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 18, 2000

You can join Question Time's internet debate by emailing your views on the topics discussed in last week's programme to:

Panellists on the programme last week were:

  • Ann Taylor MP, Chief Whip
  • Bernard Jenkin MP, Shadow Transport minister
  • Lady Emma Nicholson of Winterbourne MEP, Liberal Democrat
  • AA Gill TV Critic, Sunday Times
  • Steve Cram Athlete and commentator

"Thugathons" in England?

Audience question: After the football violence yesterday has this effectively ended chances of the World Cup coming to England in 2006?:

Bernard Jenkin: Are we doing enough to stop this from happening? We have the knowledge and powers to stop these people from travelling abroad.

Steve Cram: It's not been a good week for the FA. I think we are in the last chance saloon - anyone could have gone to the bookies and put a bet on to guess that violence would have broken out yesterday. We have done a lot to put it right - but not enough.
If we lock those trouble-makers up, there will be another few who will take there place. Taking away their civil liberties is the only way to stop them.

Ann Taylor: I get very angry when people say that we shouldn't hold tournaments, we have all the right facilities and a few people are stopping this from happening.

AA Gill: Yes, I sincerely hope the violence stops the football from coming here. Why would we want a "thugathon" from coming here anyway?

Emma Nicholson: This comes down to the fact that people are not being rehabilitated in prisons and so are re-offending.

You said:

During the discussion on football trouble Lady Emma Nicholson stated that you do not need a passport to travel to Europe. This according to the passport office is not true and I would have thought that a member of the European parliament should have known this. I sincerely hope this weeks events, by a few, do not damage the chances of the World Cup coming here to be enjoyed by the many thousands of fans who watch the game every week.
Nigel Dadge, Ipswich

Ann Taylor tried to deflect responsibility for dealing with these "thugs" by claiming the government cannot prevent them from travelling unless they have been convicted. Considering that some European countries now have legislation whereby they can prosecute their nationals for sex crimes (specifically towards children) committed abroad, surely similar legislation can be passed in England to deal with these violent football hooligans. Surely enough evidence was collected by TV news footage alone to ensure conviction. If current legislation is not enough to tackle this problem, the duty of the government is to make sure it does.
Tania Fraser, London

I have been regularly watching Oxford football club for 9 years (until my family arrived). My wife has followed them for 17 years. My sister has been a regular at Old Trafford for 10 years (born and bred in Manchester). We all attended Euro 96 games BUT we are not hooligans. It is always a minority that spoils our enjoyment of football so why punish the majority? In my view, AA Gills unhelpful comments about 'Thugathons' will only make matters worse. Scotland also has its problems or does the English only attend the Celtic Rangers game, who also have such problems?
Andrew Dixon, Didcot

The only way to deal with football hooliganism is by peer pressure. If a football tournament (e.g. World Cup) is prevented from coming to this country, football fans generally will realise how serious the problem is and, hopefully, start reporting the thugs who are so obviously in their midst. The real fans are on the ground and are the closest to those who must be stopped from causing terror.
Paul Matthews, Rickmansworth

Why is it when it is English hooligans we are all branded as British?
David Stevenson, Edinburgh

Regarding football violence, why don't we just stop away supporters from getting tickets?
Andy Bell, London

It is somewhat nave to think that this is a problem that follows the English national team and English clubs when they travel abroad. These scenes are repeated in many towns through out the country most Saturday afternoons but seem to hardly get a mention in the news headlines. The cynical amongst us could perhaps suggest that this is part of a national cover up. After all, with England's World Cup bid at such a crucial stage, what good would it do to advertise the domestic football violence that plagues town centres up and down the country on a regular basis? The problem seems to be that when this type of thing occurs on foreign soil, it creates such a bad image for English football that the immediate reaction is - will this harm our chances of staging the World Cup?
Until the English FA and the British government can sort out the hooligans of this country, I see absolutely no reason why we should invite the rest of the worlds hooligans over for a month long party in the year 2006.
Eleanor Smith, Preston

I am concerned by the general inability of most people to criticise the yobbish behaviour of supposed fans. We rightly criticised the killing of burglars invading a persons home, yet we repeatedly accept the continued riots, stabbings, muggings, beatings and more perpetrated by supposed fans. What as a responsible society can we do to curb this situation? Would inhibiting the human rights of yobs by restricting their passport usage be so wrong?
Bill Appleton, Cheshire

Once again England is confused with Britain. Steve Cram suggested that people in Europe viewed "Britain " as thugs...I think he meant England. Scotland's football fans were voted the friendliest fans of the France 98 competition and are viewed as well behaved fans for the last decade or so. We may not have a great team.. But we do behave! So be fair... the problem is with English fans.
Jim Struthers, Aberdeen

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Prince Charles - "Potentially harmful'?

Audience question: Was Prince Charles right to voice his concerns on what he describes as potentially harmful foods?:

Ann Taylor: He is right to expressl his opinions. And right in the fact that there should be a balance between scientific knowledge and enquiry, so that things do not get out of hand. But we need scientific knowledge. On GM foods - I think we are right to be cautious and err on the side of caution.

AA Gill: I think he is such a depressing man. All the things he lectures us about are about turning the world and particularly Britain, back into some kind of Georgian painting of a perfect country. But GM foods are going to be enormously useful to the Third World countries.

Emma Nicholson: People are unhappy about food which they do not know what it contains. I think people are right to be concerned. This is the country that started the BSE crisis, we have to be careful. We have a right to know what we are eating.

Bernard Jenkin: Not only is he perfectly entitled to speak out but he is also defining a role for himself in a thoroughly modern monarchy. However, I do agree with Ann on this.

Steve Cram: I find this all rather interesting or maybe rather boring! I only wish people would start to argue about other issues which harm people and their health, like alcohol and heart disease.

You said:

The panel on yesterday's programme was clearly not representative of public opinion on GM food and seemed to think that it was a non-issue. I am not a supporter of the monarchy but agree with many of the comments made on this issue by Prince Charles. The accidental release of GM rape seed into the environment is a potential disaster for wildlife, the environment and the livelihood of organic farmers and others who sell their produce as GM free. This should be as big as the BSE scandal but the Government seems unconcerned. This is environmental pollution on a massive scale with millions of acres of farmland affected.
Barry Tregear, Chesterfield

As a Biological Sciences student at the University of Durham, I have studied genetic modification of both plants and animals in depth. GM technology offers us a plethora of opportunities to improve the lives we lead, although (without wishing to sound patronising), I sympathise with a public ill- informed by the authorities which should be providing information, and at the mercy of much equally ill-informed and reactionary journalism. The present public hostility to GM technology is therefore understandable, and I can only ask that government and industry alike, reject their absurdly secretive methods for a more open, hospitable attitude to educating the public at large!
James Hair, Durham

If Emma Nicholson believes that the majority of people in UK care what they eat, i.e. origin and quality of production, she obviously does not shop in any UK high street/supermarket. Where the majority of people buy is the cheapest food. Generally people do not look at the origin of food unless they have an issue. For example, I am a farmer's daughter and always buy British meat products, most people look for savings, or convenience, and cheap basic food is often not UK origin, although it may have been put together in UK, for a whole load of reasons.
If the government supported good food production techniques, they could be sure that the UK population got the best food available, at the best price, and they would find that people did start to chose well produced products, without shady histories or dodgy ingredients. The supermarket has a huge role to play in supporting UK production and industry.
Sarah O'Hara, Oxford

Isn't it the case that the government has invested million/billions of state pension money into GM food companies? They therefore have a vested interest in the promotion and success of GM companies. If they say no to GM's the share prices drop and they stand to loose millions.
James T

The third world does not need GM foods; what it needs is an end to wars fought using weapons supplied by us, freedom from governments supported by us, and freedom from debts owed to us. If people in the third world can live in peace without the need to grow cash crops, they won't need GM crops.
What GM food is really about is a group of rich people getting richer - it's about biotechnology firms exploiting farmers, consumers, and people in developing countries. That the debate tonight revolved around Prince Charles's comments also revealed the bankruptcy of democracy in this country - we have to clutch at unelected members of the privileged establishment to speak for us.
Adam Newby, London

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Are we scaring criminals?

Audience question: Do the panel believe that we need a justice system that "scares the hell out of criminals"?:

Steve Cram: Yes I grew up in a society where crime was just accepted. And I think we should be tougher and frighten criminals. I don't think that any person in this country wouldn't want the Government to be tough on crime.

Bernard Jenkin: Politicians wouldn't be any good to anyone if they didn't say things that people didn't support, that's how they can move the debate on.
We have witnessed a huge increase on crime. The only time figures have fallen is when Michael Howard was tough on crime. People should have the confidence to know that criminals will be punished.

AA Gill: Hague has stated a fatuous truism and its difficult not to agree with such. But it means nothing - what we all want is a justice system that is just.

Emma Nicholson: The Conservative Party had nearly 20 years to install "zero tolerance" measures policies, but nothing ever happened. It has to come down to rehabilitation and also to come down to giving people a decent education.

Ann Taylor: The justice system has to do several different things - punishment, prevention, rehabilitation etc. But it has to start earlier than education - it has to start in the home, in playgroups and supporting parents. What we need is to invest in prevention such as CCTV. But also our attitude on sentencing needs to change. Measures like part-time prisons which hit people hard and takes away their civil liberty.

You said:

It dismays me to hear William Hague and the general public clamouring to deny criminals human rights. It has been shown over the years, in this country and others, that "getting tough" on criminals does not solve the problem of crime. If we are to start denying human rights to criminals and those suspected of crime, we shall be beginning on a slippery slope into retributive anarchy. Criminals deserve empathy, support, and also punishment for what they have done; we should accept that they are at the end of the line if they have to resort to drastic action. If only Jack Straw and William Hague were as tough on the causes of crime as they are on the criminals.
James Mack, Cambridge

Isn't it time that we stopped marginalising people who don't fit into "our" society? William Hague's comments about the "Liberal left" are quite offensive. If he really thinks that being even harder on criminals is going to solve the problem, then he is kidding himself. The type of criminals he wishes to see locked up are often from impoverished backgrounds, these people have less to lose than those of us from more privileged upbringings -hence they offend and go on to re-offend ("prison is an expensive way of creating more criminal criminals").
Hague and his supporters should stop taking cheap pot-shots at the liberal aspects of this country (of which many of us are proud). The real problem is a widening gap between the rich and poor - if we can tackle this gap, we have a chance of creating a more sustainable society. Examples such as that of the USA show us that simply imprisoning people does not create a deterrent, look to what the Dutch are doing and you can see real progress.
Nick Jordan, London

Sorry, but "life" in this country does not mean 2 or 3 years. You may find that the 13 years average is not enough and you'd be right, but this is because of the mandatory life for murder which does not let the judge decide how long someone sentenced for life should actually serve. As for death row, this is absolutely stupid. In the States it does not deter crime at all. Why should it here?
Pascal Jacquemain, London

William Hague has a common sense revolution. As a society we have invested billions of pounds keeping people in prison, yet the crime rate still rises. "Common Sense" should tell us that this 'System' is not working. The taxpayer pays for people to be kept in prison only for them to re-offend on their release.
Glenn Bowen, Rhonda

In relation to the matter of sentences, I would like to ask about the reaction to a Magistrate telling a man convicted of Domestic Violence to buy his victim a box of chocolates and a bunch of flowers in recompense for being beaten? And then be given a wholly inappropriate sentence to boot?
Alan Bree, Leicester

William Hague, as with all politicians, is not doing the job he was elected to do - serve his constituents. Politicians are only in touch with public opinion when they are out of office! If they return to power, out of the window go the principles that got them there, and supporting their respective parties seems to take priority. I elected my MP to serve myself and my community - not the Labour Party - thankfully; it was a vote which has proved a success. How many constituencies can honestly say that their MP is serving their needs ahead of their parties? There should be some sort of policy for removing politicians from office if they continue to put party before people! Most politicians are guilty of ignoring their electorate.
Richard Galliers, Merthyr Tydfil

Justice System does need to be modified as a citizen i believe that life should mean life and not 2 or 3 years then an early release. I also believe that we should have more police on the beat to combat crime I live on a council estate and have had 3 cars stolen and 9 people in my flats have been burgled in the last 2 months.
Mike Gardiner, Orpington, Kent

This country is too embroiled in upholding "Human Rights." The only human rights that are upheld are those of the perpetrators of the crimes. The Labour government has a big enough majority to push a law through which would protect the innocent. But will not do anything, as "TONY" is too weak to stand up for the rights of the victims. If a thug violates your human rights, they should have their rights denied to them. Until someone stands up for the people in the right, there is little or no chance of the thug's activities to be curtailed.
Rod MacRae, Dingwall

A "Death Row", as in the U.S.A., attitude for murderers and other, would definitely deter crime in the U.K.
James T, Barnsley

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Queen Mother fiasco?

Audience question: Does the Queen Mother fiasco mean that the BBC has rejected its public service remit?:

AA Gill: I really can't see the point of the Queen Mother. I felt like I was the only person in the British press who applauded the BBC for this decision. An old lady who gets older doesn't seem like a good enough reason for clearing the schedules.

Steve Cram: The Queen Mum is loved by a huge chunk of the population. I feel very sorry for the BBC, whatever the BBC do they shall be criticised.

Emma Nicholson: Actually I'm rather glad that ITV are showing it. I hope it is very good and the BBC regrets it, but if it's just wallpaper they would have made the right decision.

Bernard Jenkin: The BBC is having a personality breakdown. It is trying to be cool rather like Adrian and mocking the establishment. But in fact there is still a huge following for tradition in this country. She has been selfless in her giving to public service.

You said:

I am absolutely ashamed with AA. Gill's comments with regard to our Queen Mother. No wonder we have lost all respect in our country and what is once stood for. I am proud to be ENGLISH but the BBC is making me more and more turn to the ITV for news. You should be ashamed of yourselves. I am thinking more and more of immigrating to my husband's country NZ where they have total respect for our Royal Family.
Jan Mashlan, Cheshire

After hearing that the BBC will not show the Queen Mum and after what the panel said I agree that it should be up to the individual to what they want to see or not. But to tell everyone that the BBC put on quality programmes instead was a disgrace as this week alone there is a total of 111 repeats on both BBC1 and BBC2.
Melanie Allatt, Castleford

With regard to the columnist's comment on the Queen Mother perhaps he should look at his own contribution to society. The BBC is a funded organisation and should show events related to our country celebrations.
Phillip Guest, Manchester

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Mandelson in a Euro spin

Audience question: Do the panel believe that Mr Mandelson's spin on the Euro was just trying to convince people to vote "yes" in the referendum?:

Emma Nicholson: I think Peter was absolutely right in what he said and was not putting any spin on the Euro - while we are outside of it we can afford to debate it. I think it was from his heart and not at all spin.

Bernard Jenkin Well it certainly was spin because I think most people in this country don't want the Euro. Spin is that if we join the Euro all our economic problems are going to be solved by the Euro.

Ann Taylor: We have two different views here. But what we believe in the Labour Party is that the final decision should be with the British people who will decide, ultimately.

AA Gill: I think British industry has to look out for itself and do what is necessary to survive. I personally don't want to go anywhere near the Euro and voting for the Hapsberg Empire seems to be an absurd thing to do.

Steve Cram: I get sick of changing currency however superficial that is. The Government has a job to do and has been voted in to do it for the good of the country. So we should let them get on with it.

You said:

If Mandleson really wanted to help businesses affected by the weak Euro, he and his government colleagues would be calling on the EU to end their ill-conceived experiment. He won't, of course, because his love for the Euro is not based on sound economics but on out-dated super-state ideology.
Stuart Coster, London

What a pathetic discussion regarding the Euro, it was so obvious none of the panel had the slightest clue of what has been happening in the currency markets, and the complete lack of faith that currently exists in the ECB and the Euro. Please, please spare us from hearing these superficial views from people who clearly know very little about the subject.
David May, London

I'm sick of the misleading statement that the pound is too high. For many years the pound stood at around $1.50 and yesterday stood at $1.49 against the benchmark level for the world. The fact is that the pound is exactly where it has been for almost the last 10 years it's the politically ill conceived Euro that has fallen by 30% because the world has no confidence in a currency where the strong Mark and Franc is degraded by historically weaker currencies. If we had joined with the first wave all imports from non-EU countries would now be costing us 30% more including oil (in which we are not self sufficient), electrical goods which mostly come from South East Asia and foreign foodstuffs of which we still import a lot from non EU countries. Surely that would 'fuel' inflation just when we had no control over interest rates to control it.
John Pittaway, Stourbridge

Why does everyone insist that we will have to join the Euro? You don't hear the same arguments for Canada to join the US Dollar (when it is the 7th largest economy next to the largest) when you consider that the UK is the 4th largest next to the 2nd largest trade block.... So why do politicians continue to flog the idea to us?
John Charlton, Cheltenham

How can a single monetary policy across Europe work well when in this country alone there are regions which would benefit from lower interest rates, like the North, and regions where the interest rates look like having to go up every month to cool down the housing boom, like London?
George Dobre, London

It is time that the pro-Euro politicians really stressed all the benefits of a strong single currency - all currencies fluctuate so why is the Euro being attacked for this?
Paul Bargery, Bexley, London

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General comments on the programme:

I used to enjoy watching Question Time, but I object to the trend of including of so-called celebrities on the panel. I am interested in what senior politicians, business leaders and academics etc have to say, but am not in the slightest bit interested by, for example, what Boy George's views are on current affairs. I suppose this is someone's idea of making the program more "accessible" to a different audience. I think you will lose more viewers than you gain.
Steve Dooley Kingsbridge, Devon

Oh dear! Just how much lower can Question Time stoop. The obvious 'dumbing down' of the programme has now led to this once fine programme being reduced to the level of almost insignificance. The lack of 'heavyweight' politicians and the introduction of so called personalities is a great pity. What is Mr Dimbleby doing being associated with this
Dr Richard Wiggins, Oxford

Yet another hand picked audience biased to the left. I've given the BBC enough chances to produce an impartial programme, they seem incapable of even pretending to be politically neutral. This is definitely the last Question Time I will be watching.
Winston Coleman, Derby

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