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Tuesday, 8 December, 1998, 09:00 GMT
Thursday 3 December, Southampton
On the panel were:

  • Roy Hattersley, former deputy Labour leader
  • Piers Morgan, Mirror editor
  • Janet Street-Porter, broadcaster
  • Iain Duncan-Smith MP, Conservative Social Security spokesman

    William Hague's decision to sack Lord Cranborne

    Audience question: "Did Lord Cranborne deserve to be treated the way he has been this week?"

    Roy Hattersley said: "It turned into a catastrophe for William Hague. We're now in a situation where almost whatever William Hague does will look like a mistake. I think his reputation is so damaged that he is now a broken leader."

    Piers Morgan said: "What we are seeing is a disintegration of the Conservative party before our eyes. It's just a tragedy for the county that the supposed opposition of this country is crumbling ... William Hague has proved to be one of the most ineffectual leaders of an opposition I can ever remember."

    Janet Street-Porter said: "What I see now is a man who's behaving a bit like a bully in a school playground."

    Iain Duncan-Smith said: "The reality was that Cranborne was not empowered to make the deal ... He has accepted that he way overstepped the mark, that he had no power to make any deals that he did make."

    You said:

    It is very encouraging, a leader taking a tough stance after all the in-fighting of the last years of the Tory government. I feel sure that in the long run it will enhance his leadership and perception of it in the country.

    The latest disaster for the Tories just adds fuel to my belief that they should split into two separate parties. They are finished. Just when this country needs an effective opposition over the forthcoming big issues, William Hauge has little public support and Paddy Ashdown is sitting pretty with Tony Blair. The only effective source of opposition at the moment, is the 'soon to be reformed Labour way' House of Lords.
    Chris Murphy

    William Hague has effectively proven what many people have always suspected, that he is is a relatively weak, churlish individual, sadly lacking in credible political or management experience. If he continues as leader, he will certainly lead the Tories into oblivion.
    Paul Ryder

    William Hague is a shining example of why we need wiser, more mature and circumspect men and women in the country's most senior political posts.
    Chris Klein

    Hague was stitched up by Cranborne. What would you do?
    Philip Devin

    Hague was right to sack people who went behind his back to do private deals. A few unelected peers cannot and must not be allowed to alter party policy to save their own skins for a few months in a back door deal.
    Barry Walters

    William Hague is vainly trying to do to the Conservative Party what Tony Blair successfully did to the Labour Party. Problem is Mr Hague will not succeed because he lacks the credibility of leadership. The Tories are a divided party and will remain so for a very long time indeed.
    Kevin Webster, Lincoln

    While you can understand that the Conservative Party is trying to find points of principle to make it seem that it has the authority to govern, it seems strange that they should want to make these issues, ones that are so out of step with the spirit of the times. The concern to defend the principle of an unelected body and the idea of national sovereignty, seem out of step with a general desire for modernisation and a recognition that we cannot exist in isolation from the rest of Europe.
    Jonathan Gordon

    I believe the sacking of Lord Cranborne and the subsequent resignation of Lord Fraser shows how the Conservative Party is still split on many issues and still is wandering aimlessly in the political wilderness.
    Darren Carter

    Mr Hague's action is not that of a strong political leader. It is the petulant response of a weak man. He has thrown away a perfect chance to put the government on the spot over recent European developments and started a divisive inter-party squabble, a major cause of their pathetic rump in the Commons.
    Andrew Baynes

    William Hague has no credibility whatsoever after the debacle of 2nd December - regarding the Lords. He should resign, but he will not, because of the current Commons composition of the Tory party. Most of them are rabid right- wingers in safe Tory seats. They will put their agenda before the country. Mind you, that's no surprise.
    Simon Coote

    William who?
    Mike Dudley

    A leader is responsible for the actions of his subordinates. A good leader recognises this responsibility, supports his people, and deals with internal issues in a dignified manner, internally.
    Jean Gamester

    Time for a new leader
    Simon Hanson

    Why doesn't Tony Blair stand by his promise to abolish hereditary peers?
    Brian Pelan

    Boots the chemist giving contraceptive advice to underage children

    Audience question: "Are we giving the green light to teenage promiscuity?"

    Piers Morgan said: "Clearly the Victorian attitudes that we have deployed in the past are simply not working ... They are having sex whether we like it or not and they are having it younger and younger."

    Janet Street-Porter said: "You can put up as many posters as you like, you are just not going to get any kind of message across ... What Boots are doing is absolutely fine by me."

    Iain Duncan-Smith said: "I'm fundamentally opposed to it."

    Roy Hattersley said: "Young people these days do have sex."

    You said:

    The question was put to the panel 'Do you think under 16s should be allowed to be given contraception' A women from the audience disagreed with it and argued it out,and quite frankly it sickened me! I did not realise that there were still people like that nowadays. She seemed like she was stuck in her own world and it's people like that that would rather sweep the problem under the carpet, move on with the future and pretend there isn't a problem! Good job she isn't running the country or else we would have children raising children and the only prevention of pregnancy/STDs would either be castration or no sex. Thank you but no thanks!
    Syreeta M Henry

    As a teenager I fully support the move. There is no way of denying that teenagers have sex under age. Ideally, underage sex needs to be combatted, but until then everything needs to be done to prevent teenage pregnancy.
    Matt Sheringham

    I have just been watching the debate about Boots providing a venue for a family planning clinic and have rarely heard such nonsense. All family planning clinics throughout the UK are able to see under 16s and frequently do; the advice given is entirely confidential and provided that the doctor concerned (and I am one) is satisfied that the girl is at risk from pregnancy, is mentally capable of taking the decision to use contraception and is not willing to discuss this with her parents, we are legally entitled to prescribe for them. We always try to encourage young girls to discuss these matters with their parents but recognise that in many cases this is not possible. It is almost unheard of to see a girl who is not already sexually active and therefore at risk. The venue at Boots in Glasgow is simply another place for family planning advice.
    Joanna French

    Would you PLEASE educate your panel/s with regard to "broken homes". Could someone come up with a distinction in terminology between those who choose to have children without a father figure, and those who through divorce or widowhood find themselves raising children alone? I thoroughly disagree with the current tendency to lump everyone together under the catch-all term "single parents", with its associated assumptions of under-achieving, probably criminally inclined offspring. I deeply resent my children being regarded as statistics, and for the record, would be horrified if I thought they were even considering having sex below the age of 16. We have discussed all this fully since they were around ten years old, and they understand completely that this idea is a non-starter - it is regarded in the same way as taking drugs.
    Karen King, North Yorkshire

    If teenage pregnancy can be avoided I am all for it. I would much rather my son or daughter had the forsight not to put themselves at risk, not only from pregnancy but other sexually transmitted diseases. Go for it Boots!
    Peter Hill

    I live in the Netherlands. I would like to known when Mr Duncan-Smith's friends actually visited Holland? In the fifties? Nowadays, there is no stigma attached to illegitimacy at all. In fact, it is completely tolerated and accepted!
    Anna Bosselaar

    Why does the panel not know that young people underage, can confidentially go to their GP and receive free contraceptives?
    John Gardner

    Sexual morality is not the preserve of the post 21 world. Education and adherance to moral and social norms might be the way forward. The availability of contraceptive devices should hopefully work.
    Paul Grubb

    The attitude of the British press towards Europe

    Audience question: Isn't the right wing press's scaremongering over Europe outdated, ignorant and puerile?"

    Roy Hattersley said: "We've had a week of absurd scaremongering."

    Piers Morgan said: "The Mirror is pro-European ... The Sun and the Mail for the last two weeks have been rabidly hysterical ... I can't wait for the Euro but I think our policy is absolutely right, let's wait and see what happens."

    You said:

    These so called scare stories in the press over Europe are in fact advance warning of unwelcome developments yet to come. While our deceitful government continues to try to hide the true nature of the EU's agenda (a single European state), we need someone to tell us what's really going on.
    Austin Spreadbury

    We will continue to witness "puerile debate" and "scaremongering" over the EU until the government eventualy stop deceiving the people of Britain and let them have all the real information so that the country can decide what is best for them via a referendum. I believe they are holding back because they already know the answer. No one wants it! I doubt whether the government will open up yet over Europe. In the meantime Piers Morgan will continue to sell his puerile little rag.
    Michael Binks

    The press are raising important issues which politicians are trying to avoid. Tax harmonisation is an almost certain consequence of a single currency. The government needs to begin educating the public on the pros and cons of the euro and have a referendum.
    Alison Lane

    The British people will not trade democracy for a cheaper mortgage for a few months, Mr Morgan. Harmonised Europe-wide taxes are part of the French-German agenda by their own open admission. Reporting that is not scaremongering, it is a real cause for concern.
    Adam Fenner

    Performance related pay for teachers

    Audience question: "Will performance related pay result in better quality teachers going to better quality schools and thus the poorer schools suffering?"

    Roy Hattersley said: "It needs a general increase in teachers' wages. I don't believe this scheme is going to solve anything at all. Indeed I think it's going to create more problems than it solves."

    Piers Morgan said: "Why should we pay poor teachers? I think this is a brilliant scheme by the government ... It's long overdue and they should do the same thing in the health service."

    Janet Street-Porter said: "I love the idea of performance related pay ... All I hear from teachers is whinge, whinge whinge. I know they're badly paid but by the same token you've got to bring in some stars. "

    You said:

    Many of the problems with the teaching profession would be solved with schools being given realistic budgets. My mother is a non teaching assistant at an inner city school. The school has for the past three years been under staffed by two teachers, yet in June of last year were told that they would have to lose another 2 members of staff. As an NTA my mother should teach groups of no more that 15. However, she regularly has to deal with classes in excess of 30 and often up to 40 pupils. She is the schools special education needs co-ordinator even though she is not actually qualified as a teacher (she was one of the previous administration's "mothers army"). My current partner who is an honours graduate in physics and was paid a 2000 "bribe" to enter teacher training was for over 12 months unable to obtain a position in teaching as many schools find that they do not have the financial resources to employ the number of staff that they require. Is it any wonder therefore that teachers are demoralised? The fast track method that is being proposed is only likely to make this situation worse.
    Jan Goulding

    I was amused to hear Tony Blair say this afternoon that he wishes to give teachers parity of esteem with doctors. The proposals in the green paper give the opportunity for only a small proportion of classroom teachers to reach the giddy heights of a 35,000 salary. Exceptional headteachers who turn around "failing schools", which may have over 2000 pupils and 200 staff, could earn up to 70,000 per annum. General practitioners earn in excess of 50,000 and many earn much more. Hospital consultants earn up to 112,000 for a 35 hour week, leaving much spare time to earn still more enormous sums from private practice. A highly achieving, school student in maths and the sciences, given the choice between teaching one of these subjects or studying medicine will, as the vast majority always have done, choose the latter.
    Stephen Usherwood

    If we fast track all the best teachers into school administration and management, are we not preventing them from doing what they're being judged best at - teaching? There needs to be a system where good teachers are encouraged and paid to stay in the classroom and actually do the kids some good.
    Jock Coats

    Since no two teachers work with the same pupils, the same resources and in the same environment, performance-related pay would be unjust.
    Mike Jordan

    Animal rights activists

  • Death threats from animal rights activists if hunger striker Barry Horne dies

    Audience question: "Given that death threats are a very serious offence, why don't we just simply lock up all these activists and just let this guy die peacefully in a manner of his own choosing?"

    Janet Street-Porter said: "Animal testing is now very very minimally employed ... How these people can be justified in saying that ten people will die - I find it extraordinary."

    Roy Hattersley said: "I'd like to see a Royal Commission but this is clearly not the way to go about getting it ... This is fanaticism and if they weren't fanatical about this they'd be fanatical about something else and we have to resist them."

    Piers Morgan said: "People like Carla Lane and Linda McCartney achieved an awful lot more than he [Barry Horne] did by peaceful means. He is not going to achieve anything by killing himself."

    You said:

    If the Government were to bow to Barry Horne's plea of establishing a royal commission to investigate vivisection, it would establish a gravely damaging precedent - saying that blackmail and bribery can influence decision- making in the UK. Such a concept is dangerous and would make our political society vulnerable to attack from sectional and unrepresentative interests, with future civil strife inevitable. Does Horne care more about a few hundred rats than 54 million British citizens?
    Mattthew PZ Berry

    On what basis can Janet Street-Porter make the judgement that animal experimenting is employed very very minimally, when millions of animals are tortured and killed each year in UK laboratories alone? Barry Horne, far from being a danger to the public, is one of the few people with genuine concern for the society in which we live.
    Ian Russell

    This man is convicted criminal/terrorist and if he decides to kill himself then we should leave him to it.
    Andrew McPherson

    General comments on the programme

    Just enjoyed your latest edition and may I congratulate you on visiting different cities around the country. A person in the 'provinces' gets entirely sick of London, London, London.
    Joyce Miron

    Once again no Liberal Democrat representative on the panel and none planned for the next edition. With 46 MPs and thousands of elected members in local government there really is no excuse for not putting together a balanced panel. This week it was clear that the panel was constituted of three Labour supporters although there is always some doubt about the bumbling Roy Hattersley. The programme no longer includes the straw polling of the assembled audience and quite frankly is losing its credibility.
    Chris Smith

    I was very disappointed with last night's Question Time. What disappointed me was the rather unbalanced team. To have 2.5 totally committed government supporters out of a team of four cannot be seen as balanced. I have given Roy Hatersley the half because of his previous comments on Tony Blair's policies.
    John Davies

    I am a great admirer of BBC Question Time. However it angers me when a great deal of debate takes place on the programme concerning education, and not one view is submitted from an under 18 year old or student. I myself am 16 and have been denied participation in the audience on more than one occasion. Let's have more students and youngsters on QuestionTtime ready to make a constructive and worthy contribution to the programme.
    David Outterside

    What a joy to get back to just 4 panellists. The debate was much crisper, the audience participation much better. Five panellists leads to much too fragmented debate. Please stick with just 4!
    Nigel Martin

    I would like to second the view of Nigel Martin that a panel of four makes for a much crisper and coherent debate than a panel of five. Unlike Mr and Mrs Richardson, though, I would like to see more of David Dimbleby's lethal cross-questioning rather than less. Our politicians are such a slimy bunch, they would never answer the questions they're asked without his repeated intervention. The primary purpose of the programme may be to let members of the audience have their say, but when Mr. Dimbleby spots something interesting, as he did with Iain Duncan-Smith's reference to a deal over the House of Commons, he should go for it just the way he did.
    Meredith Thomson

    My husband and I watched Question Time expecting a lively and informative debate. However, we were both disgusted to be subjected to a partisan panel and far from impartial programme host. Three out of the four guests were expressing extreme left wing views. The fourth guest, Mr Iain Duncan-Smith, was victimised throughout the programme, being interrupted and talked over by the other guests and also by Mr Dimbleby. It is a shame that such a valuable forum for public debate should degenerate into an arena for partisan propaganda. It is important to us that Question Time should express balanced views and have panellists from differing political persuasions so that the debate can remain stimulating and educational to the British public.
    Jim and Miriam Richardson

    Iain Duncan-Smith victimised? Now he knows what it feels like!That's what's so stomach churning about Tories.They victimised the miners, the steel workers, homosexuals, single parents, but they can't take it when they are criticised. If that is a final statement on the Tories, then its a fitting one.
    Simon Coote

    Iain Duncan-Smith is a perfect illustration of how out of touch the Tory party is. If you asked the audience the question, "should he be shot?" I bet you'd have 70%+ agreeing with me that he should be.
    James Miller

    Iain Duncan Smith, MP of 1998, no sorry 1938. His views on most things are outdated: he likes hereditary peers, denies under age sex ever happens and wants us out of a modern Europe. With daft views like this no wonder the Tory party lost the last election and will lose the next!
    Steve Wallis

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