November 25, Birmingham

November 18, Durham

November 11, Maidstone

November 4, Glasgow

October 28, Southampton

October 21, London

October 14, Sydney

October 7, Manchester

Thursday 30 September, Bournemouth

Thursday 23 September, London

Thursday 15 July, Belfast

Thursday 8 July, London

Thursday 1 July, Birmingham

Thursday 24 June, Leeds

Thursday 17 June, Manchester

Thursday 10 June, Birmingham

Thursday 3 June, Norwich

Thursday 27 May, Bath

Thursday 20 May, Belfast

Thursday 13 May, Birmingham

Thursday 29 April, London

Thursday 22 April, Glasgow

Thursday 15 April, Cardiff

Thursday 25 March, Sheffield

Thursday 18 March, London

Thursday 11 March, Manchester

Thursday 4 March, Maidstone

Thursday 25 February, London

Thursday 4 March, Maidstone

On the panel were:

  • Tony Robinson, Vice-President, Equity
  • Alan Clark MP, Conservative
  • Ruth Lea, policy director, Institute of Directors
  • George Robertson MP, Secretary of State for Defence
  • Lady Howe, chairman, Broadcasting Standards Commission

    Getting ready for the euro

    Audience question: Why is the government spending millions of pounds of taxpayers' money preparing for the euro before we've even had a referendum?

    Lady Howe said: "I think one's got to get on with it. We've talked about the euro for so long and everyone needs to prepare ... I think it is an inevitable first step."

    Ruth Lea said: "As a taxpayer I object to the idea that money is being spent up-front on a referendum where we decide."

    Alan Clark said: "The purpose of this 29m is to condition people's minds to brainwash them gradually into thinking this is bound to happen and to build up a bandwagon of inevitability."

    George Robertson said: "Either way there is going to be expenditure ... It makes absolute common sense to make sure that people actually have a choice. The choice can only come if we take some steps in advance to prepare the economy ... There will be no wasteful expenditure."

    You said:

    Why all the fuss about the 29m? Didn't Labour say that they were going to prepare for the euro in their manifesto? This has to be done or we will have no choice when the time comes to make up our minds. We are getting exactly what we VOTED for in the general election.
    Emyr James

    I am English but live in the USA. Here people have a pride in their State, but also very much identify with being a citizen of the USA. So there is agreement and cooperation between communities that often seems to be lacking in Europe. For example, the vast majority of people here speak a common language. The UK is apart from the continent of Europe both physically and culturally. It seems inevitable that if the Euro were adopted by the UK it would form a step on the road to political as well as monetary union with the continent. Since there is genuine doubt as to whether the majority of the UK population wish this to occur, a referendum is needed in the near future.
    Dr Lyndon Smith

    If and when there is a referendum does a none vote count as a yes vote? The public need to be made aware of how their vote is counted.
    Mr Roy Cox

    I am against us joining the euro and I am against any more loss of our independence. For years governments have been saying that we are better within the EU. I see little evidence of that, we pay far too much for membership of something we the British public never voted to join. We voted to join the EEC, which was all well and good, alas now that no longer exists, we must vote again and see what we the British nation really thinks. This should not be a political vote, party politics are now irrelevant to this issue. Let the nation decide yes or no. I am not a Eurosceptic, I am Anti-European federal state that includeds the UK. If the Europeans want to destroy themselves let them, it is their choice (or is it?). Let us decide what is good for us.
    Andy, London

    How can we believe that the 29m+ is not for conditioning the British people into believing in the inevitability of the euro (Alan Clark) when Lady Howe, who is supposed to monitor Broadcasting Standards, can lie when telling the audience that this country does over half its trade with Europe. We infact only do 36%, mainly with Germany. In other words, unlike any other member of Europe, we are a truly international trading nation. There can be no justification for spending our money, without first having a referendum. Europe is already spending millions of our money on propaganda. Go to any trade show and the largest and most expensive stand will be sponsored by the EC. With our money. We want a referendum NOW. NO TO EUROPE
    Ronald Banks

    Eleven nations have now signed up to the euro. Do the people who talk about loss of sovereignty consider that Germany and France are no longer sovereign nations?
    Barrie Holmes

    We should NOT spend tax payers' money on conversion untill the country has had its referendum. Also the government should spell out to the electorate what the constitutional, economic and political implication would be by joining the euro. It would completely change our sovereignty as the ECB would control all aspects of our county's financies, not Parliament.
    David Fenner

    Why are so many people against closer European integration? Looking at the audience reaction during this debate it seemed quite apparent that the older generations are the more sceptical about European Integration. If it is such a bad idea, why is most of Europe embracing the idea and working hard to make it work? As a UK citizen who travels widely around Europe, I am embarrassed by the impression that other nationalities have about our ignorance and reluctance to be a part of an integrated Europe. I believe the Island/WW2 mentality is detrimental to our position in Europe. I think that a change in attitude is required amongst the British people: we need to have a pan-European outlook rather than a pro-British one. In this respect, the government needs to educate the nation about the positive advantages of closer European integration.

    It is possible to object to the euro without being xenophobic. Monetary Union will lead to political union which can only work if there is a feeling of Europeaness. I detect no such cultural identity. The single market formed by the USA works because there is a feeling of what it is to be American. As there is no shared European identity in the way that there is a British or German identity we should should not be in the euro. One can be pro EU but anti EMU.
    Douglas Shaw

    Please please please will someone at the BBC stop letting politicians and others get away with referring to EMU as just "the euro" or "a single currency". It represents something much more fundamental, and isn't just about new notes and coins, eliminating transaction costs, etc. It's nothing less than the trap to be used to create a European state.
    Austin Spreadbury

    Last year in Calderdale, West Yorkshire, the Labour group, who have control of the council, sent out a list of five local pledges to 80,000 homes in Calderdale with the bills for the new Council tax rates. In effect, they used about 10,000 of ratepayers money, paying for the printing, stationary and postage, to promote a political point of view. When there was protests by the Conservatives, the Labour group claimed an error had been made by a junior member of staff. Tony Blair's Labour party has done exactly the same thing with the euro changeover plan, only this time he is using 29m of taxpayers money to promote a party political point of view, to infuence the yes vote in the referendum and bring us closer to political and monetary union with the rest of Europe. The Labour party has already made up its mind but doesn't have the guts to come out and declare it. The arrogance of this Government is breathtaking. They are taking the British people for mugs by thinking we will accept their media spin, and treating democracy with contempt. My message to Tony Blair is, call the referendum first before you spend the money. But don't take the refendum for granted.
    Andrew Feather

    I think the Britsh people are right to feel betrayed by Tony Blair. But it should come as no suprise, this government places no value on its election promises. After sitting on the fence for so long, Tony Blair has now fallen off that very fence and is trying to create a mood of inevitability and force the British people into voting Yes in a referendum, when they do not want to. 29m of taxpayers' money is being spent on pro-European propaganda when it could be invested in our public services. At the very least it could be divided into half and the money could have been spent on information about both sides of the argument, but it was not. The British people are sending a very strong message to Tony Blair, which is that the people are not the Labour Party, he cannot force his way onto them. It's about time Tony Blair started listening to the people.
    Mohammed Z Saddique, Reading

    I can remember having a referendum in the 1970s about Europe which voted 2:1 in favour. The euro will become acceptable to Britain as will Nato being replaced by a European force plus a common Foreign policy. Why worry about the inevitable?

    Jeff Hawthorn, Holland

    I believe the money should be spent. When the government does call a referendum, it should be a real possibility that we could join the euro, otherwise the referendum would be horribly one-sided and premature. The economic circumstances must be right, as must the logistic reality at the time. I believe this is the reason that so many europhobic people disagree with the spending of the money, as they realise that this will mean that they will have to face the possibility that the euro may actually be the best thing for the UK, and that we should choose it for economic answers as well as political reasons. I think the eurosceptic politicians are against the euro on purely political grounds, and they would rather ignore the economic realities.
    Paul Freeman, University of Warwick

    I am an Englishman living in Holland for the last 16 years. The island mentality Britian has is understandable, but the hysteria around the euro makes me suspicious of vested interests - for example the currency traders in London. The support of a strong currency is benefical to all countries, and therefore Britain will be surrounded by countries with strong markets. If Britain handicaps itself with the pound, which will become a "foreign currency", this will only be disadvantageous.
    Andy Grogan

    The euro will not work simply because each country in the eurozone needs different interest rates. ECB is now not in a good position to do anything. The fall in the euro, if not stopped will bring a disaster to the euroland.

    Why is Britian so afraid of change, the Euro is commercially a benefit and people must be given all the relevent information so that they know it is good for them. We must think long term stability, not short term.

    Any anti euro referendum vote will be of no consequence as the pound will ultimately be subsumed by it. The government know this, hence 29m of expenditure to set up systems etc.
    Robert Youel

    Don't be a dinosaur. Be into the euro. The pound has't been forever so embrace change.

    I'd like to pick up on a few things said. Lady Howe unwittingly hit the nail on the head when she said businesses were preparing for it. Yes, that's PRIVATE money, not PUBLIC money. Tony Robinson had the tired old line about the anti-euro brigade being jingoistic. What, like Lord Owen, Lord Healey and Lord Prior? George Robertson said it was not 'economically right' for us to join at the moment. When will be right? When European legislation has robbed us of our lower taxes and competitive labour costs? And a lady from the audience said joining was inevitable because 'the euro is out there.' The dollar's out there, but no one's suggesting joining that!
    Russell Lewin

    It is quite clear that our government is fully committed to joining the euro whether we (the people) like it or not. This is in line with the views of a former European commissioner, that the process of European integration should not be halted just because public opinion might not like the idea. The euro is the next step to a single European state of which we would be nothing more than a province. The EU already has its own flag, its own anthem, its own parliament (sort of), its own currency, and an embryonic legal system (corpus juris). When Tony Blair was elected, I trusted him. I knew his views on the EU and the single currency, but he promised that we would be consulted. I did not expect that he would attempt to brainwash people into the euro.
    Andrew Cavendish

    I voted for Common Market entry and was conned. We have already gone too far. No more loss of freedom. No more lies from politicians. No euro for the UK. The euro zone and the federal Europe that would follow would be dominated by Germany and France to our cost - ask our fishermen and farmers of the price so far. We would be far better off keeping the pound and our independence.
    Paul Daniel

    It does seem wrong that any taxpayers' money should be spent promoting the view that we should join a single European company. If it is to be a fair debate, both sides of the argument should receive taxpayers' funds to promote their cause. 29 million spent now is wrong. The government has stated that we must prepare for entry. What happens if the country says no to the euro? That money will have been wasted. It would be far sounder democratically, to have the referendum first then spend the money if required. We are not ready at the moment so let's have the debate now and spend the money only if we need to.
    John Haithwaite

    I do not understand why it is so important for the UK to be "in". We have for a long time now been trading with Europe, paying in marks, francs etc so what's new now? Leave it alone Mr Blair, I for one want Britain to control her own currency and a big part of that is control of your own interest rate. It might be bad having bankers make the decision now ... but at least they are British bankers!
    Dan Brady

    I am from Holland and might have a different point of view. Therefore I have some recommendations:
    1. What I missed in this conversation is the alternative when the UK does not join. What will happen then? With all respect your financial markets decrease and the influence of the UK as a whole is decreasing. Not joining means being alone and I think that the UK can better survive with a partner.
    2. The argument that not joining the euro was better for your savings is of course rubbish.This is only true if you spent your money in another country. Furthermore a high pound will make the UK an expensive country and exports will decrease and your economy will reduce.
    Ir. Isgar Bos

    Why are you only considering the 29m in costs for using the euro currency and not taking into consideration the financial benefits that will ensue?
    Ruurd van der Meulen and Lindy Redmond

    I believe that the situation with Europe is untenable. We have never, as I understand it, been able to co-operate financially with them. We are more aligned to the dollar as is correct. As it happens, the point made regarding the expenditure of 29m is unnecessary. The point is, if there was a referendum now and we said yes (which we won't) it would be justified. However we are not having a referendum, due to the complacency of the Labour Party. It's an insult to the English people that the Labour party dare assume to spend 29m prior to getting agreement to do so.
    Sarah Newton

    The debate on the inevitability of joining the euro misses the point that the decision is limited to the option of retaining the pound or joining the euro. Another point is that if we have to join a larger currency group joining the dollar zone may be a far better option. I would rather we joined the dollar zone than the euro as we are more in favour of business with the USA than continental Europe.
    David Copp

    One of the best remarks I have heard recently was on Jonathan Dimbleby's Any Questions last Friday when Freddie Forsyth said words to the effect of: " ... there is nothing inevitable about the euro. All thinking people can express their opinions at the referendum and if we decide no then we won't do it. It's our choice."
    James Paxman

    Without being disrespectful, how can we as a nation have a referendum on something as important as the single currency when at least two thirds of the population don't have the faintest idea of what it actually involves? We also have newspapers such as the Sun, again no disrespect intended, that gets this idea into people's heads that the euro will be devastating to the country's identity and these people fall for it without educating themselves on the subject.
    Damien, Manchester

    Why not have the referendum about entry into a single currency now before spending huge amounts of money on entry? Or is the Labour Party worried about losing a referendum now which means that we would never enter the single currency?
    Peter J Geary

    The absence of serious political debate on economic harmonisation within Europe has instilled a negative apathy to public opinion. Politicians have a responsibility to air their views, so that debate is provoked. Consensus might then be achieved based on facts. I am glad to see these issues on politicians' lips but harbour some concern about the controlling hand of the party leaders.
    Matthew Burrows

    There does not appear to be a government in this country (whether Tory or New Tory - oops - New Labour) which believes in allowing the populace to have any say in what happens in the future.
    John Pollard

    I agree 100% with Alan Clark and Ruth Lea. The euro is a disaster and we should look at the suffering in Europe i.e. unemployment at 10.9% in Euroland.
    Steve Hanwell

    Give up our sovereignty to join a multilingual organisation which is demonstrably both corrupt and profligate? Why? They are a devalued gang whose currency is already 8% devalued against the dollar, and the 60% of our trade outside the EU does not need the euro.
    Brian Singleton

    Sex and violence on television

    Audience question: Should explicit material be banned from our TV screens?

    Alan Clark said: "I don't think you actually see sex on television do you? You see simulated sex and they're actors and it may be distasteful but I never watch it because I prefer the real thing."

    Ruth Lea said: "I read in the newspapers there is something called a Channel Five soft porn season, and I must admit my feeling is that if that's being run and people want to watch it and it's midnight or later, I'd be quite libertarian and relaxed about letting them see that."

    George Roberston said: "The range of channels that you can get would make it very difficult to impose a ban, but I do think it poses the real question of where does it end? ... There is too much gratuitous sex and violence at times when very young people can have access to the television screen. I think that is bad for society, bad for them and I think it is creating in many ways a culture of voyeurism."

    Lady Howe said: "The normalising of violence on television really is a concern ... As far as sex is concerned we all know that's become much more explicit over recent years and up to a point the audience quite approves of that but there are limits in absolutely everything ... The boundaries are being pushed even further."

    Tony Robinson said: "For me the whole object of art and the whole object of television is to hold our lives up to all of us, so we can discuss issues ... and that's often going to mean the most uncomfortable things. If we banned all the things we didn't like from our television screens and our theatrical stages then we wouldn't be able to show Shakespeare for instance."

    You said:

    What qualifies the censors to impose their view of morality and what is right upon the rest of us?
    John McElduff

    It's not often I'm drawn to comment on something I see on television, but I feel it is important to record how correct I felt Tony Robinson was tonight in his intelligent comments about both sex on television, as well as on the importance of embracing the euro. If only our professional politicians displayed similar common sense.
    Simon Cleaver

    About the programme Queer as Folk, let's not get away from the fact that this is drama and represents a minority of the gay community. There are plenty more dramas on the television with heterosexual sexual acts i.e. prostitution, promiscuity, however, the gay community is intelligent enough to realise that this represents only a minority. Why are people so ready to criticise anything to do with homosexuality? Nothing goes on in this programme that doesn't go on in heterosexual pubs and clubs.
    Scott Walker

    Never mind sex on the television, what about pornography on the internet? No matter your age, no matter even the laws of your country, you can access pornography of the hardest and most disturbing substance with ease - indeed it can even be done by accident. To me, this is inexcusable and disgusting, and totally unbelievable. There needs to be some form of censorship on the internet, and it is outrageous that there isn't already.
    Tom Peck

    The debate on censorship is pointless, you can no longer control the technology even if you want to.
    Julian Clay

    I resent the need for pompous politicians to dictate what we, the licence paying public, can and cannot watch on the TV in the privacy of our own homes. We are NOT cretins who need to be told these things. We do have an iota of an idea when it come to what our children should or should not see. They should stick to the issues and concentrate on getting the NHS and education services in order before sticking their oar in in something which we can regulate for ourselves.
    Steve Flanagan

    Censorship CAN be a good thing, however, I do not apply it in my own home. My 13-year-old daughter was shown an educational video of live sex (heterosexual) at school - to which I have no objection.Had it been of homosexual sex, my opinion would have been completely different.
    John Pollard

    I think that people are smart enough to make up their own minds and think that people should be able to see sex if they want to. I don't think we should be able to be controlled. Our country is behind the rest of Europe when it comes to censorship, other countries don't have all the problems that censors use as their arguments are completely wrong.
    John Britten

    When will it be time to stop pushing the bounds of socially acceptable material on television and who will decide this?
    Peter Young

    Queer as Folk is much less harmful to young people than violent movies and police programmes.
    Anna Orchard

    Censorship is acceptable so long as it is tempered with common sense. When all is said and done people have minds of their own and it should be their choice to watch whatever they want so long as what they watch does not break the law. Such things would be child pornography and unnatural sexual acts. Sex should only be shown if it is integral to the story.
    James Franklin

    Queer as Folk demonstrated that a willingness to allow more explicit drama on television allows a greater degree of truth programming - those who would have greater censorship simply want to hide the truth and distort reality - that's obscene.
    Tom Butcher

    Air strikes against Iraq

    Audience question: Is the government cow-towing to America by going into an undeclared and illegal war against Iraq?

    Tony Robinson said: "No. I'm actually quite proud that we're involved in an international peacekeeping operation."

    Alan Clark said: "I always get very uneasy if I think that British sovereign decisions overruled by any diplomatic relationship ... The Americans think that they are the one mega power on the globe and that everybody else has to get into line ... I would prefer to see a much more independent British diplomatic initiative."

    George Robertson said: "The miseries being inflicted on the Iraqi people are those of the dictator ... The dictator in Bagdad has got to be confronted, he is a danger to his neighbours ... It's not a war at all, we are defending the planes that are flying the no-fly zones."

    You said:

    Surely the real debate is not whether or not the Prime Minister should continue to play second fiddle to President Clinton. It is quite simply another example of the nanny state not content with dictating to the British public how to live their lives, but to dictate to foreign powers how to run their countries. Isn't it time the government spent more time looking at problems of unemployment and education at home for a change?
    Tom Greenhill

    Millennium bug

    Audience question: At one minute past minute on 1 January, 2000 will you be flying at 30,000 feet or cowering in a nuclear shelter?

    George Robertson said: "It might depend which plane you chose to be at 30,000 feet in the air on ... There is a task ahead of us to make sure the Armageddon scenario does not happen."

    Ruth Lea said: "I think I will be down a nuclear bunker ... I've got every confidence in Britain but when you talk about countries like Russia and the Ukraine - and these are nuclear states for goodness sake -one's anxieties do actually increase."

    Tony Robinson said: "I bet there's a part of all us that at 12 O'clock that day we just kind of look around and make sure we're still alright."

    You said:

    I am flabbergasted that the UK media is not taking the Y2K bug threat seriously. On Question Time the Defence Minister admitted that there are doubts about whether the UK's nuclear power stations will work in the new year. How come this isn't being treated as major news? A report last night on ITV news also gave the impression t hat the bug is all about whether your PC will work, when its implications are huge and all-encompassing. It's time we all got our heads out of the sand. It might not be armageddon but anyone who thinks there'll be a seamless change, free of any hiccups really hasn't got a clue. The BBC have a massive responsibility here.
    Angus Batey

    Child benefit

    Audience question: Should child benefit be means tested?

    Ruth Lea said: "I would like to see a system where our benefits are in fact more targetted at those who need them."

    Alan Clark said: "I don't like means testing. All too easily there would be individual cases where it goes wrong and the point of child benefit is that it should always go to the mother and it is one of the few benefits, ideally, on which the mother can rely.

    George Robertson said: "The week before the budget I am not going to drawn. I'm not the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he's a friend of the mine and I intend to keep it that way."

    Lady Howe said: "We've got a limited amount of public funds and how you spend them should go to those who really need them most."

    You said:

    Any family that receives income support, income-based job seekers allowance and various other benefits has child benefit deducted from what they get because it counts as income. Therefore any increase in child benefit does not make any difference to those families in the lowest income bracket. As a disabled parent on income support what the government appears to give out on one hand is taken away from our family by the the benefit system.
    Chris Elliott-Goodacre

    There is one aspect that no one in the audience or panel (of 4/3/99) mentioned. Child benefit is so called because it is for the CHILD. In an ideal world we would make sure that child benefit only benefits the child for which it is intended and not a negligent parent, rich or poor! This kind of monitoring is not feasible so the only real option is to provide for all children and hope that the money is well spent.
    Tony Price

    General comments

    Why no more women on the panel?
    Louise Christian

    I have 'taken courage in both hands and used the WWW'. Why is Mr Dimbleby such a technophobe? If this was a race issue it would not be broadcast ...
    Greg Cope

    This was the most interesting Question Time I have seen in months. Well done Maidstone for raising the temperature and creating a programme worth watching. The panel added to the enjoyment because it was not necessary to tow the party line (except Robertson) and the exchange of views was lively. Let's have more of it.
    Paul Alan Eden

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