Thursday 10 December, Manchester

Thursday 3 December, Southampton

Thursday 26 November, Newcastle

Thursday 19 November, Peterborough

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 10 December, Manchester

On the panel were:

  • Ken Livingstone MP, Labour
  • Francis Maude MP, Shadow Chancellor
  • Derek Draper, former lobbyist
  • Ann Leslie, Daily Mail
  • Margo MacDonald, Scottish National Party candidate

    The government's proposals to reduce smoking

    Audience question: Is the government's white paper half-hearted because it omits to ban smoking in the workplace or in public places?

  • Is the nanny state acceptable if it means saving lives?

    Ken Livingstone said: "You can only go so far as long as you're carrying public opinion with you. If you try and push it before people are ready you come a cropper, like we did when we banned beef on the bone."

    Ann Leslie said: "I actually don't know many work places where smoking is allowed."

    Francis Maude said: "The number of days lost through colds and 'flu from smoking outside must be quite considerable."

    Margo MacDonald said: "I think the government has been unimaginative...It's a fashion thing, it's part of the fashion industry and so therefore things go in cycles...What it really should be doing is going for the opinion formers, the fashion setters."

    Derek Draper said: "I would ban cigarettes...If we're actually serious about the damage that smoking does to people we should not be talking about decriminalising cannabis but talking about criminalising cigarettes...Just because cigarettes have always been legal and because many people smoke we turn a blind eye to it."

    You said:

    Its time the British Government or the NHS sued the tobacco companies for compensation. Settlement has already been achieved by the majority of states here in the US and I dont know what's stopping Britain from following the same course of action.
    Ian Bustin, USA

    Here in Australia smoking in all government buildings has been banned for almost 10 years. As from next year that ban will take effect in restaurants, clubs, pubs and other public buildings unless the establishment has installed very expensive and very efficient air-conditioning systems which remove, rather than recycle, fouled air. I am also an ex-smoker. I have two comments. The first is in response to the accusation that non-smokers (and therefore governments) are denying the rights of smokers to live as they wish. I don't believe this is the case. If you wish to smoke you can do so in your own home, or outside. However, what about my rights to go out to a restaurant, bar, cinema or theatre and enjoy a pleasant evening without having someone else's polluted air attacking me? Secondly, the ban on smoking in public places was heralded here in Canberra with howls of protest from many business people that businesses would fall and they would go bankrupt. This based on the claims of many smokers that they would simply cease to go out. However, I know of no restaurant etc which has been forced to close because it has lost custom through an inability (financial or otherwise) to provide for smoking customers, nor am I aware of any smoker (within my own, quite broad, social base) who has become a social recluse. Like parents, governments do sometimes have to do things which are unpleasant for the good of the whole population. If you can force people to wear helmets on motorbikes or seat belts in cars because of the risk, why should limiting people's access to cigarettes be so totally different?
    Penny Bowen, Australia

    The banning of smoking related advertising is both unfair and unrealistic. The banning of advertising of any legal product being unfair - it's like banning the advertising of fatty foods because they could contribute to someone having a heart attack! So far as I know no-one has taken up smoking after seeing a billboard or magazine page, instead most have taken it up whilst young due to peer pressure or because it helps them to relax. The argument regarding the cost of smoking related illness to the NHS is also unrealistic since the tax revenue from cigarette related products far outweighs the amount spent on treating such diseases.
    Neil Rackett

    I feel that more education is need from a very early age, however it needs to follow on to a later age as this is the most vulnerable time in a young adult's life. Although more education is clearly needed it would be a serious breach of civil liberties to ban smoking in public areas. Smoking, however harmful to the smoker, should be allowed in public places with ample opportunities for non-smokers to "breathe easy". Only then can people really choose - which is what democracy is really about.
    Keith Adam, Edinburgh

    Simply outlawing cigarettes will not solve the problem, it will just drive it underground.
    Tim Roll-Pickering

    I do not smoke. I have no inclination to start. But I would never presume to tell someone else what to do with their one and only life.
    William Peak

    Ken Livingstone was on the right track when he mentioned smoking in films. Is it not the case that fashion models and magazine models photographed smoking are the real problem? The idea of those photos is to advertise clothes, so to be seen with a ciggarette seems to glamorise smoking and this does affect children and younger members of society.
    Matthew Sheader, Huddersfield university

    As with all issues relating to the outlawing of practices and habits that are fundametally a matter of choice, like smoking, drug taking, fox hunting, shooting, prostitution etc, you will not get rid of the problem by criminalising it. All you will produce is criminals. These "criminals" will not only overburden an already over stretched legal system, but will also be prey to the real criminals, the organised crime syndicates, the underworld and the perverted. Much better to legalise many of the currently illegal habits and practices so that they can be properly regulated and taxed for the benefit of the whole community and not just the gangland bosses and pimps.
    Dave Baldwin

    There should be non-smoking areas in all public establishments, including pubs, restaurants and most significantly, night clubs. Banning cigarettes is not going to help people to give up. However, it is vital that non-smokers have the option of a pleasant night out without the risk of passive smoking related illness.
    Janice Wood

    We all know that smoking can kill and that passive smoking is bad for those close to a smoker. I think those people who want to smoke should be able to so long as it does not affect anyone else, after all we all know that cars pollute the atmosphere in the towns and cities and cause death by hitting people and crashes, but if the goverment was to ban cars all hell would break loose. So lets keep things in proportion and give people the choice.
    Mike Sloman

    More power to Derek Draper. The sooner the people of this country realise the dangers of smoking the better. I have given up after 25 years. The lack of education re smoking in this country is alarming. On recent visits to the Bristol Oncology Centre I witnessed patients smoking whilst on chemotherapy drips. Whatever the lady from The Mail and Francis Maude think about freedom to choose - it has to stop.
    Chris Barson

    I believe very strongly that cigarettes should be banned with immediate effect. Personally I believe that it may take a human rights abuse to enable innocent non-smokers to have better welfare. The proposal to ban smoking in restaurants is a foothold on the climb for a better Britain. Smoking is a disgusting habit and I refuse to be subjected to it any longer.
    Craig Richardson

    I am someone who used to smoke and think it should be banned outright. I also used to do target shooting. This hobby killed less people than drivers and certainly less people than smoking does, and yet I had to lose this right of choice. I am also an extremely well controlled diabetic and have seen, thanks to the new ban on diabetics driving over a particular tonnage vehicle, many associates and friends lose their livelihood. At last someone in the government is considering the health of the nation in its millions not just a few thousand enthusiasts or minority health care victims.
    M Evans

    I certainly think that there should be far more segregation in public places for smokers and non-smokers. It is not only the worry of possible effects of long-term exposure to passive smoking, but for non-smokers, it is simply unpleasant. For example, I regularly go to the cinema on a Saturday evening and it is great that there is no smoking allowed in the auditorium. But by the time I've queued for the film, my clothes smell of smoke because smoking is allowed in those areas.
    D Brook

    I am amazed at the reaction to Derek Draper's rather mundane common sense. We do not defend the right of murderers to kill, and smoking kills. Ridding society of smoking should form the backbone of any sensible health policy. Worse still, the criminalisation of the prevalent less harmful recreational drugs of youth by the tobacco smoking elder generations smacks of an hypocrisy doomed to alienate large swathes of society. The evidence is known, and the law should be seen to be fair, one way or the other.
    Tim Millea

    Past rises in cigarette prices have always seen a drop in the amount of smokers. Why not raise prices of cigarettes to higher prices? P.S. I am a smoker!

  • Naomi Billingham

    As a liberal I would defend the right of personal choice. However, in certain public places I am denied the right to breathe unpolluted air. At least the smoker has a choice, to breath smoke or not. It used to be the case that public houses had a designated place for those addicted. It was known as the Smoke Room. Although non-smokers are in the majority, these days we are indeed fortunate to find a non-smoking area. Prevention has to be preferable to cure and the eventual ban on all advertising/sponsorship (including Formula 1) cannot come soon enough.
    Chris Smith, East Yorkshire

    Whilst it is impossible to defend smoking as a good idea, some members of the panel and the audience should remember that they are supposed to be against smoking, not smokers. What is missing from the debate is any degree of compassion, tolerance or perspective on the part of non-smokers.
    Peter Clark

    I think smoking should be banned from all enclosed public places. This should include the work place. After all, passive smokers have no choice, at present, and their health is being put at risk by smokers, who do have a choice.
    Mike Hopkins

    A question for Derek: If smoking is to be banned because it kills, for example 70 people out of the whole audience...Should our army be banned from using weapons? Industry in general causes more illnesses on the whole so, should this be banned too?
    Kevin Searby, Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire

    I feel that if smoking was banned in public places it would enforce smoking's reputation to teenagers that it is a rebellious thing to do. Just when teenagers are realising the dangers of smoking it would become more fashionable to them.
    Niall Johnson

    I cannot believe what I have heard when Derek Draper admits on TV to smoking a joint, then has the front to stand up and say that he would ban cigarettes altogether. I do not smoke but I would defend the right for any one to do as they wish. Surely this is what we gave thanks for on the 11th November when when we remembered all those who laid down their life so that we could be free.
    Chris Apps

    Following Derek Draper's logic, we should ban people from living, because that kills 100% of us. The nanny state is not acceptable - if people want to do things that they know are bad for them, then let them. There are certainly already enough places where people cannot smoke (and I write as a non-smoker).

    I am a smoker and no advertising or television influenced me as a teenager to start smoking. It is peer pressure. Take that away and you have the cure!
    Sallie Neal

    Ken Livingstone on cigarette tax - currently 4.20 spent on cigarettes yields over 3.00 in tax. If the smokers spend their money on lower tax products (17.5%) the government will get about 70p. An obvious deficit...
    Stuart Morrison

    I suggest adding 5 per pack on a carton of cigarettes and using this extra revenue for direct funding of the NHS.
    T Frame

    Smokers pay in tax more than enough to pay for the costs of their healthcare in later life. The argument that because something kills many people it should be outlawed is lost to me. Personally, if someone wants to kill themselves, then let them! One less mouth to feed. (And yes I smoke, and if it kills me, so be it...gotta go sometime!)
    Andy Jones

    If the government wanted to stop smoking, they could simply make all current smokers register with their GP, and get their cigarette allowance over the counter at the chemists. This would decrease the number of young people smoking, and those dedicated smokers would fade away. Of course, this will not be done, due to the huge revenue which the government gets from cigarette sales, without which, more tax would have to be levied on the non-smoking population.
    Tim Yates, Manchester

    At last the government has acted by banning the advertising of smoking. Now they should go one better and ban smoking in public places, as this is the only way to reduce the annual death rate with smoking related illnesses. One of your audience said, what about freedom of choice.What about those people that have to inhale the nicotine, the tar and all the other poisons in one cigarette?
    Chris Steele

    Not enough is done to stop children smoking - the government should put more effort into getting the dangers over to children at school - it is too late to tell them at ages 12 upwards.
    Stephen Harvey

    The government bans beef, but won't ban smoking because of loss of taxes and votes.
    Robert Crayford

    Jack Straw's decision on Pinochet extradition

    Audience question: Was Jack Straw's decision brave and ethical or was he passing the buck to Spain?

    Francis Maude: "I think it was a cowardly decision. He gave way to a lot of pressure from the left wing activists and I think it was the easy way out. He's left himself huge problems for the future. "

    Margo MacDonald said: "He was brave in that he has probably made international law."

    Ann Leslie said: "This is the most right wing Home Secretary this country has had for least by making this particular decision he is sort of re-claiming some of his left-wing credentials."

    Ken Livingstone said: "All Jack Straw has done is operated the law. And slowly bit by bit we are putting into place a system of international law which will eventually deter people from doing what Pinochet did."

    You said:

    Francis Maude says that Jack Straw is leaving himself huge problems for the future in deciding that Pinochet can be extradited. If the problem is that genocidal former dictators may not visit Britain in future, then it is one I can live with.
    Steve McKee

    As far as I am concerned, Jack Straw has done something tremendously far-sighted and ethical in agreeing to allow extradition proceedings. The question is not whether the Chilean people are now free and it is not who General Pinochet has had afternoon tea with recently Instead the question is, do we have an obligation to the Spanish courts to honour our extradition treaty in this instance and the answer is yes! Well done Jack Straw.
    Claire Marriott

    I speak as a human when I say it is sick that people are even questioning the fact that a murderer has to face what he did, to his own people and others . Because in my eyes General Pinochet is the Hitler of today's times. So the next time people thinks how hard we are being on an old ma, think of all the families of the people he killed and how easy it was to do that .
    Nimo Ali

    Frankly, I get quite sickened by the protestations of defenders of General Pinochet. The people of Chile may be free in the sense that they have an operating democracy. However, people seem to conveniently forget the fact that the "deal" which they received was actually composed by the tyrant himself. It is freedom with a gun held to their backs.
    Ashish Ghadiali

    Why does the Conservative party support dictatorial murders?
    Fiona Chaudhri

    I think Francis Maude has demonstrated that the Tory Party's attempt to re-invent itself as a modern forward thinking party is a complete sham. His comments in relation to General Pinochet are typical of the feeble political opportunism that the Tories have engaged in since the General Election to disguise their lack of ideas or relevance. Had the present Tory frontbench been around in 1945 one wonders whether they would have acted as apologists for Hitler and his henchmen.
    John Martin

    If foreign countries are permitted to kidnap former dictators and put them on trial then Maggie had better stay at home.
    James Miller

    Surely as a case of international law, the request to extradite Pinochet has come from Spain (and hence his arrest in the UK?). I've not been closely following the case, but working on that assumption, then surely the UK's only task is to look at Spain's case, and either decide to extradite or not (as Ken has just intimated). There are other issues to consider, of course, for example the effect on Chile's stability, but the question of whether Pinochet should be tried or not for his past crimes should only relate to the deaths of any UK citizens in which he might be implicated. It's not our position to decide on behalf of the Chilean people as to whether their former dictator should be tried. The immediate case is whether to extradite to Spain. Anything more should be arranged via the UN or the International Court of Human Law.
    Andy Jones

    Risks of a UK recession

    Audience Question: Does the latest cut in interest rates signify the onset of a cold and frosty winter?

    Ken Livingstone said: "I think on balance, the strength of the economy, what's happening in the rest of the world, means we will get away with a very low growth or very very mild recession...The problem is we shouldn't have seen the Bank of England jacking up interest rates in the way they did at the beginning of this government, I wouldn't have given them the power to do it."

    Francis Maude said: "What it's a sign of is that the Bank of England doesn't remotely believe the Chancellor's fantasy forecasts...Outside forecasters predict growth next year about half what the government's predicting...I don't blame Gordon Brown for giving away the powers to set interest rates - I don't trust him to do it either."

    You said:

    The government talks about the economy taking a down turn and not knowing just how severe it will be. However, does the possibility not exist that we are already enduring the symptoms of recession such as the further cutting of interest rates and increasing unemployment from many industries?
    Daniel Rose

    I think the government was pathetic in letting it go to the Bank of England. I also think they were naive as they now can get blamed for the rate changes on two points:
    1) For giving away control to businessmen with interest in the rates
    2) For being the government when interest rates are changed.
    I think today's drop is a bad move. If the recent drops were done carefully over a period of time, it may have a good effect, but in big steps, it just serves to de-stabilise the economy. (IMHO)
    Steve C

    Asylum seekers

    Audience question: Why is money always available for refugees when our hospitals and schools are being closed or neglected due to lack of funds?

    Derek Draper said: "You've fallen for tabloid propaganda...The only thing you can argue is that they should speed up the system...We are human beings and we owe responsibilities to each other."

    Francis Maude said: "I'm rather proud of Britain's history of being open to genuine refugees. It's a very honourable and splendid tradition...But you've got to have a system that sorts out very quickly whether they are genuine refugees or not."

    Ann Leslie said: "They come here because we are indeed very generous with welfare, we are very generous with health care. We are getting into this condition where we are actually encouraging for example, people smuggling gangs. One of the reasons that that the people-smuggling gangs are coming is
    a) We're not tough enough
    b) We're generous
    c) We have very long appeals procedures when people can just disappear into the undergrowth.

    You said:

    At a time when more and more people are losing their jobs, it is morally wrong for the British government to allow so many refugees into the country. The British government's number one priority must be for the British people and our welfare. If there aren't enough jobs for ourselves then there aren't enough for refugees. Inevitably the British taxpayer will have to pay for their benefits. It's time that British citizens were put first for a change and the government prevented asylum seekers from entering the UK without good reason. If they are in danger they should go to the nearest friendly country, not here. Our island is over inhabited as it is.
    S Rich

    As a Dartford resident I am quite sickened and shocked at the reaction of the tabloid press who have whipped up a storm of racial hatred in what was a moderate town. We now have the spectre of a BNP march being organised in the next couple of days through our town centre. Democracy must take its course, but it surely would not have ever reached this stage but for The Sun and The Mail's prolonged and immoral campaign against asylum seekers.
    Ben Murphy

    If the UK allowed all persons who are economically deprived residency, then the result would be that the whole population would be economically deprived.
    J McKenna, Cork

    Derek Draper's comment about "Scottish economic migrants" in England, in the middle of what should have been a serious debate about how we can best help refugees, clearly shows the kind of narrow minded British Imperialists New Labour are.
    Iain Morrison

    Who does the world belong to? We have all moved somewhere at some time!
    Andrew Morris

    The Northern Ireland peace process

    Audience question: Was the Nobel peace panel premature in awarding David Trimble and John Hume the peace prize?

    Margo MacDonald said: "I think it was awarded in hope. It certainly was accepted in humility, if you heard what both of them had to say ... You can hand over guns if you want and you can buy more if you want them. It's an attitude of mind that has to be built."

    Francis Maude said: "It was absolutely right to give them the peace prize because they are two very brave men who have risked a great deal...There is a degree of peace which there wasn't previously...You've got to start the decommissioning and start it now."

    Ken Livingstone said: "I think it was right to give it to David Trimble...when the issue was crucial he was prepared to put his own political future on the line to deliver it, just as Gerry Adams did in moving the IRA down the road to peace. I personally, if there could have been a third one I would have given it to Gerry Adams."

    General comments on the programme

    Why doesn't Question time ever visit the city of Kingston Upon Hull? Does the BBC even know we exist?
    Tony Rignall

    Although the panel and discussions have been active in the last few weeks I believe that there is not a true representation of peoples' opinions. If there were more outspoken public figures such as Billy Bragg, Paul Heaton, Ben Elton and so on. Public figures such as these carry peoples' opinions more than the current panels do.
    Sean Rogers

    A frightening experience tonight, watching Derek Draper. As a Tory who fears for the future, I wish all those who voted for Blair witnessed tonight the views of New Labour as spoken by Derek Draper. Actually his appearance on Question Time may have helped the Conservative cause.
    Liz Tavener

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