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Page last updated at 11:02 GMT, Thursday, 9 October 2008 12:02 UK

Last week's panel

John Denham MPKenneth Clarke QC MPChris Huhne MPDr Michael Nazir-AliRuth Lea

Question Time, the BBC's premier political debate programme chaired by David Dimbleby, was in London on Thursday 9 October.

The panel included the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills John Denham, former Conservative chancellor of the exchequer Ken Clarke, Liberal Democrat spokesman on home affairs Chris Huhne, the Bishop of Rochester Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, and Ruth Lea from the Eurosceptic campaign group Global Vision.


John Denham MP

Career: John Denham joined the cabinet as the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills when Gordon Brown became Prime Minister in July 2007.

He was a local councillor for more than 10 years before entering Parliament as the MP for Southampton Itchen in 1992. He was promoted to the front bench in 1995 as a spokesman on social security.

He controversially resigned from his position as a Home Office minister in 2003, saying he would not vote with the government in support of the Iraq war.

He has called for universities to be more inclusive, calling them an "engine for social justice" and last week dismissed comments by the chancellor of Oxford University and senior Conservative politician, Lord Patten, that universities were being forced to "make up for the deficiencies of secondary education" with their admissions procedures.

The Secretary of State replied that it was "disappointing to hear the comments of critics like Chris Patten who have an outmoded view of the central issues in widening participation".


Ken Clarke QC MP

Career: Ken Clarke QC MP was chancellor of the exchequer from 1993 to 1997.

He is one of Britain's longest-serving MPs, having been first elected as Conservative MP for Rushcliffe in 1970.

He remains one of the party's most senior figures, despite three unsuccessful attempts at the leadership.

He was recently appointed by David Cameron to head the party's democracy task force which was considering ways of improving the workings of government.

This week he has criticised Labour's handling of recent economic turmoil, saying: "No one has ever seen a financial crisis like this before but the British government has been particularly complacent. They don't seem able to respond to the speed of events."


Chris Huhne MP

Career: Chris Huhne is the Liberal Democrat spokesman on home affairs. He was previously the party's spokesman on the environment.

He has twice come second in the contest for the Lib Dem leadership, most recently in December when Nick Clegg took over, beating Chris Huhne by just 511 votes.

Before entering politics, he worked in the City and has written a number of books on economic and development issues.

After five years as the MEP for South East England, he was elected as the MP for Eastleigh in 2005 and served as a shadow Treasury spokesman under Charles Kennedy.

Last month - responding to reports that an economic downturn could lead to a rise in crime in the UK - he said: "Labour were quick to claim the credit for the economic boom, but are now trying to dodge the blame for the downturn and its effects on crime."


Dr Michael Nazir-Ali

Career: Dr Michael Nazir-Ali is the Bishop of Rochester.

Born in Pakistan to Christian parents, he holds both British and Pakistani citizenship, and was the youngest bishop in the worldwide Anglican Communion when he became first Bishop of Raiwind in West Punjab in 1984.

He was appointed Bishop of Rochester in 1994 and has been a member of the House of Lords since 1999, the first Asian religious leader to sit in the upper house.

Between 1997 and 2003, he was chairman of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority's ethics and law committee and is a leader of the Network for Inter-faith Concerns of the Anglican Communion.

No stranger to controversy, he made headlines in January when he wrote that Islamic extremism had turned "already separate communities [in the UK] into 'no-go' areas" and claimed that there had been attempts to "impose an 'Islamic' character on certain areas".

His comments, during which he called for the government to publicly affirm the "Christian roots of British society," were dismissed as "pretty unhelpful" by Communities Secretary Hazel Blears, who said she did not recognise his description of British society.


Ruth Lea

Career: Ruth Lea is director of Global Vision, a Eurosceptic campaign group.

She was the director of the right-wing think-tank Centre for Policy Studies until 1997.

After 16 years in the civil service, working in the Treasury and the Department of Trade and Industry, she moved to the City where she was chief economist at Mitsubishi Bank and chief UK economist at Lehman Brothers.

She then became economics editor of ITN, before spending eight years as head of the policy unit at the Institute of Directors, during which time she became a well-known commentator on business affairs and economics.

Earlier this week, before the Bank of England announced a half-point cut in interest rates, she said: "The threat to the economy is now recession, not rip-roaring inflation. Under these circumstances it is clear that rates should be cut, and cut by 0.5%."

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