April 27, Newcastle

April 13, Edinburgh

March 30, Belfast

March 23, Maidstone

March 16, Truro

March 9, Nottingham

March 2, London

February 24, Leeds

February 17, London

February 10, Birmingham

February 3, Brussels

January 27, Southampton

January 20, Liverpool

January 13, London

December 16, Leeds

December 9, Manchester

December 2, Cardiff

November 25, Birmingham

November 18, Durham

November 11, Maidstone

November 4, Glasgow

October 28, Southampton

October 21, London

October 14, Sydney

October 7, Manchester

September 30, Bournemouth

September 23, London

July 15, Belfast

July 8, London

July 1, Birmingham


July 8, London

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair was the sole panellist in a special Question Time programme from London.

General comments

You said:

Mr Blair is NOT doing a good job as prime minister. On your programme he showed his propensity to "massage" the truth with his claim to have voted in favour of a fox hunting ban. He did not vote, nor even enter the debate in the house. If he will lie about such minimal issues what can we expect of the big issues? Your complicity with him in this showed at the end of the programme when you asked the questioner to "ask the set question" rather than one she had thought relevant. A denigration of Question Time as a cutting edge current affairs programme!
Paul Keenan

Why was it that when the only two questioners who seemed to be asking hard hitting questions (about armaments and foxhunting/animal experiments), which were obviously reaching the target - they were snuffed out/silenced?
John Boothroyd

Under Tony Blair's leadership the Labour Party has ceased to debate issues. His attitude towards Socialists within the party is appalling. His arrogance in the way he controls the party and runs the country is quite unbelievable. I am a member of the Labour Party and have been for the last 12 years, although I continue to question how long I will stay a member.
Gail Judd

How can Tony Blair accuse Hague of turning the Tories into a right-wing xenophobic nationalist party when Blair himself spent most of the 1980s calling for Britain to "withdraw from the EU"? Blair is a shallow career politician who is not motivated by principal but by lust for power.
John Jenkins

The prime minister came across as honest and upfront with the questions he was asked. He gave an insight into his approach to the situations and decisions facing the country. He also said enough to allow you to read between the lines, although different people will probably read different things. On the whole I think he performed very well despite open hostility and misinformation from some sector of the audience. Personally I enjoyed it thoroughly and it was good to see the PM handling the public's questions and not just spokesmen or ministers.
David Johnson

I though Tony Blair typified the recent trend in politics of "style over substance". He lacked conviction, belief and direction. He seemed to think that just by being "a nice guy", the problems the country faces will be resolved. It takes more than this to run a country. Blair seems to respond to problems rather than think them through before coming to conclusions - as was evident by his answers on the recent programme. Although Hague is not "touchy-feely" like Blair tries to be, at least he has a position and conviction on most things - although I think he needs to be honest about the euro and say that his party rule it out in principle - otherwise he will get crucified for the duplicity of his present position. Personally, if there was an election today, after the two recent programmes, I would be voting Tory!
Adrian Yalland

Mr Blair is doing an excellent job, especially in the minefield of Northern Irish politics.
Tim Walsh, Dublin

The latest Question Time was the most ill-disciplined and worst chaired edition of the entire series. Each member of the audience wanted to ask a question and none wanted to hear an answer. Tony Blair also needs elocution lessons - I am sure he does not talk like that as a barrister in court. A very sad end to what has generally been a good year. The old format has served well - don't mess with it!
Howard Jones

Tony Blair may not have come up with the answers to all this country's problems yet, but things have slowly improved. I believe this government should rely more on tax and spend than the use of private money for public services, particularly health and education. Despite these reservations I still support Tony Blair and when they look at the pathetic alternative, I believe the majority of the country will too.
Brian Freeman

I am proud that our prime minister is not bending to populist whims. The questioner last night who wanted a referendum on the re-institution of the death penalty was met by Mr Blair's polite but firm refusal. Capital punishment is a hugely popular issue, but a deeply immoral and ineffective measure. All studies have shown that where it is used, the crime rates are higher.
R Smith

I thought that Tony Blair lacked (on your programme) any degree of command or authority. It makes it hard to look up to him as prime minister and feel confident about his principles and direction.
James Fletcher

As a US marketing director enjoying employment in the UK, I keenly follow the words and actions of your country's leading politicians. With reference to Blair's leadership credentials, I believe that he has generally performed to a highly commendable level of output and commitment. Having the vision to work to long-term goals is one skill; having the courage to openly stick to them when the going gets tough is quite another. The future looks very healthy for Britain.
Kidreon Collins

I find Mr Blair's public style to be downright obnoxious and slimy. From his announcements after the death of Diana Princess of Wales to his recent speech after the Stormont talks, he just looks, moves and talks like a bad actor. His 'sincerity' is so overwhelmingly false that it makes me want to switch channels whenever his smug visage appears on the screen. I've never seen him in the flesh, which is just as well. His bad acting and fake empathy do not disguise his weasel words, his carefully selected turn of phrase, his change of policies, all designed to win votes and keep him in power, not to act in the best interests of this country. Both Prescott and Hague appear far more honest intellectually and morally compared to sound-bite Blair.

I believe in whatever decisions that Mr Blair has to make, it is for the good welfare of the people of the United Kingdom, even some of them turned out to be devastating (just like the Euro Election results). I think he has some good motives in joining the European Currency, it just that, the timing is wrong and his critics/opponents got a chance in hitting him back. His critics should not looked at that one mistake, instead, they should sum up all the good things that he has done in Britain (i.e. the Cool Britannia tag, the booming economy, the Dianafication, the repackaging of the image of the Royal family after Diana's death, the proposed peace deal in the IRA conflict etc.) in the last two years. I think that he's working hard enough just to deal and settle those recent issues that 's been bothering him in the recent months, His critics at least, should give him a break. And to M. Blair, all I can say about you is that don't worry about what other people say as long as you know that you're doing the right thing and it's God's will. Hope that your stay as a prime minister will be much more longer and more gratifying than Sir Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher.
Lennie Cruz

What a brilliant Prime Minister we have. A man full of vision and honesty. Tony Blair is putting the British people first. I feel confident that we will be safe in his hands. William Hague last week exposed the Conservatives as a one policy, right wing party, no good for this country as it approaches the 21st century. Mr Blair looks after all the people all the time.
Steve Wallis

It was rather amusing to see Mr Blair being hoisted by his own figures on the NHS waiting list. The comment about rash promises being made was very apt.
Stuart Baldwin

Excellent! I have just watched the show and was (as ever) impressed with our Prime Minister. As a New Labour member, I feel that he is for change, reform and improvement within a number of areas that were mentioned in the show. However, his name is Tony Blair - not Merlin the Magician - and as he states, all measures he would like to see happening will take time. So let's give him that request. After all he, or at least New Labour, is here for the at least another term.
James Martin, Glasgow

Public sector row

Audience question: One member of the government damns the public sector, another praises it. Who's right?

Tony Blair said: "I assume you mean that I damned the public sector and John Prescott praised it. The thing that we get used to, John and myself, is people always wanting to say we think and say completely different things. What we actually both believe in are strong public services, but they need to change. And what I was talking about was the need to change in our public sector. If we're going to deliver really good services for people, whether it's in schools or hospitals or whatever, then we've got to have change. We're putting in extra money and extra investment but we've still got to have that change ...

"We can't get that big improvement unless we're not just prepared to put the money in, but we're also prepared to make the changes too ...

"It takes a lot of time to build the hospitals, get the nurses in, train the doctors ... We've got to find new ways of working, for example new technology can transform many of the medical services we have in this country ... It's not that you have to choose between supporting the public sector and damning it."

"One of the things that really gets me impassioned when I'm sitting as prime minister, trying to get something done, is that you can have a really good idea, and you can try and drive it through from the top and by the time it reaches all the way down to the people that have got to deliver it on the ground, there's half a dozen layers of bureaucracy, there's far too many rules and regulations and we can get rid of a lot of that ... It is a system that says, 'Don't take risks ever in the public sector.'

"People have tried to divide John and I from the time we became leader and deputy leader together. Now I don't say that we come from the same part of the Labour Party, because we don't. And I don't say we come from the same background because we don't. But I think he is a decent, good man who has been a wonderful deputy to me and although he comes from a traditional wing of the Labour Party and I come from a modern wing of the Labour Party, we both believe in the same things. People say John Prescott's not in favour of change in the Labour Party. John Prescott was the man that actually made the speech that won One Member One Vote in the Labour Party, the biggest democratic reform we ever had. He's the man who, together with me, put through the new Clause Four in the Labour Party ... but yes, he believes in what he would describe as traditional socialist values and there's nothing wrong with that, they're perfectly good values."

You said:

How can Mr. Blair claim to be supporting the NHS and recruiting more doctors when, at the same time, he has exempted doctors from the principles of the Working Time Directive which is the flagship European Union law for employment rights?
Sam Harry

What did Tony Blair mean by changes must be made to the Public Sector? Does he mean that like the Tories, services will be contracted out to private companies? If so, this will mean disaster to many. Employees will lose, recipients of care will lose, everyone loses except the private sector. Because of policies like these the Tories were kicked out. Now even in my local area Labour has been put out and the majority along with myself (despite being a Labour voter) have voted for a SNP council.
Stewart Steen

I think that Tony Blair has made a good job of world affairs - Kosovo and Northern Ireland in particular. However, speaking as a teacher I find his remarks about the willingness of those in the public sector to change most unhelpful. In my 25 years teaching I have been involved in constant change. This year I am introducing three new courses in Physics, with new approaches to teaching but without the resources I need to do it effectively. It seems to me that government prefers the old ways - the way things have always been done - i.e. underpay teachers and under-resource them; but blame them all the same.
Joe McGrath

There was an old joke on Drop the Dead Donkey where someone rushes in and says 'Hold the front page, there is a new education policy coming out'. The reply is ... of course there is, it's Tuesday. Nowadays this would not even be a joke. In the education world, new policies come out EVERY DAY WITHOUT FAIL and Tony Blair has the brass cheek to say public sector workers are resistant to change! What we are resistant to is ill thought out, will o' the wisp policies that are here today, gone tomorrow for ministers, but cause untold damage and disruption to our education system. Citizenship education, accident prevention, anti-teenage pregnancy education, revamped sex education, interminable Ofsted documents, syllabus changes, ITC orders, literacy and numeracy hours, standard orders for National Curriculum subjects, huge mountains of paperwork daily - all telling teachers how to do there jobs. Inclusivity, entitlement, home school agreements, you name it. we've got it ... and more tomorrow! We are not resistant to change, we are resistant to time-wasting administration which is stifling the system and damaging our children's education.
Tom Corbett

As a Public sector worker I felt betrayed and belittled by the Prime Minister's comments this week regarding the Public Sector's unwillingness to change.
Ian Kellar

Why, oh why is this government so hostile to public service workers? These people have raised their legitimate concerns about NHS reforms, education reforms and the continued use of PFIs. Whether they are NHS doctors or school janitors we have seen New Labour attack, and in some cases take disciplinary action against them (two janitors recently in Edinburgh). This PM seems to enthralled by the ethics (?) of big business and the narrow minded prejudice of Middle England. No wonder John Prescott's remarks are being seen as an attempt to correct the PM's blinkered attitude.

I'm a traditional Labour supporter. Whilst I appreciate the need for some change in our society, why does Tony Blair appear to believe that change is good regardless? One of the many reasons many people wanted the Tories out was we thought the constant change would come to and end and we would have some stability. His preoccupation with change is disturbing.
David Hayes

The prime Minister just said that the literacy hour is working - IT IS NOT - my child used to read regularly with his teacher. He is now lucky if she reads with him twice a month. If it was not for the fact that my wife and I read with him daily his progress would be going backwards.
Eric Lacey

European single currency

Audience question: When are you going to have the courage to debate for what you actually believe?

Tony Blair said: "There are three positions on the euro, two of which in my view are foolish. One is to rule it out, regardless of the economic conditions, which is effectively the Conservative position now. The other is to go in regardless of the economic conditions. And the third, which is my view is to say it's a good idea provided that the economic conditions are right for Britain. They're not right at the moment. If the economic conditions are met then in my view it's a good idea ...

"I don't regard there as being a democratic barrier to joining the single currency. I think it should be the final choice of people in a referendum ...

"All I'm saying to you is this is a changing world, it's moving closer and closer together. We can take the decision as a country. But for goodness sake let us not rule anything out and let us keep our options open."

You said:

Tony Blair completely failed to answer a question from the audience regarding the democratic consequences of joining the European Single Currency. He consistently fails to debate why he and his party are in favour of joining the euro when and if the right economic conditions exist. Instead he stalls behind his usual defence of "we will debate the issue when the right economic conditions have been met". Does Mr Blair think the electorate are stupid?
Brett Golledge

If the level of the country's debate is on the lines Mr Blair outlined last night then it will be of the usual poor standard. What he seemed to be suggesting was the same as he expects from the Parliamentary Labour Party which is, when I decide, you LOT ' WILL' vote in favour. Since we have had several decades of the Common Market and they are still having trouble operating in unison then heaven help the whole of Europe if the politicians try to run a federal Europe. It has taken them 20 years to decide it is okay to eat British chocolate.
Bill Napier

If we have more to gain by joining, let's do it, and stop talking around the issue.
Jason Hill

If we go into Europe, there is no guarantee over interest rates as they will be set centrally. Changes in interest rates will affect the people of Britain much more than continentals as there is a much higher percentage of property ownership. Renting is far more the norm on the continent. Why is this never raised as an issue given that this is probably the thing - interest rates that will/can have the most significant effect on the British general publics lives?
Surinder Vir

Mayor of London

Audience question: Ken Livingstone was a popular leader of the GLC and is now the obvious choice as the Labour nomination for Mayor of London. Why are you so reluctant to adopt him?

Tony Blair said: "Once we start the procedures up in the autumn, then I'll state my position on it. I understand why people say it's a popular choice but I want to make sure it's also the right choice for the Labour Party ...

Northern Ireland peace process

Audience question: Do you believe Sinn Fein speaks for the IRA on disarmament? They recently claimed that they don't.

Tony Blair said: "Yes, I think they do. I don't say it's exactly the same, but I think, as I've said before, they are inextricably linked together ... The Republican movement is effectively one movement, let's not beat about the bush on this."

"People don't trust words in Northern Ireland. They don't trust words from each other, they don't trust words from me, they don't trust words from anybody. And therefore the only way we can guarantee this, is to make it dependent on actions. If those actions don't happen then we rewind the position to where it is today. So my answer to the Unionists who are concerned about going into this is to say to them, 'Look you're not losing anything by it, because you go back if they default.'"

"We've been waiting 15 months to try and get this executive set up. It's the last bit of the jigsaw that needs to fit into place. Let's at least give it a chance to work, rather than pulling the plug on it now on the basis we don't believe Sinn Fein will ever do it, and then we'll never know. And then they'll sit there and say, 'Well we might have done it' and the Unionists will sit there saying, 'We couldn't quite trust you to do it.'"

You said:

Blair says the Unionists "don't trust words". Whose fault is that? Who was it that promised decommissioning before the executive was set up? He says now that the executive ought to be set up first because otherwise "We'll never know". The IRA is not going to give up its weapons regardless of whether an executive is set up or not, and only an idiot would think anything else. It's a sad day when the British government, given the choice between backing the law-abiding or backing criminals, chooses terrorism and bullying.
Alex Swanson

Rumours of a cabinet reshuffle

Audience question: Is Mo Mowlam going to be cast aside as a Unionist peace offering?

Tony Blair said: "No certainly not ... Mo has done a fantastic job in Northern Ireland, nobody knows that better than me. And I spent last week there, five days of intensive negotiations - need a bit of a rest afterwards. And she's had two years of it so I know exactly what she's been through. She's done a fantastic job and she does a wonderful job in whatever capacity in government."

The future of the Post Office

Audience question: Can the prime minister assure the country that the post office will not be privatised under a Labour government?

Tony Blair said: "Yes, I can say that, and we've said that if any part of the share holding is to be sold then there'll be primary legislation, so we'll have another debate at that time if that happens. But actually we don't, that isn't our preference, our preference is to give it more commercial freedom ... The Post Office can't raise a lot of the money it needs, it hasn't got the commercial freedom it needs. We don't need to privatise it to give it that, we can do it a better way."

"As far as I'm concerned we won't privatise it ... we don't rule out in the future, if it became necessary, selling a portion of it. That's not privatising it."

You said:

With the Post Office becoming a PLC can the prime minister see the day when the Royal Mail becomes a company of a Germany or other EU owned company. Surely it must always be a United Kingdom company! Stop this rush to follow Thatcher and do something for this country! Give them freedom but keep them public.
Richard E Harris

Nato air strikes on Kosovo

Audience question: Nato managed to destroy only 13 Serbian tanks in the recent Kosovo conflict despite government claims of much greater success. Were we deliberately misled? Can we now have an inquiry?

Tony Blair said: "The basic facts are that he lost, we won and I'd have thought that should be good enough for most people ... As to how many tanks were destroyed we haven't had the full assessment of that yet ...

"We were prepared to take a lead in this conflict and I don't apologise for it, I think we did the right thing and I think it would have been an affront to civilisation if we'd allowed that ethnic cleansing to go on without taking military action to stop it."

You said:

Mr Blair has shown that he can be tactile diplomat, by the way he lead to a certain extent, Nato countries in the way they dealt with the Kosovo crisis. But I think a dispute that is closer to home, namely one that Britain was partially responsible, for has been brewing for the last 50 years. Currently there are some signs it could explode into nuclear warfare. I am talking of course about the dispute over Kashmir. Is it not about time that Britain who bears some of the responsibility for this conflict, should do something about it, before its too late?
Armagan Akram

In Kosovo we fought a war because a minority group were being persecuted and kept in a country despite the fact that it was the democratic will of the area that they live in to become independent. One of our allies in that war was Turkey - where a minority group are being persecuted and kept in the country, despite the fact that it is their democratic will to leave it. Double-standards?
Tom Whipple

Transport

Audience question: In light of the recent chaos in the London Underground and also the extensive congestion on London's roads, not to mention the confusion on the railways, how does the government view its progress on improving Britain's transport system?

Tony Blair said: "Well again it's going to take time to do ... If you look at what's happening with London Underground you've had years and years of under-investment ... You've got the Circle line, which is a safety issue, it's got to be closed for safety reasons, for several weeks as they make it safe, because the infrastructure's Victorian infrastructure. And you've got the situation on the Northern line where they're closing it in order to putting the new stock on and the trains will actually be quicker after that ...

"If you look at the numbers of people travelling on the railways they've in fact increased, not diminished ... It takes a bit of time to turn round 18 years of neglect."

You said:

We have seen that the train operating companies that have won franchises in this country have substantially grown, both passenger and freight traffic within the UK and also, export via the Channel Tunnel. Can the government not extend the franchises of the companies that have done well, and introduce incentives to encourage passengers onto the trains from their cars and reducing pollution on the roads? I work as a ticket inspector and am in no way management for WAGN Railway.
Steve Strachan, Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire

We all agree that there is too much traffic on our roads, but with the increasing cost of driving and lack of investment in public transport, how is the prime minister going to help those in rural areas who have little or no access to public transport?
Ant Mor

Fox hunting

Audience questions: Some time ago 400-plus MPs voted to ban fox hunting. When will it be banned?

Tony Blair said: "We'll get the vote to ban it as soon as we possibly can. We had one try at it last session, it was blocked by Conservatives in the House of Commons and the House of Lords and we're looking now at ways of bringing it forward in a future session that will allow people to have a vote and actually carry it through ...

"We had a government legislative programme and you tell me which of the measures on the health service or education or any of the rest, or crime, you would have wanted us to drop. But what we have said is that in future sessions we'll try and make space."

You said:

Congratulations to Mr Blair for assuring the public that the hunting issue is far from over and that a ban is soon to come. Living in North Devon, where the issue of hunting is always on the agenda, it becomes clear that the argument is not one of town vs. country as supporters of bloodsports often claim, and support for a ban in an area that is often dubbed "England's hunting heartland" is very great. It is areas such as these where the cheers will be loudest when hunting is finally confined to the history books. People must remember that hunting is a sport, and the arguments that have sprung up in recent years are nothing but weak excuses. Ex-Daily Telegraph editor Max Hastings (who hunts himself), can be quoted as saying " ... one of the silliest arguments the fox-hunters have advanced is that what they're doing has anything to do with control ... there is no way that you can get away from the fact that field sports are cruel". When comments like this come from hunters themselves it demonstrates the hunting argument in its true form.
Lawrence Williams

Mr Blair is a soundbite politician under pressure from poor election results and the traditional wing of his party. He is looking for cheap votes by raising the issue of fox hunting. The majority of people may wish to ban hunting but we have an urban majority being run by an urban government. There are real issues in the rural community as highlighted by the MMC report which suggest milk price is artificially high. UK milk price is the lowest in Europe! There are many rural issues including an agriculture in crisis, lack of public transport, taxes on fuel, post offices/ shops and many other issues that would benefit from real discussion in the House not soundbite politics and an attack on rural Britain. Mr Blair talked of "one nation". That appears to be only relevant if you live in a town. 300,000 plus people marched through London in peace last March to demonstrate the concern for rural issues. The rural economy has declined further since then and a fresh attack on that community is not required form the Prime Minister. Mr Blair should look at the real issues facing the countryside, not gain cheap votes to appease the urban majority. Mr Blair can expect a fight on the fox hunting bill and look out for an even bigger march if required. I cannot guarantee the mood of such a march the next time round if this is what is required to raise the issue of the rural minority.
Mick Blanshard

Had individual conscience been the only obstruction to the improvement of animal welfare in this country, then we would still have bear-baiting and cock-fighting. Of course legislation has to be introduced to ban this barbaric sport of which no-one in modern Britain should be proud. As for this absurd minority rights argument, we can be glad that no-one fighting for the end to apartheid in South Africa saw any relevance in that spurious argument. We should also remember that this is not a divisive argument - it is one that unites town and country since an overwhelming majority of each agree that hunting has no place in modern society and should be banned. Blair will be cheered from City to Shire for his stand on this issue, and the sooner he acts to ban hunting with dogs, the closer we take another step towards his vision of a true Modern Britain.
Simon Pope

I am surprised the prime minister should make time for legislation on fox-hunting. Labour promised a free vote on the subject - it was debated and voted on. End of story. Hunting's participants come from every social and income level in the country - every occupation (including vets, preachers and politicians). Don't take our right in a free society to make up our own minds.
Charlie Wolf

I am delighted that Tony Blair has reaffirmed his intention to ban fox hunting. There is no place for this cruel and barbaric practice in the 21st century just as there isn't for bear bating, cock fighting and all other offensive "blood sports". I shall give serious consideration to rejoining the Labour Party if he honours this promise.
Dr Brian Webb, University of Southampton (and countryside dweller)

I was surprised and concerned to see the divisive question of hunting raised on the programme. It should be up to the individual's conscience, as previous governments have decided, and should not be sacrificed on the alter of political correctness to satisfy an urban-based and biased Parliament. 150,000 people gathered peacefully in Hyde Park two years and 400,000 marched through London last year; they were all concerned that the rights of minorities were coming under attack and judging by Mr Blair's comments he has decided to declare war on the countryside. He should reconsider. As we said last year: 'Listen to your countryside'. We have the right to be heard and our traditions and civil rights maintained unhindered and free from attack.
Kenneth Bartlett






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