Past Debates

Our last debate on 29 March was "This House Believes that the Monarchy should be abolished".

Mark Sutton

I have been the coordinator for Republic in Yorkshire for nearly all of our 5 year history.

Although originally from Garforth, I spent most of my adult life in Wakefield (to which I consider myself a son of, and still avidly follow Wakefield Trinity RLFC), before relocating to Newark on Trent in 2007 to be with my now wife, Elle.

I work in the Accounts section for a large Electrical company, and away from Republic and Rugby League have a lifelong obsession with music (having something of a photographic memory for a tune).

Graham Sproule

Graham Sproule is a member of the British Monarchist Society and serves it as a Media Secretary and Ambassador for Commonwealth and International Relations. Among the numerous public campaigns he has been involved in, he led the National Capital Region's local 'No MMP' campaign which helped defeat a ballot initiative to change the Province of Ontario's electoral system to one of proportional representation. Sproule joined the Ottawa Branch of the Monarchist League of Canada in high school, and has been active in supporting monarchist activities since that time.

Our debate on 3 February was "This House Believes that more Grammar Schools will improve Educational Provision and enhance Social Mobility”.

The press release said: 

Harrogate says “No” to Grammar Schools

Should Grammar Schools come back to Harrogate?

Not according to the majority of the audience who attended the latest debate in the Harrogate Debates 2017 series at the Wesley Chapel on Oxford Street.

 The motion was: “This House Believes that more Grammar Schools will improve Educational Provision and enhance Social Mobility”.

Putting the case was Jonathan Arnott the UKIP MEP for the North East of England and UKIP’s spokesperson on Constitutional Affairs. Opposing was the celebrated educationalist and Guardian journalist, Fiona Millar.

The opening of more Grammar Schools in this country is government policy and also formed part of the UKIP manifesto. Jonathan Arnott argued that newly designated Grammar Schools would not signal a return to the old binary system of Grammar and Secondary Modern schools, rather it would represent an opportunity for bright children from disadvantaged backgrounds to progress in society. He gave numerous examples from within his own family and elsewhere of a Grammar School education representing the route to academic and career success.

By contrast Fiona Millar argued that a segregated system would be socially divisive and would not raise educational standards. She quoted data from international surveys showing that there is no co-relation between the success of an education system and a process of selection; indeed she argued that those countries with non-selective education ranked highest in European and world education tables.

Numerous contributions from the Floor presented examples of people succeeding in life because of their educational opportunities and some succeeding in spite of them.  One of the most telling speeches came from a secondary school student who demanded that the debate should be conducted on the basis of “evidence rather than anecdote”. The fact that there were cases of people from disadvantaged backgrounds who had gained from a Grammar Schools education was not sufficient evidence for  a change in policy – how many such examples were there from each age cohort and, more importantly, what of the vastly greater numbers who had failed the 11-plus and been failed by the system?

(Fiona Millar, Guardian education columnist speaking in the Grammar Schools debate)

When it came to the vote the motion was soundly defeated by an overwhelming majority…but the arguments continued in the local pubs late into the evening.

The next debate will be in March on the subject of the Monarchy. Details at   

Our debate on 6 October was "This House Calls for an Immediate End to Fracking in the UK".

The proposing speaker for this event was John Plummer and opposing was Ken Wilkinson with seconders Lorraine Allanson and Ian Crane. 

Press Release

Harrogate votes for a “Frack Free” future.


In a lively and sometimes impassioned debate at the Wesley Chapel, the latest Harrogate Debate saw an overwhelming vote in favour of the motion that: “This House calls for an Immediate End to Fracking in the UK”. The debate took place on the same day that the government announced a go-ahead to fracking in Lancashire…and presumably Yorkshire cannot be far behind.

Just over 100 townspeople packed into the Wesley Chapel to hear local campaigner John Plummer list a number of environmental and other reasons to reject fracking, most notably the vast quantities of water involved, the pollution of that water (which cannot be reused), the impact on ground water, the potential damage to homes and the stress on transport infrastructure. He quoted USA and Australian sources and noted the evasiveness of the fracking industry in answering questions. He argued that solar, wind and waves offered better, cleaner and more acceptable sources of energy than gas fracking.

In opposition, Ken Wilkinson questioned the research data upon which the opposition case was based. He argued that health concerns (asthma, for example) were not validated by the data. Early worries about shale gas extraction were the result of very poor practice and badly designed wells: modern fracking processes, he said, show no established link between shale gas extraction and health effects. He questioned the objectivity of Friends of the Earth and other campaigning groups who could not, he said, substantiate all their claims. Modern engineering and tight operational controls should alleviate anxieties about fracking. Moreover the prize is cheaper abundant energy.

Seconding the motion, Ian Crane cast doubt on the ability of regulators to control disposal and pollution problems and the ability of local communities to stand up to £multi-million extraction companies. While Lorraine Allanson, in opposition, emphasised the human costs of fuel poverty, the need to replace dwindling gas supplies from the North Sea and elsewhere and the beneficial use of hydro-carbons in almost every aspect of modern life.

Contributions from the floor were almost entirely in support of the motion and some were clearly made by local residents who had expertise in the subject and could speak from a scientific/engineering background. Two of the most telling questions were: exactly where and how would the contaminated water be disposed; and what confidence the community could have in the operation of the wells if nobody except the industry is in control?

When it came to a vote the motion was overwhelmingly carried by more than10:1.

Given the developments in Lancashire this may well be the start rather than the end of the debate about fracking in our locality.

The next Harrogate Debate will be in the New Year on the subject of NHS Funding. Details on

The question for our debate on 4 July was: "Faith Schools: A Blot on the Educational Landscape?".

The speakers were Richy Thompson, who agreed with the statement, and Dennis Richards, who disagreed. At the end of the debate, more than half voted yes, they are a blot on the educational landscape. 

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The Press Release said:

At the last of the Harrogate Debate series before the summer break, there was a lively and at times impassioned public debate in the Council Chamber which questioned the place of “Faith Schools” in the educational system.

The event, run by Harrogate Debate, and following on the EU debate in May, was on the motion “This House Believes that Faith Schools are a Blot on the Educational Landscape”.

Proposing was Richy Thompson from the British Humanist Association and opposing was retired St. Aidan’s headteacher and Harrogate Advertiser columnist, Dennis Richards.

Richy Thompson argued that the legal right that Faith Schools (schools with a religious character) have to discriminate on grounds of religion in: admissions, employment and curriculum was unacceptable in a modern, pluralist democracy. It was wrong, he said, to have parents feigning religious belief in order to get their children admitted to a church school and that segregated education could only result in greater isolation and social fragmentation.

Denis Richards, amongst other arguments, called for the re-establishment of effective local education authorities. Dennis pointed at the role of the Church historically in providing education and the high standards currently being achieved in many Church schools. He criticised the “post-code lottery” in admissions that favoured richer parents who could afford an address in desirable catchment areas.

Contributions from the floor included objections to the legal requirement that students should experience a daily act of collective worship of a broadly Christian character; that many religious schools have a poor record on such issues as sex education; and the dangers of radicalisation at some religious schools. An especially moving contribution was made by a Harrogate resident who had experienced abuse as a child, had turned to staff in the “Faith School” for help only to be told to obey the Fifth commandment – “honour thy father and thy mother”.

The audience was asked to vote before and after the debate and while the number of abstentions was reduced, the motion was carried by a substantial majority i.e. the Harrogate audience voted against faith schools.

The next Harrogate Debate will be on 6 October, in the Wesley Chapel, on the subject of “Fracking”

The debate on May 10 was on EU: In or Out with speakers John Harris and Andrew Dennis. The results showed nearly twice the amount of people voted for In. 

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The debate on 23rd February on assisted dying was lead by Dr Mark Houghton and Professor Ray Tallis with John Adams MBE as the chair. The results were 33 to 20 with 3 abstentions. 

Assisted results

In October 2012 Harrogate Debate copied the famous Christopher Hitchens v Tony Blair debate: "Is Religion a Force for Good in the World?"