the main political parties and two independent members. These days independent means a supporter of Blair. The BBC still believe the Tories are in power as very few points are raised to question this Labour government.
Pete Laggett, Swindon

I'm an avid viewer and supporter of Question Time. Tonight's show was the second very poor effort in this series, fielding a panel of intellectual lightweights.
Paul B, Carterton, Oxon

As a member in the audience of tonight's show, I would like to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and I would like to thank the host David Dimbleby and his crew for their kind hospitality.
Ian Selby, Grantham

After listening to James Mawdsley's views I do think that he will be better placed to re-name himself as an "anti-democracy campaigner"!
Imran Hussain, Bolton

James Mawdsley democracy campaigner! How about the BBC properly crediting him as 'James Mawdsley - Conservative supporter'. I got leaflets through my door in the general election that were plastered with his face telling me why I should vote Tory. Why does the BBC insist on having two Tories on every week!
Nich Starling, Norfolk

I was disgusted by the opinions of the so-called 'pro-democracy campaigner', James Mawdsley. He was clearly uninterested in any real concerns about democracy - such as the public funding of political parties - and far too enthusiastic about US foreign policy. I suspect he should have completed his university degree - he might have learnt the meaning of the word 'democracy'!
Simon Stratford, Leeds

The Beeb carries on its Londoncentric campaign. When Alistair Darling said that the RMT ought to bear in mind that people don't rely on the rail network anymore Mr Dimbleby jumped in with words to the effect that "try telling that to the people who have to commute in to London every day". So we provincials don't commute?
Francis Jolley, Wigan

Why is it that as soon as the discussion gets interesting Mr Dimbleby always intervenes and moves onto another question, for example where Alistair Darling was going to take that woman with a hat to task over her trendy anti-American stance?
David Johnson, Tewkesbury

I am invariably disappointed that David Dimbleby insists on pointing out members of he audience as 'the man' and 'the woman' as opposed to 'the gentleman' and 'the lady', the latter of which I feel would be more polite.
Jan Giffen, Cliftonville, Margate

After watching tonight I think James Mawdsley needs to grow up. He has some strange ideas...but then he is young!
Alba, Scotland

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