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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 September, 2004, 15:48 GMT 16:48 UK
30 September 2004
Question Time, the BBC's premier political programme chaired by David Dimbleby, was in Brighton on 30 September. He was joined for the interactive debate by Geoff Hoon MP, Liam Fox MP, Sandra Gidley MP, Kwame Kwei-Armah and Ruth Lea.

Geoff Hoon MP

GEOFF HOON MP

Title: Defence Secretary

Career: Geoff Hoon recently announced plans for a defence shake-up involving 20,000 job cuts to allow more investment in new technology.

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In his current position since 1999, he has admitted mistakes over his department's handling of Dr David Kelly at the time of the weapons expert's death and was at the heart of the controversy over the 45 minute claim and the decision to go to war in Iraq. But he survived the subsequent Hutton inquiry in spite of media predictions he would be forced to resign.

More recently, he has faced criticism over the deaths of soldiers at Deepcut army barracks. He is considered to be one of Tony Blair's most trusted colleagues, having risen rapidly through the ranks since he became the MP for Ashfield in Nottinghamshire in 1992.


Liam Fox MP

LIAM FOX MP

Title: Co-chairman of the Conservative party

Career: Liam Fox has moved the Conservative party to new offices this summer said to include a "war room" for use in the next general election.

A major part of his election strategy for the party is to offer people the right to choose. The former GP was party health spokesman until late last year and developed the "patients' passports" policy designed to let people choose which hospital they want to be treated at.

He was first elected to parliament in 1993 as MP for Woodspring in Somerset. Soon afterwards he was appointed as Michael Howard's Parliamentary Private Secretary and ran his Tory leadership campaign 10 years later.


SANDRA GIDLEY MP

Title: Liberal Democrat spokesperson for women and older people

Career: A former mayor of Romsey, Sandra Gidley won the seat in the 2000 by-election, retaining it in the last general election.

A former pharmacist and voluntary antenatal teacher with the National Childbirth Trust, she is a critic of the Private Finance Initiative in the NHS.

Mrs Gidley is a member of the parliamentary health select committee and has interests in education and the environment.


Kwame Kwei-Armah

KWAME KWEI-ARMAH

Title: Christian Aid goodwill ambassador

Career: Well known to Casualty viewers in the role of Finlay Newton, Kwame Kwei-Armah is also a goodwill ambassador for Christian Aid.

He has campaigned on issues including unfair trade and third world poverty, believing he can help make a difference by "doing his bit" and encouraging others to follow his example.

Kwame is also a writer and his play Elmina's Kitchen, produced at the National Theatre, was shortlisted at this year's Laurence Olivier Awards.


Ruth Lea

RUTH LEA

Title: Director, Centre for Policy Studies

Career: A distinguished economist, Ruth Lea became head of the Conservative think tank in January this year.

She was head of the Policy Unit at the Institute of Directors between 1995 and 2003, following a stint as economics editor at ITN. Before that, she was Chief UK Economist at Lehman Brothers. She spent much of her early career in the civil service. 

She sits on the University of London Council and is a governor of the London School of Economics. She is the author of many papers and is a frequent commentator on economic issues in the press and on television and radio.


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

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