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Question Time



Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 February 2008, 15:22 GMT
This week's panel
Question Time, the BBC's premier political debate programme chaired by David Dimbleby, was in Watford on Thursday 14 February.

The panel included the Minister of State for Housing Caroline Flint, the Conservative shadow minister for community cohesion Sayeeda Warsi, the Church of England's first Bishop for urban life and faith, Rt Rev Stephen Lowe, writer and broadcaster Clive James, and the author and columnist for the Daily Mail Melanie Phillips.


Caroline Flint MP
Caroline Flint is the Minister of State for Housing.

She was promoted to attend Gordon Brown's cabinet in January during the reshuffle that followed Peter Hain's resignation. She was previously the Minister for Employment and Welfare.

Having been elected as an MP in 1997, she served as a Private Secretary to Peter Hain in both the Department of Trade and Industry and the Foreign Office.

In 2002, she moved to work under John Reid as Leader of the House of Commons, before joining the Home Office in June 2003.

As Minister for Public Health from May 2005 to July 2007, she was responsible for overseeing the introduction of last year's smoking ban in England.

Last week she made headlines when she said she wanted to "begin a debate" on social housing, outlining plans for council housing tenants to sign "commitment contracts" ensuring they seek work.

Her comments were dismissed as "meaningless" by Conservative shadow housing minister Grant Shapps, who said: "This is a classic example of the government trying to grab the headlines with spin that they cannot legally enforce."


Sayeeda Warsi

Career: Sayeeda Warsi is the Conservative shadow minister for community cohesion.

A British-born Muslim of Pakistani origin, she was a former race adviser to Michael Howard and has also been vice chair of the Conservative Party with responsibility for taking the party's message to the inner cities.

She is the youngest member of the House of Lords, as well as the first Muslim member of a shadow cabinet.

In December 2007, she came to international attention when she took a leading role in the successful mission to the Sudan to secure the release of the British teacher, Gillian Gibbons.

This week she commented on the Archbishop of Canterbury's remarks on Sharia Law, saying: "There is much to admire in Dr Williams, but I believe in this instance he has confused an already delicate situation. What our communities are crying out for is unity, not division. The introduction of a parallel system of religious law, like Sharia law, in our country would fundamentally undermine all this."


Rt Rev Stephen Lowe, Bishop of Hulme - copyright Manchester Diocese

Career: Rt Rev Stephen Lowe, the Bishop of Hulme, is the Church of England's first Bishop for urban life and faith.

His role involves promoting the dissemination and implementation of the Faithful Cities report and responsibility for the Church of England's work on urban issues.

This week he has been one of the leading voices of support for the Archbishop of Canterbury, saying: "I'm fed up with politicians who shoot their mouths off about someone as intelligent as Rowan, without even thinking about what he said. This reaction just stirs up bad feeling between communities and plays into the hands of racists."


Clive James

Career: Clive James is an internationally renowned writer and broadcaster. He was born in Sydney, Australia, and has lived in the UK since 1961.

He has written for numerous publications, including The New Statesman, The New York Times and The New Yorker magazine, and was the Observer's television critic for ten years. He is a bestselling novelist, and has also written collections of travel writing, essays and poetry. His most recent book, Cultural Amnesia: Notes In The Margins Of My Time, was published last year.

He is a well-known face on British television, having presented many of his own programmes, including Fame in the Twentieth Century and his Postcards From series, as well as regularly appearing on shows such as Have I Got News For You and Comic Relief.

In 1992 he was made a member of the Order of Australia, in 1999 an honorary Doctor of Letters of Sydney University, and in 2003 he received Australia's premier award for poetry, the Philip Hodgins Memorial Medal.


Melanie Phillips

Career: Melanie Phillips is an author and columnist for the Daily Mail.

She worked at the Guardian for more than a decade, where she became a columnist after a brief period as news editor. After a short time at the Observer, she joined the Daily Mail in 2001, where she now writes a controversial column on moral and social issues.

She is regarded as one of the media's leading right-wing voices and was recently described as the "scourge of the Guardian-reading liberal establishment." She was awarded the Orwell Prize for Journalism in 1996.

This week she wrote that the Archbishop of Canterbury "does not seem to understand that this country is being targeted by a pincer movement of terrorism and cultural takeover."

She went on: "He does not seem to understand the role of his own religion in underpinning British laws, culture and society... Dr Williams is said to be profoundly shocked by the reaction to his remarks. Well, we are all profoundly shocked by him. He should stand down."

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