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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 February, 2004, 17:35 GMT
5 February 2004
Question Time, the BBC's premier political programme chaired by David Dimbleby, was in Stoke-on-Trent on 5 February. The panel who joined him for the interactive debate were Peter Hain MP, Tim Yeo MP, Jenny Tonge MP, Rod Liddle and Rosemary Hollis.

Peter Hain MP

Title: Leader of the House of Commons and Welsh Secretary

Career: Peter Hain has held a number of ministerial positions, but has courted controversy with some of his comments.

He was forced to drop suggestions that higher earners should pay more tax in a speech last year and had to ditch part of another address in October that contained criticisms about US "unilateralism".

Brought up in South Africa, he was a prominent anti-apartheid campaigner before entering politics and he has spoken out against Robert Mugabe's regime in Zimbabwe, particularly during his stint as Foreign Office Minister.

Tim Yeo MP

Title: Shadow Health and Education Secretary

Career: Tim Yeo was recently forced to reiterate his party's opposition to top-up fees after saying that he had an "open mind" on the subject.

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As shadow culture secretary in 2002 he criticised the BBC licence fee as a "compulsory and regressive television tax" and said the corporation "could carry out its public service responsibilities for a significantly lower sum."

Mr Yeo was asked to take on the dual brief of education and health in the Conservative shadow cabinet reshuffle, that led to claims that leader Michael Howard had "downgraded" the public services.

Jenny Tonge MP

Title: Former Liberal Democrat Spokeswoman for Children's Affairs

Career: Jenny Tonge was sacked from her front bench job two weeks ago after her comments on Palestinian suicide bombers.

The former doctor is known for her outspoken views and has argued that cannabis should be legalised and heroin should be "medicalised" to treat more addicts on the NHS.

Dr Tonge, who once held the post of international development spokeswoman, announced last year that she will not be standing in the next general election in order to spend more time with her family.

Rod Liddle

Title: Journalist and broadcaster

Career: As editor of BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Rod Liddle brought in reporter Andrew Gilligan as defence correspondent.

More than 30 MPs signed a Commons motion condemning Mr Liddle's attack on the Hutton Report which he called a "whitewash", suggesting that all judicial inquires favoured the government.

The former Labour Party speech writer, described by some as a "maverick", was forced to step down as Today editor in 2002 after four years at the helm, after he wrote a newspaper article criticising a Countryside Alliance march.

Rosemary Hollis

Title: Head, Middle East Programme, Royal Institute of International Affairs (RIIA)

Career: Rosemary Hollis has analysed the relationship between the region and the West.

She has argued that the UN and European powers should be involved in the restructuring of Iraq following the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime and is an expert in Arab-Israeli relations.

Dr Hollis was head of the Middle East programme at the Royal United Services institute for Defence Studies, has lectured at George Washington University in the US and has written a number of publications.

BBC One's Question Time is broadcast on Thursdays at 2235 GMT.


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