BBC BLOGS - Have Your Say

Archives for November 2010

Who should be responsible for keeping us healthy?

09:41 UK time, Tuesday, 30 November 2010

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Councils are to be put in charge of encouraging healthier lifestyles under plans to be unveiled by ministers. Should councils be in responsible for encouraging healthy living?

The government believes the wider remit of councils in areas such as housing, transport and leisure puts them in a stronger position to tackle smoking, drinking and obesity in England.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley told the BBC: ""We have got to arrive at a point where politicians stop just telling people how to be healthy but actually help them to do it." The public health White Paper will say the key to encouraging healthier behaviour lies in creating the right environment and then "nudging" people into making different choices.

Employers will also be told they have an important role in helping and supporting staff as well.

Should government take a "less intrusive" approach to public health? How much is it up to government to set the healthy living agenda? Will the plans help reduce the gap between rich and poorer areas? Do people need to do more to help themselves?

Thank you for your comments. This debate is now closed.

Is enough being done to end disability discrimination?

11:51 UK time, Monday, 29 November 2010

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It's 40 years since the first Disability Act was passed, giving rights to disabled people for the first time. But has enough been done?

The legislation encapsulated ideas such as help at home, the right to proper assessment of needs and crucially making it the responsibility of local councils to make the environment accessible to disabled people.

However, a new BBC survey has revealed that although 90% of those polled believed government should provide funds to make the workplace accessible for the disabled, 40% thought that people with disabilities turned down jobs, even when they were physically able to do them.

Do disability services need to be improved? Is disability discrimination still a problem? Do you have a personal experience to share?

Thank you for your comments. This debate is now closed.

Is Wikileaks right to release secret documents?

20:41 UK time, Sunday, 28 November 2010

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The US and Nato have drawn up plans to defend Nato's Baltic members against Russia, latest US diplomatic cables disclosed by Wikileaks show. What are the implications of these new leaks?

The cables, published in the Guardian, reveal plans to expand an existing strategy to defend Poland to include Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Previous leaks included a long list of key facilities around the world that the US describes as vital to its national security.

What are the implications of these leaks? What will they achieve? Are the leaks an attack on the world community, as the US claims?

Wikileaks cables: Key issues

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

Should school sports lessons focus on fitness?

13:27 UK time, Friday, 26 November 2010

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Leading sports doctors have strongly criticised the way PE is being taught in English schools and claim children are not getting a proper workout. Should PE focus on fitness or sports?

The British Association of Sports and Exercise Medicine (BASEM) would like all schools to use a short exercise routine called "five-in-five" to improve children's agility skills. BASEM chairman, Dr Richard Budgett, has called for the routine to be incorporated into all PE lessons in order to help develop strength and agility skills.

The "five-in-five" routines involve squatting, lunging, pushing, bracing, rotating, and getting puffed out. The government said PE was a matter for individual schools to decide.

Should schools take on more responsibility for a child's fitness? How can children's fitness by improved? Should there be a re-think in the way PE is taught in schools? Should PE be about competitive sporting games or fitness?

Thank you for your comments. This debate is now closed.

How can we stop drug traffickers?

11:09 UK time, Friday, 26 November 2010

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Thirty people have been killed in five days of violence as police in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil crackdown on violent drug gangs. What is the best way to tackle South America's drug problem?

Police in Rio de Janeiro say they now have total control of the Vila Cruzeiro shanty town after drug traffickers had regrouped in the area. Suspected gang members had been blocking roads, burning cars and shooting at police stations.

Rio's governor says the violence is retaliation by drugs gangs who have been driven out of some areas by a police pacification programme. The programme is aimed at improving security and the rule of law in Rio, where favelas have been controlled by drug-trafficking gangs for many years.

Should we wage war on drug traffickers? Will Rio's pacification programme work? Should other countries adopt similar schemes? Can the international community do more to help control drug crime in Brazil?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

Is passive smoking a problem?

10:32 UK time, Friday, 26 November 2010

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The first global study into the effects of passive smoking has found it causes 600,000 deaths worldwide every year. Should more be done to stop people smoking in public places?

The World Health Organization (WHO) carried out the study which blames one in one hundred deaths on passive smoking which can also cause heart disease, respiratory illness and lung cancer.

According to the study, passive smoking is particularly dangerous for children, as children exposed to second-hand smoke are at a higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome, pneumonia and asthma. One third of those killed were found to be children, who are often exposed to smoke at home.

Are you a smoker, do you worry about people passive smoking around you? Have you stopped smoking or do you only smoke in certain places as a result? How big a problem is passive smoke? Is enough being done to protect adults and children from second-hand smoke in your country?

Thank you for your comments. This debate is now closed.

Should the UK voting system change?

08:37 UK time, Friday, 26 November 2010

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Five former Labour cabinet ministers have pledged their opposition to changing the system for electing MPs. What is your opinion?

A referendum will be held on 5 May to decide whether the current electoral system of first-past-the-post should be replaced by the alternative voting (AV) system.

The Conservatives and Lib Dems agreed to hold a referendum as part of their coalition deal but Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg are on different sides of the argument over the need for change.

While the Conservatives largely oppose change and the Lib Dems support it, Labour appears divided over the issue.

What do you think of the current voting system? Would you support the introduction of AV? What impact would a change in the voting system have on British politics?

Thank you for your comments. This debate is now closed.

Would you eat cloned meat?

08:37 UK time, Friday, 26 November 2010

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Meat and milk from cloned cattle and their offspring is safe to consume, independent scientists have said. Are you happy to consume it?

The Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes said it believed the food was unlikely to present any risk. The Food Standards Agency will discuss the conclusions in December before providing further advice to ministers.

In the US, South America and Asia, farmers can breed from cloned cows, sheep and pigs in order to increase milk and meat production. However, critics say there are strong ethical and animal welfare reasons to ban its use in European agriculture.

Should cloned milk and meat be available to eat? Should science have a part in food production? Have you changed your mind over the years about cloned animal products? Are you concerned about where your food has come from?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

Who should pay for education?

11:48 UK time, Thursday, 25 November 2010

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A scheme aimed at getting more children from poor homes into England's universities has been scrapped. Should students pay for their education?

Universities UK (UUK) head Professor Steve Smith says without higher fees the number of student places would have to be cut, as teaching grants are axed. Prof Smith is calling for the government to say which subjects it plans to subsidise.

His comments come a day after students and pupils protested against fees and university budget cuts in central London and in university towns and cities around England and Scotland.

Should education be free? Should certain subjects should be subsidised? Are you a student or lecturer? Were you involved in the student protests?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

Do you back government's school reform plans?

09:12 UK time, Wednesday, 24 November 2010

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Plans to overhaul the way teachers are trained in England and how schools are funded will be set out later as part of the government's education White Paper. How would these reforms affect you?
Education Secretary Michael Gove said he wanted to restore "the prestige, the esteem, the importance of teaching". But the Labour Party has accused Mr Gove of creating a competitive and segregated system.

As part of the plans, former troops will be offered sponsorship to retrain as teachers, and there will be new aptitude tests for the profession.

Are schools failing? What can be done to improve standards of schooling? Would you retrain as a teacher?

Thank you for your comments. This debate is now closed.

Korean artillery clashes: Your reaction

11:06 UK time, Tuesday, 23 November 2010

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North Korea has threatened further military action if South Korea continues on what it called a "path of military provocation", the North's official KCNA news agency reported. What is your reaction?

The North's state news agency, KCNA, said the exercises were "reckless" and the "trigger-happy" allies were deliberately targeting the North.

North Korean shelling of a Southern island two days ago killed two civilians and two marines, and prompted an increase in regional tension.

What is your reaction to the incident? Are you from the region? What repercussions could the clashes have in the region and the rest of the world? How can North and South Korea resolve their differences peacefully?

Thank you for your comments. This debate is now closed.

Do you back the government's migration cap?

09:42 UK time, Tuesday, 23 November 2010

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The government is to cap the number of non-EU skilled migrants allowed into the UK at about 43,000 next year, down 13% on 2009. What's your reaction to the cap?

The cap has been a divisive issue for the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government and has raised concerns among the business community.

Curbing the number skilled worked will only partly allow the government to reach its immigration target. Home affairs select committee chairman and Labour MP, Keith Vaz said he did not believe the cap would work as there would be so many exemptions.

Will the cap harm British competitiveness? Are you a migrant to the UK? Are you a business owner employing skilled migrants?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

How would you change the Labour Party?

10:27 UK time, Monday, 22 November 2010

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"Profound" changes to the Labour Party on the scale of Tony Blair's New Labour reforms of the mid-1990s have been promised by leader Ed Miliband. What does the future hold for the party?

In a Guardian newspaper interview, as he returned from two weeks' paternity leave, Mr Miliband warned his party that it faced a "long, hard road" ahead.

He said the aim was to turn the party into the "largest community organisation in the country". He added that Labour would review its policies and its organisation, including the rules for electing its leaders.

Does the Labour Party need reforms? How should political parties be better organised? Do you support Ed Miliband's plans?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

Should GCSE exams be taken earlier?

09:26 UK time, Monday, 22 November 2010

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A report from an education charity is calling for GCSEs to be taken at the age of 14, after which pupils could go on to specialise in academic or vocational courses. What impact would earlier exams have?

The study, commissioned by the Sutton Trust, calls for young people to take exams two years earlier in order to give them an idea of their capabilities before they choose qualifications for the future.

At present in England's schools, Prof Alan Smithers of the Trust says the system forces young people to make life-changing decisions too early. He argues that a form of undeclared selection takes place, where options are chosen at 14 and exams taken at 16 and there is a lack of clear routes into technical and work-based training.

Are you a parent or teacher? What do you think of the proposals? What improvements would you like to see to the education system?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

What impact will Irish bail-out have?

17:30 UK time, Sunday, 21 November 2010

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Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen has said he will call a general election in the new year following a day of political turmoil over an EU-led bail-out of the country's ailing economy. How can the country's problems be solved?

Mr Cowen rejected opposition calls for a snap election, saying the country's crucial budget had to be passed first.

The government has accepted up to 90bn euros (£77bn; $124bn) in loans.

Do you welcome the prime minister's decision? Will the bail-out help Ireland and and the wider EU? Are you in Ireland? If so, what do you think about this move?

Thank you for your comments. This debate is now closed.

Will plain cigarette packaging make smoking less attractive?

08:21 UK time, Sunday, 21 November 2010

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Cigarette packets should have plain packaging to make smoking less attractive, ministers have suggested. Would this be a deterrent?

The government plans to ask retailers to cover up displays of cigarettes so that children are not attracted by the packaging.

The Department of Health is considering the idea of asking tobacco companies to show only basic information and health or picture warnings on their packets.

Would this deter children from starting smoking? Are you a smoker? Are you trying to stop smoking? Would these measures help you? Does packaging help recruit smokers?

Thank you for your comments. This debate is now closed.

Will the Pope's condom comments change the Catholic Church?

17:56 UK time, Saturday, 20 November 2010

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Pope Benedict XVI is reported to have said the use of condoms is acceptable "in certain cases". What is your reaction to this statement?

In a book due to be published on Tuesday, he said they could reduce the risk of infection with HIV, such as for a prostitute.

Until now, the Vatican had banned the use of any form of contraception - other than abstinence - even to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.

This has led to the Vatican being criticised for its position in the context of the Aids crisis.

What impact will these comments have? Should the Church move away from its hardline stance on contraception? Are you Catholic? If so, what do you make of these comments?

Thank you for your comments. This debate is now closed.

Will increased parking fines cut driving offences?

08:54 UK time, Saturday, 20 November 2010

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Some councils in England and Wales have been lobbying the government for the right to increase parking fines. Should motorists pay more?

The local authorities want to bring their fines in line with London, which has a higher upper limit of £120.

Penalties outside the capital currently have an upper limit of £70.

The British Parking Association is also calling for an increase, saying current levels are not enough of a deterrent.

Should councils be allowed to increase parking fines? Will increased fines deter motorists from committing driving offences? Would such a move unfairly penalise drivers?

Thank you for your comments. This debate is now closed.

A smaller social network for better friends?

12:26 UK time, Friday, 19 November 2010

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A former Facebook executive aims to turn the world of social networking on its head by limiting the number of friends you can have to 50. So does a smaller, more personal social network make for better friends?

Dave Morin's new company Path aims to enable more effective communications with people who are part of your trusted enclave. It contradicts the ethos of most social networks which includes loose acquaintances and colleagues.

"Facebook is about society and I think the need we are seeing at Path is that people still want to share more and share more openly with the people they trust the most and that is why we put this 50 limit on the service," said Mr Morin.

Would you use a social networking site that limited your connections to 50? Do you think people will want to prioritise more trusted relationships in their online space? Does a smaller, more personal social network make for better friends?

Thank you for your comments. This debate is now closed.

Have you 'never had it better' than in the recession?

08:37 UK time, Friday, 19 November 2010

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The prime minister's enterprise adviser, Lord Young, has stepped down after saying most Britons had "never had it so good" despite the "so-called recession". Was Lord Young right to resign?

Lord Young says that low interest rates mean that homeowners have seen their monthly mortgage payments reduced and that spending cuts had protected the value of the pound. Are you someone who is better off as a result of these measures?

He also said "I have a feeling and a hope that when this goes through, people will wonder what all the fuss was about."

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Do you think there is any truth in his comments or were they "both inaccurate and insensitive" as his statement of apology says? Are you having it better in the recession? Was Lord Young right to resign?

Thank you for your comments. This debate is now closed.

Should the Guantanamo trials be held in civilian courts?

11:25 UK time, Thursday, 18 November 2010

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The first Guantanamo detainee tried in a US civilian court has been found guilty on just one of 285 terror charges over the bombings of US embassies in Africa. What does this verdict mean?

Ahmed Ghailani was found guilty of conspiracy to damage or destroy US property with explosives.The attacks on US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998 killed 224 people.

The BBC's Iain MacKenzie in Washington says the failure to convict him on more charges will be viewed by some as proof that civilian courts are the wrong place to hold the Guantanamo trials. But, he says, the fact that the court threw out some evidence gained during enhanced interrogation at CIA "black sites" will be seen by others as a strength of the justice system.

Should the Guantanamo trials be held in civilian courts or military tribunals? How should evidence gained during interrogation be handled? What should be done with Guantanamo prison?

Thank you for your comments. This debate is now closed.

How should local planning decisions be made?

09:34 UK time, Thursday, 18 November 2010

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The Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, is to announce reforms to the planning system in England giving more decision-making powers to local people. Do you welcome the reforms?

The Localism Bill is set to hand power over planning decisions from Whitehall to neighbourhood groups with communities being able to decide where new shops, offices or homes should go and what green spaces should be protected.

Local people would be able to vote on the plans for their communities in local referendums.

Mr Pickles said: "For far too long local people have had too little to say over a planning system that has imposed bureaucratic decisions by distant officials in Whitehall and the town hall."

Are the local planning reforms a good way of bringing power back to local communities? Would you like to vote in planning decisions for your area? Is decentralisation of planning decisions a good idea?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

Is Nato still relevant?

08:29 UK time, Thursday, 18 November 2010

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Nato members have met in Portugal for what was billed as one of the most crucial summits in the alliance's 61-year history. What is Nato's role in the world?

At the summit leaders of Nato's 28 states backed a strategy to transfer leadership for the fight against the Taliban to Afghan forces by the end of 2014.

On Friday member states agreed a new 10-year "strategic concept", a document that defines the fundamental nature of Nato's role in the world.

What is the future for Nato? Is the organisation heading in the right direction? What impact will a timetable for transfer have on Afghanistan?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

What part of your heritage would you protect?

11:03 UK time, Wednesday, 17 November 2010

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French food, Spanish flamenco dancing and chants from the Pacific coast of Colombia have all been added to UNESCO's world heritage list. Should we all be doing more to protect our cultural heritage?

UNESCO the UN's culture and education agency considered 51 new candidates for its heritage list, which started in 2003 and aims to preserve the world's traditions considered under threat from globalisation.

The committee said the "gastronomic meal of the French" with its rites and its presentation, fulfilled the conditions for featuring on the list. Its inclusion will also please leading French chefs who had feared their cuisine was under threat from modern life and the global food industry.

Should more be done to protect food, music and dance? Or is enough of our cultural heritage already protected? Can protecting too much of the past prevent future growth and development? What cultural item from your country would you chose to protect and why?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

Who should be responsible for social care?

13:37 UK time, Tuesday, 16 November 2010

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Social care should no longer be seen as a right from the state but instead "everyone's responsibility", the government says. How should social care be funded?

The attempt to change the perception of social care was made as ministers set out new plans for social care in England. They promised more support for carers, an increase in personal budgets and a greater role for the voluntary sector.

Richard Jones, the president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, said "It is about a shift in perception and helping people understand there is a partnership between the individual, families and the state."

Should everyone take responsibility for social care? Should the voluntary sector have a greater role to play? What is the fairest way of providing social care? Are you, or is someone in your family in receipt of social care?

This debate is closed. Thank you for your comments.

Royal wedding: Your reaction

11:16 UK time, Tuesday, 16 November 2010

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Prince William is to marry his long term girlfriend Kate Middleton next year. What message would you send to the couple?

William, second in line to the throne, will marry Kate in London next spring or summer and the couple will live in north Wales, where he is serving with the RAF.

Prince William has given his fiancee Kate Middleton his mother's engagement ring.

What is your reaction to news of the royal engagement? What message would you send to the couple? Are you getting married next year? What tips would you offer the couple?

Royal reaction to the engagement

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

Is Britain still a major economic power?

21:51 UK time, Monday, 15 November 2010

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David Cameron says that Britain is still a "great economic power" despite having to make major spending cuts in order to reduce the UK's budget deficit. Is Britain on the decline in its world role?

Mr Cameron said his foreign policy must become more commercially driven if Britain is to carry weight on the international stage.

Delivering his first set-piece Guildhall speech on foreign policy, the prime minister added that Britain would need to link its economy to the fastest growing parts of the world including emerging markets such as India, South Africa, Brazil and Russia.

Is a more commercial foreign policy the right approach? What type of relationship should Britain have with emerging markets? How do you view Britain's role on a world stage?

Thank you for your comments. This debate is now closed.

Are e-mail's days numbered?

19:28 UK time, Monday, 15 November 2010

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Facebook bosses say they are creating a next-generation "modern messaging system". What next for social media?

CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the changes would help users communicate faster and more seamlessly with their friends.

He said that the company believed e-mail was past its prime in an age of instant messaging and texts.

Is e-mail "past its prime"? What is the main way you communicate? How can communication systems be improved? What feature would most help you?

Thank you for your comments. This debate has now closed.

What next for the eurozone?

14:41 UK time, Monday, 15 November 2010

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Europe's finance ministers have met in Brussels but say they did not hold detailed discussions on a potential bail-out for the Irish Republic. What next for the eurozone?

Belgium's finance minister, Didier Reynders, who chaired the talks, said this was because the Irish government had not requested financial help. But he stressed that the EU was "ready to act" if needed.

There have also been reports that the UK is considering offering billions of pounds of direct loans to the country.

Ireland's government has repeatedly denied that it is seeking outside support.

What action should be taken to solve the financial crisis in the eurozone? Is the EU doing enough? Does the International Monetary Fund have a role to play? Do you live in the eurozone region?

Europe's Pigs: Country by country

This debate has been closed. Thank you for your comments.

How does the Big Society work for you?

12:30 UK time, Monday, 15 November 2010

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Volunteers in Wiltshire are assisting the police by providing them with details of speeding motorists. Is this the Big Society in action?

Speed cameras have been scrapped as a cost-cutting exercise in Wiltshire and volunteers have since been trained to record speeds in known problem areas.

As a result, several repeat offenders have been convicted of speeding.

Wiltshire councillor John Thomson has denied that this is policing on the cheap, adding that "the community has to take up the slack for some of the things that we'd like to do but can't afford to do anymore".

David Cameron has been encouraging volunteering in the government's vision of the Big Society.

Is this a good way to tackle speeding? Are you a volunteer? Do you feel part of the Big Society? Should this model be extended? Is it policing on the cheap? Do you know of similar schemes in your area?

Thank you for your comments. This debate is now closed.

How can happiness be measured?

10:09 UK time, Monday, 15 November 2010

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An attempt to officially measure how happy people are in the UK could be launched by the Government. Is it important to measure happiness and wellbeing?

While in Opposition, David Cameron called for "general wellbeing" to be assessed alongside traditional economic indicators as there was "more to life than money". Almost 30 MPs have signed a Commons motion calling for the move, arguing that promoting happiness and well-being is a legitimate and important goal of government.

Previous surveys have indicated that the UK's happiness has remained broadly static for at least 25 years.

Should factors other than economic indicators be used to measure the success of a nation? Is it the government's job to be promoting happiness and well-being? Is there more to life than money? Is this the best time to be assessing the happiness of the nation? What in life makes make you happy?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

What is the best way to teach child literacy?

00:46 UK time, Sunday, 14 November 2010

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Too many children leave primary school unable to read or write well enough, England's chief schools inspector says. What is the best way to ensure that children can read and write when they leave primary school?

Head of Ofsted Christine Gilbert said standards of reading and writing among many 11-year-olds fell "stubbornly short" of achievable levels with one in five not at the level expected for English at age 11.

Rigorous teaching of phonics, which focuses on the sounds of letters and letter combinations, could help all pupils, of any background, she said.

What is the best way to ensure that children can read and write when they leave primary school? Are Sats the best way to measure child literacy? Should all children be able to read by the age of six?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

Aung San Suu Kyi released: Your reaction

11:04 UK time, Saturday, 13 November 2010

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The Burmese pro-democracy leader has urged thousands of her supporters not to give up hope a day after her release from house arrest. What does this mean for the future of Burma?

Outside her NLD party headquarters in Rangoon, Aung San Suu Kyi told a crowd: "There is no reason to lose heart".

Aung San Suu Kyi had been detained for 15 of the last 21 years. The ruling military junta had restricted her travel and freedom to associate during previous brief spells of liberty, and demanded she quit politics.

Last Sunday, the political party supported by the military government won the country's first election in 20 years. The ballot was widely condemned.

What's your reaction to Aung San Suu Kyi's release? What does this mean for the future of Burma? Will this lead to greater democracy in the country?

Read reaction to the news from Burmese people here.

How should school budgets be allocated?

03:13 UK time, Saturday, 13 November 2010

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The Department for Education is considering introducing a "national funding formula" to decide the allocation of school budgets in England. Should school budgets be allocated by a "national funding formula"?

Officials said this did not mean local authorities, currently responsible for allocating funds, would be sidelined.

The move follows government concerns that many local council formulas currently used to decide how to allocate the so-called dedicated schools grant are out of date and do not recognise changes in schools in recent years.

Should school budgets be allocated by a "national funding formula"? How do you think such a change would affect schools funding? How would your local schools be affected by such a change?

This debate is closed. Thank you for your comments.

Should there be free speech on Twitter?

17:06 UK time, Friday, 12 November 2010

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Twitter users are backing a man convicted and fined for sending a tweet threatening to blow up an airport after he failed to have his conviction overturned. Is the Twitter community right to back Paul Chambers?

Earlier this year, accountant Paul Chambers was convicted for sending a menacing electronic communication when he tweeted: "Robin Hood Airport is closed. You've got a week..otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high".

The Twitter community is angry that a judge at Doncaster Crown Court has refused to quash his conviction. Free speech advocate Index on Censorship said: "The verdict demonstrates that the UK's legal system has little respect for free expression, and has no understanding of how people communicate in the 21st Century."

Is the judiciary out of touch with social networks? Should there be tighter controls on views expressed on social networking sites? How should the British legal system adapt to include social networks?

Thank you for your comments. This debate is now closed.

Should children be allowed in pubs?

10:06 UK time, Friday, 12 November 2010

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Pub landlords are increasingly having to deal with aggressive behaviour from parents who bring their children in to pubs and fail to keep them quiet when asked. Should pubs be child-free zones?

According to the Good Pub Guide the number of complaints about children in pubs has continued to increase for several years. Some pub landlords also claim the pub is the last bastion of adulthood and children in pubs alienate their adult customers.

Before 1995 children under the age of 14 were not allowed in pubs in England and Wales, but now many pubs rely on the family market with a billion pub meals being served in the UK every year. Other pub landlords have also said that far from ruining a pub, children can enhance the pub-going experience and make it a family affair.

Does the presence of children in pubs ruin a visit to the local or does it make it more enjoyable? Should pubs be the preserve of adults? Is your local pub child-friendly? Does teaching children about drinking at an early age help prevent alcohol abuse?

This debate has now been closed. Thank you for your comments.

Do benefit reforms go far enough?

13:47 UK time, Thursday, 11 November 2010

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The Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has set out plans to overhaul the benefit system to provide greater incentives for work and sanctions for those unwilling to do so. Will a universal benefit system work?

Central to the plan is a single universal credit which replaces work-related benefits. There will also be sanctions for those unwilling to take up the offer of employment with possible penalties of losing benefit for three years.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said simplifying the benefits system will help 300,000 families back to work. Labour has said although it would back making work pay, it was concerned about a lack of available jobs.

Will the new reforms simplify the benefits system? Will reforms mean an end to life on benefits? Are the sanctions for those refusing employment too harsh? Are you unemployed and "trapped" on benefits?

Read more of your comments here.

Thank you for your comments. This debate is now closed.

Do trade agreements provide value for local economies?

12:29 UK time, Thursday, 11 November 2010

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Leaders of the G20 group of major economies have agreed to avoid "competitive devaluation" of currencies after a second day of difficult talks in the South Korea capital, Seoul. Are global trade agreements relevant to local economies?

Tensions had been high between some countries over how to correct distortions in currency and trade. Some fear the conflict may threaten global growth.

Washington has blamed in part on Beijing's alleged manipulation of its currency to help boost Chinese exports, while other countries have also been critical of the US policy of pumping $600bn into the economy.

Are trade summits still relevant? Should countries think more globally or should they protect their national interests? Should governments be allowed to manipulate their currencies?

This debate has now been closed. Thank you for your comments.

How should the police deal with protests?

11:08 UK time, Thursday, 11 November 2010

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David Cameron has condemned the violence that broke out on Wednesday during protests over tuition fees. How should police handle protests in the future?

The prime minister said the clashes, in central London, which led to 35 arrests and 14 injuries, were "unacceptable" and has welcomed the decision to hold an inquiry into how the police handled the protest. The Met chief Sir Paul Stephenson called the events at the disturbance "an embarrassment" and said the Met should have been better prepared for the possibility of violence.

In the past there has been debate over the police's controversial "kettling" tactics to surround crowds. While following the G20 protests in London in 2009 a report by the inspector of constabulary Denis O'Connor said: "Police tactics had been far too focused on tackling violence... rather than facilitating peaceful protests."

How can police get the balance right to allow peaceful protest, but to prevent violence? What do you think of the way police prepared for and dealt with this protest? Should the police be more prepared to deal with violence in a protest? How should police handle protests in the future?

Thank you for your comments. This debate has now been closed.

Will Iraq's power-sharing agreement provide stable government?

09:12 UK time, Thursday, 11 November 2010

Comments

Politicians in Iraq have reached agreement on a power-sharing deal more than eight months after an inconclusive general election. What should be their priority?

MPs said a deal was reached to keep Nouri Maliki as prime minister after he gained the support of the Sunni coalition led by former PM Iyad Allawi.

The agreement is said to provide checks and balances against the abuse of power by any one group. The US said the reported deal was a "big step forward".

Do you live in Iraq? What do you think of the power-sharing deal? Will the coalition create a balance for Iraq's different communities? Can this power-sharing deal create an effective government?

Thank you for your comments. This debate is now closed.

What role does the West play on the world stage?

10:24 UK time, Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Comments

The British Prime Minister David Cameron said the UK still had "deeply-held concerns" over human rights, in his speech to students in China. Should western countries speak out on the affairs of non-western states?

On Tuesday, Mr Cameron brought up the issue of human rights during talks with the Chinese Prime Minister, Wen Jiabao. Acknowledging British society was "not perfect", the prime minister insisted he was claiming no "moral superiority".

On a visit to the world's largest Muslim nation US President Barack Obama has held up Indonesia as an example of how a developing nation can embrace democracy and diversity. He also emphasised that the US was not at war with Islam.

Analysts say it is Mr Obama's biggest attempt to engage the Islamic world since a speech in Cairo last year.

Should western leaders comment on the affairs of other countries? How influential are their speeches? How important is it for the UK and the US to reach out to non-western countries? Which countries do you think embrace democracy and diversity?

This debate has now closed. Thank you for your comments.

What is your favourite British brand?

11:26 UK time, Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Comments

Marks and Spencer's (M&S) new chief executive has reported a rise in half-year profits and said they would be refocusing on the M&S brand and overseas expansion. How can British brands be promoted?

Mr Bolland said he would be adding another 100 "distinctive international brands" which would be exclusive to M&S as well as streamlining some of its own clothing brands. Longer term, the company plans to add to its 337 stores overseas including more stores in China.

Elsewhere, British Prime Minister David Cameron, currently on a trade visit to China, made a stop at a Tesco supermarket in Beijing. China has 99 outlets of the British store, which first opened in the country in 2004 and is planning a £2bn investment over the next five years.

What brand do you think is typically British? Are British brands popular overseas? What makes certain brands more popular? Is your favourite brand one that no longer exists? Should more be done to promote British goods overseas?

Thank you for your comments. This debate is now closed.

How can travel by train be improved?

10:17 UK time, Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Comments

Overcrowding on trains in England and Wales will get substantially worse over the next four years despite rises in ticket prices, a report by MPs says. What are train services like where you live?

Plans by the UK's Department for Transport suggest targets for increasing passenger places will be missed, and that it was "not clear to passengers" how money from fare rises was spent. MP Margaret Hodge expressed concern that the "already unacceptable levels of overcrowding will simply get worse and ever more intolerable".

Rail travel in the UK is expensive by European standards - a report by watchdog Passenger Focus published in 2009 found that, on average, fares were 50% higher in Britain than in the rest of Europe. For average journeys of 11 to 25 miles, an annual travelcard in would cost £444 in Italy, £990 in France and the grand total of £1,860 in Britain.

When it comes to speed and punctuality, Rail Europe claims that Swiss Federal Railways is Europe's most timely railway and China can boast the world's biggest high-speed rail network.

Are you a regular train user? What is your experience of train travel where you are? Are trains overcrowded? Do you feel confident that you'll reach your destination on time when you buy a train ticket? Are trains value for money where you live?

Thank you for your comments. This debate is now closed.

What is your reaction to Bush's memoir?

08:25 UK time, Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Comments

Former US President George W Bush has defended some of his most controversial decisions, in his first television interview since leaving office. What is your reaction?

Mr Bush, who is publicising his memoir Decision Points, told US network NBC that using the interrogation technique of waterboarding had prevented terrorist attacks and saved lives. He also said the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 was right and that history would judge him a success.

In his memoir, Mr Bush admits the economic woes he left to his successor, Barack Obama, were "one ugly way to end a presidency", but rejects accusations that the bailout of the banks was a waste of public money.

Do you agree with President Bush's reasons for making such decisions? Can torture ever be justified if it saves lives? What is your assessment of his legacy?

Thank you for your comments. This debate is now closed.

How should social care be paid for?

11:31 UK time, Monday, 8 November 2010

Comments

A poll commissioned by BBC Radio 4's You and Yours programme and BBC Local Radio, shows that 82% of people don't think it's fair to sell their homes to fund care. What would be a fairer system?

The survey shows many people underestimate the cost of social care, and their chances of needing it. Statistics show that 20% of people will need basic social care costing more than £50,000 over a lifetime, with 5% requiring care costing more than £100,000. You can find out more about the cost of care with the You and Yours care quiz.

Some councils in England fear budget pressures will hit care services. Out of 87 English councils surveyed, 46 said they were concerned about funding for services.

Care includes help with daily tasks such as washing, dressing and cooking. However, more than 40% of people have not made any financial plans for care in their old age.

So what is the fairest way of providing social care? Do you think the social care support is adequate? Are you, or is someone in your family in receipt of social care?

Read more about the BBC's Living Longer season.

Thank you for your comments. This debate is now closed.

What could closer ties between the US and India achieve?

11:17 UK time, Monday, 8 November 2010

Comments

President Barack Obama has backed India's ambition for permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council, in a speech to the Indian parliament in Delhi. How important is the relationship between the United States and India?

Although it could take years before India has a seat at the council, analysts say the gesture highlights the importance the US places on its ties with the nation.

Earlier, Mr Obama said the relationship between the United States and India will be "one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century."

Indian PM Manmohan Singh said the two countries' partnership would be "defining and indispensable" for the coming decades. He said he and Mr Obama had agreed protectionism was detrimental for both countries, and that India was not in the business of stealing American jobs.

What is your view of the relationship? In what other areas can the two countries work together? What does the relationship mean for the rest of the world? How significant would permanent membership at the UN Security Council be for India?

Thank you for your comments. This debate has now closed.

What rights should squatters have?

09:10 UK time, Monday, 8 November 2010

Comments

A guide for homeowners, aimed at stopping squatters "invading" their property, is being published online. Do homeowners need more support?

The Housing Minister, Grant Shapps, said "Squatting is antisocial, undesirable, and unfair on home owners" and he wanted to end the "anti-social, undesirable and unfair" practice.

The guide outlines homeowners' legal options if squatters move in and is in response to websites set up to help squatters get round the law.

The Advisory Service for Squatters which provides legal and practical advice to squatters and homeless people said Mr Shapps was "scaremongering".

Should more be done to protect the rights of homeowners or are their rights adequately protected ? Have you been affected by squatting? Or are you a squatter?

Thank you for your comments. This debate is now closed.

Can Burma achieve democracy?

07:30 UK time, Sunday, 7 November 2010

Comments

Burma's main military-backed political party says it won about 80% of votes, in the first election in 20 years. What is your reaction?

Pro-democracy opposition groups say their early leads at the ballot box had been undone by fraud.

Meanwhile, fighting linked to the poll between ethnic Karen rebels and government forces has caused at least 15,000 people to flee into Thailand.

What have the Burma elections achieved? Can the vote have any credibility? Will Burma see true democracy?

Thank you for your comments. This debate has now closed.

Should long-term benefit claimants do community work?

01:12 UK time, Sunday, 7 November 2010

Comments

Unemployed benefit claimants could find themselves litter-picking or gardening if government proposals go ahead. Is compulsory community work a good idea?

The Work Activity scheme is said to be designed to flush out claimants who have opted for a life on benefits, or those who are doing undeclared jobs on the side.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, who will outline plans for four-week placements, said: "One thing we can do is pull people in to do one or two weeks' manual work - turn up at 9am and leave at 5pm, to give people a sense of work, but also when we think they're doing other work."

Do you agree with this idea? Will the scheme help reduce welfare dependency? What tasks should be included? Would this improve your community?

Thank you for your comments. This debate has now closed.

Should families be forced to donate our organs after we die?

12:15 UK time, Thursday, 4 November 2010

Comments

A record number of organ transplants took place last year, but the NHS still report long waiting lists for organs. How can the system be improved?

Sally Johnson, director of Organ Donation and Transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) said huge improvements had been made in the way the organisation works in hospitals. But the refusal of relatives to allow donation often remains a key obstacle.

With nearly 8,000 people on the waiting list for organs, the doctors' union, the BMA, has renewed its call for presumed consent, where all people are assumed to be willing to donate unless they choose to opt out.

Should the system of organ donation remain as it is? Should there be further debate on the introduction of an "opt-out" system? Would paying people for an organ encourage more donations? Have you or has your family been affected by organ donation issues?

This debate has now been closed. Thank you for your comments.

Should older workers be forced to retire?

10:41 UK time, Thursday, 4 November 2010

Comments

Chief constables from two police forces have been given approval to order their officers to retire as part of cost-cutting measures. Should people be forced to retire even if they don't want to?

Police need to cut wage bills to find savings demanded by the government. Fully-sworn officers cannot be made redundant because they are Crown servants and not employees.

Under the regulations, officers can be "required to retire" if their retention would "not be in the general interests of efficiency". But it has been little used in the past and is likely to be strongly resisted by organisations representing police officers.

How would you feel if your boss ordered you to retire? Are you a serving police officer approaching retirement? Is asking older staff to retire an effective way to make cost savings? Are there any advantages to forced retirement?

This debate has now been closed. Thank you for your comments.

What next for relations between Israel and the UK?

12:40 UK time, Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Comments

Israel has announced it is postponing "strategic dialogue" with the UK over defence and security issues, as the UK's Foreign Secretary begins an official visit to Israel and the occupied territories. How will this affect relationships between the countries?

Israel has expressed anger that its ministers and senior military figures have cancelled UK visits due to concerns that pro-Palestinian groups could use British courts to seek their arrest over Israeli military action in Gaza. The principle of universal jurisdiction says that some alleged crimes are so serious they can be tried anywhere, however the current UK government has promised to amend the laws.

The news comes on the first day of an official visit to Israel by the UK's Foreign Secretary William Hague, although an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman denied that the latest development was a deliberate "ambush" to humiliate Mr Hague. The BBC's Wyre Davies said the news that Israel was postponing an annual round of strategic talks with Britain was potentially embarrassing.

How embarrassing is Israel's decision to postpone a strategic dialogue with the UK? In what way should the UK react? Should the laws on universal jurisdiction be amended?

Thank you for your comments. This debate has now closed.

Should lesser offences forego trial by jury?

11:57 UK time, Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Comments

The Commissioner for Victims of Crime has suggested that the right to trial by jury for lesser offences should end in England and Wales. Will this be good for justice?

Louise Casey says a jury trial should not be viewed as a right for "either-way" offences which could also be heard in a magistrates court. She claims the change will benefit victims of serious crime who suffer due to Crown Court delays. Her remarks come as the Ministry of Justice cut its budget for courts and prisons.

According to BBC legal affairs analyst Clive Coleman, Ms Casey's proposal may prove controversial with civil liberties groups, as while the crimes concerned may be small the consequences of a conviction for an individual were very significant.

Should some cases not be heard by a jury? Where should the balance lie between protecting victims and ensuring justice? Have you been a victim of crime, or do you work in the criminal justice system? What are your views on Louise Casey's suggestions? Are there other ways to reduce the cost of the courts in England and Wales?

Thank you for your comments. This debate is now closed.

Will higher university fees create elitism?

10:48 UK time, Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Comments

Students in universities in England face tuition fees of up to £9,000 per year from 2012 under government proposals to be announced today. Will this deter people from higher education?

The plans which follow Lord Browne's recent funding review could see institutions charge £6,000 per year with an upper limit of £9,000. Universities charging this higher amount would have to do more to help students from poorer backgrounds gain access to these courses.

The changes will mean many arts and humanities courses would become dependent on fee income, rather than state funding.

Ministers claim the changes will mean a sustainable funding system for universities. Student unions have warned that MPs will face a "huge backlash".

Will these changes stop you from going to university? Are you worried about education funding for your children? Do you work in higher education? Do you think the government's plans the best way to fund higher education? Will certain courses suffer more?

Thank you for your comments. This debate is now closed.

What do US mid-term results mean for Obama?

17:52 UK time, Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Comments

US President Barack Obama's Democratic party has retained control of the Senate but lost control of the House of Representatives in the US mid-term elections.
What is your reaction to the results?

Republicans took six Senate seats from the Democrats, including wins for favourites from the Tea Party movement, but they fell short of victory.

However, possession of the House sets them up to block Obama initiatives.

John Boehner, likely to become the next Speaker, vowed to cut spending and reduce the size of government.

Are you in the US? What do you think of the results? What next for Mr Obama, the Democratic party, and the Republicans after these results?

This debate has now been closed. Thank you for your comments.

Do school league tables improve standards?

12:04 UK time, Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Comments

Researchers at Bristol University compared schools in England and Wales before and after Wales abolished league tables in 2001. They say following the abolition Welsh schools are less "effective", with an average student in England outperforming an average pupil in Wales by two GCSE grades.

Welsh education is a devolved issue and the Welsh Assembly Government has defended its decision to abolish the tables, maintaining its young people's level of attainment continued to rise "year on year".

Does the public naming and shaming of school results lead to better schools? Are there more effective ways than league tables to present school results? What is the best way to maintain educational standards?

This debate has now closed. Thank you for your comments.

Should convicted prisoners get the vote?

01:51 UK time, Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Comments

Thousands of convicted UK prisoners are to get the right to vote after the European Court of Human Rights (EHCR) ruled that the present ban was unlawful. Should all prisoners be allowed to vote?

The BBC understands the government has exhausted all legal avenues fighting the decision and has reluctantly accepted there is no way of upholding the 140-year-old ban.

Prisoners awaiting trial, fine defaulters and those jailed for contempt of court are already permitted to vote but more than 70,000 convicted prisoners currently in UK jails are prevented.

Have you ever been banned from voting? Is voting a human right? Should all prisoners regardless of crime be allowed to vote? Should there ever be restrictions on voting rights?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments

Should Britain and France share defence strategy?

01:38 UK time, Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Comments

The UK and France have signed treaties agreeing to military co-operation including testing of nuclear warheads. Is this a good idea?

One centre will be set up in the UK to develop nuclear testing technology and another in France to carry it out. £750m will also be saved over four years on the Trident nuclear missile system by cutting the number of warheads.

Downing Street called the measures "practical", but Labour said they left "big questions" over the UK's defences.

Can the UK and France work together? Are shared defence strategies a good idea? Should more countries join forces on defence?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

What problems do small firms face?

09:13 UK time, Monday, 1 November 2010

Comments

David Cameron has appointed a new enterprise tsar with a brief to cut red tape for small businesses. Will this appointment help firms?

Downing Street says the Conservative peer Lord Young will carry out a "brutally honest" review of strategies designed to encourage new start-ups.

Mr Cameron said he wanted "nothing less than a wholesale change in attitude" from government towards small business.

With significant cuts planned for the public sector and up to 500,000 jobs set to be lost, the government is hoping the private sector will expand and create new employment.

Do you run a small business? What barriers to growth are faced by firms? Is bureaucracy an issue? How can the government encourage new start-ups?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

How will Brazil's new president shape the country?

07:52 UK time, Monday, 1 November 2010

Comments

Dilma Rousseff of the governing Workers' Party has been elected president of Brazil. What does this mean for the future of the country?

Ms Rousseff is the first woman to be elected as president of the country, succeeding president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Ms Rousseff, who had never before held elected office, used her victory speech to say that she would work to eliminate poverty.

She also said that her election as the country's first female leader was a sign of the democratic progress Brazil had made.

Are you in Brazil? What challenges does Ms Rousseff face? Can she shake off the shadow of Lula? Is it significant that a woman has been elected as president?

Brazilian voters react

Thank you for your comments. This debate is now closed.

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