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 5 November, London

The panel was:

  • Frank Dobson MP, Health Secretary
  • Peter Hitchens, Assistant Editor of the Express
  • Baroness Shirley Williams, Liberal Democrat
  • David Willetts MP, Shadow Education and Employment Secretary
  • Maeve Sherlock, Director of the National Council for One Parent Families

    Here is how you are reacted to the issues raised in the debate:

    "Life" to mean life for Myra Hindley

    Audience question: " Is the continued detention of Myra Hindley for her protection or ours?"

    Peter Hitchens said: "The real question here is what we should do with people who commit crimes of this type. In my view, a civilised country would have hanged her."

    Maeve Sherlock said: "I do not think the public is at risk from Myra Hindley. I do not like the idea that anyone is beyond redemption."

    You said:

    Yet again I have witnessed a call for hanging. Does Mr Hitchens not have the sense to realise the ridiculous situations that would arise if we had had hanging in the 1970s i.e. Guildford Four, Birmingham Six and many others. On the subject of Myra Hindley, it does not bode well for the British legal system (which for some peculiar reason is held up as being the greatest in the world) or for the rehabilitative nature of imprisonment if there can be no improvement in a person over a thirty year period. This idea seems to me to be absurd. Another point worth mentioning is that a member of the audience stated that a person who murdered his mother is at present, or will be in the future walking the streets. Hindley is still behind bars purely because of the publicity that her case generated.
    Paul McCandless

    I do not disagree that Hindley should remain behind bars until her death. I disagree with the fact that we said 30 years and our judicial system could move the goal posts. We are only as civilised as the system we are governed by, and we have shown here that this system can be bent to suit public opinion. Public opinion is not always correct which is why our system should be solid, and not so easily altered.
    Luke Walker

    The only way that Myra Hindley will ever understand and be punished for the level of terror she inflicted is by releasing her amongst the general public.
    Rick

    If M Hindley had been punished properly, then there would have been no question of her protection outside of prison.
    Greg Foster

    Hindley should be kept in prison for the rest of her life.
    Dave

    I prefer capital punishment to life sentences for heinous crimes for the following reason: it allows the criminal less time to repent or dare I say stage a highly publicised and perhaps insincere repentance the news of which may only double the pains of the victims of the crimes.
    S. Rossier

    BBC policy over the private lives of public figures

    Audience question: "Does the panel agree with the BBC's decision not to mention the private lives of specific politicians? "

    David Willetts said: "Where I think the BBC is fundamentally wrong however is passing a policy for one specific member of the cabinet."

    Shirley Williams said: "I think the general principle is right: people should not generally have their private lives revealed unless they are relevant to their public jobs."

    You said:

    I was amazed at the homophobic comments that came from the audience as well as from Peter Hitchens. I was very disappointed that the other more enlightened members of the panel did not counter Hitchens's racist claims. To the black member of the audience who said that there should be moral standards and that we shouldn't allow homosexuality to be treated as moral or normal, I would like to remind that not so very long ago it was considered normal that black people should be slaves and that they shouldn't have any political or civil rights. I was also disturbed by Hitchens's final remark on Europe. Drawing a parallel between Nazism and the EU and the single currency is an insult for which Hitchens should be prosecuted by the EU.
    Luca Prono

    On the gagging order on Peter Mandelson the previous correspondent is plain wrong. What Matthew Parris was getting at was that he felt that Mandelson was 'open' just not 'public' about his sexuality. There is a vast difference. Someone 'open' about their sexuality,whether public or not, is unlikely to be a potential blackmail victim. Whilst I don't agree with the idea of a gagging order necessarily, there are no pressing reasons why Mr Mandelson should be outed or why the public should feel deprived of 'essential information' by him not being 'public' about his sexuality. Interesting though that it is only about the gay and lesbian members of the population that this is used as an excuse. Noone is asked to come out about his or her heterosexuality. It all goes to show the level of titillation the British public finds interesting.
    Jock Coats

    Shirley Williams made the point that if a public figure has put themselves in a vulnerable position, such as one which leaves them open to blackmail, then it is a matter of public concern, and should be reported in the media. I would like to add that by hiding (or at least by not being open about) his sexuality, Peter Mandleson has put himself in such a position, and so the media is acting in the public interest by reporting his "dark secret".
    Martin Watkins

    Press reporting of the resignation of Ron Davies

    Audience question: " In view of the intrusive speculation over Ron Davies in the press, is the media fit to regulate itself?"

    Shirley WIlliams said: "I think we have got to say to the press, 'Can you control yourselves? Because at the moment you are engaging in feeding frenzies which no longer make it worth reading."

    Peter Hitchens said: "I think the idea that the government start regulating the press is an extraordinarily dangerous one."

    You said:

    I very much agree with Baroness Williams' view that the private lives of politicians should be kept private, unless aspects of their private lives affect their ability to do their job correctly.
    Ian McLean, UK

    If an employee decides to resign do we have the right to intrude on their reasons? Should an MP be any different?
    Steve Cannell

    The fact that the Arab press has printed articles expressing the view that the air strikes on the Sudan and Afghanistan were a panic reaction on the part of the American president to press coverage of his "affairs" only goes to show what a dangerous weapon irresponsible journalism is. If the Arab press is right to have printed this theory then we can see how statesmen can be controlled by the press. If what the Arab press says is false then we have before us an illustration of irresponsible, speculative journalism propagating ideas which could have a severe destabilising effect on the public at large, not to mention the hearts and minds of "statesmen" in what is already a highly volatile area of the world.
    S Rossier

    How can we know if the events surrounding Ron Davies' resignation are of public concern unless there is frank and open scrutiny?
    Adam Fenner

    Government green paper on family life

    Audience question: " Are the government's proposals for the family nothing more than an attack on one parent families?"

    Maeve Sherlock said: "Where I think the government has made a mistake is by focusing too heavily on marriage. "

    Peter Hitchens said: "Marriage is the best the way to bring up children - which is undoubtedly true and everybody knows it - but the government is neutral. It will not defend it because it is afraid of defending its ultra-feminist, homosexual and sexual-liberationist wing."

    You said:

    I am Italian by birth, a British citizen (by marriage) since 1971, three children, unfortunately divorced since 1988. Still I do believe in "Family". UK has the highest number of single mothers in Europe. I think this happens mainly because the Government (old & new) make life too easy for them. Here any teenager with child is entitled to council accommodation and State benefit. At a huge cost to hard working tax payers. In Italy a teenage mother with no income is the responsibility of her family. Four generations end up under the same roof, and no state support. Very few single mothers in Italy, compared to UK. Wonder why?
    Marilu Dixon

    It's about time that someone with influence such as Peter Hitchens spoke up about what the REAL majority of people in this country think. I am a father to two little girls, I am a husband, and a school teacher. My daughters NEED a mother AND a father, as do all children. My eldest daughter is not mine by birth, but by adoption: once she was part of a single-parent family, but ask her and she will tell you that now she is infinitely better off. It amazes me how many people in this country have so little original ideas of their own, and are so childishly prone to agree with what 'everyone else' thinks, even when they know it is wrong. Family is the only way. It is God's way, the best way. By what higher authority can anyone else argue from ? Remember hundreds of years ago the whole 'world' believed that this planet was flat! Does that mean that it was flat? Of course not!Come on, folk, wake up from ignorance and peer pressure - check out what God has to say on the subject.
    Daren Craddock

    The best the Government can do is to give tax advantages to the traditional family - and to single parent families if they are in that position through bereavement rather than divorce. Sometimes strict measures and unpalatable ones are needed to save society from self-destruction.
    Lore Meredith

    With regard to the green paper on supporting the family - Mr Straw may be correct when he says that married couples are more likely to be stable and permanent. If so, and I'm with Maeve on this - statistics, particularly in family research, can be made to prove anything - then he has missed in this paper a superb opportunity to extend the benefits of marriage to some groups currently denied that status. Gay men and lesbians are frequently accused of being much less faithful in relationships. If a marriage contract helps ensure stability (and let's face it, economically speaking a stable pair of people are better for society overall than two individuals - they take on responsibilities towards each other that the state would otherwise have to fulfill) - then let them marry properly. Goodness knows - some of them have been so hurt by the 'traditional model' of family values that it is indeed a wonder that any of us seek to emulate what many amongst us see as a failing and exclusive institution.
    Jock Coats

    Britain entering the Single European Currency

    Audience question: " Given the speeches by Peter Mandelson and Gordon Brown suggesting it is now a question of when, not if, we enter the Single European Currency was the Labour Party honest with the electorate in the 1997 general election?"

    Shirley Williamssaid: "You have to allow for the possibility that the government has come to the conclusion when it looks at the devastation of high interest rates and the very expensive pound that it would be better if we were within the European Single Currency system."

    David Willetts said: "What they are trying to do is give a sense of spurious inevitability to all of this. But it isn't bound to happen. We are entitled to stay out - at least until we have seen it tested."

    You said:

    It is plain romanticism to imagine that without the invisibles of the City, much of which is owned by European counterparts anyway, that the UK is the most influenctial economy and currency in Europe. I would suggest that we ought more likely to be grateful that Europe will allow us to join a Euro and not a Deutsch Mark. When I firststarted work, a mere dozen years ago in the city, 'cable' or Sterling-Dollar was the most importannt exchange rate in the world, and every other Sterling to something rate was calculated off that rate. The very fact that we can now happily quote a Sterling-Dmark rate independently of the cable rate is recognition in itself that we are not the principle currency in any kind of union, and frankly, never have been since Bretton Woods.
    Jock Coats

    I believe the government was and remains honest that the time is not yet right. It is just a few MPs that are trying to bounce us in. The problem is that we need to change the fundamental socio-economic framework to ensure a sustainable future. The inertia of trying to do that in Euroland with all its diverse history and vested interests makes it impossible. There is serious risk of chaos there. It is up to us in Britain to lead the way and create a new society. They can then converge on our new Sterling model or split up and join us one by one when we have made Sterling the de facto world standard.
    Brian Shaw






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