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Wednesday, 18 October, 2000, 08:16 GMT 09:16 UK
October 19, Oxford
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Audience Question: Should the Railtrack board have accepted Gerald Corbett's resignation?
Where is John Prescott? When a rail tragedy occurred it used to be traditional that the current Minister of Transport was seen on the scene and showing sympathy and determination to prevent further tragedies. So far I am not aware of any such ministerial input. After Paddington John Prescott said that everything would be done to ensure rail safety. So far nothing - shame on you JP.
The decision by the Railtrack board to reject Gerald Corbett's resignation offer makes a mockery of corporate responsibility in this country. What kind of message does this send to chief executives of other companies on which the public depend for their safety, whether it be in transport, food supply, nuclear power generation, or GM foods? Bosses everywhere, faced with a few fatalities, can now make a token offer of resignation, and then have it rejected by their board. How convenient!
I am a professional engineer, and I was not impressed with Mr Clarke's comments that the recent rail disaster was not a political issue but an ongoing problem with the engineering of the railway system.
At the moment the railways have had promises of huge amounts of money from the Government to increase rail safety. But the answer is not to just throw billions at the rail network, but surely to set up a new independent body that has the resources, personnel and the engineering knowledge necessary to take a close look at our railways.
On rail safety, there's a growing sense (fair or not) of "hit or miss." Passengers have a right to feel they are making informed decisions about how to travel. Railtrack and operating companies must address this quickly.
I think the biggest problem is that although the railways are one of the safest methods of transport in this country (compared to roads), the media always takes a judgmental accusatory tone with any interviewees which places them on the back foot. This is not helpful, it serves only to increase a completely false feeling within the population that we must have the head of (insert the corporation of your choice), and nothing less will do.
If "two jags" Prescott cannot soon devise a comprehensive blueprint for safety on the railways, should he not resign his position as head of the DETR?
I am a staunch capitalist, but the state of the country's rail tracks has come about because Railtrack has an absolute monopoly. Had there been proper competition, as we have in other areas of commerce and industry, this latest tragedy would not have happened. Railtrack should be nationalised, and maybe the rail companies as well.
To anyone who is demanding that millions be spent on marginal improvements in rail safety, I ask have you in the last 10 days jumped a traffic light, exceeded a speed limit or parked on a pavement? If so, go away and stop being so hypocritical.
Forcing the railways to spend hundreds of millions will make them uncompetitive, force more people on to the roads and cost many more lives.
Audience Question: Does the Prime Minister's current position reflect a new economic condition in the UK?
I feel Dimbleby showed his political leanings by curtailing the debate on the euro as soon as the last speaker from the audience raised the real issue by referring to the constitutional issues that are the most significant points to be considered. We know Ken Clarke's views which are very limited.
The euro is said to fall... The value of a currency nowadays is determined by the buying and selling of it which in turn depends on the attractiveness particularly level of interest rates. The interest rates in euro-zone are much lower than Sterling. Therefore the Pound is more attractive. The day that changes there will be another Souros who shifts vast sums and the pound crashes in one minute...
Is that too complicated?
I truly cannot believe any Government of the UK - a country whose economy is the 4th largest in the world (outside the euro), ever countenancing entry to the single currency when in 1993 we saw the spectacle of 15% inflation, thousands of lost businesses, millions of lost jobs and a 3 year completely unnecessary recession as a result of this countries participation in the exchange rate mechanism (ERM) - essentially the same system as the common currency!
Does anyone seriously believe our economy will disappear in a puff of smoke should we never join?
Tony Blair said: ... but as I keep saying to people, if you come along to me with an opinion poll and said 'Do you want to join the euro today?' - I would say no." This was on Thursday, but what would he have said on Wednesday and what will he say on Friday or Saturday?
In response to the mini-debate about Europe, "Why do we have politicians deciding on what they claim to be purely economic matters? Answer: because the European project, including the euro, is fundamentally a political scheme."
Ken Clarke is correct to point out that the economy is growing at a lesser rate than other EU economies. The reason that this is so is that the current Government has taken a long term economic view and avoided the boom and bust cycle that was so prevalent under the previous government. That alone is a very limited factor in assessing economic strength
More to the point, when we eventually do have a referendum, not only will it be when the Government of the day decides it can win, but also public money will only be spent on the pro campaign. Surely this is not the way for a democratic country to go?
A lot of negatives are mooted by the pro-euro's when the notion of the UK 'never' joining the Euro is mooted....strange when the alternative is that if we were to join it would be for 'always'!
Tony Blair should make his position absolutely
crystal clear on Britain's position to join the single currency before the next General election, as this is a key policy area for much of the electorate?
We keep hearing the mantra about joining the euro when it is in Britains interest to do so, and that this is not the case at the moment. No-one seems to have considered the situation which will arise having joined the euro when something happens to make it becomes no longer in Britains interest to remain so. What will happen then?
Designer babies: a human right?
Audience Question: Is the option of determining the sex of an embryo a fundamental human right?
I am disgusted with the way abortion was brought into the discussion of human rights/choosing your child's sex.
One of the questions in human rights is not only "what is a human" but also when do human rights interfere with the right of other human beings and which is more important in this situation. When choosing a healthy embryo, which is in the interest of the child, choosing the sex is only in the interest of the parents.
Whilst agreeing that there needs to be some form of broad regulatory body to maintain an overview of emergent human reproductive technologies can see no reason not to leave sufficient flexibility in the system to allow the professionals involved to make decisions on a case by case basis-taking into consideration the often deeply complex nature of each. This flexibility is surely afforded in other areas of medicine and I'm certain that we can trust Professor Winston and his colleagues to make sound and reasoned ethical judgements in each case.
How can a debate, about the rightness of therapeutic interference to produce a child of a particular sex, be conducted without any reference to morality, or the possibility that Natural laws, over which none of us have either understanding or domain, should be the central plank of contention against such interference being allowed?
Not a single panellist or member of the audience raised any such reservations.
I think that the audiences' views that a baby should not be seen as a commodity and a member of the panel's view that babies should not, in any way, be conceived for personal gratification are slightly hypocritical. This is so because any person or persons who actively plan for the birth of a child, regardless of its sex, are doing so for personal gratification i.e. because they want a child. I would doubt very much that any parent who has planned a baby did so in order to safeguard the national population.
Is this not the same idea that a certain German dictator had some 50 years ago? Open the door to this and cloning a super race will not be far behind!
If you are a parent you would do absolutely anything to give your child the best possible life. But choosing its sex before it is conceived is really not a important enough option.
Blair and Hague US style?
Audience Question: Should we have US style presidential debates in the UK?
Having Mr Blair and Mr Hague debate in a US presidential style format I believe would do a disservice to the British people.
I think the introduction of a US Presidential election debate would be dangerous to the present parliamentary system. As the panel stated, such a system would place far too much emphasis on the party leaders and not on the actual party.
William and Tony - come on down. I think it's a brilliant idea, a real gun-slinging showdown!
Educating Laura: what price for Oxbridge?
Audience Question: Do you think that the Laura Spence case has irrevocably damaged the Oxbridge image?
Why hasn't Mr Brown, and those who defended him, told us which first year medical student did not deserve their place at Oxford?
I have to go back to my old state school in Spring, and convince their pupils to apply to an Oxbridge College. Did Mr Brown, and his supporters, realise how much more difficult they would make this?
As a state school pupil, now at Oxford, I felt insulted by Mr Brown's original comments over selection, and believe that it suggested that I was a token pupil, in his opinion, used to bolster statistics.
I think that Lord Winston was spot on with his comment about Laura Spence lacking commitment to her chosen subject, medicine. The whole affair was blown up out of all proportion. I seems quite ridiculous now that it was ever an issue.
General comments on the programme:
So a Labour Cabinet Minister, a Liberal Democrat Peer, a former Tory cabinet minister, a right-wing Tory newspaper editor and a distinguished academic with specific interests in some of the areas up for debate constitutes a left-wing panel, does it?
Just want to say that this is the best Question Time I have ever seen. The quality of the debate was excellent. Each member of the panel seemed to want to make serious and well thought out points without feeling the need to simply repeat a party political line. I learnt a lot about very difficult and complex subjects.
Again another panel biased to the left! Why does Question Time insist on leaning to the left instead of an equal left/right balance? This does not represent the majority of public opinion in this country!
Does Mr Dimbleby realise how unprofessional he looks when he will never let a Conservative panel member finish a sentence?
I would like to know why the host has to always say what a person does for a living, as I cannot see what bearing this has on a question. May be I am missing something on this if so could you please inform me of the reason.
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