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 9, Manchester

On the panel were:

  • Roy Hattersley, former Labour deputy leader
  • Julie Kirkbride, Conservative MP
  • Susan Kramer, Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor of London
  • Phil Redmond, creator of TV soap Brookside and Chairman of Mersey Television
  • Bruce Anderson, political columnist, The Spectator

The topics discussed were:

Teenage pregnancies

Audience Question: If the father of the twins born this week had been 17 and the girl 13 he would have been prosecuted. Should she be prosecuted?

Phil Redmond: The law should operate equally. Parenting or citizenship do have to go back into education.

Bruce Anderson: It's irrelevant to prosecute. I don't know why teenage pregnancy happens.

Susan Kramer: We have a lack of ambition in our young people. It's a failure if that's as much as you see in your future. Countries that have good sex education have lower pregnancy rates.

Julie Kirkbride: I don't think she should be prosecuted.

Roy Hattersley: There's a big difference between two teenagers ruining each others lives and a man or woman of 45 sexually preying on a 13-year-old. We have a tendency to blame the victims. The boy is from a community with problems. Until we spent more money in areas like that this sort of thing is going to happen. Clearly this girl needs somewhere to live and a council house will solve her problem.

You said:

Once again the eager sound-biters on 'Question Time' have identified the group most responsible for all the major ills of the UK - who REALLY caused a 13-year old boy to impregnate a 17-year old girl? Teachers, of course! The answer to most of the country's problems is obvious - arrest all the teachers and deport them. Then fill the teaching vacancies created with the geniuses who get a fee to appear on television and spout drivel and let them do the job properly. They'd soon solve all the problems - wouldn't they?
Brian Dodds, Birmingham

We see more and more cases of sexism AGAINST MALES nowadays, not woman. If that boy had been 17, he would have been arrested. Is it only the common man, and not the politician, that can see this?
Clint Amadon

Don't blame sex education in schools. BLAME THE PARENTS. All education in life stems from parents. Where are they in the scheme of this scenario?
Louise Wishart, Hampton, Middx

While I have every sympathy with the 13 y/old boy and 17 y/old girl and the predicament they find themselves in. I find it appalling that they are paid by the press for their story. This sends out the wrong message to all other children, which is that you can behave as you like and you'll get by. Children have to learn to be responsible for their actions.
Larry Flanagan, Stalybridge

Regarding the 13 year-old boy and 17 year-old girl (and their twins!), I'm very surprised that no one either on the panel or in the audience raised the subject of parental responsibility (i.e. the parents of the teenagers involved). Did those parents not advise their children about sex and the possible outcome?
Kathy Gaston, Portsmouth

The main reason youngsters get pregnant is to ensure that they have a home of their own, independent of the circumstances of their immediate family, with the income which will come their way since they will be unable to work for quite some time.
David Ramsay

The elderly man in the audience who claimed there were no teenage pregnancies "in his day" forgets that back then, there was no sex!!! That is, no sex on TV, no sex in movies, DEFINATELY no sex in conversation, so it certainly didn't come into the minds of kids to try it out. Now, sex is everywhere, so it's in the back of all kids minds when they are with their boyfriends and girlfriends.
Steve Piers, Morecambe

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North-South divide

Audience Question: Is there a North-South divide and is it in the interests of the North to keep it that way?

Bruce Anderson: I'm a Northerner myself. There isn't a North-South divide - there are many parts of the North that are very well off. Get rid of these feudalising Labour politicians. There are far to few businesses with headquarters north of London.

Roy Hattersley: We know that income per head is lower, there is greater poverty and ambitious people still travel South for jobs. I want the North to get its fair share of national resources and international prestige.

Julie Kirkbride: For 18 years Tony Blair insisted that there was a North-South divide. If you look at all the indicators there is a divide but there are huge pockets of wealth in the North. The government has to address the transport issues.

Phil Redmond: The real issue is centralisation versus the regions. A good example is the Dome. If you're going to spend all that money why isn't it somewhere central like Birmingham?

Susan Kramer: 13 of the 20 poorest districts in the country are in London. London pays far more in tax than it gets back in support. Poor people in London have to fight with poor people from the North over crumbs. We are being played off against each other.

You said:

The main loss seems to be the educated youngsters are moving from the North to the South, leaving a talent deprived Northern economy.
Paul Smith, Catterick Garrison

I am from Liverpool but have not worked in the UK for almost 25 years. The Brits I meet abroad are frequently from blue-collar backgrounds and from the North of England or Scotland. I wonder if people like this feel there is less opportunity for them in UK?
Henry Sewell, Rochester, NY

I was born and raised in Liverpool. My father came from the North, my mother came from Southampton. Even when I was growing up in the 1950's, I was aware of a North/South divide. On graduating from University in the North, most jobs were in the South...But houses there were expensive and out of reach, even in those days. My mother's family did not get along with the Northern family and there were perceived class prejudices, because of the geography. I believe that this divide has existed since the Industrial Revolution or even before?
Pat van der Veer, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Why are we spending millions of tax pounds on a new stadium in the South? It is the northern teams who will use it most. So lets reduce traffic congestion in the South and re-locate then thing up North.
Barrie Fairhurst, The Wirral

Would it not be an idea for a brave political party to ban all future housing development in the southern half of the UK for the next 10 years? Market forces have exhausted the workforce in many parts of the South, and maybe they need a push to move some of their operations away from the overcrowded, polluted areas of Southern England. Give Wales and those North of Milton Keynes the chance they are crying out for.
John Morgan, Oswestry

It is not so much north and south as it is rich and poor. The haves and have nots. But as we have seen from the WTO protests, the tide is turning.
Ms Khela, London

With North Sea oil Scotland should be one of the wealthiest countries in Europe. But this money is spent in London areas and the rest of us suffer. The people of Scotland will need to become independent to enjoy the wealth. People of Scotland should vote SNP in the next election and do your country a favour.
Brian Robertson, Glasgow

The European Commission in 1997 published its "Cohesion Report" which made the point that, while differences between member states were narrowing (mainly due to the poorer countries catching up), the differences between regions within member states were growing at a worrying pace, including in the wealthiest countries such as Britain. It makes no real sense, other than political, to claim that no major regional division exists just because there are pockets of affluence in poor regions in the North of the UK, and pockets of deprivation in the affluent South. I don't think anyone can deny that the South is racing away in terms of development and wealth. The Cabinet Office report is unconvincing. Surely though, rather than just play with statistics, what really matters is what can be done to restore a better balance between North and South as this division is damaging for the whole country.
Eileen Armstrong, Brussels

I find it hard to understand how the Government can deny that there is a North-South divide. However, if this brings the subject of widespread deprivation out for debate its worth it. The most important things to focus on though is the social and economic regeneration of disadvantaged areas whether they are in the North, the South, urban or rural.
Caroline Vernon-Jackson

I accept the programme came from Manchester but the panel and audience has made the basic error of assuming that this country is made up of 'the north' i.e. Manchester, Newcastle, Liverpool, Yorkshire, Nottingham, Lancashire, Leeds etc and 'the south' is London. What is life like for those of us who live in the south-west? The people with the cities and the biggest mouths make all the noise and get all the attention. Its cool to have a northern accent - you can be on TV or radio. Try being poor and getting on radio or TV with a West Country accent. The media is made up of Londoners and northerners. The rest of us should set you adrift to argue amongst your selves and have a more agreeable and easier life ourselves.
A Preston, Stroud

As a Londoner who adores the North I am sad to see, yet again, that we are at war over this. The audience had the right idea about it being better Up North. Colleagues of mine can afford a four bedroom detached house for what I pay for a one bed flat in London. Many enjoy a much higher standard of life. But everything is done for the South. The Queen lives here (we don't want her!!), Parliament is here, and it is clear that the millennium celebrations are based here. The North deserves a share of the fun. The North has so much to offer...and I would wish that as we start the next millennium the richness of the North is recognised.
Lesley Newton, Enfield , London

My mortgage has gone up just because of the need to restrain house prices in London via higher interest rates. Why can't the government introduce differential interest rates so that the problem of rate hikes/non hikes affects only the geographical areas that need attention?
Halim Chishtie, Leeds

Being from Cornwall, the poorest county in Britain, we are never represented in the big picture.
B. Pearce, Cornwall

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Fat cat footballers

Audience Question: Can a sportsman justify a salary of 50,000 per week?

Susan Kramer: I hope that people who receive that kind of money can give something back to the community.

Phil Redmond: Football is no longer a sport - it's part of entertainment now.

Roy Hattersley: If it's just the market it's justified. Wages of this sort are ruining football. The premiership is being divided into three sub-leagues. It used to be a people's game and now working men don't take their sons because they can't afford it.

Julie Kirkbride: We have a standard of football in this country. The market will decide this.

You said:

Is it not obvious that 50,000 a week is disgusting? Surely it is a job for FIFA to organise a fair and sensible wage structure for footballers world-wide, and therefore make it one of their main objectives to bring the spirit of football back to the game and take the commercial element out. If we endeavour to do this then maybe more people may be able to afford to go to matches and see a return of "atmosphere" instead of businessmen/corporate reps and other "fairweather" supporters.
Simon Earnshaw, Huddersfield

It is apparent that there is a huge shift in the make up of football match attendances. As wages force up seat and season ticket prices the traditional supporter is more and more being displaced and replaced by the 'corporate sector'. I can offer examples of those who can no longer afford to attend even home games and those who do now attend because, for examples, Sunderland's Stadium of Light is without those traditional supporters, the place to be seen.
Chris Turnbull, Durham

I like a great many other people find the amounts paid to today's top footballers obscene. I also believe that almost any experienced manager could make United a winning team. Compare that with a Unibond team such as Barrow. I just wish that Manchester United could lose a few games and put real pressure on them. Otherwise I feel that they will become richer and richer at the expenses of all other teams in the land. If people would only stop attending matches and buying goods and greatly inflated prices it would be impossible to pay such high wages.
Michael Ashton, Barrow in Furness

I have seen the facilities up there being a QPR fan myself...and Man Utd is amazing despite being much cheaper than most first division teams. They also put a great deal back into the community and are the most popular team in the world. No one complains about what Brad Pitt is paid per week. These people are just as important...football is our national game.
Lesley Newton, Enfield, London

How can anyone spend the amount of money he is getting. I earn 25,000 per year and I used to go to football matches, but not any more.
Joey Strickland, Bathgate Scotland

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"Non" to French produce?

Audience Question: Do the panel agree that the government should ban French produce?

Julie Kirkbride: The time has gone for that. We should have had a precautionary ban when it was discovered they had been feeding livestock sewage. I try and buy New World wines and have stopped buying French cheese.

Roy Hattersley: Are people going to be sent to prison for buying Renault cars? The French have behaved intolerably. The government were led on by perfidious French politicians.

Bruce Anderson: British beef is too good for the French.

Susan Kramer: If we ban French goods we'll have to ban goods from other countries as well: the US, South America. The govt was taken in by a process.

Phil Redmond: We started all this by feeding chickens to cows. We made a big mistake, we were the ones who got caught and we should shut up.

You said:

The action of the French government seems suddenly to be 'The French' in general. The action of a government is used to 'racially' (in common parlance) attack all French people. What would have happened if, say, a person of African/Asian descent was picked on for committing a crime in this country and their behaviour extrapolated to all Africans or Asians resident here? Roy Hattersley wouldn't have been smiling (yes I know he was against a ban) but the whole place would have been in uproar with cries of 'shameless racism'.

Everyone is complaining about the French not wanting to have British beef on their market. I agree with them. I don't trust any farmer in any country. I myself am a meat eater but I am very concerned about the actions of farmers. Whilst I sympathise with them I do not believe in making short cuts to making profits. What makes me laugh is people are up in arms about the French feeding their animals with treated sewage. Big deal. What are the British farmers feeding their animals?
Doherty, Birmingham

Aren't there enough animosities between the English and the French? The only way forward is to back the Prime Minister finally get justice through the European Courts.
David Evans, Crystal Palace

Given what has been said so far on the issue, what would we do (including our farming community) if the French government agreed to allow the resumption of British beef imports, but the consumers did not purchase it? Would we then declare war on the population of France? Would we lobby the EU to start individual prosecutions?
Chris Simmons, Bristol

I think we should maintain the moral high ground and resist any institutionalised efforts to ban French produce. Integrity will win out in the end, and we should continue to set an example for how the EU should function.
Ian Ray, Lewes

I would like to know why we can't test the French meat coming in this country for BSE because the French will not test their own meat for BSE.
Norman Pennington, Leigh

Britain should impose import restrictions and extra tariffs on French produce entering Britain, just like America did on European produce regarding Windward Island bananas.
Chris, Farnborough

The word "uncivilised" was used to describe the behaviour of the French over British beef. Surely to ban French produce in reaction would be just as uncivilised?
J.L. Smith, Cambridge

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Bugging Gerry Adams

Audience Question: Does the panel consider bugging Gerry Adams' car during the recent talks justifiable?

Roy Hattersley: It was foolish in a moment of great sensitivity.

Julie Kirkbride: We have to remember Mr Adams belongs to Sinn Fein which is the political wing of the IRA. It's not right to lower our guard.

Bruce Anderson: It is justifiable until and unless the IRA gives in weapons. Mr Adams hasn't handed over an ounce of Semtex. The only thing I object to is why did they get caught?

Susan Kramer: Can you imagine if this had been found in the middle of those negotiations. You had to have the IRA agreeing to handing over weapons.

Phil Redmond: I'm surprised that someone would do this.

You said:

The 2 Tories on the panel (Anderson and Kirkbride) both displayed distaste in allowing Adams & co. into the peace talks. The Tories had 18 years to defeat the IRA, and failed. I'm sure Mrs Thatcher spared no effort after they tried to kill her. Better that we grasp the chance of peace.
Robert Battye, Halifax

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Millennial commercialism

Audience Question: Is commercialism of the millennium overshadowing the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ 2000 years ago?

Bruce Anderson: Without Christianity we wouldn't be having this millennium. For 750m surely we could have got something like a cathedral.

Roy Hattersley: Half the Christian world doesn't think it's the 2000th anniversary of Ch. What we're celebrating is a tyranny of numbers. The Millennium Dome is a cultural, financial, aesthetic and social disaster.

Phil Redmond: It's a date in a calendar. It started as a great excuse for a party but we've priced ourselves out of the market. We should have had a memorial motorway around Birmingham.

Julie Kirkbride: We should all ignore the stuff that's being stuffed down our throats.

Susan Kramer: It's a great mark in the sand. I'd like something to be memorable.

You said:

You know as well as I that 2000 will be the last year of the 20th. century, not the first year of the 21st. I'm sure that about March next year the P.R. people and the spin doctors will come out and admit, "Hey, we got it wrong! Spend all your money again when it's the Real Millennium!" It may be a pedantic point but it shows how our leaders make the rest of us powerless to resist their falsehoods.
D L Woolf

That this is not the start of the new millennium is known to most people and there can be little damage if people wish to celebrate the coming of the year 2000. Like yourself, and it would seem most of the media, I regarded those who insisted on making the accurate point that this was not the new millennium as a little "anorak". However the commercial advantage that may be being sort by claiming this to be the new millennium is getting a little out of hand. I have recently been persuaded that to make this inaccurate claim is simply to argue that black is white because we want it to be. This is dangerous and misleading.
Dr N J Howarth

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