BBC Home
Explore the BBC

Question Time


Page last updated at 16:54 GMT, Tuesday, 10 June 2008 17:54 UK

This week's panel

Question Time, the BBC's premier political debate programme chaired by David Dimbleby, was in London on Thursday 12 June.

The panel included the Minister of State for Security, Counter-terrorism, Crime and Policing Tony McNulty, the Conservative shadow secretary of state for children, schools and families Michael Gove, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords Baroness Williams, television presenter June Sarpong and the political editor of the Sun George Pascoe-Watson.


Tony McNulty

Career: Tony McNulty is Minister of State for Security, Counter-terrorism, Crime and Policing and has been MP for Harrow East since May 1997.

He was the Home Office Minister with responsibility for Immigration from 2005 to 2006.

In his role as Minister for Counter-terrorism, he has been one of the government's leading advocates of efforts to extend the terror detention period from 28 to 42 days in the run-up to a vote in parliament on Wednesday.

Last week the policy was strongly criticised by former Prime Minister John Major, who said that: "If we are seen to defend our own values in a manner that does violence to them, then we run the risk of losing those values. Even worse, if our own standards fall, it will serve to recruit terrorists more effectively than their own propaganda could ever hope to."

Tony McNulty responded, saying he hoped the public would listen to police chiefs supporting the plans, "rather than someone like John Major who has been out of the loop for about 10 years."


Michael Gove

Career: Michael Gove is the Conservative shadow secretary of state for children, schools and families.

Before entering politics in May 2005, he was a journalist and he continues to write for The Times. He has also written a number of books, including his most recent, Celsius 7/7, an analysis of the threat of Islamist terrorism.

He was formerly chairman of the right-wing think-tank Policy Exchange and is seen as a central member of the "Notting Hill set," a term coined by the press for the group of young Conservative MPs close to party leader David Cameron.

Last month he wrote that "we Conservatives must now spell out with greater clarity what we would do if entrusted with office," going on to emphasise: "The need to restore dynamic, reforming energy to the drive for greater social justice. The narrative of the next Conservative government will be making sure every child has the opportunity to reach as high as possible, to be the author of their own life story."


Shirley Williams

Career: Shirley Williams is a veteran politician who was leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords until November 2004.

She was originally elected to parliament as the Labour MP for Hitchen in 1964, having been the general secretary of the Fabian Society since 1960.

She served in the governments of Harold Wilson and James Callaghan in the 1960s and 1970s and held the roles of both Secretary of State for Education and Science and Paymaster General from 1976 to 1979.

In 1981 she was one of the "Gang of Four" who left the Labour Party to co-found the Social Democratic Party.

She was president of the SDP from 1982 and 1988 and supported the party's decision to merge with the Liberal Party in 1988 to create the Liberal Democrats.

After losing her seat in the 1983 election she forged a career in academia, taking high-profile posts at Harvard University, Cambridge, Princeton and Berkley.

She was awarded a life peerage in 1993 and subsequently served as Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords from 2001 to 2004.


June Sarpong

Career: June Sarpong is a television presenter and charity campaigner.

As well as presenting T4 on Channel 4 for nine years, she has hosted a number of events such as the MOBO (Music of Black Origin) awards, the UK leg of Live Earth at Wembley Stadium in July 2007 and the Make Poverty History event in Trafalgar Square in summer 2005.

She interviewed Blair for When Tony Met June in January 2005.

She is a campaigner on youth issues and supports a number of charities that work with underprivileged young people. An ambassador for The Prince's Trust, she is also involved in the Make Poverty History movement and in April 2005 she visited Ghana to make a film on its behalf.

At the age of 29, she was awarded an MBE in the 2007 New Year Honours List for services to broadcasting and charity.


George Pascoe-Watson

Career: George Pascoe-Watson is the political editor of the Sun, the UK's biggest selling daily newspaper with over 10 million readers.

He joined the Sun in 1988, aged 21, and has worked there ever since. On his appointment as political editor in 2006, the Guardian wrote: "Few jobs in journalism carry as much responsibility as political editor of the Sun".

The Sun has been one of the country's most significant mouthpieces for the campaign for a referendum on the EU Reform Treaty, which will be voted on by the Irish public on Thursday.

Pascoe-Watson is himself a committed eurosceptic and wrote of Gordon Brown's signing of the treaty in December: "As the wheels finally came off centuries of hard-won independence, the despicable document was laid before our Prime Minister."

He said in 2006: "I don't care which colour wraps around the politics. What I care about is what is the right thing for the country and Sun readers. And it's always small state, strong defence, strong law and order, the freedom of the individual not to be nannied, the general view that human beings are best left to their own devices as far as possible and to give people the incentive to have a better life."

video and audio news
Watch Question Time from London

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

banner watch listen bbc sport Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific