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Page last updated at 16:21 GMT, Monday, 26 January 2009

Last week's panel

Lord FalconerMichael Gove MPJo Swinson MPNicola Sturgeon MSPHardeep Singh Kohli

Question Time, the BBC's premier political debate programme chaired by David Dimbleby, was in Fort William on Thursday 29 January.

The panel included former Justice Secretary Lord Falconer, Conservative shadow secretary for children, schools and families Michael Gove, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for foreign affairs Jo Swinson, Deputy First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon, and writer and broadcaster Hardeep Singh Kohli.


Lord Falconer

Career: Charles Falconer was the first Secretary of State for Justice, having previously served as Lord Chancellor from June 2003 to May 2007.

A close friend of Tony Blair and his flatmate in the early days of their legal careers, Lord Falconer left the cabinet when Gordon Brown became prime minister.

After a highly successful legal career, he was made a life peer in the House of Lords when Tony Blair became prime minister in 1997.

During his ministerial career, he held a number of top posts, including constitutional affairs secretary. It was in this post in 2004 that he oversaw government plans to reform the House of Lords, including the rule that anyone who has committed a criminal offence would be stripped of their peerage.

He also announced a plan to remove the remaining hereditary peers from the upper house, saying: "This Labour government is committed to ending the hereditary principle in Parliament. And the hereditary practice." However, these plans were shelved six months later, when Lord Falconer admitted that, in the face of entrenched opposition from peers, there was "no point committing further legislative time to this issue at this stage".


Michael Gove MP

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

Before his election to Parliament in 2005, he was the chairman of the right-wing think tank Policy Exchange, and he has maintained a career as a journalist alongside his role on the Conservative front bench.

He currently writes a column for the Times, having joined the paper in 1996 as a leader writer, and has held a number of posts there, including news editor and assistant editor. He also contributes to Prospect Magazine and the Spectator, and won the Charles Douglas-Home Prize for his book on the Northern Ireland peace process, The Price Of Peace.

Writing recently on the coverage of the Gaza conflict, he said: "Whatever view one takes of Israel's actions, either in moral or military terms, no proper judgement of this conflict is possible without context… In all the reporting of events in Gaza, how much attention has been paid to the ideology and history of Hamas?... All I can say is that sometimes it is appropriate to condemn a little less, and understand a little more."


Jo Swinson MP

Career: Jo Swinson is the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for foreign affairs. She has been the MP for East Dunbartonshire since 2005 and, at 28, is the youngest MP in the House of Commons.

After being active in the youth wing of the Liberal Democrats, her first foray into Westminster politics was at the 2001 election when she unsuccessfully stood against deputy Labour Party leader John Prescott in his Hull constituency.

She went on to win the seat of East Dunbartonshire (where she grew up) four years later.

She has held a number of front bench positions, including spokesperson for Scotland and spokesperson for women and equalities. Nick Clegg appointed her spokesperson for foreign affairs when he became the party leader in January 2008.

Last week, she tabled a Commons motion against the government's decision to exempt MPs' expenses from Freedom of Information requests, saying it would have a "detrimental impact on Parliament in the eyes of the public". She went on: "Ministers should not be cooking up plans to keep MPs' expenses hidden from public view. This move just gives the impression that MPs have something to hide."


Nicola Sturgeon MSP

Career: Nicola Sturgeon is the Deputy First Minister of Scotland, the Deputy Leader of the Scottish National Party and the Cabinet Secretary for health and wellbeing in the Scottish Executive.

She joined the SNP in 1986 as a youth activist, and stood for election unsuccessfully in 1992 as the youngest parliamentary candidate in Scotland, and again in 1997. She became an MSP in the first Scottish Parliament elections in 1999. When the SNP gained control of the devolved Scottish government in 2007, First Minister Alex Salmond made her his deputy.

In November she was named Politician of the Year by Scotland's Herald newspaper.

Writing this week about the pressure of rising energy bills, she said: "In a modern Scotland, the scourge of fuel poverty is an outrage… As the recession takes hold and vulnerable members of society struggle to pay fuel bills, energy companies have a moral responsibility to review prices."


Hardeep Singh Kohli

Career: Hardeep Singh Kohli is a writer, presenter and broadcaster.

After working in television production at the BBC, he directed and starred in the Channel 4 series Meet The Magoons, which drew on his own experience as a Scottish Sikh with Indian parents, a theme he further explored in the Channel 4 documentary In Search Of The Tartan Turban.

He regularly appears on television and radio, as a guest or presenter on programmes such as Newsnight Review, Saturday Live and Loose Ends, as well as writing for Scotland On Sunday, the Guardian and the Independent.

He is a reporter on The One Show and in September 2006 was runner-up on BBC One's Celebrity Masterchef.

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