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Monday, 25 September, 2000, 13:09 GMT 14:09 UK
Sept 28, London
The topics discussed last week were:

Sweating it out till the next election?

Audience Question: If the government cannot find support for its key policies at its own conference will it be sweating at the prospect of going to the electorate?

Michael Portillo: Labour have had no control over the country and over the conference this week. They have over-promised; they promised much and offered little. We have not over promised on anything.

Piers Morgan: As in Jerry Maguire - "Show me the money!"

Jack Straw: We have over taken France and Italy to become the fourth largest economy in the world, and that is because of our economic management.

Jenny Tonge: I think it is crass insensitivity and an insult to offer a 75p increase to our pensioners.

Richard Branson: I'm just glad I'm not a politician! I think that Labour would love to tie pensions to earnings, but I think they have done their sums and found that the figures just don't add up.

You said:

My mother is a pensioner, aged 82 and every rise in her pension is met with a reduction of her housing benefit and other benefits she is entitled too are also reduced. All this means is that she is usually worse off than before this so-called rise in pension.
Trevor Price, Durham

I would like to know why our pensioners have to fight for extra cash and foreigners can enter the country and get hand outs immediately. One whole week of my father's income pays for his social services assistance.
He is nearly 79 years old, has fought for his country and recently widowed. Has anyone in government given thought to these forgotten people? Charity should begin at home.
Margaret Jones, Irvine

It is wrong that political parties (the Government included) are allowed to use pensions and national health to gain political advantage. Every time there is a bad opinion poll the ruling party starts some scheme that "might" benefit the old and ill, but simply the result is an increase in taxes for everyone
Anon, Christchurch

Isn't it sad that pensioners seem to be the same as so many in this country today - we want the poor to get more providing I can greedily have what I don't need. What hope do we have as a world when we can have such selfish attitudes towards our fellow citizens?
P Cook, Hereford

Why shouldn't the pensions be set to the cost of living index, that would be fair. Why in Canada are our UK pensions not being upgraded while in the USA they are?
James Moore, Canada

I am a pensioner. I have never had it so good and long may this Labour Government continue.
Alf Rogers,Stockton-on-Tees

The government appears to be arguing that it cannot afford earnings related increases to pensions, but appears to be ignoring the fact that earnings of the working population at the time and the tax arising there from will continue to increase. Therefore the situation in 20 years time would be no different from that appertaining today.
David Hindle, France

Here in Brazil, the 8th strongest economy in the world, the maximum pension for most Brazilians, is one minimum salary per month, equivalent to R$151.00 approx. or 56 a month sterling. I think a lot of people should realise how well off they are in comparison to others around the world. Gordon Brown is without doubt the best damn chancellor this country has had for years.
Derek, Brazil, ex-pat

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How many ways to say I'm sorry?

Audience Question: It is really important that politicians say sorry?

Michael Portillo: Yes. Once I realised I had given the wrong information to the House, I went back the following and apologised.

Jack Straw: It is extremely important to apologise. The major thing was the passport fiasco; I should have spotted it earlier and I apologise for that.

Richard Branson: The more times a politician says sorry the more votes it wins. So the more times the better.

Jenny Tonge: Politicians wouldn't have to say sorry if they told the truth.

Piers Morgan: I think it's a good thing to say sorry and the public actually quite like it.

You said:

Saying you've said "sorry" is not saying "sorry" perhaps Elton John was right "sorry seems to be the hardest word"
Dr Mark Milkins, Pembrokeshire

In commerce and industry, e.g. If Richard Branson makes a mistake, he pays for it. If politicians make a mistake, the public pays. Which seems most logical, perhaps the country needs to be run more like a company where the directors are responsible!
Kevin Calvert, Milton Keynes

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The Lottery Olympics

Audience Question: Is it wise to propose that someone who cannot run a train service should run a lottery?

Piers Morgan: I have made it a life long ambition to suck up to billionaires! But it has been Richard's life long ambition so I think it should go to the People's Lottery and the commission should just get on with it.

Michael Portillo: I'm pleased that there are two proposals in the running and it would be very unpleasant if there was a smell of favouritism.

Jack Straw: Although the Lottery Commission has got the process wrong, we should celebrate the fact that we have an independent judiciary who can ensure fair play takes place.

Richard Branson: I have felt passionately for many years that the people of this country want a lottery which gives more money to good causes.

Jenny Tonge: Who is this Dame Helena Shovelton, who appointed her? I just want to question the whole process - why isn't there someone on the commission who has been elected.

You said:

Can there be any debate on who should run the Lottery? Do we want our money to go to good causes or half to sit in rich men's bank accounts. For goodness sake let Mr Branson get on with it.
Peter Ellis, Barnsley

Dr Jenny Tonge asked why there isn't an elected representative on the Lottery Commission. I would go one further - why don't we have a referendum on who the people think should run the lottery. I think we all know who would win that. I also think at the same time they should ask what we, the people would like the money spent on. Cancer treatment and increase in pensions could be top of the list.
Christine Ainsley-Cowlishaw, Oxford

Would someone please explain why some members of the audience and panel insist on knocking Richard Branson. He is only one of our most successful businessmen of the modern age. Could it be that they have succumb to the typical British mentality of rubbishing ourselves? Never mind the lottery I would be happy for him to run the country!
Tony Warneck, Cambridgeshire

Give the lottery to the People's Lottery because, not just speaking for myself, it's about time the Camelot fat cats time was up and more of the "peoples money" went to the correct charities and causes instead of lost causes like the dome
Ray Crofts, Southend-on-Sea

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Abolishing the voucher system?

Audience Question: Is reviewing the voucher system for asylum seekers enough? Shouldn't a system that excludes asylum seekers from mainstream society be abolished?

Jenny Tonge: I'm deeply ashamed that the voucher system should be considered in this country. It is a very sad action on the part of the government. The government doesn't want to be seen as weak and this is a big mistake.

Jack Straw: We are trying to reform the system that the Tories left in place, which is a shambles. We have had hardly any complaints from those using the vouchers in this country. We have to make sure that asylum seekers are properly looked after and to make sure those who are in need the vouchers and those who are not genuine don't.

Piers Morgan: I think it is indefensible. And I blame the Conservatives for about 90% of this; they have whipped up a frenzy. The demonisation of the asylum seeker issue has to stop.

Michael Portillo: We have a system where asylum seekers are to be held at the port of entry until we are satisfied that they are genuine.

Richard Branson: I don't think the camp system sounds like a very good idea, I'm sure people would prefer their freedom and the vouchers.

You said:

Its sad to see that as usual when a sensible policy towards asylum seekers is put forward, the response is to be branded a racist.
Stuart, London

Why is so much given to asylum seekers when so little is given back to the people who actually work and pay taxes. I was in hospital recently and I found halal on the menu, it's a disgrace. I'm Irish and worked all my life and paid taxes. The government should start looking after their own before taking care of others
Emmet O'Neill, London

Mr Straw's justification for the vouchers to the effect that it is to ensure that the money goes to the right people is fatuous. The proper answer to the lack of identity documentation is to create and issue an identity card like a bankers' card, with photo, the production of which would then be essential to get money/cash each week. And this is a one off operation, i.e. much cheaper to operate than vouchers.
Dr C Viena, UK

Why are people so against the vouchers. If you are receiving social benefits as a citizen of this country you receive vouchers for milk which you need to hand in at the supermarket. You receive vouchers to buy school uniforms which you need to hand in at the shop and your child has to collect a school dinner ticket daily from the office, which have a hole cut in them. If asylum seekers are to be given cash and not vouchers, shouldn't the people of this country be allowed the same dignity!
Sarah Bennett, Upminster

I feel that if they are genuine in the claim then they would be happy with how the government chooses to give them. Whether this is food vouchers or having all their basic needs met a camp. You would think that knowing they are safe, well, and out of harms way would be enough - until a final decision is made.
Meredith, Rochdale

It is absolutely ridiculous to allow all asylum seekers a free reign once in the UK. The reason for holding pens and vouchers is to deter "economic" asylum seekers. If people are genuinely afraid for their lives then the sanctuary of the UK and a roof and food should be enough. Yet still people bemoan the "human rights" issue.
Russell Ewins, Barnet

The Labour Government have taken away the democratic rights of the population by calling those who disagree with the huge numbers entering Britain as racist. I believe our small country can ill afford to take anymore. We can not even pay our own pensioners a decent pension. PLEASE call me a racist if you must but I think enough is enough. It's the Labour party who are exploiting the race card and it will be their downfall
Thomas Phillips, Ashington

I have rarely felt so strongly when watching politicians, that the stereotype holds true of hypocritical and blind pursuit of power than I have this evening seeing Michael Portillo. He plays his father's entry status into Britain only to later decline to describe his treatment when it no longer suits him. As a 'young person' for whom he claims to speak with regard to the euro, may I say that this insincere and highly selective approach must be his PR manager's nightmare and I am thoroughly alienated.
Kirsty Smith, London

It grieves me to hear the politicians throw around rhetoric as though it is mandatory. Piers Morgan states that we have a moral duty to those seeking refugee status and that the voucher system is degrading. How degrading is it for the many homeless and under privileged English people to hear of these asylum seekers getting these handouts whilst they have trouble finding shelter or where their next meal is coming from. Isn't it about time to look after our own people first? BR> Ross Glasson, Basildon

There was a time when the Tory party stood for the values (that John Major stood for) equality fairness, a sense of trying to create a better society. It seems to my dismay that this sort of visionary belief is lacking from today's Conservatives. It is deeply saddening that a party could loose it's self so spectacularly. Tax us not really a big issue but a fairer society is, and as for the race issue I find it abhorrent that to solve a minor problem of a few immigrants they would limit asylum.
Alex Marshall, Pontefract

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A euro success...or not.

Audience Question: If the euro is such a good idea why will the Danish referendum be such a close decision?

Jack Straw: I believe that the final choice should remain with the electorate, which is in very stark contrast to the Conservatives.

Piers Morgan: The euro has become demonised. If you read The Sun or The Telegraph you wouldn't go out after dark in case a euro mugged you! I actually think the euro will be a success.

Michael Portillo: We have 66% of the population on our side, from all ages. We don't need to give a referendum on the issue because the electorate know what we stand for.

Richard Branson: It's a pity we haven't had a two-sided debate on this and hopefully after the election we will get a proper debate on it.

Jenny Tonge: What I find is very strange, that this is not an economic debate but it has become an emotional issue. Somehow people think we are going to lose our sovereignty.

You said:

Why were the people of Germany, Italy, France etc denied a referendum? Yet another case of unelected Socialists who think they know better, anyone who disagrees with them is branded a Nationalist or Racist! I'm not surprised by Denmark's result, anybody with common sense would tell you that the single currency is a stepping stone to a European Superstate!
Jason, Exeter

Hooray for the Danes - I'm off to buy a bid Danish Pastry and pint of Carlsberg to celebrate. Just a shame other European politicians do not have the courage to ask their electorates what they think.
Andrew Whiting, Bookham

I believe that most people have a fear about joining Europe. People need to be more aware about the euro. I as an individual, we do not understand what the euro means to us.
If more people were better informed then we would all know what choices we have. Instead we have a moral argument that perhaps prevail common sense.
Miguel Cardona, Harrow

Michael Portillo couldn't be more wrong, I think that young people don't think about issues like future politics. However most of them would like to see more interaction with Europe and more policies and benefits in line with what they receive over the channel.
Ben Kind, Liverpool

As a 5ft 6 inch Englishman, I object to Piers Morgan's reference to "Little Englanders". Why is it that when referring to the good things in life we are British, but if we object to the Euro, or the high fuel tax, or the 75p pension increase we are "little" or "middle Englanders"?
R. G. Dawson, Northampton

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General comments on the programme:

I find it interesting that when David Dimblebey tries to point out to Michael Portillo that he is making a mistake/misleading the audience. It's difficult to debate with those whose minds are closed.
Mike Curtis, Bury

I have just started watching Question Time and was horrified to see Piers Morgan on the show. The man has shown where the moral high ground is during the fiasco over his share dealing.
Geoff Bagnall, North Weald

I am afraid I have had to turn QT off this evening and probably will not watch it again. When Sir Robin day chaired he was entirely impartial. However David Dimbleby's unbelievably blatant defence of Jack Straw and the Labour Party tonight was beyond the pale. If he does not know how to remain neutral he should resign the role and leave it to someone who does
Andrew Deveney, Felixstowe

I have just turned off the TV in disgust. Is David Dimbleby a Labour supporter? Every time Michael Portillo spoke he was interrupted by David to argue the Labour point of view and that was with three Labour supporters on the panel. I thought the BBC was impartial. Rubbish.
Karen Kemp, Southend on Sea

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