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


January 27, Southampton

This week the panelists were:

    Harriet Harman MP, former Social Security Secretary
    Francis Maude MP, shadow Chancellor
    Mark Oaten MP, the Liberal Democrat Leader's PPS
    Christina Odone, deputy editor of the New Statesman
    Simon Fanshawe, broadcaster and columnist

The topics discussed were:

Repealing Section 28

Audience Question: Is Mr Blair's stated intention of supporting the promotion of a homosexual lifestyle to our children is the nail in the coffin of normal family life?

Harriet Harman: He's not trying to promote homosexuality. We shouldn't have this offence on the statute book. The idea of it not promoting 'real' family life is wrong.

Mark Oaten: Children can hear these issues discussed on Eastenders but not at school. We need a sensible debate on these issues.

Francis Maude: Those of us with children at school want to be sure they are not going to be exposed to homosexuality as a legitimate alternative.

Simon Fanshawe: The notion of promotion is unhelpful. Sexuality does not help you to determine the morality of a person at all. 66% of people support the repeal of this law.

Audience comment: Homosexuality is not the norm. We should be teaching children normal values about normal family life.

Simon Fanshawe: Neither is being black the norm but you don't go round saying black people are less valid than white people.

Christina Odone: The wording of this section is totally misleading. Promoting homosexuality is not acceptable but education is necessary. One in three gay men or women were beaten up last year.

You said:

The Prime Minister by the lead he gives, is actively promoting gay relationships as an acceptable alternative lifestyle. In this he undermines the moral fabric of the country. I refer to his programme of encouraging gays out of the closet and into the Cabinet.
Laurence M. Furlong, Liverpool

I take exception to the equation of blacks and their plight to issues of gay rights. Whilst one can choose to be gay as a way of life, there is no much choice as to whether one is black. This trivialises the terrible suffering and injustices suffered by blacks.
Richard Nfor, Reading

It's appalling that we should even consider allowing homosexuals to have such a view contaminating our children at school.80% of Scots are totally against such a move and the politicians should take heed of our view and not their own personal crusades.
John Anderson, Bathgate

I take exception to Mr. Nfor's remarks - one does not choose sexuality any more than racial origin. To think that you do choose, is sadly ignorance in its own right - something which the repeal of section 28 may help to prevent in the future.
Mark Edwards, Southampton

I have the right to decide what my children learn, and I will inform them on all issues concerning race, sex, religion, politics and their growing up. Families should determine with schools how children best learn about the different TYPE of person and that feelings are normal.
Ilene Marsh, Dumfries

Neither the panel or the audience have considered the fact that being gay is not something that is taught like maths or trainspotting. You do not learn to be gay. You are, and therefore it is critical that homosexuality is considered as normal as heterosexuality. Not only in schools but in society as a whole.
David King, Brighton

Parents who are so worried about Section 28 need to ask themselves why. Surely they can teach their own children what they feel is right? Do they distrust their parenting methods that much?!
Stella, Streatham, London

Allowing the open discussion of gay issues in schools will not only help reduce homophobia due to ignorance, but also arm young people with the facts regarding safe sex of any kind.
Gareth Jinkerson, Norwich

In teaching about sex, I see no reason why students should not be taught about homosexuality. Surely by doing this we limit future intolerance and ignorance which gay people today are forced to suffer. I remember in a social education lesson at school we were asked to submit subjects to explore in class. I chose homosexuality but my educational system denied it to me. Also there are also issues of 'safe-sex' which must be addressed. This is something that ALL young gay men should be made aware of. The easiest way to reach the masses is through our education system and it is long overdue.
Ailie, Eastbourne

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A thousand days of spin?

Audience Question: Is the Labour party celebrating a thousand days of power or a thousand days of spin?

Christina Odone: They have completely tried to manipulate us. We're going to elect Ken Livingstone in London because we're fed up with the prime minister trying to impose Frank Dobson on us.

Harriet Harman: Spin is more of a preoccupation amongst journalists than people on the ground. There are a number of things that didn't happen in the first thousand days. The economy didn't spiral out of control.

Francis Maude: There are some things that have not been as bad as we expected. The last thing I want is for them to make a mess of the country I live in. I admit to the charge that we weren't very good at spinning. We were getting on with governing. You can't compare the state of the country in 1979, when we were the sick man of Europe, to 1997.

Mark Oaten: You shouldn't patronise the public in saying you're going to solve all these problems in a thousand days. They should undo the tax cuts planned for April and use it on the NHS.

Simon Fanshawe: I'm in a mixed mood about the government. Journalists are either good and won't be spun or they don't know they're being spun. Stop writing about spinning and write about policy.

You said:

No one seemed to have considered the cumulative effect of 20 years of marketing culture on our perception of politics. It has insinuated itself into every crevice of our public life to the extent that marketing can make anything glitter; let's be aware that not everything that glitters, matters.
Emma Byers, Edinburgh

Most of the B"liar" family friends are now in taxpayers paid jobs, how many Task Forces exist now? How many enquiry teams now operating? The biggest joke Task Force to date must be the most recent:- To investigate the likelihood of earth being struck by objects from outer space. Or am I wrong and it's all a just bad dream?
M. E. R., Northumberland

In 1997 Gordon Brown said "We issue a warning to Britain's pensioners today that your pension is not safe with the Tories. This was supported by Labours 5-point plan, part of which was the " Saving the value of the basic state pension". Has Labour done that?
David Marriott, Taunton

As a gay male, I certainly do wish that homosexuality had been approached in sex education when I was at school. I only have memories of one of my teachers preaching how homosexuality was immoral and unnatural. Let's teach youngsters to accept themselves and each other for who they are.
Darren Ruffles, London

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Accountants' suits and school uniforms

Audience Question: Now that accountants don't have to wear suits should schools abolish school uniforms?

Simon Fanshawe: With the reputation accountants have the minute they stopped wearing suits I'd start wearing them. Harriet Harman: School uniform is cheaper and cuts down on the cost of clothes. Should we have dress-down days in the House of Commons?

Mark Oaten: Dress-down days in companies have resulted in better morale.

Francis Maude: I hate wearing a suit. It makes decision-making easier in the mornings. School uniforms are a great leveller. They instil a sense of belonging and pride in the school.

Christina Odone: I love suits because they camouflage all those masculine flaws.

You said:

School uniform may be a leveler amongst middle class families but for the very poor it is an extremely costly form of clothing.
Angela Goovaerts

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Fee-free Scottish universities?

Audience Question: Why should English and Welsh students have to pay money to go to a Scottish university when other European Union students won't?

Mark Oaten: There will be no up-front fees for students in Scotland. It was a Lib Dem commitment but we're only in government in Scotland.

Harriet Harman: The answer to why there's a different system in Scotland is devolution. We're going to see more of these situations and unintended situations arising. The Scottish students will still have to pay their tuition fees.

Francis Maude: This peculiar deal doesn't look that different to what it was replacing. The name has been changed to save face for the Liberals.

Christina Odone: I don't like to see university students having to pay to study.

Simon Fanshawe: Why should people from working class families feel it's an extraordinary achievement to get to university?

You said:

The tuition fee debate should surely not revolve around an English/Scot bias, but should centre on the utterly insidious, sinister way the Labour government has betrayed students since their coming to power. Lets centralise this debate, it does not help to marginalise the argument.
Corinne Baillie, Glasgow

I made a comment regarding the minimum wage on this evening's programme. Unfortunately I misquoted the rate as being 3.20. It seems that no one on the panel noticed this - or perhaps they do not care what young people get paid. Either way Harriet Harman did not dare promote the appalling fact that the rate is in fact only 3.00.
Caran Clay, Southampton

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Till death do us part?

Audience Question: Do you think the Church of England is accommodating the growing numbers of divorcees who want to remarry in church rather than following the teachings of Christ?

Christina Odone: It's a shame when a church decides to cut its cloth in order to suit the fashions of the day. The proposal will open up a Pandora's box of difficulties for the local vicar. It's slightly better than the Catholic alternative, annulment.

Harriet Harman: It's humane that they're recognising it. They will have plenty of guidelines - which will certainly prevent Charles and Camilla from remarrying.

Simon Fanshawe: People should be able to give it a second go.

Francis Maude: The Church of England are desperately bending over to accommodate a social trend. Marriage is, under the prayer book, a sacrament. I don't see that the church has the right to wash that all away.

Mark Oaten: The Church of England needs to move on rather than turning its back on an awful lot of people.

You said:

The role of the Church of England is not to reflect the changes in society. It is to give guidance to the populous of how to live a Christ-like life.
Simon, Leicester

Surprised to hear Francis Maude identify himself as a member of the Church of England and go on to say that marriage was a sacrament. He should take a look at the thirty-nine Articles of Religion, particularly the twenty-fifth.
John Farrand, Macclesfield

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Missing Prime Minister's Question Time

Audience Question: Prime Minister's Question Time was cancelled this week. Would anyone other than the prime minister and the leader of the opposition miss it if it never returned?

Simon Fanshawe: I enjoyed it. It's a nice knockabout. Some of them are good at it. I do miss Mrs Thatcher.

Harriet Harman: We tried it a different way. People watch it because its jousting.

Francis Maude: It would be missed. There is nowhere more exposed and lonely than the despatch box, where you're are held accountable.

Mark Oaten: The back bench Tories were going bonkers with speeches going on for 50 minutes. I was sat in as leader of the Lib Dems and was the chamber for 15 hours non-stop.

Christina Odone: I love it.

You said:

Why don't we have an "It's a Knockout"-style Prime Minister's Question Time? After all, the jousting is all highly practised, choreographed, and insincere. The idea that it's a Great British institution where democratic government is called to account is somewhat old-fashioned. It's about posturing, looking good, and point-scoring.
Raju, Birmingham

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