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Page last updated at 15:15 GMT, Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Last week's panel

Margaret Beckett MPJeremy Hunt MPBaroness WilliamsBrian MooreSimon Heffer

Question Time, the BBC's premier political debate programme chaired by David Dimbleby, was in Dover on Thursday 13 November.

The panel included the Housing Minister Margaret Beckett, the Conservative shadow secretary for culture, media and sport Jeremy Hunt, former leader of the Liberal Democrats in the Lords Baroness Williams, TV commentator and former England rugby player Brian Moore, and associate editor of the Telegraph Simon Heffer.


Margaret Beckett MP

Career: Margaret Beckett is the Housing Minister. She returned to cabinet last month, having previously held a number of high-ranking posts, including foreign secretary.

One of the longest-serving members of the government, she has held ministerial and shadow-ministerial posts almost continuously for 34 years, since Harold Wilson made her a government whip in 1975.

She was elected deputy leader of the Labour Party in 1992 under John Smith, and temporarily led the party following his death in 1994 - the only woman ever to do so, albeit in an acting role. She subsequently ran for the leadership, but lost out to Tony Blair.

This week it has been reported that she is considering plans to end the right of council house tenants to live in their homes for life. Under the proposals, any tenant whose financial circumstances improved could be asked to move to the private sector, purchase part ownership of their home or pay higher rent.


Jeremy Hunt

Career: Jeremy Hunt is the Conservative shadow secretary of state for culture, media and sport, and the MP for South West Surrey.

After university, he worked as an English teacher in Japan, before returning to the UK to run his own marketing company.

He was elected to Parliament in 2005, and was appointed shadow minister for disabled people soon after. He entered the shadow Cabinet as shadow culture minister in June 2007. He was recently described in the Telegraph as "one of the ones to watch in Cameron's team".

In a speech last month, he called for popular television shows to play a part in tackling binge drinking in the UK, saying he believes "it is wrong for broadcasters to produce programmes that legitimise negative social behaviour". He went on, "It's not good enough for Channel 4 to say they are doing their bit with a Dispatches programme on alcohol abuse when 18% of the screen time in Hollyoaks was accounted for by alcohol references."


Baroness 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.


Brian Moore

Career: Brian Moore is a former England and British Lions rugby player and is now a television commentator and presenter.

Before becoming a full-time rugby player, he was a litigation solicitor, and continued to practise until 2003.

During his rugby career, he played for Harlequins, Nottingham, Leeds and Richmond. He won a total of 64 England caps between 1987 and 1995 and played in three Rugby World Cups. In 1991 he was voted Rugby World Player of the Year. He currently writes a rugby column in the Daily Telegraph.

Famously nicknamed "pitbull" during his rugby career, he was known for reading Shakespeare in the dressing room before matches, saying: "I found it helpful and I liked reading him so why not?"


Simon Heffer

Career: Simon Heffer is one of the UK's leading conservative commentators. He is a regular columnist for, and associate editor of, the Telegraph, having previously been the chief political columnist at the Daily Mail from 1995 to 2005.

Regarded as a bastion of the British right wing, he has written in support of the death penalty and against government intervention in the economy, including the national minimum wage.

He supported Senator John McCain during the recent US presidential election campaign, describing President-elect Barack Obama as "a confection… an image, a brand, a lifestyle".

He went on: "(Obama) has been branded a socialist by Sarah Palin and, because it was Sarah Palin doing the branding, the term was ridiculed… However, when one examines Mr Obama's rhetoric about "spreading the wealth" and looks at spending promises made in the past 21 months, socialism is a fair term."

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