CORPORAL punishment in schools, the wi-fi project and immigration were the big debates during Swindon’s first ever Question Time.

Members from all political parties took part in the event, held last night in the Wyvern Theatre, amid boos, jeers and rapturous applause.

The audience in the packed auditorium took no prisoners when questioning the panel and hijacked microphones on several occasions to get their points across.

Adver editor Dave King was charged with keeping the audience and the panel in check and battled on, asking the questions that members of the audience wanted answers to.

Before the debate, members of the audience handed in more than 200 questions which they wanted to grill the panellists about.

Mr King said: “The evening was a great success in that it sparked such a good, lively debate.

“The issues we covered were varied and interesting and, perhaps the most important thing was that the audience really got stuck in.

“This was not a chance for a political broadcast but an opportunity for the people of Swindon to question the candidates keen to represent them on the issues they have.”

UKIP candidate Robin Tingey caused the biggest uproar when he said that corporal punishment should be brought back into schools with parental consultation and that was the way to win back respect for teachers.

He said: “We have got to get away from this culture where they (pupils) misbehave but they say ‘you can’t touch me’, ‘you can’t do anything’ to their teachers and we would encourage pupils to make the best of the opportunities given to them.”

This sparked outrage in the auditorium as well as condemnation from his fellow panellists.

An audience member then jumped up and questioned him on what this would mean for special schools.

Mr Tingey said: “There are different ways of handling children with behavioral issues.”

While most of the panellists agreed that the town-wide wi-fi project was good in principle, most said the way it had been handled was less than desirable.

Even Tory candidate Justin Tomlinson said that lessons needed to be learnt from the process the project had been through.

BNP candidate for North Swindon Reg Bates contributed little to the debate, openly admitting that he did not have views on a number of Swindon issues because there are no BNP councilors in Swindon.

The main thrust of the debate came from Anne Snelgrove and Justin Tomlinson who managed to largely avoid playing political ping pong.

The 400-strong-audience was the biggest driving force in the debate, with many people standing up and shouting questions they had rather than waiting for Mr King to formally put them to the panel.

At several points during the debate candidates were drowned out because the audience started to boo or even a football match style slow clap.

The debate was streamed live on the Adver’s website for anyone unable to get a ticket to the sell-out event.

We would like to apologise for the picture on today's front page which misses out Robin Tingey. This was due to a technical error.