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Thursday, 5 October, 2000, 22:58 GMT 23:58 UK
October 5, Bournemouth

The topics discussed this week were:

A joint debate: alcohol and cannabis

Audience Question: Why is drinking 14 pints of beer - commonly linked to violence and anti-social behaviour - is boasted about, whereas smoking cannabis could get you a 100 fine?

You said:

Unfortunately for him, Michael Ancram seemed to be still out of touch! His (and the Tories' ideas) about drugs are so unreal that it isn't any wonder that not many people want to be involved with such an out dated party. The Tories need to wake up, and grow up!
Matt Forde, Nottingham

I am shocked at the level of ignorance displayed by people upon the subject. When cannabis is separated from the group and the subject treated with respect then everyone will be much better informed. I would be delighted to know exactly how many cannabis users burgle houses 'to fund their habit'. Insinuations such as this are ill informed and offensive.
Simon Deal, Camberley

That was the first Question Time I have watched and I must say I enjoyed it immensely, if only to see the topic of cannabis legalisation brought up again. I believe that as soon as the police have a reliable test for driving under the influence of cannabis, there will be no major reasons to keep it illegal. I also believe that there is a groundswell of public support for this. It was good to see Malcolm Bruce tonight as the voice of reason, as well.
Stuart Moore, Forres, Morayshire

The employment of an out of court fine system for cannabis users - presumably using the same format as the current speeding fines - is not only a threat of pay up before proven guilty or risk a criminal record, which I see as an infringement of the proper legal system.
Adam Mathieson, Beds

When are we going to stop getting hung up over the details of dealing with drug issues and start tackling the main issue; we should hold a referendum on the legalisation of cannabis. People should be given the right to exercise their vote in a democratic manner. Surely the government (whichever one is voted in at the next election) faces alienating a large proportion of young voters (40% of young people as quoted by a panel member this evening) if the proposed measure by the Conservatives is taken up?
Irmani Darlington, Manchester

Once again the whole issue of drugs has been muddled and confused, most notably by Michael Ancram who suggests that a large proportion of crime is linked to soft drugs such as cannabis. I find it very worrying that anyone can be so misinformed and out of touch. These ridiculous assertions only serve to reinforce the substantial amount of misinformation that surrounds the subject. Why are the Liberal Democrats the only party brave enough to call for a proper debate on the subject?
Simon Powell, Brighton

Cannabis is scientifically proven to be less harmful than tobacco and alcohol its only problem is that its not a good taxable drug!
Martin Rigby, Surbiton

It seems to me that both Robin Cook and the conservative (Michael Ancram) suggested that cannabis is/should be decriminalised. Ancram spoke of 'speeding ticket' type fines as opposed to a criminal offence. Cook spoke of the danger of 'criminalising' a whole generation' if Widdicombe's proposals were adopted?
Duncan Pugh, Plymouth

I am watching now and can't believe how out of touch the panel is with the real world! Whether the panel or the government like it or not, more and more people are smoking cannabis! No body wants to admit that cannabis use has become more socially acceptable. LEGAL OR NOT!
M Wilson, West Yorkshire

What a wonderful observation by David Dimbleby (in relation to Robin Cook's reaction to Ann Widdecombe's silly proposals), he remarked "Well wasn't it Tony Blair who suggested that police officers march drunks to cash point machines for on the spot fines!"
I haven't laughed so much in ages. As a police officer I resent the meddling of politicians and wish that they would let us get on with our jobs.
Clive Chamberlain, Dorset

On the drugs debate, the panel missed 2 important questions: -
1) If drugs were legalised and licensed, what effects on crime would there be? Surely most drug crimes find their cause in the illegality of drugs!
2) What right does Government have to dictate what a reasonable adult may or may not ingest into their bodies?
Geoff Taylor

Considering that drug users already steal money for drugs that they cannot afford, how does Michael Ancram think they will get the money to pay a 100 fine? Will the policy of fixed penalties not lead to yet more theft?
Anthony Alderman, London

It strikes me that if people commit crimes to get money for drugs, then fining them 100 will only increase their requirements for funds, thus making the problem worse. Obviously the punishment will achieve the opposite of what is intended.
Professor Christoph Bluth, Oxford

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A burning city: what can we do?

Audience Question: As we speak Belgrade is burning - what can we do to help the solidarity movement?

You said:

I congratulate the Serbian population for their action of today's event to enforce their rights, so long denied. We, here in the West should remember that the Serbs were the driving force to help the 8th (British) Army to drive the Germans from Italy and into Austria. The Serbs were then, in the last war, the allies of the Western Forces and fighting as partisans in terrible conditions. The Serbs are worthy of all help.
Emil Taitl, UK

What a momentous day the 5th October is turning out to be.
As one European country, with a new leader in waiting, tries to wrench itself from an old Nationalistic leader who had buried his head in the sand and treated the rest of Europe with contempt, the Tories would have us believe that another European country has a new leader in waiting, ready to bury his head in the sand, with a Union Jack stuck firmly up his backside, equally wishing to treat the rest of Europe with contempt.
What a funny old world we live in.
Stephen Whitehead, UK

I can never see the Serbs ever forging with the west. I am pleased to see Milosevic being ousted. That said the Serbs will never forget what we did to them. I cannot understand how Cook, Albright, Robertson, Blair and Clinton have not also been indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity over attacks on Serbia one year ago.
Powell, Worthing

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Designer babies: is it right?

Audience Question: Does the panel think it is right to create a baby in order to save another baby?

You said:

The debate on designer babies was disappointing and, as so often on moral issues the panel's comments were superficial and obvious. Am I the only person to detect a distinct left-leaning bias, particularly of those guests who are not politicians? Moreover, nobody tackled the real issue (apart from a feeble attempt by the chairman), which is the creation of a number of embryos, which are then selectively eliminated, according to the demands of the parents. All the moral questions concerning this issue will not be resolved until the embryo, from its first moment of existence, is given legal protection.
Sean Preston, Clayton-le-Moors

Gene therapy is a powerful technology that has the potential to help many people with illnesses and diseases. People with weak heart muscles, cystic fibrosis, degenerative discs, spinal injuries, and a whole host of other diseases could benefit from this new scientific medical breakthrough.
Keith Waite, UK

I was saddened by Mr Dimblebey's mistake in asserting that the other embryos were potential human lives. Embryos are undeniably live human individuals from the moment of conception. This is a recognised scientific fact and not opinion.
Jacek Zdziarski, Nottinghamshire

It appears GM humans are okay, but GM crops are not, I cannot here the protest.
Arthur De val, Newton Abbott

The God argument falls flat on it's face from purely the simple religious view that if God didn't want us to do this He would have put beyond our reach the ability to achieve such. The Universe is well out of reach. Did God do that?
Len, Bridgend

I feel if a genuine medical reason can be "fixed" OK but "just because" is no reason. I am one of three boys, How would one of us feel if we were not born as our parents only wanted a girl?
Graham Place, Bracknell

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Great Danes and the euro

Audience Question: Following the euro result in Denmark - does the panel think this could possibly have an affect on Britain?

You said:

The debate about the Euro is exactly that - a debate. The important thing to remember is that the Government will not decide - their policy is that a referendum will allow us, the electorate to decide. The politicians on the programme have views that are only as valid as ours - so let's have a proper reasoned debate.
Jake Parker, Brighton

Robin Cook trots out once again the Governments stance that when the five economic conditions are met for joining the Euro they will put the question to the people. When therefore will the Government start regularly publishing these economic tests?
George Galbraith, Stirling

I have never heard such a load of rubbish spouted by Mr Bruce and Mr Cook. The real decision is do we want to control our own country or hand it over to bureaucratic, unelected, secretive power mad people in Brussels? Denmark made the right decision and we will in time - we do not want to be sold down the river. The Lib Dems are like lemmings running over the cliff in their rush to be swallowed up by Brussels.
Arthur Murray, UK

When this country had a referendum about Europe, we voted to join a common market! Was I asleep when we voted to become a superstate or was this just slipped in the back door a bit like most tax rises are?
Andy Borland, Belper

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A state-run lottery?

Audience Question: In its Manifesto the Government pledged a not-for-profit lottery, isn't it time to abandon Camelot and go for a state-run lottery?

You said:

If we have a state run lottery will it be then sold off to make money in a few years time - when they just can't be bothered with it anymore, much like all the other state run institutions?
Louise, Liverpool

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General comments on the programme:

We find the programme absorbing and listen every week. We do wish that speakers were allowed two uninterrupted minutes (say) to answer a question. When others on the panel but in, and cross bickering takes place, the programme becomes a shambles. Furthermore it spoils the entertainment for the hard of hearing like me. I wish also that making cheap political jibes be banned.
Robert James, Cheshire

Does the panel think that a day will come when politicians put aside party politics and actually represent the people who have elected them into power, instead of trying to tell people what to do and think by the use of clever sound bytes and never answering questions directly?
A Borland, Belper

It would appear for the second week running you have a left leaning panel rather than a balanced left/right panel. It would appear that maybe the Tory accusations of bias have some foundation.
Darren, London

Why is Question Time not broadcast in Widescreen? I'd have expected such a high quality programme to be ahead of the field rather than behind.
Tony English, London

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