Alan Johnson: You Ask The Questions

Secretary of State for Health answers your questions, such as 'How can we trust politicians after the last week?' and 'Do you want to be Prime Minister?'

Has there ever been a worse week for faith in our politicians? Do you expect anyone to ever trust your breed again? JULIA HENSON, Liverpool

No, there hasn't. I'm not sure what my "breed" is, but it's essential to the democratic process that we restore faith in elected representatives. I believe that we need to overhaul the political system and that we should complete unfinished business by discussing again the Jenkins review and consulting the British people on proportional representation, which gives greater power to the electorate.



Why do MPs need two homes anyway? Can't they just stay in a hotel when they go to their constituencies? LEO RYECART, Windsor

They can under the current rules, but (a) it's a more expensive system (more often the hotel would be in London and not the constituency) and (b) MPs need a proper base to do their work effectively and not a constantly changing hotel room.

Is sticking to the rules enough, or should MPs' own moral compasses have stopped them making some of these claims? HENRY PRICE, Cardiff

There are lots of reasons why the abuses occurred and the majority of colleagues in all parties are decent, honest people. Having said that, sticking to the rules is not enough and some of these claims are inexcusable.

Why do you think you're the only trade union leader to reach the Cabinet since 1964? BECKY FROST, Sheffield

Frank Cousins in 1964 and Ernest Bevin in 1940 were seconded by their trade union (TGWU) with their jobs as general secretary kept open for their return. They went straight into the Cabinet. I left my job as general secretary to become an MP and worked my way up, so it's not a direct comparison.

Should I be worried about a second strain of swine flu coming back later this year? ALEX KEATING, Stratford-Upon-Avon

Scientists have warned that a second wave of swine flu may spread globally in the autumn, and it is possible that it will mutate to be less mild and more infectious, but it's too early to know. The UK is well prepared – we have substantial supplies of antiviral drugs and agreements for enough vaccine for the entire population.

Now you say don't panic – but isn't your government as guilty as anyone of overstating the dangers of swine flu? SHAUN BURNS, Nottingham

No – we have a duty to prepare the country for a pandemic. I don't think we've exaggerated the dangers, but I'd rather be accused of overstating the case than of refusing to listen to scientific advice and failing to protect the country properly.

Should I cancel the holiday I have booked in Cancun next month? JENNA PETCHESKY, Birmingham

At the moment, the Foreign Office is advising against all but essential travel to Mexico. I'd suggest that nearer to the time you check their website. The address is www.fco.gov.uk/travel .

What cuts are going to be made to the NHS in these recession-hit times? LOUISE GRAYSON, HULL

None. We've protected NHS funding over the next two years, increasing front-line resources by 5.5 per cent each year.



Do you want to be Prime Minister? MARTINA BUTTS, Luton

No.

Do you expect Gordon Brown to be party leader beyond the next election? NICK FREARS, Bolton

Yes.

Swine flu, expenses, and an unpopular government: what's Cabinet like at a time like this? GERRY MORTON, Belfast

Interesting.

Is it flattering that so many people think you'd be a leader the whole Labour Party could unite behind? LYNN FARROW, Bristol

Yes.

Were you ever tempted to open letters when you were a postman? HARRY POTTS, Leeds

No – but I read lots of postcards.

What was it like growing up an orphan? Is it true you were raised by your older sister? CARL THOMAS, Harrow

My childhood was tough, but many have had it tougher. My sister took responsibility from a very young age because my mother spent long periods in hospital before she died when my sister was just 15.

As a non-believer, do you think it would be a good thing for Britain to have an atheist Prime Minister? Stephan Harris, Lincoln

I don't think religion or the absence of religion should be an issue in public life.

You used to be in a band. So what did you make of Andy Burnham's performance of "Teenage Kicks" this week? JO WORCESTER, London

Andy was great, but he needs to brush up on his bar chords.

If you weren't a politician, what would you like to be? EMMA McNULTY Chandler's Ford

A songwriter.

What's your favourite joke? SOPHIE LAMB, Derby

A man walked into a pub and asked the barmaid for a double entendre – so she gave him one.

Isn't 50 million doses of Tamiflu overdoing it a bit in a country of sixty million people? NATASHA FRY, Stoke-on-Trent

What we have ordered is a sufficient supply of Tamiflu to cover up to 80 per cent of the population, because we know that antiviral medication works against this novel strain. One of the reasons for ordering this amount is that it doesn't only work once symptoms appear as a treatment, but can also be used as a prophylactic – and while we are in this current phase of containing the spread, that means we can give it to families and others who have been in contact with a case, to protect them. We do this on the basis of the best scientific evidence.

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