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EDITIONS
Thursday, 7 February, 2002, 13:21 GMT
February 7, Ipswich
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: Have the Conservatives been caught out jumping on the bandwagon of scaremongering with their suggestion of offering a choice of vaccinations instead of the MMR vaccine? You said:

My son contracted measles the week he was due to have his MMR jag. My son nearly died as his temperature was in excess of 40c for a considerable time. I would not wish the measles on any child and suggest that the press are handling the matter contemptuously by preying on parents who have a major barrier to overcome by accepting the concept of a jag never mind the uncertainty (unsubstantiated!) proposed daily by the sensationalist press.
Steven Shaw, Glasgow

How can anyone be so crass as to ask (as your Telegraph correspondent did) what right politicians have to meddle in medical choice? If giving parents choice means increasing the risk of epedemic in our society, our ELECTED representatives should govern that choice is not in the interests of our SOCIETY.
Nick Chamberlain, Badminton, Glos

I am a parent of a son with autism - he contracted measles at 11-months-old. One of your panellists said that she would not wish measles on any child - I too would not wish autism on any child or parent. It's not an easy road and one which you have to deal with for the rest of your life with very little support. People who have a child or adult for that matter in the family should be given the choice. At the end of the day the more children there are with autistic spectrum disorders, the more it is going to cost any government by way of funding for all areas of that child's life and that of the people who look after them.
A mum, Hornchurch

I have a 16-month-old son who reacted very badly to earlier immunisations. If there is any doubt as to the safety of the MMR jab I will not be dictated to by anyone, especially those who do not have children themselves. I pay my taxes and I want a choice. Non-immunisation is not an option - I just want the choice to vaccinate separately and not overload my son's immune system in one hit.
Nicola Freeman, Yoxford

What right do politicians have in deciding what is best for my child? It is complete nonesense to say that the uptake of immunisation will fall if the single jabs are offered. The bottom line is there is a huge number of parents who refuse to let their children have the MMR. They want single jabs, which if offered, would be taken. This would increase the number of children immunised, not reduce it - it is typical politics to argue white is black and black is white!!!
Robert Todd, Tunbridge Wells

I am fed up of the so-called experts and politicians saying that the link between autism and MMR does not exist. I am convinced that our son, who has autism, though thankfully not as bad as some, began to show his symptoms directly after the MMR. He also changed again after his first booster on entering school - he will not be having any more boosters. Our daughter is due her booster now and we are refusing to let her have it, yet are being put under pressure by our family doctor to allow it. When when will people realise that science is not the be all and end all, people's innate feelings are, I would suggest, just as valuable if not more so.
Tony, York

I can't help feeling that there are winners and losers - the losers are the children being put at risk because all the winners care about is selling papers, making political points and in the case of some doctors, making money from selling the single vaccines privately. There is a choice here - you either go for the triple vaccine recommended by all the top health people or go for the separate vaccines which due to time lapse your children risk contracting one of these awful illnesses. I know what I'd choose.
Wendy Clover, Hockley in Essex

Why all this ridiculous fuss over Blair's refusal to divulge his UNelected son's medical history? Ever thought of what may happen if little Leo was to unfortunately and completely by coincidence go on to develop autism spectrum disorder after it was announced that he had had the MMR vaccine? The papers would go into apoplectic mode and the Conservative opposition would join them and there would be mass decline in take up of the vaccination. Blair is damned if he does and damned if he doesn't, why can't people just think for themselves?
Lucy, Bedfordshire

The issue is no longer about whether MMR is safe or not. It's about whether people are going to use the vaccination. If more and more people are refusing it then you have to introduce another option to mitigate the worst outcome (which is no vaccination at all). To sit in an ivory tower and say that you can't introduce the single vaccination because people will think there is something wrong with MMR sounds like something Canute would say. By all means have a public review or report, but in the meantime make sure that a pragmatic approach is adopted. Perhaps then people will start to believe what politicians say.
Paul Conway, Manchester

I believe it is right to protect children from infectious diseases. Where there is doubt about safety then more tests should be carried out. We saw the dreadful outcome of thalidimoide. I believe parents should have the right to choose to make their own decisions about single or three in one jabs. Medical records should be kept private. I don't believe anyone has the right to question Tony Blair about his children's medical records. Frankly it is none of anyone's business.
Theresa Salmon, Capel-le-Ferne, Kent

Risk can never be eliminated from any action and, in the discussion of the MMR vaccine, one member of the panel, the clapping audience and even the chairman showed a failure in rational discrimination, amounting to irresponsibility. The only way to avoid damage from a vaccine is to eschew all vaccines, likewise with possibly terrible consequences. Again refusing MMR may bring collateral damage to many other babies and children. We are obliged to take a chance and, on the best available professional opinion, the right course for any individual is to proceed with MMR.
E Peter Ward, Cambridge

The link that has supposedly been made with autism and bowel cancer, is with the measles virus. Surely this means that if there is any danger it applies to both the combined MMR and the single vaccines. I think the government is right to only offer the MMR vaccine. They have to go with the best advice they have especially if the rest of the world agrees with that advice. I believe parents who don't get their children vaccinated have no right to complain when their children fall ill.
Robert, Galashiels

I think that if we are to believe the published and unpublished information on the MMR jab then we should first look at who is funding the investigations. For example, if companies have a vested interest in promoting the vaccine then would the report be independent? I think not. I think that the nature of the funding of the research into the possible connections between autism and the MMR jab should be published.
Stephen Collins, Sheffield

I am often asked by my patients if my children had the MMR vaccination - answer yes, this does not lead on to further enquiries into my medical history! I believe in freedom of choice and a fair number of our patients have taken their children to Calais for the single vaccination. Incidentally I am amazed there has not been some sort of legal challenge. For instance we are members of the EEC, the single vaccination is available in France so why not UK? Alternatively there may be a human rights issue.
Dr Howard Carter, Brighton

The biggest problem in the MMR debate is the opposition and large sections of the media causing the public to panic, by attaching far too much weight to the findings of unsubstantiated medical reports, instead of listening to the likes of the chief medical officer and the World Health Organisation. I would much rather listen to these opinions, and I speak as the father of a 21-month-old daughter who HAS had the MMR jab.
Andrew Aeneas, Portsmouth

It's not Andrew Wakefield's research, the media, or Tony Blair's refusal to say if Leo has had MMR that is scaring me from having my four-year-old son injected with the MMR booster, but the fact that I know five families who have autistic children, and two of these claim it was due to MMR. I feel that most people today are in the same situation and know someone's child who has autism. This brings it much closer to home.
Dilys Hobart, Fyvie

I'm tired of hearing about the government being unable to offer the single immunisation due the fact they feel that people will not have their children immunised. I have given my daughter the single inoculations and would not consider giving her the MMR. I do strongly believe this should be carried out on the NHS and I cannot understand why the government feels it cannot. If the government fears children will not have the immunisations why do they not introduce with entrances to schools and nurseries proof that the child has had all three immunisations.
Caroline Brien, London

I am 56 years old and I can remember having measles when I was a child and in all honesty it wasn't as bad as people are making out. I got time off school, lots of attention from all my family. It's like when a woman has a baby now - if it's not born soon after the given date they induce it, it's all a question of convenience. It is not convenient for people to be ill these days.
Pearl Wilson, Isle of Man

Parents are given no choice about immunisation. There are virtually no dissenting voices amongst the medical profession. There is a financial incentive for doctors to persuade/coerce parents into having their children immunised. If we could get rid of this incentive perhaps parents would believe that doctors wanted the children immunised for health rather than for financial reasons. What about having a no-fault compensation fund for children affected by immunisation, particularly when no other explanation for their condition can be found?
L Clark, Huntingdon

I am the father of a seven-month-old baby boy. Politicians and the medical profession insist that the MMR vaccine is safe, but what about the parents of autistic children who are convinced there is a link. There is an element of doubt and therefore I, and many parents in my position, am not prepared to take the risk of causing my child to become autistic. Parents should have the choice of single vaccinations. I don't believe the percentage of take up would go down - parents will not have their children go without the vaccinations if they have a choice. This is purely a government cost issue as usual.
Jon Wilson, Sheffield

Janet Daley seems to be the only voice of sense in relation to MMR and parents' right to choose. Tonight has highlighted once again how politicians find it very easy to patronise the general public. Having read mounds of evidence for and against the MMR vaccine, I do not necessarily believe that it is singularly responsible for autism and bowel disease. But there may be a chance that cumulatively with the number of injections given to a child in its first months of life, that the MMR tips the balance in some children who are susceptible.
Nicola Griffiths

I think that most of the furore surrounding the MMR could have been alleviated if Tony Blair had announced whether his son had had the injection and not made an issue out of it - to a lot of parents it seemed like there was something he wanted to hide! I acknowledge the fact that he wanted to keep his son's medical records private but as he was instructing every other parent to take their children to have the jab he therefore gave up the right.
Andrew Matthews, Harlech

Today's generation have probably not experienced measles at first hand and consequently do not realise what an awful illness it is. I was very ill as a child, confined to bed and unable to stand the daylight and my eyesight was never the same again. All three of my own children were vaccinated as a consequence.
Denise Britton, Nottingham

MMR has a number of problems but at the end of the day, more children benefit from its use than are injured. No vaccine, or treatment, is 100% successful, but if we want the best for the community as a whole then we must offer the MMR. But I do agree an option of individual immunisation should be available. It is not the same as whooping cough. I ensure all children I immunise are given Paracetamol to reduce initial reaction and have never had any major adverse reaction to any vaccine. I have all my children (three) fully immunised.
Dr RG Mitchell, Bolton

Why did the programme start with a party political question? I have been in the audience and have always been advised to avoid that! The Conservatives aren't in government! Have a question on MMR - it is topical, but why have one that is anti a particular party?
Laura, London

I would suggest two approaches: 1) that a politician states that the separate jabs are safe, 2) that if the public do not trust the doctors, why do they believe the study that has led to the concern!
Lee Walsh, Wrexham

When will this government stop fudging facts? Only three visits are required for the single vaccinations. How dare the CMO say that parents are playing Russian roulette with their children's lives if they don't receive the MMR vaccine. Can anyone tell if a child is susceptible to an adverse reaction to the MMR jab? No they can't - and until they can they should offer the single vaccinations on the NHS. As one of your panel said, remember the protestations about thalidomide - and look what that did to hundreds of children.
Suzanne Wallace, Twickenham

Parents must be offered the choice of MMR or single vaccinations. I have two friends who have children who developed autism after having the MMR - children who were developing perfectly well and then suddenly regressed. It's not that long ago that we were assured by Mr Gummer that there was no link between BSE and CJD - now look what has happened! Let us choose.
M Kerr, Glasgow

Janet Daley posed the question: "Why should politicians decide what treatment choices you have"? Why then should journalists have this privilege also particularly as they so irresponsibly cause public concern by scaremongering with rumour rather than fact!?
Phil Mathers, Haworth

Maybe Janet Daly is not aware of this but we elect members of parliament to make decisions for the country. Therefore they have every right to make decisions about what the NHS provides. If the government could not make decisions it would be a free-for-all. All taxes optional? Single vaccines are not proven to be any safer and it would seriously affect the rate of uptake to offer the choice.
Debbie Hele, Torquay

Is the current debate surrounding the MMR vaccine, yet a further indication of the UK's need for a decent freedom of information bill?
Kristian Dawson, London

Kindly tell Janet Daley that though she may come from the land of the free, in most states in the USA you are not allowed to enter state education unless you are fully immunised according to central government diktat.
Daryl Mullen, Parbold

Does the government really have a right to insist that we believe that MMR is safe based on the scientific reports they have commissioned or those gathered from other countries after all scientists and politicians have been wrong before ie BSE. Who can forget the pictures of John Gummer encouraging his daughter to bite into a beefburger.
Michelle Preston, Liverpool

I am the mother of four children all of whom have received the MMR injections. However if more parents do not take up the vaccines and there is an outbreak of these avoidable diseases, how can we protect babies who are not yet old enough to receive the jabs?
Michelle Brown, Tunbridge Wells

In response to those spouting off about medical opinion over the MMR jab, let's not forget that medical opinion was that CJD could not be caught from BSE-infected meat, also that Blair has not said whether his son has had the MMR jab or not!
Derek Worthington, Worcester

By administering the MMR as single vaccines, it ensures the child's reaction to any one of the three viruses, included in the MMR, can be monitored. The parent and doctor can then be in control of when the next vaccine is administered, rather than relying on the incubation period of the viruses that control this in the triple MMR vaccination.
Neil Woodfin, Clare


Audience question: Why is it necessary for people to pass English tests to qualify for British citizenship? You said:

Why are we continuing to allow people to enter the country? We already have failing public services, which seem to be unable to take the strain. Would it not make sense to have a system similar to that employed in the US, where people can only enter the country if they have already arranged a job, that it can be proved that no one else in the country is available to fill?
Seth, Reading

I cannot understand the opposition to immigrants learning the English language. I have absolutely no opposition to people entering this country who honestly need our help and want to live and work here - and, in order for people to do just that in this country, it is essential for them to learn the language. This is not to say that people have to lose their own language/heritage but rather find greater ease in settling down and making a new and safe life for themselves in Britain.
C Adams, Kent

I married over a year ago to an overseas gentleman and we decided it would be better for me if we could remain in England. So he left behind everything for me and moved to England. The costs and red tape into getting permission to settle here are stringent enough. Then to face ensuring we have enough money to supply him with knowledge for the citizenship test is added pressure. Refugees receive assistance on every level: free lessons, free life, free everything. My husband and I however have to earn our money and spend from our own pocket.
Jane Akarsu, Lancashire

It is interesting and quite informative to note that not one person has mentioned that there is more than one native language spoken in Britain. I feel that once again being British is presented as synonymous with being English. I am 35 years old and now realise that when I went to school I was taught English language and English history. I am now learning Welsh language and history, so are my children, both at home and more importantly in school. The way that the policy has been presented has made me feel less British than ever.
Steve Meredith, Newport, Gwent

How preposterous the idea of moving to a country indefinitely, expecting tolerance, help and support. All that whilst neglecting or refusing to learn the local language and customs. Clearly the hosting country is seen as a situation to be used and perhaps exploited, not understood and appreciated.
Siria Gardi-Montebugnoli, London

I think it is right for people to learn English if they are to become British citizens and it is a good idea, but no doubt the taxpayer will be fitting the bill of the tutors who will be teaching these people. The bill for teaching English to these people I have no problem with, but the bill for teaching people about the monarchy and political ways in this country is another waste of taxpayers' money.
Kevin Pritchard, Cearnarfon

Being in the middle of applying for my US citizenship, I can sympathise with those who argue that the process doesn't really make you a better citizen. But in consideration of the numbers of immigrants here who can't speak the official language there are a few basics in which one must meet minimum standards.
Andrew, Denver, CO

Of course it is quite right that immigrants/asylum seekers should learn English and that they should swear allegiance to the Crown. Blunkett does not, however, go far enough. The indigenous population should also be educated in our Constitution and perhaps, judging by the current peculiar accents heard on the BBC channels, in our language also.
H Norcross, Farnham Royal

I believe that any immigrant who wants to become a British citizen should have NO qualms about signing an oath of allegiance, or, having to agree to learn English. This is by no means a racist comment. If they want to become a British national, these are the very easy options open to them. If they do not want to sign the oath of allegiance, or agree to learn English then they should return to whence they came.
Raalph Maddams, Lancaster

I think it is the best suggestion yet to have people swear allegiance to this wonderful country - it will make people think twice before berating all that is done to make them welcome!
L Kennedy, Bury

Instead of comparing the new immigration policy statement with the USA, with their policy of assimilation, look at Canada. I lived there for 10 years and, although not taking citizenship, was aware of the requirements. These are very similar to what are being suggested for the UK.
David Knowles, Sudbury, Suffolk

I agree that people should have some knowledge of English. They must feel they have a stake in their new society and want to belong. Trouble in cities last year arose amongst many people who came as children but whose mothers were unable to go to night school to learn some English. Thus, these young people were confronted by English at school, another language at home and Arabic at the mosque every night for several hours. How could the average ability children possibly make progress with so many languages to cope with at such a young age?
Doreen Healey, Bolton

It is quite right that anybody who wants to gain British citizenship should be able to speak English. If they want to live and stay here, then they need to speak English to understand and communicate with fellow citizens. The culture of our country is very important too, and this needs to be understood by all who live here. Full comprehension of our laws needs to be made clear to all seeking British citizenship as well. These measures are a very good thing, and are long overdue. Our country will now be taken seriously by all wishing to live here.
Steve Fuller, Brighton & Hove

So many debates lead to questions of immigration - most people in this country believe that we are a magnet to immigrants. This fuels anger and racism. Will somebody please realise the real factual truth is that if we expelled all the so-called immigrants and took back all the emigrants this little island would sink. People should realise that we have exported a massive amount of people and we have benefited hugely from the drive and ingenuity that the different cultures give us.
Peter Webb-Heath, Ipswich

As I understand it the issue is only for people seeking CITIZENSHIP, not ASYLUM. We should continue to offer asylum to anyone who justly deserves it, no matter what their language, creed or colour. If they wish to take up CITIZENSHIP then this is simply an entrance test for this - I don't see the problem.
Dave, Nottingham

It is essential for people to speak the language of the country where they wish to live. I can't understand why is it seen as such a big deal. How do people expect to interact and integrate into British society if they can't 'connect' with what is going on around them?
Mr Fidel Angueira, London

This is my country, and I say anyone is welcome. If you don't like it, leave.
Tweez, Brum

Why did none of your panellists note that 'citizenship' tests are anomalous within the British state, given that we are all subjects, not citizens. Is it proposed that asylum seekers and immigrants should be citizens while the rest of us remain as subjects?
Danielle Clarke, Dublin

I agree with Janet Daley about being proud to be British. That is in no way supporting racism, or sexism for that matter, nor pretending that everything is perfect. Nevertheless, there is a great deal to be proud of in the history and traditions of this country, which include providing a safe haven over centuries for many people of various cultures and races, including some of my own ancestors hundreds of years ago.
Gill, Horsham

Since MPs, members of the forces and other groups all swear allegiance to the Crown, should not a reference to the Queen also be included in the oath for new citizens?
James Tumbridge, Norwich/London/Toronto

I have a friend who has been seeking asylum in the UK for two years now. He is doing extremely well in college and he has a stable job. I think it's totally unfair that the government have only just established the fact that asylum applications haven't been dealt with rationally. What now happens to the present asylum seekers?
Amy Clerck, Bexley

Yes, all asylum seekers should take the citizenship test, like ALL those who wish to become citizens of Britain. If they want it that badly, then they will learn English and study for the test. The American citizenship test is just as stupid (sorry - 100 questions to study and any 10 asked) and of no consequence in one's everyday life, but that is what is required and so be it! Just get over it, and get on with it.
Val Holmes, Washington, DC, USA

What is the point? If someone is a genuine asylum seeker you can't send them packing because they can't speak English and if someone is not a genuine seeker and they are just coming to the UK for economic reasons - shouldn't they be sent back to their country of origin? Or have the rules been changed? It sounds to me like another bit of 'New Labour' spin rather than offering a genuine solution to the problem.
N Dixon, West Bromwich

Doesn't the panel agree that citizenship tests are long overdue if we are to continue enjoying a truly democratic and relatively homogeneous society that is based on values? Isn't it because of this that large numbers of people prefer to live in the UK? So why are we trying to change that by marginalising so-called minorities?
John Mantikas, London

I think that all UK citizens should sit a citizen test covering all aspects of UK history, culture both local and new, basic laws and how and why to vote. This could help our younger people take pride and more of an interest in the country. Anybody wanting to live and stay in this country must also learn and respect the customs and way of life of all the people that make up the UK. I think that this would be a worthwhile investment in our future.
Jon Davidson, Andover

Are we all mad? Has anyone actually seen the state of the health service, and every other service in this country? We cannot even look after the people we have here now. It is about time we put up a full up sign, and stopped all asylum seekers. That means everyone. We cannot save the world, so let's start by looking after our own first. When we can do that properly, then maybe allow asylum seekers in. Why should the taxpayer support them?
Mike Eckhoff, Reading

Should British ex-pats be forced to take language tests when settling in other countries such as Spain?
Willie Kidd, Carluke

Why should citizenship tests be restricted to immigrants? Everyone upon reaching the age of 18 should swear an oath of allegiance to the UK and democratic principles, and emphasis should be placed on their responsibilities as a citizen not just their rights. Anyone refusing to do so would be refused citizenship and have to seek their abode elsewhere in the world.
Mick, Bradford

First let me say I am in no way racially prejudiced - I myself am a third generation Indian born and brought up in Britain. I believe British citizenship tests are an excellent idea. The British public is tired of being obliged to support immigrants who do nothing to understand our laws, language, traditions and culture. Our culture is a wonderful combination of many parts of the globe. It has been brought about through compromise and acceptance on ALL sides.
Michael Basi, Coventry

If asylum seekers have travelled thousands of miles and passed other safe countries on the way we should deem them economic migrants and send them back.
John Marsh, Rickmansworth

Return to the top of the page


Audience question: Who will the panel be voting for on Saturday night - Gareth or Will? You said:

It is no surprise to me at all that people are switching off from politics:
1. I agree with the lady in the audience who said that young people have nothing to fight about anymore. There are no discernible differences between the parties and this week's bland, depressing addition of QT shows this.
2. If you have your mobile, you have money, your'e given great GCSE results because the standards are declining etc why should you need politics? Greed, selfishness and materialism are all that is needed in this moribund corrupt society.
Tim, London

Having lived in Canada most of my life and now attending university in the UK I have been watching Question Time since Sept 2001. Since then I have never seen the politicians on the panel get such a robust attack. At the end of the day, people particularly my generation, are sick and tired of politicians side-stepping questions and not telling the truth, such as the panel last night, whom agreed with the audience only in talk not action.
Leighton Davies, Aberystwyth

Painful as it is to admit, Janet Daley had a point. Maybe we can justifiably blame politicians and the political system for not delivering but we cannot blame them for our lack of engagement. And the fact that more people are willing to vote on inconsequential, tacky TV shows (at a financial cost) rather than exercise a fundamental, democratic right to participate and reform our political system, is a sad indictment on us and not politicians or the political system.
Abi Bilesanmi, London

The link from Pop Idol to voter turnout was a relevant one. Why do so many people my age (I am 25-years-old) not participate in elections? The problem it seems to me is that politics has become more about personality than substance. I agree with Janet Daley, debate should be rigorous and include heckling. Has anyone watched the Scottish or Welsh Assemblies and been turned on to get involved in politics. Much debate and good work goes on outside the House of Commons chamber in committees, which added to the ever decreasing coverage of our Parliament through the media, we rarely get to see.
Daniel Chumbley, London

I think the voting age should be brought down to 16. The problem with this is that some young people aren't politically aware. The solution is simple - teach politics in secondary schools.
Jacob Lancaster, Manchester

Why are we debating this? The answer is that it is more popular than all but two of our political parties. Why? I believe that it is because the performers are genuine people portraying genuine desires and emotions. Contrast this with the decline in the political vote, and the self-serving pontificating politicians we see on our TV screens. Would a teenager with a stutter be any worse than our current leader?
Paul Rowlands, Bracknell

Michael Grade said the reason people were fed up with politicians was that they never seemed to achieve anything. Well he was halfway right. The problem is that what they do achieve is to interfere in everyone's lives by vomiting half-thought out, half-baked and three quarters useless legislation. MPs don't bother to attend most of the House sittings because what is being discussed is normally long-winded and irrelevant - even to them.
Jack Biggs, Weymouth

The lack of trust in politicians is an oft recurring topic in most Question Times. In my opinion this stems from the very institution of the 'whips' office'. This institution is never called into account in any discussion. It is almost a sacred cow which is there and can never be questioned let alone touched. Yet in fact, by its very existence it has the effect of turning a democracy into a partitocracy, bringing to the fore, and into absolute power, all the negative aspects of party politics.
M Mason, Norwich

The issue of MPs and Parliament must be addressed by a complete clean out of the present system - a more transparent system that will take the country forward. This applies to both houses where elections must be seen to have been carried out and more qualified MPs who are willing to commit themselves to the job in hand who are their for the greater good not part of the pack.
Jacqueline Wilson, Halstead Essex

I completely agree with the young lady who commented that people born in the late 1970s and early 1980s were victims of the Margaret Thatcher regime. As a 21-year-old, myself and many others my age were disheartened by the lack of change during the 18 years the Conservatives were in power. Many people my age grew up with views that the parliament changes nothing and politicians do not represent the views of the majority of people. I personally do not believe this, but I can understand why many others do.
Michael Crouch, Southend-On-Sea

One of the reasons that so many people are apathetic to politicians is they seldom answer a question without giving a speech - they do not seem to have heard of the words YES and NO. I am sure if they were more honest people would treat them with more credibility, and might just start voting again.
Ged Hanlon, Liverpool

I agree with the person who wants to know why politicians take so long about everything and why we never see results. This is why people do not bother to vote.
Lisi , Stranraer

I think the panel and audience missed a vital opportunity in tonight's debate to highlight some of the more crucial reasons for the disillusionment of the public in British politics. The British press has for more than 20 years been so excessively hostile toward politics and politicians that it is no wonder that the public are disillusioned, and that fewer people want to put themselves on the chopping block of public political life. And secondly, since more and more powers are being handed to European institutions, Westminster has less effect on people's lives than it ever has before.
Phil Crowson, Chingford

I believe that the greatest disappointment of Tony Blair's governance to date is his turning away from the promise to hold a referendum on proportional representation. In New Zealand we adopted the MMP system of proportional representation six years ago and, once people had got used to the practice, it appears to be working very satisfactorily and people are realising that, in our system, every vote does count.
David Parish, Ilford

It would be useful to be able to comment about the quality of the panel. Perhaps the awfulness of the three politicians on the panel this evening (especially Patsy Calton who seemed to have nothing to say about anything) was a clue to why many people do not vote. Anyone remotely interesting has long since retired from the Commons.
AF Williams, Teignmouth

The reason some of us didn't vote in the elections is because we opted for a postal vote but were told it hadn't been received. It was impossible to get to the polling station so therefore we couldn't vote. Four days after the election I received a letter telling me that my request for postal voting had been accepted! Last year was the first year that I felt I could vote - normally I don't!
Jay Gibbs, Croydon

Young people/any people are apathetic about voting. The way to encourage voting is to make it more accessible, particularly for working people eg voting in supermarkets perhaps also weekend voting!
Venetia Percy-Davis, Beckton

Want to get the youth of today interested in politics? Tax the youth at 90% with a special "Youth Income Tax", then they will be interested in making a difference with their vote.
Cat, Enfield

There are too many politicians in the House of Commons. What is more, too many are attached to a political party and hence follow party politics and the views of the party. ALL MPs should be independent or at least represent the views of the locality of the area they represent.
Robert Mitchell, Bolton

I did not vote in the last general election because, despite being happy with the present government, I hate our Labour council. So how do I vote for Tony Blair without voting for the council that I hate? Please Westminster, sort out a ridiculous election system.
Pete Theo, Grimsby

Parliament will never gain any popularity or interest from young people until the present sleazy, self-serving hypocrites are removed and replaced with people who give up all commercial, financial and business interests. The place of the sovereign in our parliamentary process needs to be reasserted and organisations like the Bilderbergers, G7, IGC, and European Commission have no effect at all until their deliberations and diktats are scrutinised by a truly democratic and representative parliament.
Jim Bogusz, Bolsover

Having watched Question Time tonight I was shocked to hear a man in the audience who thought that the vote should be given to those who are 16 and over. I myself am 17, am studying politics at AS level and find that the vast majority of people of my age who I come into contact with are very apathetic and often rather rude about politics in general. Many people dismiss politics as boring and unimportant, they don't care, thus I do not see the point in giving people who do not possess the maturity to assess sensibly the political situation the vote.
Joe, Cambridge

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Audience question: I believe in publicly owned and funded public services. Would Mr Blair consider me a wrecker? You said:

Public service seems to me to be about more than getting the cheapest deal and making profit. Public service is about defining those things that we need to do as a civilised society - like police, defence, health, decent transport etc. Tax, whether we like it or not, is the fairest method yet devised. We should have well run and managed services but to believe the private sector has a magical solution to difficult issues is perverse.
Stephen Townsley, Gateshead

Why should anyone or any company make a profit from the NHS? The private concerns are only interested in any form of profit gathering no matter at whose expense. The welfare of the patient (customer) is the least of their concerns. Any surplus of funds should only be used to ensure that public sector staff are paid at the correct level for their skills and the welfare of their "clients". The monetary gain of faceless shareholders should never under any circumstances be a consideration in the supply of public services.
James Keeley, East Kilbride

I was horrified by Stephen Twigg when he was discussing his mother and said something along the lines of: 'What Janet Daley beside me is suggesting is that I look after/take decisions for my mother and that's something I think most people here don't want to see happen.' What!? I am absolutely appalled to see him calmly sit there and announce to the nation that he would rather have an anonymous social worker care for his mother and make her decisions than look after her welfare himself.
Louis Aslett, Buckingham

If Mr Blair thinks that unions are wreckers he should visit any of the PFI funded and run hospitals in Scotland where ancillary staff are leaving in droves because their terms and conditions have been brought into line with the private sector.
Bill Delaney, Glasgow.

Do we not vote in a government/MP to manage our money and services? If we have to delegate to the private sector this must mean that the government is not doing the job that it should be doing.
Matthew Everson, Liverpool

For Tim Yeo to say that increasing taxation has not led to an increase in 'customer satisfaction' shows a fundamental ignorance of history. Shocking conditions in Victorian industrial slums were resolved through 'taking away the wealth of the people.' There are certainly modern issues of poverty in the UK today, but there are mechanisms in place now that should not allow the same kind of abysmal existence that was the lot of many people in that era.
Matthew Clay, Bristol

Mr Blair speaks of a battle between the "reformers" and the "wreckers". If some of the effects of "reform" in various services are anything to go by, I would have thought that the agenda of the reformers had much in common with an agenda of wreckers.
Julian Borrett, Leeds

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General comments on the programme:

This is my first time online and I enjoy your programme enormously, especially when you come up to Scotland. I shall look forward to joining in your debates in the future. Shalom, Mr Dimbleby.
Barbara Conboy, Edinburgh

Excellent programme but it's a pity that about the only decent political debate we get on TV is cut short every week - extending the programme is a must for the BBC.
Dave, Leamington Spa

Yet again not enough time! TV regularly devotes two hours to a football match at peak time. Surely a public service broadcaster should devote similar time and place to a debate once a week about issues that affect our daily lives. It might stimulate more people to take an interest and vote!!!!
Alan Marshall, Southampton

In reply to Stephen Banthorpe's comment already posted on this site: I was on the show last night and my question was picked (the one about the boiled egg!) but we ran out of time and couldn't discuss it. I was born in Ipswich 18 years ago and have lived here all my life. Plenty of locals applied, there just isn't enough time for us all to be heard.
Chloé Barton, Ipswich

Good panel last night, well complemented by the audience. Janet Daly on the panel represents a strand of opinion that is not well represented on the BBC but is very much main stream in Bush's America. I tend not to agree with her views but if people want to understand the basis of thought in the American administration then the views of Janet Daly need to be heard. More panellists like Janet are to be welcomed.
Geoff Seward, Rawtenstall

I thought last night's edition of Question Time was the best I had seen in a very long time. There was little of the point-scoring and 'spontaneous' clapping which often disrupts the flow of debate between the panellists. In addition, I thought that the programme itself actually answered some of the questions posed in that it showed politicians - and others, Janet Daley and Michael Grade - engaged in a reasonable but robust discussion of issues which are of concern to ordinary voters today.
Jan Dawson, London

Janet Daly and David Dimbleby were the only quality people on the panel.
John, Bristol

What a shame that on tonight's show I didn't hear one local Ipswich accent. Didn't any locals apply?
Steve Banthorpe, Ipswich

Congratulations on a superb programme. It was good to hear the panel agree on delicate subjects without being anti just to make a political point. Could we have Janet Daly for PM.
J Green, Poole

What a fantastic programme! Janet Daley and Michael Grade were easily the best people you've had on the programme for ages. You must have them both back on a future programme.
Phillip Burgess, London

I do get a bit frustrated and annoyed by David Dimbleby when he goes back to the questioner, or the audience, before ALL the panellists have had their say on any question. It would be fairer and more polite to allow all panellists their views then go back to the questioner and finally the audience.
Stephen B Oliver, Heckmondwike, West Yorks

Michael Grade made a brilliant contribution to the debate tonight, sensible and intelligent comment. Tim Yeo was adequate and responsible. Janet Daley really should question why she wanted to become a British citizen because she really does not come across as liking us.
Peter Webb-Heath, Stowmarket

In answer to the general comment by Juliet Hoskins, already posted on the site - why shouldn't we debate pop idol along with more serious issues, perhaps then more people will start to take in interest in the serious as well the less serious things in life.
Michelle Jackson, Fareham

I enjoyed the replies and comments of Janet Daley in tonight's programme. She's quite controversial and fires straight from the hip. Let's see her on future Question Times.
Doug, Whitehaven, Cumbria

Definitely an above average show. Stephen Twigg and Tim Yeo (that rarest of creatures - a reasonable Tory) belied the criticism of politicians by conducting themselves with dignity and Michael Grade is one of those pundits who is always worth listening to. The main drawback (and it's a big one) was Janet Daley. Even for a debate show she came across as shrill, crass and a damn sight more arrogant, intolerant and opinionated than the mild-mannered politicians sharing the table.
Neil Halliday, Leigh on Sea

Why, when next week's guests were announced tonight, was Ann Widdecombe's name roundly jeered? Why did the host allow this to go unchallenged? Or is this accepted behaviour from a BBC audience? Puts me in mind of the common opinion from the masses of one Margaret Thatcher. Hmm, now didn't she have a problem with the Unions once?
Phil Longhorn, Stockport

Why are we debating Pop Idol on Question Time? I thought this programme was supposed to be about serious political debate. Can't imagine Sir Robin Day allowing such nonsense.
Juliet Hoskins, Staines


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