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Thursday, 14 February, 2002, 14:24 GMT
February 14, Manchester
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The topics discussed this week were:

Audience question: Do the panel now think Jo Moore will have to wait for another opportunity to bury bad news or should the Labour Party bury Jo Moore? You said:

On the issue of presentation of policy, spin and debate between the two main parties - they have become so indistinguishable as to their true origins because of how they are presented when in power. The common denominator that exists is the vast unseen civil service which should be impartial, but has ended up simply serving the 'party purple'. Presentation has substituted substance - the electorate needs the food of substance to replenish belief.
Chris Frank, Leicester

Jo Moore is becoming a big liability to the Labour Party and Stephen Byers in particular. As she continues to make these offensive comments, when will action be taken? Civil servants should be made more aware of public feeling and should not make such insensitive comments. Jo Moore has publicly apologised for her first comment. How long are we going to wait for an apology for this latest one? Stephen Byers would be well advised to act now, before it is too late, and she costs him his job.
Steve Fuller, Brighton & Hove

The Tories have no policies so the Tory press and media have come to their aid and invented things. Jo Moore is a victim of the right wing press.
John Lee, Nuneaton

The quality of any company or organisation is reflected by the people that it employs - what this says for the Labour government that continues to employ and defend the likes of Jo Moore is beyond me. Thick as thieves!!!
Mike, Stockport, England

Jo Moore - how many chances has she had? It is inconceivable for her to stay. SHE MUST GO. As for her boss (Byers) he is so incompetent and irrelevant that he wouldn't be missed. Come to think of it the same could be said of Two Jags Prescott. As for 'Teflon Blair', this B-rated actor is being found out at last and will be gone before the next election.
Andrew C Robson, Gateshead

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Audience question: Where Holyrood leads should Westminster follow and ban fox-hunting? You said:

Congratulations to Ann Widdecombe and Carol Sarler who like the audience and the rest of the country want fox-hunting banned. Thumbs down to Ivan Massow who feels we should tolerate unpopular behaviour and to Malcolm Bruce who can't see the difference between fishing for food and hunting for entertainment - albeit sensitive there IS a difference Malcolm, and a surprising thumbs down to Labour MP Gwyneth Dunwoody who feels there are other more important issues than fox-hunting.
Sonia Knox, Lindfield

I suspect that the Labour Party's obsession with fox-hunting has less to do with love of the fox and more to do with hatred of those who hunt. As for contraception, how can you get the fox to use it when you cannot even prevent schoolgirls from becoming pregnant?
Keith Wiseman, Bury

While I disagree in principle with fox-hunting the fox is - in the UK at least - having the run of the countryside. This is because it has no natural predators. The towns and the countryside are becoming overrun with foxes and short of shooting them, I see no REAL alternative to hunting.
K Burch, Beckenham

Whatever is said about the hunting ban I for one hail it as the one great blessing that has come out of the Scottish Parliament. All panellists are only concentrating on fox-hunting. But it covered a great deal more, as it included ALL wild animals such as the innocent HARE that does so little harm, the DEER that is such a beautiful creature, and the lowly CONEY RABBIT, I hope it covers the BIRD life too. Cruelty is CRUELTY whatever or whoever commits it on any of nature's sentinel creatures. The wild animals that we see on telly kill to survive not for sport.
D Jones, Haverford west

I hate fox-hunting but after 40 years of discussing it and learning about foxes, I feel for the fox population in general it has to be retained. Fox-hunting usually takes the weaker fox, the stronger more intelligent fox escapes to breed another day passing his/her genes along to future generations. All alternatives are non-selective - killing strong foxes along with weak foxes or preventing them from breeding at all.
John Radford, Somerset

To suit animal rights campaigners and New Labour, fox-hunting will inevitably be banned. I live in rural Northumberland. Where were the rights for all the animals which were free of foot-and-mouth? I witnessed the executions but did not see one animal rights protester. Sheep and cows must come lower on the agenda than foxes.
Brian Newman, Allendale, Northumberland

For uninformed know all no nothing members of the panel and contributors to this debate, poisoning and gassing of foxes is "illegal". The only means of legal fox control are hunting, shooting snaring and trapping.
S Wilson, Sunderland

What's the fuss about fox-hunting? Foxes are scavengers and should not be treated with the same respect as any other animal. As long as they are killed humanely which they are, then there isn't a problem. Keeping the fox population down is a good thing especially for farmers who raise chickens.
Robert Jackson, Devon

What a joke the fox-hunting row is! Practised by a large minority with only 6% of foxes being dealt with. How can this be a major issue? Simple. Carol Sarler inadvertently summed it up with her "tally-ho" comment. Fox-hunting is a major issue because a Labour government has used widespread ignorance to turn fox-hunting into a class issue. Anyone who hunts is perceived to be posh and privileged and Labour loves nothing better than removing privilege in return for votes. I don't hunt and I'm not an expert but I would consider someone starving and homeless is our big cities to be more of a priority than a fox.
Matthew Camacho, Malton, North Yorkshire

Carol Sarler compared the death of a hunted fox to that of a rat being attacked and tortured to death. Does she actually know how a rat dies when it is poisoned? It is no longer legal to use fast acting poisons to kill rats, in case a non-target animal eats it, so it takes up to seven days for the rats to expire, by slowly bleeding to death. Does she not find that cruel? But I suppose that because they retire to their holes to die it's more a case of out of sight out of mind.
J Finch, Newcastle

The countryside is no playground for the rich, it is a place where generations have survived, and provided the food these people are happy to place on their dinner plates. Now due to total ignorance they are happy to determine the way we live our lives, at no cost to their own hearts or passions, blissful in their own ignorance. We have had a so-called debate on a country issue in a studio in a city with urban dwellers - that is not a debate it is propaganda.
W Watson, Helston

Tonight's panel has spoken at great length about the cruelty of fox-hunting, and I wholeheartedly agree. However I am mystified that we should spend so long discussing this issue, yet do not take the same or greater exception to a legal system that rejects the fundamental human right to life. Our parliament is prepared to countenance no end of legislation that rejects the sanctity of life, eg abortion, euthanasia, genetic science. Is human life less important than that of a fox?
Michael Crilly, Liverpool

Has no one on the panel or in the audience ever seen a wildlife programme?! Watch a pack of hyenas hunt a wildebeest. They will pursue and wear it into exhaustion over days until it finally collapses when it is ripped to pieces. How different is this from a pack of dogs chasing a deer, or for that matter a fox? The point is being relentlessly pursued by a predator is a natural part of life to a wild animal.
Chris Simpkin, Cardiff

I am neither for nor against fox-hunting but as a member of a rural community and an ex-farmer I feel that if fox-hunting is banned the fox will undoubtedly become close to extinction. It is the hunt that keeps the fox alive through the co-operation of the hunt and the landowners maintaining a level of foxes to be hunted for sport.
Chris Goulden, Howden

Drawing comparisons between fox-hunting and fishing (or any other animal sport) is ludicrous, as a fox is terrorised before it's killed - can we say the same about a fish? No we can't really can we? So let's look at the real question...humane, or is peaceful, fair (as fish are in their own environment, we simply entice them to the hook, not chase them to their death!) I am not even into fishing, but can differentiate between fair sport, and brutal slaughter...have a think.
John Habash, Bristol

I've been an angler for the last 15 years and one thing that can be said for the sport anglers, is that they treat the fish they catch like babies, they treat the small hole that is caused through the hook hold. The fish is then returned to a place where it is one of several thousand other fish, so the odds of it being re-captured within six months are pretty slim.
Gary Norton, Hockley

Surely anyone who supports fox-hunting would also support cock fighting, badger baiting etc. The animals involved suffer just as much and there is just as little reason behind it. Like the House of Lords, just because something is old it doesn't make it good!
Ross, Bucks

Banning fox-hunting is living in denial of people being individuals and certain individuals urge to hunt. The argument of whether it is cruel is irrelevant. It is hunting, by its nature it is cruel.
Dave, London

Can we really live in a society that proclaims to respect life then hunt down and kill a fox whilst promoting cat food and pet luxuries? Is fox-hunting a class issue or an outdated concept in the new United Kingdom?
Mike, Newquay

We in Scotland were the guinea pigs for the "poll tax", and I rather think this could be the case with the hunting issue. I hope not!!
Ken Topping, Fife

Whether fox-hunting is cruel or not is not, I feel, a salient point. Surely the point should be, "How do we get rid of them otherwise?" Gassing, poisoning and lamping were mentioned. The first two could kill other wildlife that aren't vermin, and the latter option would require a clean killing shot, because foxes, when wounded, do not lick their wounds. They wander around and die an agonising death from gangrene. At least hunting is basically painless.
Simesy, Southam, Warwickshire

I agree fox-hunting is cruel. However this talk of contraception is ludicrous because if they can't breed then they will just add to the list of endangered species in the UK.
Mick Meacham, Nottingham

Fox-hunters would gain more respect if they simply came clean, stopped making pathetic excuses about pest control and admitted that they simply enjoy the barbarity of hunting.
Dan Wills, Poole

Ban it or hobble the horses, muzzle the dogs and blindfold the riders. Remember - the unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable.
Mike Hunter, Edinburgh

Gwyneth, if you were the fox, there couldn't be a more important thing. It is obvious that this is an issue that is easy for you to dismiss, but if you took more than a moment, you would find that a fox is a living conscious being - and no living, conscious being deserves to die a death full of unspeakable pain and terror.
Heather Woollard, Moorland

Contraceptives for foxes - what a brilliant idea!! But who's going to show them how to use the condoms?
Roger Neill, Farnborough

We can't even decide if it's cruel to kill people yet, why worry about foxes?
Gary Chisnall, Wigan

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Audience question: Will the International War Crimes Tribunal provide impartial justice for all war criminals or will it merely become a political tool? You said:

Gwyneth Dunwoody talks about all those she wants to try in court whether they come from Africa or South America. Does it not enter her head that they may also come from Britain and America, like Thatcher and Kissinger to start off with. When are they going to be brought to justice?
Imdad Naeem, Southampton

Although I agree that maybe it would be better if Milosevic was immediately locked up for 30 years for a quickly convictable crime, if there is any truth in his allegations toward Nato, then it will be highly intriguing to hear from Clinton, Blair, Chirac et al on the subject. It will be excruciatingly slow if this trial carries on for two years but maybe some good can prevail if other organisations and leaders' implications and involvement are revealed and the public made fully aware of the atrocities in the Balkans.
Saba, Telford

A fact: There is not enough evidence to prosecute Sharon for any war crimes. The UN has already investigated these allegations against him and have taken no action. They have however, found evidence against 14 PLO members for involvement in the 'disappearance' of 45,000 Lebanese Christians.
Alan Murray, Falkirk

Ariel Sharon, the democratically elected prime minister of Israel answered for his errors (largely passive, it must be said) to a properly constituted Israeli military enquiry. When will the arch terrorist Yasser Arafat answer for his many crimes?
Brian Gedalla, London

The lady who suggested that Sharon should be tried for the Sabra and Shatila "massacres" should check her facts as it was the Lebanese militiaman, Elie Hobeika, who led the attack on the camps.
Howard Park, Manchester

If we are going to be consistent in trying war criminals, why was Tujman of Croatia not indicted, those responsible for atrocities in Vietnam against innocent civilians, and countless dictator friends of America as well in the post war period.
Finbarr Myers, Dagenham

Why did Ann Widdecombe not answer the question with regards to Sharon? There is evidence and charges against him. Does this mean she feels he should be put on trial?
John H, London

It was absolutely disgraceful to watch Ann Widdecombe avoid implicating Israeli Sharon as a war criminal. What was she afraid of?
Vince Stratton, Southampton

Political tool - them trying to make Milosevic a scapegoat for all the evil in the world to make themselves feel better. It's a proper farce because you know they should be trying half the leaders in the world not least Ariel Sharon.
Paul Naughton, Bournemouth

Don't think it was good of the chairman not to pursue the question with the rest of the panel about the Sabra and Shatila massacre and whether the standards of international justice should equally apply to the perpetrators of this crime. Unless we apply, and appear to apply, these standards to both our friends and foes, pretensions to international justice will remain unconvincing.
A Malik, London

With regard to Anne Widdecombe's comments about the Milosevic trial and the fact that generals etc should take heed, will we ever see the commander of the British naval vessel that sank the Belgrano come to trial?
James Robertson, London

Indeed it is essential that Milosevic is tried and brought to justice for his crimes. Where atrocities of this magnitude are committed, justice must be seen to be done as a deterrent to other tyrants.
Julian Borrett, Leeds

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Audience question: Following claims that Tony Blair has had highlights in his hair do politicians feel that the way they look should have an impact on the views that they have? You said:

If Tony Blair changed his hair style, would he part it in the centre, to the left, or the far right?
Geraint Wilcox, Liverpool

Of course appearance matters. That was half of the reason why Tony Blair had two consecutive landslide victories. I think Ann Widdecombe's hair is great. She is finally fit to lead the Tory party. I personally think she can now out-cool Tony Blair. And that should be enough to win the General Election. See the number of votes cast in Pop Idol.
Bernard Man, Hong Kong

Tony Blair's hair is blonde because he uses Grecian 2000 or Just for men and because he is in Africa it has bleached his hair. Let him show his grey or is he too vain ?
Gordon Walker, Bolton

Shouldn't the two "unnatural blondes" on the panel have been asked the same question? Sexism it seems, is alive and well on QT!
GW, Kilmarnock

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Audience question: Given the success of the zero tolerance policies in New York when will the UK adopt such strategies in combating crime? You said:

I believe the real answer to fighting crime is not more police or zero tolerance policing but stiffer penalties, which would provide sufficient deterrents to would-be offenders. In countries where this is the case, even where some penalties seem barbaric, it works! Where the penalty is harsh enough, there is hardly need for policing. The problem of crime could be almost solved overnight if a severe enough penalty were introduced. But we are not prepared to do it, so we suffer the consequences of our weakness.
Alan Poyner, Oldbury

Is it not worrying that consideration of this policy implies that at present we have a policy of tolerating some crime? If certain actions are contrary to the law ie criminal why should they be tolerated? Is it, as Malcolm Bruce seemed to admit, we do not have the will to provide the resources to tackle crime? Is it that some actions should not be crimes? If so should the law not be changed?
John Whittle, Carluke

It is all very well to talk about hitting people over the head with sticks for dropping litter - the point of zero tolerance for me is that we as a society now tolerate more serious crimes than we did in the past. We have our cars broken into and music systems stolen. What do we do? Ring for a crime number to claim from our insurance. To me, zero tolerance is about society as a whole rejecting all crime and doing our best to react against it.
SD Crossley, Leeds

On December 29 2000 New York had 12 inches of snow in 24 hours. Guiliani came on the television the same day and said we will clear the snow. Twenty-four hours later the snow had been cleared. Planning, decision-making, organisation and action using snow ploughs, snow blowers, men, loading the snow into lorries and taking it out of town. The snow was cleared and New York carried on as normal. THE MAYOR GETS THINGS DONE. Zero tolerance, great. His plan worked. There are now more murders in this country than in the big apple.
David Turnbull, Derby

Your panel was totally wrong. Build the jails. Lock up the criminals. MAKE the courts perform. Bring in new laws if necessary. We need a society based on religious moral guidance...and nothing less.
Malcolm, Lincoln

This seems to be following a current trend to automatically look up to anything American following Sept 11. Is this not foolhardy as all American policy regarding crime is only a poor attempt to wipe over a mess of their own making while not changing their gun policies.
Richard Gannon, Daventry

If parents taught children zero tolerance at home at a young age we would not need it now.
Hugh Devlin, Leyton, London

I agree 100% with Ann Widdecombe. We need to be much tougher on crime, it's the only way to break the vicious circle and restore peace and order on our streets. Malcolm Bruce seems to be accepting the higher levels of crime we have. To say that a zero tolerance will simply move crime to other areas is a very weak argument. If the whole country has a zero tolerance then the criminals will have nowhere else to go.
Steve Hanwell, Northampton

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Audience question: Should the prime minister be writing letters of recommendation for competing foreign steel industries given the difficulties that our own steel industries are going through? You said:

For long enough the Tories took donations from who knows where and from who knows who with no scrutiny and little interest from the right wing press. When the Labour party accept donations the press are asking questions, and suggesting all sorts of motives. All people who donate, to whatever political party, do so out of a self interest. If the unions, and now a steel company, are buying favours from the Labour party, then who has been buying favours from the Tory party over the years? The answer is simple - let the country, through taxation, fund all political parties.
John Lee, Nuneaton.

The Mittal affair is demonstrating once again that the self-righteous Tony Blair is actually an unprincipled chancer - a charlatan driven by expediency and electoral advantage. Iain Duncan Smith, by contrast, oozes honesty and integrity from every pore.
David Lancashire, Trowbridge, Wiltshire

1) The company is not British - it is registered offshore in the Dutch Antilles. Only 100 of its total workforce of 125,000 work in Britain (0.08%). Therefore the case cannot be made that it is in "British interests" for this deal to be done. 2) If all donations are registered, how could Tony Blair possibly NOT know about the donation to the Labour Party?
John Haithwaite, Wetherby

People are losing their jobs all over so with Tony Blair signing that paper just shows what he thinks of this country, when it's not even a British company.
David Baker, Corringham, Essex

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General comments on the programme:

Slowly sinking into a morass of trivia, QT has ceased to be essential viewing for me. The general lack of key government policy makers, for whatever reason, cannot be covered by 'of the moment' celebs such as Ivan Massow. How long before we see Neil and Christine on the programme or have I missed them already?
Peter Walker, High Wycombe

I agree with a number of other comments made about the programme. In the past, the panel would consist of major cabinet and shadow cabinet ministers, and as a result we were able to see top politicians being put to the test. These days, the panel often consists of too many people who have no real political influence. Also, maybe a return to four panellists rather than five would enable better debate of the major issues.
David Hanmer, Stoke-on-Trent

As a member of the audience on Thursday I was most disappointed with the choice of questions. It was one of the most boring Question Times I have watched for a long time. Who was really interested in the colour of Tony Blair's hair, fox-hunting and the nonsense of the Hague trial.
Robert Mitchell, Bolton

I do not watch Question Time as often as I used to but find it disappointing when I do watch it. I am not bothered about Ann Widdecombe's hair or Tony Blair's for that matter. I want to know what politicians are doing about illegal immigrants coming into this country and are we doing enough for Afghanistan after we took them through a war and told them 'we will not desert you again'.
J Johnson, Leeds

I agree with Peter Lilley from Hove: I have not watched the programme for a while but was really very disappointed.
Steve Warner, London

Come on David and BBC! This is getting dire. I agree with comments below - get some SERIOUS action back on the show. Forget hair and marginal advisers to marginal civil servants. There are real issues to be discussed. Public services are a disgrace, the country is flooded with asylum seekers (now escaping and running wild around the countryside). If you have politicians they should be limited to Cabinet ministers, ministers and their shadows. Get the big guns in and give them some stick!
James Watson, Coalville

I came to see Question Time for the first time in Manchester yesterday evening. I was really nervous but it was a most enjoyable experience. I imagined David Dimbleby to be arrogant and self righteous, but what I encountered was a most amiable gentleman. He was such a sweetie! If only he were younger!!! Ha Ha Ha. Thank you all very much indeed, and keep up the great work!!
Joanna Watson, Halifax, West Yorkshire

I must have watched a different programme than Ken of Somerton - I don't know about zip but there certainly were a few bites in it! Compared to others I'd give it 8 out of 10!
Jack Biggs, Weymouth

Probably the weakest programme this series: Carol Sarler sounded hysterical most of the time, Ann Widdecombe was her usual bombastic (and boring) self. Ivan Massow (why does he keep being invited back?) was ill-informed, tongue-tied and just plain embarrassing. Even the Manchester audience seemed sluggish and insufficiently warmed-up. After last week's excellent programme with - among others - Stephen Twigg and Michael Grade - this one was instantly forgettable.
Peter Lilley, Hove, East Sussex

Another excellent lively show. Good all round panel. Why can't the show come down this way sometimes?
Beverley William Ley, Paignton, S Devon

I wonder if I am alone in thinking that Question Time has become jaded and stale. The panels seem to consist of second raters and the audiences behave like patients from a mental home on day release. The zip, the bite and the spontaneity of past programmes seem to be missing.
Ken Herman, Somerton

Good to see more women than men on the panel for a change. I enjoyed the programme.
Gill, Horsham

I attended this week's Question Time and I found it one of the most mundane ever. The questions were kept to the least controversial. I am sure as with the panel no one is too interested in whether or not Tony Blair highlights his hair!!! Whilst I appreciate there have been a few 'emotional' editions in recent months tonight you provided the viewers with a very weak episode with nothing to really get any pulses jogging let alone racing!
Janine Kasmir, Manchester

Your programme is bland, boring and has no significance to me. Fox-hunting is the least of the problems and issues that need to be debated in Manchester. Do your jobs well or do not bother putting out such a poor political show. And who cares what politicians look like, do you really believe that people are affected in the long run by what people look like?
P Mcguinness, Ancoats, Manchester

To pick up one what John Richardson said, I think it is because Tony Blair is too scared of his government being questioned by real people and that the paucity of talent among ministers would be shown. They have no backbone.
John Haithwaite, Wetherby

John Richardson of Manchester has beaten me to it. I logged on with the intention of saying something almost identical to what he has said. This smacks of a policy change; wasn't there something recently about a shift away from serious political coverage?
Alan Marshall, Southampton

I have been watching your programme for years, and I have noticed the lack of ministers on the show. It seems to have happened since New Labour arrived in office.
Steve, Fleetwood

Why has Question Time become so dumbed down of late? The topics tonight included Jane Moore's irrelevant e-mail, the trivial matter of fox-hunting and the hairstyle of Tony Blair. Last week the panel discussed Pop Idol for over 10 minutes!!! Isn't it time that Question Time engaged the public with some REAL politics?
John Richardson, Manchester

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