Thursday 12 November, Glasgow

Thursday 5 November, London

Thursday 29 October, Birmingham

Thursday 22 October, Cardiff

Thursday 15 October, Leeds

Thursday 8 October, Bournemouth

Thursday 1 October, Manchester

Thursday 24 September, London


Thursday 15 October, Leeds

Question Time was in Leeds for its latest edition.

On the panel were renowned thriller writer Frederick Forsyth , leading British men's fashion designer Ozwald Boateng. From the world of politics we had Social Security Minister Angela Eagle MP, former health secretary under John Major Stephen Dorrell MP and the Lib Dems' GP turned MP Dr Jenny Tonge.

Here is how you reacted to the issues raised in the debate.

Reform of the House of Lords

Audience question: "Why is it necessary to destroy something that has served us so well for 600 years? The House of Lords is a watchdog against abuse of power."

Angela Eagle said: "There has been an inbuilt massive Conservative majority in the House of Lords and if we do not change the system it will remain that way in perpetuity."

Freddie Forsyth said: "Eighty per cent of the hereditary peers never show up at all so they do no harm and no damage either. But there needs to be blue print for something to take their place that gives us a solidly rugged independent upper house."

You said:

Yes, the House of Lords must go, the unelected have no place in a real pluralist democracy. Equally the Upper House must be replaced with a new chamber that is popularly elected, perhaps on the new Euro constituency boundaries? Why in order to keep a check on the House of Commons, without this check we will end up with an elective tyranny, it has happened once before, when the Lords were abolished after the English Civil War, then the only solution was a dictatorship under Oliver Cromwell, that is a road this country must NEVER go down again!
Ian Byrnes, Northamptonshire, UK

In what other area of our society is the accident of birth allowed to count against you, or debar you from doing a worthwhile job? None of the would-be reformers has yet said what the present system gets so terribly wrong - is it incompetent? Or self-seeking? Or corrupt? No-one has claimed any of these things - and there are other organisations which fail on these counts yet are still allowed to flourish, including some well-reported Labour councils. The work that the Lords do is under-publicised, perhaps if people actually knew what it is they do then we could get away from the idea of 'old buffers dozing' and understand that they have to turn the sometimes half-baked ideas from the Commons into a workable idea, which could become Law without leaving loopholes and without a hopeless muddle - not as easy as we might like to think. The other point is that hereditary peers, plus the Lords Spiritual and the Law Lords, have nothing to prove - they can accordingly get on with the job. This point about being representative of the people is irrelevant: we have our representatives, for better or for worse, in the Commons. The Lords can afford to take a long view, to try to make workable the bills sent up to them, to ensure continuity. Electing substitutes for those who are there at present could not provide a "better" chamber - whatever its faults, this is a system which has worked, and worked honourably, for several centuries. To replace it with political appointees in great numbers may be tempting to some, but must be resisted to the end by all those who care about our history, our constitution , and above all - our country.
Mrs Buckland, UK

Reforming the House of Lords is not destroying something that has served us well for 600 years. Reform is not abolition. The Lords does a valuable job, but like any institution needs to be representative of the times. Membership must be by merit and not by accident of birth. Neither should it be populated on a basis of political patronage. I believe an ideal House of Lords would be partly elected and partly appointed. Elections on a regional basis sound like a good idea, and I think appointments should be made by such bodies as the various churches (not just the Christian ones), business organisations such as the IOD, CBI and BCC, the TUC, the professional associations such as the GMC, Law Society etc. Intense public debate should produce an answer that will give us the kind of reforming chamber that this country deserves.
Kevin Webster

I can't understand the objections to the abolition of the voting rights of hereditary peers. If most don't turn up, what difference will it make if they lose a right they never use? If they retain the right, these unrepresentative and un-elected peers can, if they wish, force governments to change policy. Many say this provides a valuable "check and balance" function over government. Unfortunately they only ever seem to "check and balance" Labour governments. History and recent events show they are not even handed as many claim, hardly ever obstructing the last Tory governemt in 18 years of office while already acting true to form with Labour. If they had been demonstrably even handed then maybe there would not be a call (and a need) for reform.
David Oddie

Hereditary peers: there is no time limit to their responsibility, as with life peers or paid, elected representatives. Properly used, this could be a useful feature of a second chamber. Regarding the government's majority in Parliament, they still have to govern for those who did not vote for them, i.e. for the whole country, not just their supporters.
Janet Feely

Why are the Labour party so keen to handover our heritage and power to the unelected European Commission but remove it from the House of Lords? What issues were the HoL ever at odds with the British people over? They were against sodomy at 16 and for reciprocal rights for English and Scottish students. The HoL is by common consent the most non-partisan second chamber in the Western democracies - never mind what Eagle and her grisly gang thinks.
B J Singleton

Given that anyone who would wish to seek office through election is ipso facto not someone who ought to have power, the hereditary principle in the House of Lords is a vital defence against the kind of thing that happened in Germany in 1933. I switched off once the debate got to surrogate mothers, because I couldn't get this question out of my mind: If someone like, for example, the Countess of Mar were to become a surrogate mother, would the child qualify to sit in the Lords?
Jim Delaney

The people of Leeds seem singularly disinterested in the concept of democracy regarding the removal of hereditary peers from the House of Lords. If you don't think that they should be removed then surely you don't believe in democracy.
Haran Rasalingam

I believe that the best solution to the hereditary pier problem is to appoint them for good works - as with knighthoods.
Michelle Little

I agree that the House of Lords should be abolished but I do think they should become a second house - elected by the people - much in the same way as the USA. We are after all a supposed democracy - not an autocracy!!
D Cummings

A second chamber is essential. However the chamber should be elected by proportional representation. The present transitional arrangements are open to abuse by a government bent on control.
Bryan Bloom

(I agree with Stephen Dorrel and Frederick Forsyth.) Probably the first manifesto pledge that the Labour party is going to keep.
Sumit Gupta, St John's, Cambridge, UK

Long live the House of Lords! Hereditary Peers have made this country what it is. They have kept ordinary people from getting true democracy and so it should be.
Mark Trimming

In the aftermath of the Falklands War a moribund Tory government was returned in a fit of national hype and patriotism. A single issue can distort a general election result, which is a snapshot of public opinion at a point in time. To prevent a duplication of the same result in a second house, (senate?), there should be retirement and re-election of members by rotation, every couple of years. Dilution of polarisation of votes in particular commons constituencies should be engineered by enlarged constituencies, such as the Euro-constituencies. Given the trend to surrendering powers to the EU, perhaps the upper house members could be euro-MPs. An additional role of the upper house should be to supervise the new national assemblies in Scotland, Wales etc.
Nigel Wroe, Camberley, London, UK

People seem to have very short memories about how the Lords actually behave. Their Lordships House has defeated the present government on over thirty occasions since the election. Whilst the Tories were in power it was a rare event. The overturning of the age of consent was a classic example of them being out of touch with modern day Britain - just as they were in the fifties whrnt hey blocked the abolition of the death penalty.
Gary Lucie

I disagree with the stress on 'Tory' or 'Labour' majority. This would give rise to claims of political bias, valid or not Whatever format the membership of the new idea will take I'd favour some degree of balance.
Peter Houppermans London, UK

I cannot believe the audacity of this select band of people who believe they have the right to sit in the House of Lords and vote on legislation and furthermore they believe that they are representative of the country, this is absolute rubbish. The sooner they go the better. It's not for them to worry what replaces them, we'll worry about that. And on another point, I think Dame Shirley Porter should be stripped of her title and publicly humiliated for her atrocious behaviour.
Lewis Morgan

What's the point in having a House of Lords in any shape or form whether Blair's cronies or upper class twits - depending how you see the argument. At the end of the day they have no real power other than to publicise what they see as wrong in statutes. Newspapers can bring this to the publics attention for a fraction of the price that these expense claiming Lords cost us.
Stewart Morrell

It's about time that the hereditary peers went. The tories, although their majority in the upper house isn't always used to their advantage, still exists. regardless of your political persuasion it's obvious that this is not right. This majority has existed for as was said 600 years that's an awful long time to have the final say in the running of a country. Let's get it changed to an elected body of regional representatives of all political beliefs. The sooner this happens the better for everyone.
Paul Smith

Surely the real question should be what are we going to replace the House of Lords with? The Lords may be unrepresentative of the population but at least they stand for the views of those they represent ie their privileged upper class friends. Since when did any modern MP actually REPRESENT the people who voted for them?
Simon Briggs

On the subject of a second house, lords etc, I am unsure how a 'second house' provides any more of a safety net, than a similarly-elected first house. In short, what prevents a second house from being just as similarlly baised (elected or otherwise) to the legislation put before it. In New Zealand, we do not have a second house. We also were stuck with unpopular governments for far longer than we needed to be. Much of the problem comes not from how many houses you have, but the process by which people are elected to those houses. Here, the 1986 Royal Commission on Electrol Reform found that perhaps a fairer way to represent the people was to look at proportional systems of election. The reforms were (eventually) pushed though, and in 1996 New Zealand had it's first MMP-based election, one that resulted in 6 parties being represented in the House. The upshot of those changes is that no-longer could a party that in reality got merely 30 or 40% of the vote could control the house for 3 years, and do whatever it wanted to. Unless you had 50% of the vote a party never had a clear majority to rule - and must form a colalition.

In theory, the presence of colations has two effects: (a) it tempers whatever the major parties do to something not as extreme, since they need the support of the smaller parties; (b) it provides a simpler mechanism if the direction taken is not liked - by those minor parties walking from the colalition, potentially leading to fresh elections. What this all means is that representation for the people doesn't neccecarly come from a second house any more than it came from the first. Certainly I believe in New Zealand we have improved the quality of our representation.
David Zanetti, New Zealand

Stopping payments to surrogate mothers

Audience question: "Is surrogacy the ultimate example of a society where everything is for sale?"

Ozwald Boateng said: "You can't stop people from paying for this... but the gift of life is fantastic, why can't you give a gift to the surrogate mother?"

Jenny Tonge said: "People think they have a right to children and they ought to be able to get one by any means and I think it is totally sick what is going on ... surrogacy should not be a paid activity."

You said:

If men can be compensated for their part in helping infertile couples have a baby - by receiving "expenses" for sperm donation - which, let's face it, is hardly onerous, why can't women be adequately compensated for their contribution - carrying the child to term?
Clare Mullen

Why can't more children be adopted and given the family that they dearly need rather than babies conceived to order?
Nick Ramsey

If a woman gives up nine months of her life to carry a child for someone else, why shouldn't she receive payment for at least reasonable expenses.
David Thompson

How can you stop people who want to pay a woman to be a surrogate when they can go to overseas and do it legally?
Dave Dowell

This may be a stupid suggestion but instead of producing another baby, why don't childless couples adopt?
Laurence Dutton-Toke

Who will have the child, if the child is born deformed?
Stephen Jones

For Angela Eagle to suggest that the ability to have children is not a right is a logical nonsense on the premise of her subsequent arguments. If having children is not a right how can she substantiate her moral acceptance of individuals engaging in a commercial transaction for 'test-tube' births whilst persisting to condemn the immorality of surrogacy?
Chris Mallett

What a lot of hypocrisy about payments for surrogacy; we hire nurses and nannies to protect and nurture our children, and we pay impoverished students to be guinea pigs for new drug research, and yet we feel uncomfortable about paying willing women to carry a child for another person. While barristers and surgical consultants charge hundreds of pounds per hour to help people achieve justice or health, a few thousand pounds for the nine-month hire of a woman with a healthy womb seems like excellent value. While this restriction might ease the sensibilities of armchair observers, the persons who will lose out are the frustrated parents-to-be and the women looking to be fairly rewarded for the honour and pleasure of helping them.
Tom Woodcock

Concerning the whole surrogacy issue, or more to the point the whole sets of circumstances which drive people into entering into such an arrangement in the first place, my own view for what it's worth is that here is a case for polygamy if ever there were one.
S Rossier

Why is surrogacy such an issue? Why is there a need at all to pay someone to have a child when there are so many children waiting to be adopted. Should we not look at the adoptions laws and criteria and see if there are so draconian that they may put people off or deny them the chance of a child. Paying for a child goes against the laws of nature. There is always going to be a penalty. Apart from time and effort - adoption costs nothing. This is not about the parents (who if they really were thinking of what is best for the child would abhor surrogacy). This is about a child.
Norma Beckford

Capping funds to political parties

Audience question: "Is 20m an acceptable level to spend on an election campaign?"

Angela Eagle said: "One of the important things if you are going to have a healthy democracy is that it doesn't get to the stage that money can buy everything."

Freddie Forsyth said: "It has long been time that there was a little light shone on funny money that has been floating around. When you have a billionaire who can change government policy into a U-turn faster than an F1 Mclaren going through the Monaco circuit, it undermines democracy."

The Neill report appears to state that the government should, in principal, be neutral in any state referenda. How will this be possible if the referenda is linked to government policy?
Simon Coote

Marketing "Cool Britannia"

Audience question: "Given that the Conservative and Labour Parties seem keen to promote Britain as 'Cool Britannia', how do you think this marketing of the country has affected morale?"

Ozwald Boateng said: "I suppose we are trying to promote design. The young are feeling the benefits of promotion and I think that is very good. But I'd like to see more support for the manufacturers as well."

Freddie Forsyth said: "We have been promoting British design for years. British talent wasn't invented on 1 May last year."

Cuts to widows' benefits

Audience question: "By reassuring the widows of today that their benefits will not be affected by any cuts is Secretary of State Alistair Darling implying that we widows should not be bothered about the widows of tomorrow?"

Angela Eagle said: "Alistair Darling was trying to reassure existing recipients but he also confirmed that we are looking at this benefit which no longer reflects what is going on in the modern economy."

Stephen Dorrell said: "People who have paid contributions believing that this is one of the benefits for which the contribution pays ought to have confidence that the government isn't going to remove entitlement pension from their widow."






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