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


December 2, Cardiff

The panellists were:

  • Paul Murphy MP, Welsh Secretary
  • Nigel Evans MP, Tory spokesman on Welsh Affairs
  • Helen Mary Jones AM, Plaid Cymru spokeswoman on Social Policy
  • Eva Pascoe, founder of the internet café chain, Cyberia
  • Dr David Starkey, constitutional historian and broadcaster
The topics discussed were:

A suitable education minister?

Audience Question: Is Martin McGuinness the right man to be Northern Ireland's Minister of Education?

Nigel Evans: It's the lesser of two evils. It's remarkable that we now have the IRA's former chief of staff prepared to put aside the bullet and the bomb. He's directly elected to the House of Commons if he would take his seat. We now want to see the IRA and the other paramilitaries handing in their weapons.

Dr David Starkey: With all of this guff about forgetting it is difficult to forgive although it's up to the people of Northern Ireland to do the forgiving. Ministers of education are responsible for children. The IRA carries out the most shocking punishment beatings of children as young as 14. I would like him to condemn that. Do we want a dirty peace or a clean peace? Local politics there is profoundly corrupt because of gangsterism.

Helen Mary Jones: The whole point of devolution is that it has to be up to them. There are things we can say about all of their pasts that are unpleasant. We only have to look at South Africa to see how difficult it is to forgive. We have to try to let this work out.

Paul Murphy: It's better to have Martin McGuinness as minister of education than return to the days of violence. I'm sad I wasn't there on this historic day. When we started the process the leaders weren't talking to each other. Today they are sitting around the table together. It all depends on trust and confidence being built up.

Eva Pascoe: From the point of view of someone from Eastern Europe its impressive the way the situation has been resolved. As a technology worker a job in education is critical and difficult. The place is in bad shape because no one wants to invest there and people have the wrong skills.

You said:

How will qualified teachers feel about a convicted criminal being in charge of education when a teacher is unemployable if they have a criminal record for a much less serious matter?
Robin Morrow, Cambridge

In response to Paul Murphy's view that a period of trust and confidence needs to build up with Mr McGuiness' appointment. I think that he can best 'educate' and lead by example in his new post by publicly denouncing all groups who fail to decommission by February, only by this can he hope to gain any credibility with the people of Northern Ireland and its children who now are looking to him to show the way to a future of hope, not violence.
Ross Bundy, Ealing

Why is it being put forward that the IRA will give up ALL of their weapons? And why has no one mentioned that the loyalist and union terrorists have also to hand over their guns and bombs. Dr Ian Paisley is to the UDA, what Gerry Adams is to the IRA. Personally I give N. Ireland 2-3 weeks before we see one of the biggest bloodbaths we've ever witnessed there, and I hope that our own soldiers ARE NOT present in to stand by.
Martin Booth Oban

Is Martin McGuiness the right person to be the minister of education? If the people of N.I. had elected him to be, then fine, but he was 'placed' there by his peers. Dr Starkey felt that before Mr McGuiness accepts this post, he should apologise on behalf of and denounce the activities of the IRA. The IRA not only brought human suffering to N.I. but to mainland Britain as well. Not only should it be coming from Mr McGuiness but from Gerry Adams as well. When they have found the courage to do that, then I think the IRA will and must decommission their arms, until that happens, I have my doubts.
Mark Howlett, Wareham

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Pop stars and drugs

Audience Question: Following the comments of Cerys Matthews (of Catatonia) concerning drug dealers does the panel think young role models have to give a good example to their fans?

Eva Pascoe: For one bad one there are ten good ones. I just came back from an Amnesty International concert where a lot of stars are doing good things. They are teenagers in spirit and we can't expect all of them to behave perfectly. Isn't the irresponsibility on the side of the Mirror who printed this stupid story?

Paul Murphy: They do have to set an example. The greatest scourge in my constituency is of drugs from the earliest age. She should look at the results of drugs.

Nigel Evans: She gave an interview to the Melody Maker which is read by many young people. She doesn't understand the effect she has on young people. Young people don't entertain "Just Say No". She has a responsibility not to be flippant.

Helen Mary Jones: If you think young people are using drugs because of pop stars. I think young people should be given a bit of credit. I think what she said was thoughtless and she shouldn't have said it. We have to educate young people about the effects.

Dr David Starkey: The drug scene penetrates the rock scene to its core. Criminalising all drugs is not working. The attempt at banning alcohol in America led directly to the Mafia. The reason drugs are involved in crime is because they are expensive and illegal and you have to steal money in order to buy them. Her remarks are typical of somebody like that. What do you expect of pop stars? She's a role model for rebellion and silliness.

You said:

Drugs, pop stars and irreverence were a vehicle for social transformation. I am a musician The role of the artist is to push through the bounds of common perception. Elton John is not a ground-breaking artist. As Dr Starkey said, he comes as a "package". This means that nothing he does can be taken out of context with his role as the safe face of titillation and ignorance. Pop stars are given deals by companies who are terrified of taking chances. They tow the line, tout cheap sensationalist images, indulge in drugs and generally serve to obscure any of the recent developments in music, such as drum n bass, which itself is constantly undermined by gross commercial interest.
James Finlayson

I am surprised, given the age of the majority of the panel (and audience), with regard to the Catatonia/drugs question, that the names of Keith Richards, Janice Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Marc Bolan, Oasis etc., etc., didn't arise once. If celebrities have such an effect on the youth of the time, surely we should be a nation of class 'A' drug users by now?
Sean O'Farrell, London

Why is so little being done to discourage the drugs situation in Britain today? The media take such a weak standpoint it is appalling. A drug-ridden society is not going to benefit us in any way and taking drugs is also against the law so why is it not discouraged with maximum intent? The drug culture that grew from the reckless behaviour of the sixties has never been ridiculed by the press, perhaps this is because many of the columnists writing today grew up during that time and do not wish to put down their childhood years. I believe that the only way the war against drugs can be won is to get off the fence and stand your ground. Not, as some people say, it's too much of a struggle and we should give up.
Neil Price, Leighton Buzzard

Cerys Matthews and Elton John, like so many other people in the entertainment industry are NOT ROLE MODELS, they are famous. It's not the same thing and to put the onus of responsibility for society's ills on their shoulders is a cop out.
Ian Smith, Barnsley

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Elton John's offence

Audience Question: Does the panel think that Elton John's recent performance offended public decency?

Dr David Starkey: These people come as a package. The pop world is frivolous, extravagant, countercultural and mad - end of story. If you want to give people knighthoods this is what you get.

Nigel Evans: It's said that Elton's done this. He hasn't done the cause of homosexuality any good. On World Aids day I don't think he did any great service to the Aids community.

Helen Mary Jones: The image is wrong and there's an undercurrent of homophobia in the coverage this story got. I'm very concerned about the images of young girls' bodies. Paul Murphy: He totally destroyed the message of introducing more tolerance in this country. The point is that all homosexuals are not paedophiles, which was totally destroyed.

Eva Pascoe: I've moved away from newspapers. The Zoom website doesn't have any opinion, just facts. We don't have to buy these newspapers.

You said:

It seems to me that when an openly gay man does anything that is suggestive of sexuality in youth then 'obviously' there's some suggestion of paedophilia. Whereas heterosexual (well - female) sexualised images of youth are seen all the time and is barely remarked on by the media.
Meena Kumari, Ealing

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Democracy or Anarchy?

Audience Question: Do the scenes in London and Seattle present a favourable or unfavourable image of democracy and anarchy?

Dr David Starkey: Bill Clinton said the riots presented a double face. There were lots of wrong-headed but sincere, passionate people protesting peacefully. A democracy that cannot take street protests is very seriously at risk. Equally there is no reason why we should tolerate violence. Protesting against capitalism is foolish. We're all well-off because of capitalism. The Labour government want to censor the internet because they're terrified of freedom.

Helen Mary Jones: It's because of global capitalism that you have hundreds of children dying every day Africa. There is evidence to suggest the police did overreact. A very small minority of people undermined what was a serious protest. You haven't seen those numbers of people on the streets in America since Vietnam. If people had simply written to their MPs we wouldn't be discussing it now. We can't disregard the idea of agents provocoteurs.

Eva Pascoe: We will see more of these protests because they were organised on the internet. For the last 30 years we have forgotten how to organise public protests. It's a tool we have to embrace and bring back to the political process.

Nigel Evans: There are a small group of violent people hiding behind the peaceful demonstrators. Being able to take to the streets as people have done for generations is vital. The police knew people were organising a riot on the internet. There are 15,600 new tariffs currently being imposed on goods we are all buying.

Paul Murphy: The message is blurred. Anarchy has been highlighted. We don't have to have riots to highlight an issue. We have to balance the right to protest with the horrible scenes on our streets.

You said:

The over zealous actions of the police were undemocratic and confrontational. And they call this the free world!
Ken Mutchell, Milton Keynes

This evening's panel appear to have very short memories in regard to the N30 protestors, and the right of protest for UK citizens. Eight or so weeks ago protestors against the Chinese government where thrown out of public parks for waving flags!
Andy Bradley, Redhill

The ideology of multinational corporate business has nothing to do with social justice. The fact is that business on any scale depends upon social injustice, how else can you make it for less and sell it for more? This will be the greatest risk to what little stability exists in the world in the next century.
Ian Smith, Barnsley

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Scapegoating Prescott

Audience Question: Is the deputy PM is going to become the political scapegoat for ill thought-out Labour transport policies?

Helen Mary Jones: He doesn't strike me as scapegoat material. There is a serious issue about transport policy. If the current bill goes through we as a national assembly aren't going to have any influence on rail transport in Wales.

Nigel Evans: John Prescott has been sent packing to India to have a look at transport there. I wish he'd have a look at transport here. It's gone from rolling stock to laughing stock. We've got amongst the most expensive petrol in the world. Everybody is suffering.

Paul Murphy: He's a very tough character but has one of the most difficult briefs in government.

Dr David Starkey: He's a cabinet minister who can't even string a sentence together. What happens when someone can't explain a complicated policy properly? He's not up to it. He's there with all his mangled vowels because he symbolises old Labour.

Eva Pascoe: The job is about being logical but his approach seems haphazard. Transport is about logistics and technology. About the privatisation of air traffic control, I've seen a lot of private companies that have a great risk culture. They rarely have any problems and risk can be maintained in both private and national organisations.

You said:

There is no difference between Public-Private Partnerships and Privatisation. We have tragically seen the results of Railtrack's attitude towards safety and profit. The Government need to re-think their proposals for the sell-off of the National Air Traffic Services. Safety and profit are not compatible.
Mike Debeer, Cheshire

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Stadium stinker

Audience Question: Is a speculative bid to host the Olympic games sufficient reason to jeopardise England's chances of hosting the biggest sporting event in the world?

Paul Murphy: Come and have a look at how we did it in Wales with the Millennium Stadium. The whole bid for it started during the previous government. Public-Private Partnership (PPP) is a way of harnessing money we didn't have before.

Helen Mary Jones: This is a serious mess because of the amount of public money spent. It looks like the Wembley company were asked to do one thing, they went ahead and did it and then half way through told to do something else. You can't keep blaming the Tories. With Public-Private Partnership you put your children into hock for generations. We have to admit there are some things best funded out of the public purse paid for taxpayers who can afford to pay.

Nigel Evans: The British Olympic association told them how many seats they needed: 80,000. If you're having athletics in there it brings it down to 67,500. They simply can't do it. If you're going to spend £475m on a stadium for goodness sake get it right. We're laughing stocks throughout the world because of the pickle this government has got us into.

Eva Pascoe: We have had enough of Lord Foster's buildings in London. It would be nice to see some younger, funkier architects given a shot. They point of transparency is important. The KPMG report on the tube is still offline. Why don't they publish it on the internet?

Dr David Starkey: The government is not doing it by itself but in partnership with a ruthlessly commercial interest that wants to have a football stadium built quickly that's good for nothing but football. This is the problem with Public-Private Partnership. People come up with their own money if it suits their interest. If you want something for the national interest you have to pay for it honestly out of taxation. Give us an example of PPP when it's worked.

You said:

How will hundreds of millions of pounds spent on stadia that most of us will not be able to get into do us any good? So-called democratic governments of countries around the world aspire to attract the Olympics and 'World' Cups of (mere) games for what - glory? It will generate business and tourism, they say. All cities shelling out millions on infrastructure end up subsidising businesses - local and international - to the cost of tax-payers. Dubious public-private partnership initiatives for hotels, transport, sporting venues, etc¿ end up with the hosts registering a net loss. Are we benevolent mugs - as well as irrepressible sports fanatics? I think not.
Raju, Birmingham

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