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 10 June, Birmingham

On the panel:

  • Jim Davidson, comedian
  • Anne McElvoy, columnist, The Independent
  • Joyce Quin MP, minister for Europe
  • Michael Ancram MP, Conservative Party chairman
  • George Monbiot, environmental campaigner

    Hopes for peace in Kosovo

    Audience question: How can Serbs and ethnic Albanians possibly be expected to co-habit after recent events?

    Jim Davidson said: "They're going to have to get on, the military are going to be there to make sure there's no law-breaking or murdering or any more ethnic cleansing and then if these people want peace they're going to have to knuckle under and get it done. It's the same with us in Northern Ireland."

    George Monbiot said: "I think Tony Blair might be in danger of making a very serious mistake here, because he says he will not give aid to Serbia until Milosevic has gone. And of course while Milosevic stays very it's hard for the Serbs and the Albanians, or indeed any of the other ethnic populations living in Serbia or in Kosovo, to be reconciled."

    Michael Ancram said: "I spent four years in Northern Ireland and what I learnt there is that you don't do it by political settlements, in the end you can't enforce it by military might. You actually have to win the hearts and minds of the people themselves."

    Joyce Quin said: "What is important is to start the reconstruction work in the other countries, and of course underscore the peace in Kosovo itself. But at the same time I think actually giving money to Milosevic, there would be no guarantee that that money would be wisely used and indeed I think the risk would be very great that it would be badly used."

    Anne McElvoy said: "As far as we were told by Nato we were not at war with the people of Serbia. But it's the people of Serbia who now have to live with the aftermath of the bombing and the infrastructural damage that we inflicted - in a good cause and in a cause I supported ... We have a moral responsibility to rebuild Serbia."

    You said:

    A member of the audience asked if Serbs and ethnic Albanians could be expected to co-habit. The panel responded by concentrating on the problems of rebuilding the infrastructure in Serbia and Kosovo. This is obviously a critical factor in returning the region to some degree of normality but for the Kosovar-Albanians and Kosovo-Serbs to resume their lives as neighbours within the same country, the perpetrators of crimes during the recent conflict would need to be brought to justice. According to a draft Kosovo interim agreement drawn up by the Balkan Action Council, people will not be prosecuted for crimes relating to the conflict in Kosovo "except for those who have committed war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious violations of international humanitarian law". This suggests that, for the most part, the returning refugees will not get justice for the loss or destruction of their homes and property, for example. Without recourse to the justice system for the majority of offences committed against them, Kosovar-Albanians will undoubtedly seek revenge against their former neighbours and persecutors. A limited number of United Nations troops will not be able to prevent this. Only the evacuation of the 100,000 Kosovo-Serbs will prevent them from becoming victims of ethnic cleansing themselves. The prospects of peaceful co-habitation are almost non-existent. Justice must be done, and be seen to be done, for all of the returning refugees.
    Alex Leighfield

    I think Nato and the world will find in the next few days that this will be a hollow victory. As more and more atrocities are uncovered I think we will find that Milosevic has achieved his objectives with the complete ethnic cleansing of Kosovo.
    Chris Allen

    I agree that the Western Alliance has a moral obligation to rebuild Serbia, and strongly concur that any aid for this purpose should not be given directly to Milosevic, or, indeed to the Yugoslav government. We have seen how IMF money given to Russia has most certainly been siphoned off by certain individuals for their own gain. What an opportunity then for the West to pull off a PR coup and guarantee that funds set aside for the rebuilding of Serbia are actually used for this purpose, by giving Milosevic a highly publicised ultimatum to allow them to take charge of this project. The international community could allow Western companies to submit bids for the work, whilst employing as many locals as possible, especially in Kosovo where Serbs, Kosovar Albanians and the 'Western aggressors' could work side by side. Failure by Milosevic to take advantage of such an offer would be very damaging to his popularity.
    Martin Deszberg, London

    It's a re-enactment of the Gulf War. Milosevic's characteristics throughout the conflict have mirrored the Iraqi leader. I give Kosovo less than a year before the crisis erupts again, in Kosovo or other parts of the Balkans. Doesn't anyone learn from mistakes and history?
    Simon Hackett, Haywards Heath

    One chap in the audience mentioned that all the TA are unemployed ... I am in the Territorial Army as an officer. Our soldiers in general have good, steady civilian jobs. If we are called up to support the current requirements we will go, but to suggest that we have nothing else to do is insulting and undermines the basis as to why we are in the TA and the reasons why we VOLUNTEER to support the strategic and humanitarian interests of our nation.
    Stuart Mikddleton

    I think the fastest way to rid Serbia of President Milosevic is to make clear to the people of Serbia that it is THEY who will not be allowed to travel within the west until such time that he is brought to trial for the war crimes he is responsible for.
    B Cartwright

    Sophie Rhys-Jones opts to 'obey' in her marriage vows

    Audience question: Obeying one's husband is out of context in today's world. Should Sophie Rhys-Jones be more realistic and stipulate the divorce settlement instead?

    Jim Davidson said: "It should be a choice of the lady concerned. It wouldn't have made no difference to me because they all took no notice of me anyway."

    Anne McElvoy said: "Sophie Rhys-Jones isn't in PR for nothing, and this is the one way in which you can really stand out in your wedding vows these days is to say that you will obey ... It does sound very out of place I think 'listen to' instead of obey would be my choice."

    Michael Ancram said: "What obey means in this context is listen to, have respect for, and it's part of a traditional marriage service and I'm a traditionalist by nature. But I think the idea that you have a marriage in which one person gives orders and the other person obeys is a very old fashioned view which certainly hasn't existed in my time."

    George Monbiot said: "Surely if marriage vows are to mean anything, if they're to be real vows, then people should write their own vows, they should make their own promises to each other."

    Joyce Quin said: "People can chose the marriage service that they want and if they want the more traditional service then they can have that. But I think that love and cherish is a very good formulation."

    You said:

    Whether a wife says she will obey or not is largely irrelevant. It may count for the wedding day and the period thereafter, but it doesn't mean that it will apply after several years have passed.
    Mick Norman

    The word 'obey' in the wedding service does not mean that which you suggest. It comes from the combination of the London and Canterbury services and is a promise to be 'bonnie and buxom at board and at bed'.
    Paul Courtnage

    European Parliament elections

    Audience question: Is it fair the UK population is only able to vote for parties in the current European elections and not single candidates?

    George Monbiot said: "I don't think it's a very sensible system and I think there's several means of proportional representation which would have been better. But PR in general is great because hopefully, if it's widely applied, we don't end up with a system where a party with just 40 per cent of the vote has a massive parliamentary majority."

    Joyce Quin said: "The regional list system has a lot to recommend it for European elections because a lot of European issues are regional issues, where economic decisions affect different regions in different ways. And I think if MEPS who are elected seek to cover the whole of their regions, they can represent them in an effective way."

    Michael Ancram said: "We [the Conservatives] opposed this system because we believe that there should be a link between the person that the elector votes for, so that there is a relationship, after the vote has been taken, where that that person can go and hold the person he's elected to account. We didn't want to see a list system."

    Anne McElvoy said: "The closed list system is symbolic of a tendency which worries me a lot, and that is towards a democratic deficit."

    Jim Davidson said: "I just think that the British public are sick of Europe and that's why they're not turning out. As for PR I'm not a great lover of that I must admit. It doesn't work in other European countries. I mean, we have to ask every week, who's the Prime Minister of Italy?"

    You said:

    Regardless of one's position on either the EU or political parties, the abysmally low turnout at the Euro elections in the UK is a disaster for democracy. Neither the anti-Europe parties, including the Conservatives, nor the pro-Europe parties can take any satisfaction from the result. Whilst the Tories may have scored a morale-boosting victory in terms of seats won, the overall "pro" versus "anti" Europe votes virtually cancel each other out. Personally, I consider the following are the main reasons for the degree of voter apathy:

  • Lack of canvassing by all the political parties. The only active canvassing I witnessed was by the Conservatives. The only other activity was a postcard from the Labour Party encouraging one to vote - it contained no policies, only a picture of Tony Blair, who has nothing to do with the European Parliament!
  • Use of the closed-list system, preventing voters from selecting a named candidate from political parties.
  • Failure to address European/EC policies by parties. The fudging of the introduction of the euro by the Labour Party, meant that it didn't really have a strong message - to vote for or against in Europe! Lack of coverage of the day-to-day issues in the EC, European Parliament, and our neighboring European countries, by the UK media. Coverage of domestic European politics and business is almost non existent - whilst we are deluged with news and trivia from the USA.
    It is time the media took a more balanced view over the European Union, most especially the work of the European Parliament.
    A M Winspear, Kettering, Northamptonshire

    Removal of the ability to vote (or to not vote) for individual candidates is a significant diminution in accountability and, therefore, in democracy. I believe that this together with concerns about the euro were the two factors which influenced voters. Their frustration and inability engage with these matters resulted in the most serious levels of non-participation for decades. All Westminster politicians must accept responsibility for this alarming situation and not merely ascribe it to "apathy" etc. If citizens become too frustrated by their so-called representatives, whether in the UK or Europe, they will seek to express their collectives wishes in other ways, some of which may be very undesirable. One need only remember the Poll Tax where withholding payment and non-registration as voters was bad enough, but culminated in disturbances - eventually quite simply because their servants in government refused to take heed!
    Alan England

    I believe that MPs should vote for what their constituents want and not to be forced into voting for what Tony Blair wants - because they are voted in by us to represent us, not to represent the Labour Party.
    Keith Green, Birmingham

    Unlike the rest of the UK, we in this part of the UK were in fact able to vote for a named potential MEP - it having been decided that we should use the single-transferable vote system.
    Mr. Rowlinson, Northern Ireland

    Audience question: William Hague has described the Conservative Party as a broad church of opinions. Why is then he has said anybody who doesn't support the party line, or votes for another party will be expelled?

    Michael Ancram said: "One of the rules of being a member of the Conservative Party, and I suspect it's the same with most parties, is that your obligation is to secure the election of your own candidates. If you go out and try to secure the election of other candidates against your candidates, that's incompatible with being a member of your party. It's perfectly logical then, that you terminate your membership."

    Anne McElvoy said: "A lot of people feel differently to their usual party loyalty on Europe. This is a subject which crosses party boundaries ... We should vote with our consciences and speak out with our consciences and the party should let us do so."

    Joyce Quin said: "All political parties don't like it if their members actually go and support or vote candidates of alternative parties. That isn't something that's acceptable. But I do think that William Hague, particularly on Europe, is becoming extremist and intolerant and that is a real problem for the Tory Party."

    George Monbiot said: "We're seeing a narrowing of the political base and that's extremely disturbing. MPs surely, if they have a role within this society, it's to vote with their conscience rather than having to vote all the time with their party."

    You said:

    Thank goodness for George Monbiot. Finally someone has raised the issue that that no matter what the voting system (and they all have their own faults) the main problem is the fact that politicians accept money and services to get elected - from a party - and then vote in the party's interests and not ours. Such a system can only be described as corrupt at best, and quite possibly fraudulent - after all they get paid after soliciting our votes to represent us and then do something different.
    Andy Diamond

    Joyce Quinn accuses William Hague of stifling debate in the Tory party on the euro. That is not half the sin that her party practices - that of stifling debate on the euro in the whole country. Election leaflets I received from Labour (and the Lib Dems) barely made a mention of the implications of political and economic union, preferring to fight on domestic issues. To the lady in the audience who wondered how joining the single currency would affect the NHS, I would answer: It would seriously affect the validity of our parties' pledges to increase spending on the NHS.
    Russell Lewin

    Former cabinet minister Jonathan Aitken imprisoned

    Audience question: How long a sentence would Jonathan Aitken have received had his name been Bill Bloggs?

    George Monbiot said: "Surely, if he has raised himself up so high it's all the more appropriate that he should be cast down low; it's all the more important that an example should be made of people who have engaged for so long, like him, in hypocrisy; who have lied in a bare-faced fashion, to the whole nation, while abusing the high office that they held."

    Jim Davidson said: "So when you become member of parliament and a minister you can't park on double yellow lines, you mustn't have one too many, that's it is it? You give up life and the ability to make a mistake. I've met this man a few times, I think he was a great minister and it's a shame these things happen."

    Michael Ancram said: "The important thing in a matter like this is that justice takes its course. I'm a lawyer, I practised in the criminal courts for a long time, I have a lot of faith and confidence in our system. And I believe that it's very important on these occasions that politicians stand back and that the courts themselves decide the appropriate sentence."

    Anne McElvoy said: "Was he let off lightly? I suspect he wasn't because quite often perjury charges are dropped."

    Joyce Quin said: "It was certainly a serious offence and deserved a prison sentence."

    Priest brands parishioners pagan

    Audience question: Do you agree with the Reverend David Leaver when he says his parishioners are too materialistic?

    Jim Davidson said: "I've never had material goods for long enough, with all these divorces."

    Anne McElvoy said: "I think he went too far, he really doesn't know about their spiritual life."

    General comments

    I find the dumbing-down of your show very disappointing. The topic for debate is always good, but the quality of the panel is getting more and more suspect. For instance what real contribution can people like Jo Brand, Paul Heaton, Jim Davidson and one half of 'comedy' duo Hale and Pace make to the programme? I want current affairs, not snide anti Thatcher, anti Blair from people who consider themselves 'Yoof' or 'Right On!' Their opinions are generally populist and, therefore, shallow as they don't really want to be there and when the spotlight falls on them they have nothing to say apart from the arguments the most simplistic members of the audience would state. Instead of filling the panel with lightweights can we have a few frontbenchers for a change, or has your programme lost its kudos in the past few years?
    Stephen White

    Watching Question Time, I was deeply embarrassed for Jim Davidson. He is not a politician, nor apparently does he have a great interest in politics. Was he invited on to the programme purely because he is a "concert organiser" for the Armed Forces? He made no significant input to the debate and at times appeared to be well out of his depth. Whilst I agree with having non-politicians on the programme occasionally, I don't think it gives the right impression. Question Time is supposed to give the man in the street the opportunity to try and get the politicians to give a straight answer. It might also be a reasonable idea to give the wider audience a chance to participate in the debates. The furthest West the programme ever goes is Bristol, a mere 200 miles from me. There is life outside of the cities!
    Andy Soper-Hall, Hayle, Cornwall

    I have noticed that Mr Dimbleby is becoming increasingly partisan in the way he conducts Question Time. In particular he was overly aggressive towards Mr Ancram - an approach he did not adopt with other members of the panel. It appears he wishes to curry favour with the audience at the expense of panel members who represent the Conservative Party.
    Richard Ireland

    I am a regular viewer of Question Time, yet I was appalled to see the 'comic' Jim Davidson on that last programme. Why an ignorant, 'out of his depth' man would be part of a political debate, is beyond me. His views were crude, unacceptable and unwelcome. I was embarrassed whenever he spoke, particularly when talked about the Mr. Aitken situation. Don't get me wrong, I am all in favour of genuine, and intelligent comedians, such as Ian Hislop, whose opinion I value, but to have on the presenter of Big Break to discuss Kosovo, makes a mockery of the show. Despite this criticism, I do very much enjoy the programme, and will continue to watch it.
    Christian Tierney

    Listening to Sir Robin Day on radio earlier this week I agree totally with one of his comments that there are now too many panellists. I used to think four was pushing it, but five is ridiculous. There are a number of adverse consequences. Some issues become too protracted with so many panellists to comment. And often panellists repeat each other because there simply aren't five different views on the topic. Add to this the audience participation, which is a key part of the programme, and you find each topic taking 15 or 20 minutes sometimes. Let's get down to three panellists, and more carefully selected. With no disrespect, people like Jim Davidson and Joe Brand have little to offer the programme. If the programme continues its present trend, we may ultimately be confusing David Dimbleby with Jerry Springer!
    Brian W Ball

    The best member of a panel I have seen in recent years was George Monbiot.
    John Farrell

    What a great programme - a great balance of the characters, expertise and intellectual levels of the panel, along with expert chairmanship, made the whole presentation work in a very entertaining and controversial way without being angered by any individual members of the panel. To make Jim Davidson fit speaks volumes for the chairman and the patience and charm of the rest of the panel - he did not disgrace himself in potentially intimidating circumstances.
    Martin Frost, Stockport

    "Dumbing down" has reached a real low when Jim Davidson is a panellist on Question Time. I watch this programme for its lively debate and the views expressed by well informed intelligent people. Why oh why do you feel the need to include Jim Davidson and next week the man from Coronation Street? Is there no escape from the mindless witterings of "media people"?
    Kathryn Mottram

    Thank you so much for putting this excellent programme on the net. I lived in the UK for almost 25 years and became a great fan of this programme and the radio version. Now I can reside in Canada and listen to this excellent broadcast. Thank you.
    Deborah Beale

    I just wanted to comment to George Monbiot - I'm not particularly good at expressing myself but I know what I like when I hear it! What a guy! What an eloquent intelligent chappie he is - providing intelligent thought provoking comment. Thanks!
    Julie Coppard

    I was very pleased to hear George Monbiot. He has a great and different viewpoint and it is good to have someone of this calibre on the show to really make a difference from the usual main parties representatives. May he return!
    Ian White, citizen of the earth

    Jim Davidson is a very funny guy with the right audience , but please - I'm trying to be nice - his views are like listening to the bar room drunk.
    Mick Barratt

    After Jim Davidson's recent offensive remarks on people with disabilities - along with his racist and misogynist views - why is he given yet more air time? Giving him prime time shows on Saturday is an abuse of licence payers money as it is. Anybody want to bet what the content of his "show" for the armed forces in the Balkans was? The BBC in providing an opportunity for these views to be aired gives credence to them and makes them acceptable to the general public.
    Julie Smith

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