May 18, 2000

May 11, London

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


May 11, London

You can still join Question Time's internet debate by emailing your views on the topics discussed in last week's programme to: questiontime@bbc.co.uk

Your emails will be published here during and after the programme.

You can watch the latest programme online in Real Video LIVE on Thursday (2300 GMT/2200 BST) by clicking on Latest edition.


Panellists on the programme last week were:

  • Charles Kennedy, MP, Leader of the Liberal Democrats
  • Lord Falconer of Thoroton, Minister in the Cabinet Office
  • Angela Browning, MP, Shadow Trade Secretary
  • Brian Souter, Chairman - Stagecoach Holdings
  • Boy George, Columnist and pop star

Profit before safety?

Should air traffic control be kept in public hands in view of comments made at the Paddington Inquiry concerning profits before safety?:

Lord Falconer: The critical thing about air traffic control is safety. Air traffic control needs very substantial investment (over one billion pounds) and the best way to get that is by a partnership with the private sector. But safety in paramount. And private partnership ensures long-term investment.
Public safety needs to remain in public hands. But we have lots of lessons to learn. We have to analyse all the issues. We have to address the issues on the information that we now have. I agree that safety

Charles Kennedy: There are two issues at work here - I think - no they should not go about the privatisation of air traffic control. As a habitual traveller I tend to believe the pilots when they say this is not they way to go. But the other issue is Tony Blair and what was said before the election - that Labour would not privatise the air waves. Now they are doing the exactly the opposite in Government.

Brian Souter: This main reason why the Paddington crash happened was because the 1988 Clapham disaster enquiry recommendations were not complied with. This decision was not taken by a private company, it was taken by the UK Government.

Angela Browning: We would fully privatise it but make sure that we retain the golden share and ensure military air space is retained and controlled by the UK Government.

Boy George: Normally when things are privatised in this country the service suffers enormously and the train services are appalling in this country. Safety has to be the most important thing.

You said:

We are the only country in Europe that is totally obsessed with "privatisation". We have done it to telephone services, busses and railways, parts of the prison service and even to the stationery office (formerly HMSO). Private security firms are all over the place, while proper police presence is more and more reduced. It hasn't made the UK a safer or better place. The railways are in shambles too and now we are going to have a privatised air control service.
What we seem not to realise in Britain is that there are certain services that need to be impartial, state run and primarily for people's benefits, not for profits. Any private company has to make a profit, because without profit it would fold. After the railways went private the fares went up drastically while the timetables went into chaos and safety concerns went out altogether. (Remember Southwell & Paddington?) The privatisation of the air control service is the last straw on the camel's back and we will wake up one morning in the near future and find that the Britain as we knew it has gone - because we sold it.
Dr Samuel Blau, Belfast

Lord Falconer of Thoroton said this partial privatisation was the best way of getting investment into Air Traffic Control. How about scrapping this silly plan and using some of the 22bn pound windfall from the sale of radio frequencies?
Martin Hodder, Knebworth

Privatisation is a short-term sell off for instant cash. Privatisation is a compromise on safety. In a privatised company action on emergency situations have to be passed by several 'middle men'. Privatisation is a no-go for public safety on any public service. In public service private companies profit most definitely comes before safety. The Labour Party is dangerously losing touch with what it should stand for.
James Burns, Glasgow

Q: Who said "Our air is not for sale"? A: It has been airbrushed out of history by New Labour. Or will be soon.
Raj Kumar, Birmingham

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Privately funded referenda

Does the panel think that wealthy individuals should be able to privately fund a referendum when ordinary individuals can only use the ballot box to bring about political change.:

Brian Souter: Guilty as charged. The whole of our political system is underpinned by contributions to political parties. The Labour Party would not be able to function without contributions. There is no difference to what I am doing. We are continuing chequebook democracy - which is the only type of democracy we have had in Britain.
Its an independent referendum - there is a real democracy issue at hand.

Charles Kennedy: I couldn't fundamentally disagree more. What I am not in favour of, is that the more successful and prosperous you are the more you can seek to influence the public agenda by means of running your own referenda. That is just not on. Plutocrats and democracy don't mix.

Boy George: Obviously I don't support Brian's cause. I am a Godparent - should I be kept away from them so they don't become gay? I grew up in a family of five boys who all had the same indoctrination and I became gay. People don't choose to be gay - it's one of the many twists of nature.

Angela Browning: I do defend his right to do this.

Lord Falconer: We have a democratic system in this country and people have a right to express their views. But as far as the referendum is concerned - only people of great wealth have the opportunity to do this and I hope people pay no attention to it.

You said:

The section 28 argument was terrible. A long way below the standards of impartiality that we expect from the BBC. A loaded audience heavily Boy George orientated. All attempts by the anti-section 28 section ridiculed. If this country is to have its moral standards set by the 'Equity' lobby. the future is bleak.
What consenting individuals get up to in private is their business. Why have we to put up with this endless promotion of homosexuality and why do they want everyone to know what they are up to.
Alan Thompson, England

Brian Souter is NOT looking to give people a say - he is trying to influence people and manufacture support for his own cause. We all know his view, why should he seek to prove support for his through a contrived "referendum". Brian Souter says that we don't teach children to be promiscuous, this is true, yet there is no need for a section 28 equivalent to control the teaching of promiscuity, drugs misuse or other moral issues. These issues are discussed in a balanced way according to the discretion of the teacher - so why does homosexuality need a special law? .
Paul Jaymes, London

Brian Souter, if your referendum came back with the verdict that the people agreed with section 28 abolition would you then stop talking about these "popular views" that promoting the various forms of sexuality is wrong?
Dave Pitchforth, Halifax

I would like to ask Mr Souter why he is trying to impose his viewpoint on Scotland when the elected members of the Scottish parliament are in fact having a debate in the house and have indeed consulted the electorate. Would he not be better spending his money on giving his employees a better wage.
Danny, Bathgate

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Repealing Section 28?

What will the impact be if and when Section 28 is repealed?:

Brian Souter: Section 28 was introduced because parents found that politically correct councils were teaching material which was totally unacceptable. The problem here is about what we teach children - not adults - and this then becomes a moral issue.

Boy George: If Brian was a wealthy racist would we find it acceptable to have this conversation - no we wouldn't. The idea that if you tell someone about homosexuality you become homosexual is rubbish.
If we teach our children about Nazi Germany are we promoting Nazism?

Angela Browning: I think the whole debate really turns on the word "promote". The Conservative Party has tried to accommodate some of the concerns that teachers have raised that they may fall foul of the law. But promotion is the marketing and the advocating of an idea.

Charles Kennedy: Why have we got Section 28? It was because of Margaret Thatcher and some mad cap idea that she had. It was daft then and it is daft now. Our teachers are educated and trained and we should trust them.

Lord Falconer: There are many questions that need to be looked at. There is a tremendous legal conundrum about what the word promotion means. I think the right course is to allow teachers to behave in a sensible way and authorities have guidelines abort what is appropriate. Teachers should help our children to grow up.

You said:

I have been married for 25 years, we have 3 daughters aged 20, 16 and 13. They have a homosexual uncle who they call Aunty Jimmy. Ever since our children were toddlers my wife and I have always promoted the idea that lesbian and homosexual relationships are normal. Our daughters have fine morals, they are rational, fair and honest, they also have boyfriends. Whether or not a person becomes gay is biological, not social. Mr Brian Souter is a very dangerous man to think otherwise.
Chris Carr, Skelmersdale

I cannot believe that in the 21st century there are people out there who believe that my 11 year monogamous, loving relationship with my partner is 'immoral.' And flying in the face of reason, research and rationality there are still those of you who believe that homosexuality can be taught. Get real. If we can't teach our kids basic literacy, how on earth do people think a few lessons could alter their sexuality?
Stuart Draper, London

Most of the candidates last night said they would not want homosexuality promoted in the schools rather that the section should be repealed and guidelines put in place. However it seems to me that the section could actually stay in place and those same guidelines issued to tell authorities what is and is not permitted. Surely this solves both problems?
Martin Hodder, Knebworth

Section 28 has no place in a society that believes in equality. I would like to ask Brian Souter how he would tackle the disproportionately high rate of attempted suicide amongst gay teenagers. Section 28 legalises bigotry.
Alex Lavery, Birmingham

As a Catholic heterosexual father, who doesn't use Stagecoach, I found Brian Souter's comments dated and offensive. He fears that children will be "taught" how to be gay - what rubbish. A recent survey stated that 1 out 4 children at the age of 11 could not read or write, so God knows how they are going to teach them to be gay! Maybe if he has so much money to waste he should be putting it towards children hospitals.
Peter Hunt, Cardiif

As a teacher I can't believe the rubbish expressed on your programme over section 28, it was utterly biased. Real teachers would tell you of the damage homosexuals have done in schools, and the perversions that have been promoted.
Jack Partis, Shipley

Brian Souter was too depressing for words. He gets himself hung up on an unenforceable definition of 'promotion' that he cannot define. He wants to talk about family values, but forgets that laws like section 28 which mark people out as 'pretend' and worthy of some special condemnation lead to kids who are gay (and already know they are as I did at as early as I can remember), not telling their parents, hiding their most intimate parts of their lives from their nearest and dearest and sometimes tragically leading them to feel that life would be better off running away or doing away with themselves. Shame on Souter.
Cllr Jock Coats, Oxford City Council

I attended high school at a time when Section 28 was not part of the statute. Homosexuality, or any other form of sexuality, were not "promoted". I was not influenced in becoming a homosexual, but discovered about myself years before secondary school. I find it a real danger that Section 28 leaves certain pupils vulnerable and not afforded protection from their teachers, because they dont know which side of the law they stand. It just makes for a bigoted society.
Darren Mountford, Stoke-on-Trent

We need to teach children respect, and regard for others - irrespective of sexual orientation, race etc. Clause 28 is a clear barrier to this, and should be repealed. I also hate the word "tolerance" as applied to this debate. To tolerate something infers that you consider that behaviour or lifestyle inferior to your own, and what right does anyone have to judge that?
Mike Ball, Birmingham

As a Stagecoach employee I feel very sad that my boss feels this way about many of his employees. I am a gay man, out and one of his loyal drivers. I completely disagree with nearly everything that he has said. If he can try to imagine the world the other way round where everyone was gay and he had a gay upbringing would it make him gay?
David.J.Bruce, Dunfermline

Clause / Section 28 should not be repealed, but in this politically correct world it more than likely will be. My children will in no way be subjected to the promotion of homosexuality. I cannot tolerate something that is clearly not right. Society no longer looks to the bible as it once did for guidance on living, and so we see virtually no morals being acceptable. While I say that I do not hold any animosity towards homosexuals and 'Gay Bashing ' is a disgrace.
Mark Warren, Southport

One major factor not being addressed here: A person's sexuality is not their choice. All this clause can do is send out the signal to young people that being who they are is wrong. Not educating people about the value of gay relationships will not prevent people from being gay, only force them to spend many unhappy years attempting to repress their natural feelings. It is time to realise that people are different, and should be free to be so. Nobody disputes the value of a steady relationship, so why can't a gay relationship be as such.
Dave, Telford

Brian Souter is NOT looking to give people a say - he is trying to influence people and manufacture support for his own cause. We all know his view, why should he seek to prove support through a contrived "referendum"? He says that we don't teach children to be promiscuous. This is true, yet there is no need for a section 28 equivalent to control the teaching of promiscuity, drugs misuse or other moral issues. These issues are discussed in a balanced way according to the discretion of the teacher, so why does homosexuality need a special law?
Paul Jaymes, London

As a father of two young girls, I agree with Boy George. Young people need all sides of the argument. I do not agree with the promotion of any view in schools, political, sexual or anything.
Neil E Carr, St Andrews

I dont want my two sons to be taught anything to do with homosexuality. If they teach this in school I shall remove them. You might as well teach them that its OK to murder people, dish out racial beatings or rob people. All are wrong and immoral.
Alan Bailey, Sheerness

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Tory upset in Romsey

With the loss of a major Conservative safe seat in Romsey - what does this say for the hopes of the Conservatives being elected at the next election?

Angela Browning: What we saw very clearly in Romsey campaign was the fact that the Liberals made an issue of the fact that their candidate was local.

Charles Kennedy: Lets get some perspective here. Of course Romsey was a success for us and a disaster for the Conservatives.

You said:

The Romsey result means nothing for the Tories. What they saw was a combined Lib Dem and Labour vote against them - no wonder they lost! Labour got so few votes they lost their deposit. This means nothing for the General Election unless either Labour or the Lib Dems declines to take part nation-wide. Naturally, highly unlikely.
Michael Healey, Swindon

Angela Browing can rabbit on about Liberal Democrats claiming to be local candidates, but from personal experience, I know perfectly well that in Oxford the Tories like to blow on about the fact that their candidate might live twenty yards within a ward and others run one from a few yards outside a ward. They can't blame the Liberal Democrats for their own methods, when it suits them.
Jock Oats, Oxford

I believe that the Lib-Dem MP for Romsey is just keeping the seat warm for the return of a Tory at the next general election. A few years ago the Lib-Dems scored a landslide victory in taking Eastbourne from the Tories in a by-election. Whatever happened to David Bellotti, as the seat is now back with the Tories.
Tim Norris, Maidstone

As someone deeply disappointed with the government and opposition parties, I applaud the Lib Dem victory in Romsey and Ken's 3/4 million vote mandate in London. Voting should not only depend upon who is supposed to be "electable". We need a proper proportional representation system (not the half-hearted muddle we had in the mayoral elections). Labour and the Tories need to be dealt bloody noses more often.
Ramesh Kotla, Stoke Newington, London

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William Hague reaching out

Rather than pandering to the core vote William Hague is actually reaching out to the majority of the electorate?:

Brian Souter: The Achilles heel of the Government is its agenda on political correctness. They will undermine the traditional married-based family. I do not trust Tony Blair and new Labour to protect these values.

Lord Falconer: The idea that Tony Blair is going to attack family values is ludicrous.

Boy George: As a gay man I would never vote Conservative. They are an unfeeling party and do not care about the ordinary person in the street.

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Ken's return to Labour?

Should Ken Livingstone be allowed back into the party?:

Lord Falconer: Ken ran against the Party and should not be allowed back in to it.
But we'll have to wait and see what happens in the future. It is for Labour and Ken to work together for the future of London

Boy George: Ken should be allowed back into the party because he is popular and the Labour Party needs a popular vote.

Charles Kennedy: He shouldn't have been kicked out in the first place

Brian Souter: People are very tired of traditional politics.

You said:

As the person who asked the question about Ken Livingstone, I unfortunately did not get the chance to comment on the programme. I think Ken should be admitted back into the Labour Party. He should have been Labour's candidate, and if the system had not been set against him, he would have been elected as a Labour Mayor. The people of London wanted Ken Livingstone as Mayor, and to say that he was elected because he was an independent is not true. He did not leave the party, the party left him, long before he made a decision to stand as an independent. I think the Labour Party owe Mr. Livingstone an apology and should give him back his membership card.
Tracey Wells, Watford

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General comments on the programme:

I think Question Time should change its name to 'Nambi-Pambi Liberals Time'. Your show is becoming more and more biased to the left! Every week the panel will consist of five members each representing the three main parties (although Labour sometimes has two), as well as a columnist and a celebrity both with liberal points of view (no offence to Boy George)! The single Tory member (if there is one) always gets picked on or put down! Your show should be fair and balanced with two members of the panel from the left, and two from the right, the other neutral! An equal debate would make the show a lot more interesting and exciting!
Simon, Newquay

Boy George had a fabulous hat on tonight. Why don't all of the panellists wear hats? Or red noses. That's it - a celebrity Question Time with five people with nothing in common (only one token politician) - united by their hats alone.
Mad Hatter

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