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 11 March, Manchester

On the panel were:

  • Clare Short MP, International Development Secretary
  • John Redwood MP, shadow trade secretary
  • Jackie Ballard MP, Taunton
  • Germaine Greer, feminist writer
  • Andrew Neil, editor-in chief, The Scotsman

    The Budget

    Audience question: Does Gordon Brown's scrapping of the marriage allowance imply a Labour devaluation of family values?

    Germaine Greer said: "No, because marriage is not necessary to family. Families exist in all sorts of shapes and sizes ... I don't think you need to privilege marriage over other ways of doing things."

    Jackie Ballard said: "I think he was completely right to scrap it. I don't think it did anything to encourage marriage at all and I think he was right to replace it with a child tax credit. Which will go to families and after all children are the heart of the family and they are the people the government should be supporting in their budget."

    John Redwood said: " ... a whole series of massive tax increases going on, sending exactly the wrong message about bringing up children and working hard in order to bring money in to the family."

    Clare Short said: "Anyone who gets married in order to get a tax allowance, I advise the person marrying them to think again."

    You said:

    Surely the exchange of marriage vows should be for reasons beyond financial gain?
    Suzanne Hirst

    Why is the Children's tax credit which replaces the married person's allowance to be phased out in such a way that ensures some families may have a much higher total income, but provided neither earner falls into the higher tax bracket, they retain the children's tax credit? This penalises families where one parent, usually the mother, stays at home to look after children because it is the only practical option to ensure decent childcare. This concerns me greatly. It sends out the message that the only good mother is one who goes out to work. Many families make real sacrifices over the years so that one parent can stay at home and ensure continuity of childcare. For the first time in our lives my family are in the fortunate position of being "comfortable", not wealthy by any means, yet it seems we are to be penalised for our hard work and being married.

    Claire Short is wrong to say that non-working people are better off because of increased child benefit. As somebody in the audience tried to say, when you first get a letter from the DSS informing you of your entitlements it states clearly " ... .this is the amount the government says you need to live off ... minus income you already receive: Family Allowance x pounds ...". And this has been the case for years.
    M.L.Normington, Rotterdam

    I'm a single working mum. When is the Government going to do something to make absent parents contribute to their children's upbringing? My son's father doesn't have to pay anything towards his child's upkeep because his "protected income" is below his net income, this takes into account his stepchildren, but means he doesn't have to pay towards his own child. Because I work I'm left to bear the whole brunt, I get no benefits etc and don't want them. What I want is for his father to contribute to his son's upkeep.
    Jan Thomson

    Can someone ask the government - why a single parent cannot afford to pay a childminder at 3.50 per hour in East Sussex, when most jobs for women in that area pay less than this amount - and if they do not work, they do not get any benefits, other than child benefit.
    John Freeman

    Audience question: Are you prepared to tolerate the worst public transport but the most expensive petrol in Europe?

    Andrew Neil said: "The new government hasn't been there for a long while yet, it takes a long time to improve public transport infrastructure ... There's a host of haulage companies threatening to move to France and Germany because it's too expensive here. We don't want to lose jobs or competitive industries."

    John Redwood said: "They [the government] are taxing you for being in your traffic jam ... This is Labour taxation clobbering the motorist, hating the motorist, but not doing anything to fix the bus services or the train services to give us a decent option."

    Clare Short said: "We've got to use our cars more selectively and have smaller cars and we've got to create incentives to this change and we've got to invest in more and better transport and that will take time to make the change."

    You said:

    The debate on transport is yet another indication of the UK's inability to position itself as a competitive economy. The cost of products and services that the UK produces, and which it trades internationally depend on things like the cost of transport. The UK has a crumbling infrastructure, and yet the cost of transport on which business and people in the UK rely, is being hiked beyond any reason. Shouldn't this Government realise this flawed reasoning and REDUCE petrol levies? Then, perhaps at the same time, unshackle itself from an outdated ideology and commit public-private investment back into major infrastructure development to make the economy competitive once more. The alternative is not acceptable.
    Graham Sutherland

    The tax on petrol is still far too low. Motor vehicles kill and injure thousands each year, and leave millions more choking. Taxes need to be increased to reflect the car's true costs, both economic and social.
    Andy Dornan

    There are a number of reasons why high fuel prices are undesirable:

  • All goods need to be transported, therefore high fuel prices have a negative economic impact
  • High prices penalize those who have no choice but to drive, such as people who live in the country, and people with disabilities
  • It tends to make people drive diesel vehicles that do more miles per gallon, but which produce large amounts of dangerous pollutant
  • Studies show that it does not significantly reduce car usage. A prohibitive six-fold increase would be needed to achieve this - which is clearly undesirable
    If the government wish to reduce traffic pollution or congestion there are a number of measures they could take:
  • Create disincentives for the driving of company cars - it is clear that if people are actually being paid to drive they will tend to cover more miles than they really need to·
  • Make public transport free in city centers. Far from being a wild left-wing idea this is already occurring here in the US. For example, much of the Passport bus service in Long Beach California is free, and it works very well
  • Compel bus companies to introduce new methane powered vehicles, (this has been successfully done in cities here in Pennsylvania)
    Lyndon Smith

    I was surprised that everyone seemed to agree that Britain has a poor public transport system. Earlier this week I took the train from Long Eaton to Llandudno for a business meeting, and a well-run and reasonably priced service it was too. Compare this with the USA, for example, which, outside major cities, has barely any public transport system at all - or Cuba, from which I've just returned, where people would wait all day for overloaded buses or trucks to carry them to their destination like cattle, and you may begin to see the British system in a different light.
    Richard Guise, Draycott, Derbyshire

    Any reduction in taxes as a result of this Budget has been more than offset by the increase in petrol tax living as I do in a rural area. I regard the Budget as a political con-trick with the main eye on the forthcoming elections.
    Peter Elton

    We have just arrived in the USA, and are shocked at the inexpensiveness of gasoline. $1/gallon here, versus c. $6/gal at home. Please explain the driver economics behind this one.
    Helen Webster, Glasgow, Scotland, now touring the Pacific

    Finally, the 'holier-than-thou Taxes' have hit us. Don't smoke, Don't Drink, Don't Drive!
    Steve Parrish

    Can the panel tell me what day or year our public transport system was great because I can't remember. It must have been when we all walked to work and to school.

    What happened to the intention years ago that when the Labour party took power, they would abolish Road Tax and put a further duty on petrol? This in my view would be a more appropriate course of action rather than listening to the constant whining of how many people fail to pay their road tax. This would also ensure that all people using the roads, both British and foreign, would pay towards the upkeep of the road network. This system works perfectly well in Europe.
    Bruce Reed, Stoke-on-Trent

    Public transport is only beneficial to people who have no choice, so people who can use their own car always will!
    Jeff Kenyon. Liverpool

    Why should the motorist continue to pay for society? In each Budget the Chancellor continues to tax us. What will he do if there is a petrol shortage due to war?

    I was interested to note that during the debate about the tax on fuel for cars, no mention was made of Disabled People. I am disabled and for me public transport is not an option. I cannot use buses, trains or the tube as they are not designed for wheelchair users. Although there are low floor buses in my area, I cannot use them as I cannot get to the bus stop because there are insufficient dropped kerbs to let me get to the end of the road where the bus stop is. I am not alone in this, there are 6.5m disabled people in this country and many have similar problems to me. Although I can purchase my car with motorbility finance and I do not have to pay road tax or insurance, I still have to buy petrol and as my mobility component of my Disability Living Allowance is all used to pay for my car, I have to pay for fuel out of my own pocket.
    Poppy Hasted, London

    A lot of cars are used out of public transport working hours. To wait between 30 to 60 minutes for a night bus compared to a car is a huge disadvantage. When a 24-hour transport service is implemented then I think more people would be inclined to using it instead of their cars.
    Daniel Francis

    Why doesn't John Prescott set an example and a use smaller car? Why not force all buses and taxis to use clean diesel? Get cycles and bikes to share with walkers the footpath on one side of all roads that have two pavements. Use one pavement - no need for expensive cycleways.
    Steve Brown

    The Chancellor has penalised the rural economy, rendered road hauliers uncompetitive, and increased the cost of running the whole economy with Britain now having the highest fuel prices in the whole world.
    Henry Curteis

    We need to spend more of the tax raised from petrol, on public transport. Until this happens people will not use public transport and motorist will feel that they are being USED to fund other public services that should be funded via income tax etc.
    John Pope

    Does the government have any plans to apply a special tax on the lead derivative that many of us will be adding to our petrol tanks from next year?
    Simon Jones

    Audience question: Has the Budget guaranteed Labour victory both in the approaching Scottish elections and in the next General Election?

    Andrew Neil said: "We have a Scottish chancellor here, there is no question he had his eye on the elections to the Scottish parliament."

    Jackie Ballard said: "By giving people a tax cut in order to try to bribe an election victory, Gordon Brown has starved public services of the spending that they need."

    John Redwood said: "There was nothing in the Budget to help the manufacturing industry and a great deal to hinder it, and I think the Budget is now being seen for the con that it was."

    Clare Short said: "It's not just some kind of pre-election boom that we can't sustain, we've got to get the economy through the old, what Tony Blair calls boom and bust, and have long term investment and have less people trapped outside the labour market. And that's what we're working at and that's what the Budget was for."

    You said:

    With unemployment being so high I feel that I need to stress the view that you should increase the price of tobacco products and lower the price of petrol. This will give unemployed people an incentive to travel by their own means of transport instead of using public transport to search for work away from their local area.
    Daniel Roberts, South Yorkshire

    After just viewing Question Time, I find it difficult to understand the knocking of the Budget. We have just had a Budget that helps the majority of society regardless of class. We have to give the government time to right the wrongs of 18 years of Tory wrong-doings. Give them at least two terms, then pass judgement.
    Peter Hunt

    William Hague keeps going on about the Chancellor being a pick-pocket, giving you tax cuts while stealing you're wallet. He says they giving in one breath and taking away with the other. Surely this what Labour is about: targetting the poor, children and pensioners. I am myself earning a more than an average salary( 30,000 a year) and welcome this targetting. Anyone with any morals should also welcome this budget. Do you think of yourself or do you think of the less well-off? The choice is yours.
    Ian Hornby, Liverpool

    In a budget dubbed 'good for all' by some, how is it that council tax is set to rise by three times the rate of inflation?
    John Norris

    I am a student with no grant and a wife and two children to support, in the last two months of my study. It has cost the government thousands of pounds to get me this far (Phd level) but am expected to stop and find work. Why has the Chancellor forgotten me and my family?
    Martin Gee

    How can New Labour say that the Chancellor's budget is about redistribution of wealth? With cuts in personal taxation being offset by inflation busting increases in council tax. How can New Labour say they are a party of low taxation? With the Chancellor sitting on billions of pounds. Why has a Labour Chancellor not taken the opportunity to put real money into education, health and care in the community? Crucial public services than can offset the effects of poverty. Why does New Labour use political economics to discriminate against sections of the poor? What is the difference between the employed poor and unemployed poor? This budget has been described as a good Tory budget. Why has the Labour party deserted not only socialism but also social democracy?
    Malcolm McCandless

    Who are we to believe? Gordon Brown when he says that taxes have been cut or William Hague when he says taxes have been increased. How can official figures be interpreted two ways!
    Stephen Peacock

    Is it not possible that the Budget was about getting thing right for this country? Why do the Tories assume because they have deceived the country for so long, that the Labour government will? Three cheers for Gordon Brown!
    John Marsh

    I have been a lifelong Labour supporter, but have been immensely disappointed with the Labour government. The U-turn on fox hunting, Foreign Affairs committee leaks, the unashamed promotion of BIG business's interests over those of the public at large (eg GM foods!), the unhealthy close relationship between Rupert Murdoch and Tony Blair. Now the scrapping of the married persons allowance and MIRAS. If I wanted a Tory government I will vote for them, but never Labour again.
    Mr S. Badat

    What about making it more affordable for single parents who want to go to university to be able to go by bringing back grants instead of student loans?
    Kirsty Adams

    Prince Charles' comments on Argentina

    Audience question: Prince Charles seems to have inherited his father's legendary diplomatic skills. Is it time to stop the Royals going on tour on Britain's behalf?

    Andrew Neil said: "What was wrong with what he said? He said that now Argentina's a democracy he hoped that it would have the same respect for the democratic traditions of the Falklands as it does for its own new democratic traditions. It seems to me to be a perfectly, sensible, normal and correct for a modern Prince of Wales to say."

    John Redwood said: "I thought he did exactly the right thing. Of course he was speaking for the government and it's one of the few government policies I agree with. I think we do have to stand up for the Falkland islanders as we did all those years ago and much better to do it by diplomatic exchange than in a rather more brutal way."

    Clare Short said: "Nothing wrong has gone on."

    Jackie Ballard said: "It was right for him to go there and clearly he was speaking from a Foreign Office brief and that's what you would expect him to do in those circumstances."

    Racism in schools

    Audience question: Are most schools institutionally racist?

    Jackie Ballard said: "I would be very surprised if there was institutionalised racism in our schools. There will be some individuals who are racist because there are across the whole of our society."

    Germaine Greer said: "Teachers try quite hard to introduce multiculturalism into schools, but their difficulty is parents."

    Andrew Neil said: "This phrase institutional racism, which is the new the buzz word, I think to try to say that the teaching profession is like the Metropolitan Police is a real slur on teachers."

    Clare Short said: "We've got far too low expectations of our children ... and we can improve standards for all of them."

    You said:

    The problem, from my experience of the US and UK, is that in the UK, people have a hard time accepting any difference - be it in race, culture, eating habits etc. This rigid attitude generally leads to perceptions about people who deviate from the norm - the norm, more often than not being white. In the US, one of the benefits of a more individualist society is that people are accepted for what they are, and not judged on pre-conceived notions and measures. And in response to that standard knee-jerk response about black ghettoisation in inner cities in the US, that's a slight microscopic view - the black middle class is growing wider every day. US society is light years ahead of Europe in terms of integration of people of different religion, ancestry and colour.
    Bhavna Sapat

    Is it not a fact that both the major parties in this country condone racialism to a point by the continual use of the Race Discrimination Act? Many employers feel they are under undue pressure to employ a member of another race. This has nothing to do with the fact that the individual may or may not be suitably qualified or has a different skin colour, but has more to do with the fact that the potential employer is frightened of a possible race discrimination allegation. Have we reached the stage whereby the white person is indeed the victim of being prejudiced against in his home country? I believe that it is time to scrap the RDA in doing so this would truly show equality for all.
    Bruce Reed

    Children are not born either racist or sexist. I do not feel that schools shape children to that way of thinking. It is the home that does so. Through mixed classrooms our children can see that their aren't any differences. Equality cannot be learned out of a book, it is a lesson of life and experience. Even if a child's parents are racist, hopefully by seeing their mixed class mates on a daily basis, the child can question their parents' thoughts and in some small cases, their teachers.
    Daniel Francis, London

    There is always going to be a bias towards white Europeans as we happen to be in Europe, and most people in Europe are white. The problem lies in the fact that most minorities live in city centres where education on a whole has problems for both white and coloured children. Some black and Asian people use their colour as an excuse for not performing. Coloured people etc. who say that white people are always racists are in themselves being racists.
    John Pope

    What will be the next group/occupation to be accused of being 'insitutionally racist'?
    Peter Darling

    Resignation of German finance minister Oskar Lafontaine

    Audience question: Does the resignation of the German finance minister and the continued decline of the euro, signal the UK was right not to join?

    John Redwood said: "Britain is quite right to stay out of it ... You do need to see it through good times and bad, you do need to see whether our worries come true."

    Jackie Ballard said: "The euro is bound to go up and down a bit, it's going to take a while to stabilise ... Both agriculture and manufacturing are suffering because of the high value of the pound, because we're outside the euro."

    Andrew Neil said: "It isn't fundamentally an economic issue, for me it's a political issue which is why I'm very wary of it."

    Clare Short said: "We will all observe, we will have our referendum."

    You said:

    The effects of Mr Lafontaine's public attempts to influence the ECB, and of his sudden departure, on the value of the euro are just symptoms of the inherent contradiction and incoherence in having a European central bank without a European government. We will now see this fact used as an excuse for creating new pan-EU political structures - bringing the further emasculation of democratically accountable governments in the member states. This is exactly according to plan: the plan being the creation by stealth of a single European state and the consequent steady removal of power from the electorate and its concentration in the hands of the political elite.
    Austin Spreadbury

    Role of women

    Audience question: Has the role of women really changed in the last 20 years or have we simply been paid lip service. Is it time to get angry again?

    Germaine Greer: "I think it is time to get angry again. What's happened in 30 years is the development of a great many form of institutionalised sexism, if I can borrow that phrase, that are not even being recognised for what they are."

    Andrew Neil said: "I think we still need a lot more women in positions of power and we need a lot more men being told what to do by women."

    Clare Short said:"Our lives have become more free: more chance to be educated, more chance to have a serious profession ... I think we've made progress but there's a heck of a long way to go."

    General comments

    You said:

    Most of the debate was poor - Question Time is becoming further and further removed from reality, with the extreme Left now regularly infiltrating the audience (and panel, by the looks of next week's lot). By saying all whites are racist, doesn't that make the person who said it racist? What a revolting generalisation. And were the Question Time producers aware of how far Andrew Neil has drifted Labour-wards, leaving poor John Redwood alone AGAIN?

    Russell Lewin

    I have watched Question Time for many years and consider it one of the best programmes on TV. Since it has been broadcast later and later I have ceased to enjoy it. After a long day, I don't believe many viewers can really concentrate on serious discussion as late as 11.55 when the programme ends. Other people whom I have talked to share my view.
    Jill Geser

    Why oh why do we in Scotland have no choice with our viewing when Words with Wark is on in place of Question Time on certain evenings. Will BBC Scotland kindly ensure that Question Time is on every week and if Words With Wark must be shown can it not be shown at another time? PLEASE!
    Steve Bonsor

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