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 3 June, Norwich

On the panel:

  • Francis Maude MP, shadow chancellor
  • Dr John Reid MP, Secretary of State for Scotland
  • Matthew Taylor MP, Liberal Democrat transport and environment spokesman
  • Petronella Wyatt, deputy editor, The Spectator
  • Dr Carl Chinn, community historian

    Kosovo peace deal

    Audience question: Mr Milosevic has thankfully accepted the peace terms. Should Nato now stop the air strikes and so prevent unnecessary bloodshed?

    John Reid said: "We're all very pleased that we appear to have a breakthrough here but I think we would be wise to remember that this sort of thing has happened before ... we'd be wise to wait and see that his words are matched by his deeds."

    Carl Chinn said: "He has stalled before, he has dissembled before and I think to stop the bombings immediately would be a mistake, because it would mean that those people left in Kosovo who are still subject to the possibilities of rape, attack, murder and being pushed out of their homes, will feel that they have been abandoned."

    Matthew Taylor said: "If they start re-grouping, if they take the opportunity of this supposed agreement - and he's done it before - to actually just simple regroup, re-arm, move troops they haven't been able to move in the past, that could actually put many more lives at risk. This is not yet a breakthrough ... until we see that he means it and until he understand that we will wait until we see that he means it, I don't think we can see if this as a done deal."

    Francis Maude said: "We must not mistake the word for the deed. We have got to see the troops withdrawing ... It's very difficult, with a potentially fragile alliance behind the bombing campaign, the military campaign - if you stop the process, it's not something you can automatically turn back on again."

    Petronalla Wyatt said: "A lot of those politicians are thinking in too short-term a way, because eventually the Kosovans are going to have to go back and they're going to live with the Serbs, and the Balkans is a very difficult and complicated case. The bombing has actually made, in a sense, their long-term situation worse. I have grave doubts whether it should have been started in the first place."

    You said:

    The conflict in Kosovo raises a number of interesting concerns regarding Nato as a military alliance. In particular, one tactical concern is the conduct of a war using ground troops. Under the Ottawa agreement on land mines, many Nato countries have signed the band on the use of these munitions. The USA has not. If an USA general acting as commander, ordered the use of land mines, would the officers of the signatory countries comply with the order? Would the governments of the signatory countries respond? Would the people in these countries respond?
    Ted Roberts

    I fear Nato is taking sides with what is in effect a terrorist organisation, the KLA. I regret the day that Nato became embrioled in what is an internal Yugoslavian affair. After all, when Russia was in conflict with Chechynya, we stood by. Nato has done nothing but aggravate the situation and created a problem which will now cost its taxpayers millions to put right.
    Wendy Sayer

    I think it would be wise for Nato to halt the bombing until and if Milosevic does fail to meet the demands. There is no need to cause further damage and deaths, and the threat of air strikes will still be there. They could be restarted at any time. If there ever was any reasoning behind the bombing, there certainly would be none in continuing now.
    John Merritt

    Imagine you are a Kosovan parent. Now imagine that a Serb garrison has just come into town, they burst into your house and rape your wife in front of you, making you watch. Then they get your eight-year-old daughter and do the same. After that they kill your wife and daughter, then you. I'm sure you'd be wishing for the madness to stop, where are the Nato bombs, the answer to your prayers. That's what we are, an answer to Kosovan prayers. People talk about the hits missed by Nato, but what about the thousands upon thousands of direct perfect hits? War has its casualties. Milosevic could stop this any time, but he doesn't. The blood is on his hands, we MUST fight the oppression, who knows tomorrow it could be knocking on your door!
    Matthew Nicholls

    I would just like to say that I saw an interview with Mr Milosevic about three years ago, and when he was asked why he had broken something like 27 peace declarations that he had signed his name to in connection to Bosnia, he answered that when he signed these declarations he had his hand in his pocket, and was holding onto his testicles. In Yugoslavia this is the same as when a child crosses their fingers, it means that these declarations have no meaning. If you cannot trust a man who is to sign a paper for peace, then all he intends is war. Wasn't the last World War started after a peace declaration was dishonored?
    Nimrod Hegedus

    Now that it appears the Yugoslavs may accept withdrawal from Kosovo with UN monitoring, who ends up paying for the costs associated with the return of the people to their homeland and the costs associated with their housing, food, etc?
    Richard Evans

    Now that the Nato air war in Yugoslavia has succeeded (and one hopes that no more innocent people will be collaterally damaged by bombs or driven out by paramilitary forces) what further military adventures does the alliance have planned?
    Kalyan Chatterjee

    Why is it that the Western journalists have forgotten the problems with Albanian separatists in Macedonia? Whatever happens in Kosovo, the next flashpoint will be Macedonia especially now that Nato has encouraged the KLA.
    Zoran Kumurdian

    Prince Charles's views on genetically-modified food

    Audience question: Is it right that our future monarch involves himself in politics, undermining the government in doing so?

    Petronalla Wyatt said: "I don't think he has undermined the government I don't think he's really involved himself in politics ... It's been an enormous fuss about nothing."

    Matthew Taylor said: "It seems to me he raised very proper questions ... I don't see why Prince Charles, who after all has a long established position on this, should simply shut up because it happens to be debated in the House of Commons. I think it's good on him."

    John Reid said: "He was perfectly entitled to raise it ... It wasn't a party political issue ... I happen to believe, and the government does, that we ought to have a widespread debate on this issue."

    Francis Maude said: "This is to an extent a party political issue, there is a party political difference here. It is actually quite difficult for the Prince of Wales to draw a line because he mustn't get embrangled, as it were, in party political issues."

    Carl Chinn said: "It is important that the future king doesn't involve himself in major party political debate. At the same time I think we've got to decide, do we want a king to be a puppet without a voice, or a real man who has serious thoughts and has the right to say what the common man or women are thinking in this country?"

    You said:

    Prince Charles's views on GM foods should be taken seriously. He does, after all, talk to trees, plants and flowers, so he must be an authority on the subject.
    Andrew Lunt

    I am completely against genetically-modified foods before significant and exacting scientific testing has been completed. Wasn't it safe to feed cattle a diet which ultimately resulted in the deadly 'mad cow' disease? No wonder public confidence is not high.
    Carolyn Stubbs

    Surely the flaw about all issues such as this lies in the emphasis in which successive governments have placed on the release of drugs, chemicals and new products that "there is no evidence so far of any danger or ill effects." In the light of past tragedies is it not pure common sense to say in every case that there has to be positive evidence that these products are SAFE and there are no side effects BEFORE they are released or given a licence, rather than the current practise of allowing products to come on to the market and viewing them as safe unless and until cases arise which indicate they may be unsafe and cause illness or death?

    Grammar schools versus comprehensives

    Audience question: "With Tony Blair sounding the death knell on selective education, can a child from an ordinary background now aspire to the dizzy heights of prime minister?

    Carl Chinn said: "Education has been too long seen as preparing certain people for certain kinds of jobs ... We have a comprehensive system, we ought to make the best of that comprehensive system. We must make sure that every one of our children has the opportunity to develop his or her talents as they should be able to develop them."

    Petronalla Wyatt said: "We're on very dangerous ground if we say that we have to protect children from selection and challenges ... Life can be devastating. We don't prepare our children if we cosset them from the examination process."

    John Reid said: "We're not intending to close them [grammar schools], we're leaving it up to the parents. What the prime minister was saying was this: Let us concentrate on the other 4000 schools. That is where the vast majority of the children in this country are educated."

    Francis Maude said: "A good school takes years and decades to build up ... you just should not ever contemplate getting rid of a good school."

    Matthew Taylor said: "I hope that parents will vote to go to a system that allows every child to develop as they can throughout their education. I don't believe it should be the government that takes that decision."

    You said:

    I think it is vital for children to be given every possible chance to develop their skills and potential, but not to the detriment of other children.
    David Hunter

    With regards to the attitude that if a person did not pass the 11-plus their chances were over. Well I did not pass - tell the truth I did not even know about it till one day still aged 10 I was presented with it. I went to a secondary modern school and I did not leave school with much qualifications, but have always been in employment apart from one year. This does not mean I lacked intelligence, although the jobs I had were manual. At the age of 37 I went to college on an access course, and have now completed my first year at university on a Bsc information technology course, so what exams people have taken or not bothered taken is not prove of intellect or lack of it.

    Education is to teach our children and to prepare them for as of life as best we can. In life we learn by our mistakes, why is it that in educating our children we punish them for their mistakes? Not only that we don't give them the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. About the only thing that the current education system does is to prepare children to take tests. Even at the highest level, the most succesful academics are those who mastered examinations. The whole system fails a great many very talented children that find much more to apply their minds to than a set of seemingly pointless tests. At the same time, parents have become all too aware of the importance of the 11+ exams, have become obsessed with their children's success. As a result they put undue pressure on their children to do well in 11+ exams, rather than furthering their children's knowledge and understanding.
    Paul Blamire

    William Hague attempts to block Greg Dyke from BBC job

    Audience question: Is it right that the Leader of the Opposition is using his influence to prevent someone from becoming director general of the BBC because of his personal political beliefs?

    Francis Maude said: "I think it's perfectly proper. The impartiality of the BBC is absolutely crucial ... I think it would damage the BBC greatly to have somebody as the director general who is seen to be a supporter of the [Labour] party in genera ... It must not only be impartial but seen to be impartial."

    John Reid said: "If Greg Dyke had given millions to the Tory Party over the last 20 years, it wouldn't have been held against him because no-one would have known a thing about it. The only reason this is in fact known, is because of course the Labour Party and the Labour government brought in a policy of making it plain who gives what to whom. As far as the job is concerned, that is a decision to be taken by the governors of the BBC."

    Matthew Taylor said: "It appears that it is not okay to be director general and to have supported the Labour Party in the past, but it is okay to be in the one position of authority over the director general - that is the chairman of the board - and to have been a previous Conservative known supporter and activist. I cannot see the logic of that at all. I think that William Hague got this entirely wrong."

    Carl Chinn said: "We've all got our opinions, we've all our beliefs ... The chairman of the BBC is a Conservative and he has never once let his Conservative beliefs influence his decisions."

    European Union and the single currency

    Audience question: Are William Hague's policies of a British isolation within Europe, appropriate to lead the Conservative Party into the next millennium?

    Petronella Wyatt said: "I don't think he is an isolationist ... At worst he's guilty of caution, but given the performance of the euro recently I don't think it would be wise for anyone to create a commitment. I'm in support of a referendum."

    Carl Chinn said: "It's very important that we have different views and it would be wrong, I think, if every parliamentarian and each political party was all totally pro-Europe. I think we must have a choice as a people. Personally I feel that we are part of Europe whether we like it or not and that we have to make it work."

    Francis Maude said: "We are very committed to Britain being in Europe, but we don't believe Britain should be run by Europe. And actually that's what most people in this country believe. They're not anti-European ... What we object to is what Tony Blair is doing, which is trying to drag us into the euro by stealth."

    On the government's National Changeover Plan for the euro: "Tony Blair should not be investing all this money, which is totally unproductive if we decide not to join."

    John Reid said: "What the Conservatives under William Hague would do is isolate us, marginalise, the way we were previously for years. There has been a sea change and the question that people are to answer next Thursday is do they want Britain leading in Europe or do they want Britain leaving Europe, because that is the agenda of the current Conservative Party."

    You said:

    I'd like Mr Hague (or Mr Maude) to explain how we can be "in Europe but not run by Europe", unless "in Europe" means purely in terms of geography, since it is clear that the EU's agenda is to concentrate more power in the central institutions and therefore take it away from our democratically elected government. The kind of "Europe a la carte" which Mr Hague talks about is simply not on the menu in Brussels. We must eventually choose between being a mere province in a centralised "country called Europe" or pulling out altogether. But the latter would not be isolationist: no-one advocating withdrawal thinks we could or should cut ourselves off. Cooperation and trade do not require the overarching, emasculating supranational structures of the EU.
    Austin Spreadbury, Enfield, Middlesex

    The single currency is one of the most important issues faced by the people of Britain in our history. Not that our spineless, gutless excuse for a government will tell you this, they'll just heap cheap abuse onto anyone who dares question them. Let me spell it out: if we adopted the euro we would then have to conform to the taxing and spending plans of the rest of the EU. This is because all economic decisions feed back into the exchange rate and if we are part of one economic unit then fiscal policies MUST be identical. This is a matter of fact and EU leaders have not denied it. Hence, our current politicians would not be able to say to the people of Britain, 'Vote for us and our party will put more money into the NHS/defence/education', because once in power they will not be allowed to divert from EU spending guidelines. We will be a minority in a foreign government. I really cannot believe this is what the British people want and I do not believe that if they understood the full implications of monetary and political union they would happily trot out to vote for the grinning butcher of Britain himself, Tony Blair.
    Russell Lewin

    Given the regional disparities in economic growth indicated not least by the differences in house price trends between London and the rest of the UK, and the controversial comments of Eddie George in the North East earlier this year, it is apparent that the Bank of England finds it impossible to determine interest rates appropriate for the whole of the UK. So what chance does the ECB have of doing the same for all euroland?
    Will Tyler

    Can you really suspect all European countries are currently happy with the euro's weakening state? The euroland leaders are in despair because of flagging economies and weakening more and more to the pound and the dollar.
    James Notch

    General comments

    I am again disappointed by the biased behaviour of a supposedly impartial chairman. Mr Dimbleby, as always, seems more insistent on questioning the Conservative representative than giving the Government representative a hard time. Is Mr Dimbleby a paid-up anti-Conservative campaigner? Why is he so worried about questioning the government? Is he preparing himself for the arrival of Mr Dyke I wonder?
    Robert Frost

    Stop being so hard on Francis Maude! It seems odd when the answers of most people concerned are to bash an opposition party with little influence in the country or the House of Commons.
    Oliver May

    Why does he (the host) always give Conservatives a much rougher ride than other political parties. Is it not about time he and his ilk admitted their political preference so the general public (the people paying their salaries) know why they are being so ignorant?
    David Cuthbertson

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