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Question Time



Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 March 2008, 10:28 GMT
This week's panel
Question Time, the BBC's premier political debate programme chaired by David Dimbleby, will be in London on Thursday 13 March.

The panel includes the First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond, Conservative shadow chancellor George Osborne, Innovation, Universities and Skills secretary John Denham, former leader of the Liberal Democrats Charles Kennedy and businesswoman Nicola Horlick.


First Minister of Scotland and leader of the SNP, Alex Salmond MP MSP (Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)

Career: Alex Salmond is the First Minister of Scotland and leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP).

He has been leader of the SNP since 1990, although he left the post between 2000 and 2004 to head the SNP group in Westminster.

In May 2007, he became the first nationalist to be elected First Minister of Scotland when the SNP formed a minority government following a narrow victory in the Scottish parliamentary elections.

He has accused Gordon Brown of "morphing into an Englishman," adding: "The Chancellor may have been born Scottish but he is desperate to become an Englishman."

This week the SNP rejected calls by Lord Goldsmith for British school children to pledge allegiance to Britain and the Queen. SNP minister Jim Mather said: "We don't support it and neither do the vast majority of parents, teachers and children in Scotland... I'm sure it would be an own goal for Gordon Brown."


Conservative shadow chancellor George Osborne

Career: George Osborne is the Conservative shadow chancellor.

He was the youngest Conservative MP in the House of Commons when he was elected in 2001 as the MP for Tatton, having previously worked as a speech-writer and political secretary to former Conservative leader William Hague.

After a brief spell as shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, he was promoted to shadow chancellor of the Exchequer in 2005.

He has led Conservative attacks on Chancellor Alistair Darling and this week called for the government to use Wednesday's budget to cut taxes on small businesses, saying: "It will send a clear signal that Britain is open for business... Small businesses are the lifeblood of a vibrant economy and a tax hike now would be a disaster."

A poll in this week's Independent newspaper showed that 74% of Britain's top business people regard George Osborne and David Cameron as best qualified to steer the UK through a period of economic turbulence.


Innovation, Universities and Skills John Denham MP

Career: John Denham joined the cabinet as the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills when Gordon Brown became Prime Minister in July.

He was a local councillor for more than 10 years before entering parliament as the MP for Southampton Itchen in 1992. He was promoted to the front bench in 1995 as a spokesman on social security.

He controversially resigned from his position as a Home Office minister in 2003, saying he would not vote with the government in support of the Iraq war.

Earlier this month he announced plans for 20 new university campuses to be built in England over the next six years, inviting local authorities and regional development agencies to enter a "university challenge" to bid for funding for a campus or college in their area.


Former leader of the Liberal Democrats Charles Kennedy MP

Career: Charles Kennedy is the former leader of the Liberal Democrats.

In early 2003 he led his party in a forthright opposition to the invasion of Iraq that saw him address crowds at anti-war demonstrations during the build up to the conflict.

He resigned as leader of the Liberal Democrats last January after admitting he had a drink problem. During his tenure the party had their most successful election performance for 80 years when they returned 63 MPs in May 2005.

Under Kennedy's leadership, the Lib Dems made a manifesto commitment to hold a referendum on the European Constitution. Last week, the party was rocked by a spate of resignations over current leader Nick Clegg's decision that they should abstain from a vote on a referendum about the Constitution's successor, the Lisbon Treaty.


Chief executive officer of Bramdean Asset Management, Nicola Horlick (Photo: Fiona Hanson/PA)

Career: Nicola Horlick is chief executive officer of Bramdean Asset Management and one of the UK's leading business women.

A mother of six who lost her eldest daughter to leukaemia, her balancing of family life and work has lead to her being branded a City "superwoman" by the press.

She has worked in the fund management industry for over 20 years and has participated in the growth of some of the UK's premier asset management businesses, including Mercury Asset Management, Morgan Grenfell Asset Management and Societe Generale Asset Management.

In 1997 she wrote a book about her experience as a woman in business, entitled "Can You Have It All?" However, she claims that her gender was never detrimental to her career, explaining: "If you are the only woman in a room, you are more memorable."

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