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 16, Leeds

On the panel were:

  • Margaret Beckett MP, leader of the House of Commons
  • Ken Clarke MP, former Chancellor of the Exchequer
  • Sir David Steel MSP, Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament
  • Michael Winner, film director and food critic
  • Dr Kristen Lippincott, Director, Royal Observatory, Greenwich

    The topics discussed were:

    James Bulger ruling

    Audience question: Do politicians have a role to play in deciding the length of custodial sentences?

    Ken Clarke: "I'm surprised we've kept this system for so long. You can trust politicians, despite popular belief, but I always felt it was wrong. I do think that sentences should be determined by the judge."

    Michael Winner: "Custodial sentences in this country are very light and they are not a deterrent. Governments should increase sentences by law."

    Kristen Lippincott: "I'm very split on this. The real problem was how do you try young offenders? At what point does a human being become responsible for his or her actions?"

    Lord Steel: "The point was that the judges heard the case, knew the evidence, saw the accused - and the home secretary comes in and takes a decision which was bound to be influenced by political pressure at the time and I think that's wrong."

    Margaret Beckett: "This is a very particular and specially horrible case. I don't believe it is right for politicians to have the role of intervening in this very kind of delicate and sensitive area, where perhaps more than any other kind of case dispassionate judgement and well-informed judgement is required."

    You said:

    I feel the European court was right to say the Bulger case was an unfair trial. This doesn't excuse the crime it simply considers the structure which considered their case, the public opinion and sentiment was simply overwhelming and certainly influenced the then Tory Home Office to secure votes by being hard. The boys must pay for their crimes but they should be reformed so they can put something back to society. It is right of the European Court to highlight the injustices of the system.
    Edward Hortop

    I am appalled at people's response to the children who killed Jamie Bulger, they were just children. The fact that children kill is so horrific we wish to punish them harder then adults and brand them monsters to avoid the obvious, which is these children were a product of this society and that makes us all to blame.
    Andrew Berry, Islington, London

    Venables and Thompson remain children, despite the brutality of their crime. It is important not to overlook this fact for the sake of the overriding demand for retribution. The two boys are paying heavily for their crime. Given that they are children, the opportunity for rehabilitation is greater than that of an adult. It is probably time to consider if the two boys are ready to be integrated back into society and also time for us to act rationally in this matter.
    Rekha Kodikara, London

    The amounts of money granted to Jamie Bulger's murderers is disgusting. And who is going to pay that money to them? Not the European court I bet.
    John Jones, Swadlincote

    I find it very hard to take European law verdicts on the jailing of the two killers of Jamie Bulger seriously, when other countries blatantly disregard European rulings.
    Jon Wiggins

    In the case of James Bulger, his murderers should be given no sympathy whatsoever. Think about the victim not the murderer.
    David Mezinger

    The boys that killed that poor child should be punished heavily, why should having an unfair trial reduce their sentence? Why not retry them?

    Michael Winner trots out the old right-wing notion that revenge is okay. This is an appeal to the basest instinct in humans ... the idea that British justice is the best in the world etc. It should not be allowed that the victim, who is naturely grief stricken, influence the verdict of the court. Various examples of peole who hve been the victims of horrendous crimes like the relative of Hindley and Brady are still being used by the tabloid press to suppress intelligent debate about the outcome of the judicial system. These people could have been helped at an earlier stage to deal with the grief they suffer. I have the utmost sympathy with the victims of crime but the right-wing agenda as espoused by people like Michael Winner should not be imposed upon the rest of society.
    Eddie Muligan, Huddersfield

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    Gender equality

    Audience question: If the winter fuel payments are sexist does this mean the state pension is also sexist?

    Kristen Lippincott "There have been great strides in favour of women's rights and now it's nice to see there have been strides in men's rights. If we're going to go for equality, we have to go for equality on both sides."

    Margaret Beckett: "Over time event we will end up with something of a common age. It is an enormous change and it's also a very expensive change."

    Ken Clarke: "The different age is silly. Women actually tend to live longer. We've already agreed to equalise the pension age, it's all been settled. It is going up to 65 for men and women on 1 January 2010."

    Michael Winner: "There is a whole welter of anomalies sitting in the system."

    You said:

    Maybe I'm completely missing the point here but if one section of society has access to a benefit in advance of another and this quicker access is based on sex, is this not sexist?
    Stephen Gallagher, Glasgow

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    National lottery bids

    Audience question: How can Richard Branson lose the bid to run the lottery as he did last time when he's going to give all the money to good causes?

    Michael Winner: "It's a very powerful argument that he's going to give everything to these causes. I don't think the lottery should ever have been run by people taking this enormous profit."

    Margaret Beckett: "Richard Branson clearly has a very powerful pitch in saying all the money will go to good causes."

    Lord Steel: "It was quite wrong the last time round that he wasn't given it because he did make this commitment."

    Ken Clarke: "The important thing is how much money goes to the good causes. You can easily run a not-for-profit organisation. Camelot won the competition because they were able to demonstrate that the way they were going to run it meant that more money would go to the good causes. If he [Richard Branson] can demonstrate that he will produce a bigger proportion of the public's money going to the good causes, that's fine."

    Kristen Lippincott: "Let's wait till we see the balance sheet, don't make a decision yet."

    You said:

    When it comes to the lottery, the salaries of the directors would be part of the contract tender just like any sensible business exchange.
    Jeff Pinkston

    I wholeheartedly concur that lottery money should be divested to the less fortunate. Richard Branson's rationale has great validity and I feel that he should be handed the lottery reins. Unfortunately, in the 21st century a large proportion of wealth is concentrated in the hands of too few people. It is time to redress the balance.
    Kamlesh, Wembley

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    London mayoral contest

    Audience question: Has the recent debacle over the candidacy for London mayor devalued the position irrevocably?

    Kristen Lippincott "Give us a couple of decades and we might be able to get it right. You can't imagine more things having gone wrong. It's very very embarrassing. It's turned into a beauty context and we haven't got any beauties."

    Michael Winner: "Tony Blair is a very skilled ruthless politician and I admire him greatly. And for him to make a total mess of this situation - they've known for years they were going to have this mayor, he created this mayor situation. And he's done absolutely nothing to prepare for it."

    Margaret Beckett: "I don't claim that we have handled it particularly skilfully, I would certainly accept that. But I think it is an achievement on no mean scale to make a bigger mess of it than we have. I think where we went wrong was that not enough people of standing and weight and experience wanted to come forward early enough for there to be a big enough pool of serious candidates to chose from."

    Ken Clarke: "What is the mayor going to do anyway? I think that's one reason why there's a slight shortage of heavyweight candidates."

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    Cancer survivor fights test-tube ruling

    Audience question: Is it right that a woman can have her eggs frozen but is prevented from having them fertilised?

    Margaret Beckett: "This is a very difficult one. Instinctively I think one assumes they [the eggs] belong to her [the woman]. It sounds as if the science is as complicated at the ethics."

    Lord Steel: "As a lay-person in this I would have thought that she would be entitled to recover parts of her own body and that the authorities shouldn't interfere."

    Kristen Lippincott: "I do think it's absurd. I would like to see her win her case and then to have her sue the pants off whoever interview her before she went in and donated her eggs."

    Michael Winner: "Anything that helps women have children who cannot have them is a marvellous thing."

    You said:

    If a woman has released part of her body to secure some kind of quality of life for the future then she should have the rights to that part of her body.
    Robert Vint, Romsey

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