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Page last updated at 10:35 GMT, Wednesday, 2 July 2008 11:35 UK

This week's panel

Question Time, the BBC's premier political debate programme chaired by David Dimbleby, will be in Musselburgh on Thursday 3 July.

The panel will include the Minister of State in the Scotland Office and MP for Greenock and Inverclyde David Cairns, Conservative shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley, Scotland's Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Liberal Democrat MEP Baroness Nicholson and comedian, actor and writer David Mitchell.

DAVID CAIRNS MP

David Cairns MP

David Cairns is the Minister of State in the Scotland Office and MP for Greenock and Inverclyde.

Born in Greenock, he studied in Rome before going on to become a Catholic priest from 1991 to 1994. He left the priesthood to pursue a career in politics and was the director of the Christian Socialist Movement until 1997.

He also worked as a political researcher and was a councillor in the London Borough of Merton.

In 2001 he was elected as the MP for Inverclyde and from 2003 was the personal Private Secretary to Pensions Minister Malcolm Wicks.

After the 2005 general election he was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland and was promoted to Minister of State for Scotland in 2007.


ANDREW LANSLEY CBE MP

Andrew Lansley MP

Career: Andrew Lansley has been the Conservative shadow health secretary since November 2003.

Before his election to parliament in 1997, he worked as a private secretary to Norman Tebbit, who was then party chairman. He was director of the Conservative Research Department during the successful 1992 election campaign.

This week, he dismissed the government's plans for the next 10 years of the NHS as a "bureaucratic, top-down system." Responding in parliament to Health Secretary Alan Johnson's unveiling of the plans, he said: "In place of vision we get another list of initiatives - some old, some new, some borrowed, quite a lot of them blue."

He says an NHS run by the Conservatives "would be different for patients first because they would genuinely have more control over their healthcare. The government has talked about it but they haven't delivered it and that exercise of choice makes an enormous difference in holding the whole of the NHS to account."


NICOLA STURGEON MSP

Nicola Sturgeon MSP

Career: Nicola Sturgeon is Scotland's Deputy First Minister, Deputy Leader of the Scottish National Party and Minister for Health and Wellbeing.

She was elected to the Scottish Parliament in 1999, becoming the SNP spokeswoman on justice and later on education and health.

After the resignation of SNP leader John Swinney in 2004, she initially announced her intention to run for the leadership, but then stood, and won, as Deputy Leader alongside leader Alex Salmond.

Last Saturday, when the leader of Scottish Labour, Wendy Alexander, resigned over controversial donations to her leadership campaign, Nicola Sturgeon responded: "There can be no doubt that the information on her illegal campaign donation could only have come from within the inner circles of the Labour Party. Decay from within is characteristic of the decline of the New Labour project."

However, Wendy Alexander's brother, UK International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander accused Sturgeon's party of "partisan conduct" and the "politics of personal destruction". He added: "I ask whether politics is enhanced or diminished by events in recent days. The SNP may feel they've won a tactical victory but I fear that Scottish politics may be the loser."


BARONESS NICHOLSON MEP

Baroness Nicolson
Career: Emma Nicholson is the Liberal Democrat member of the European Parliament for South East England, and a Lib Dem member of the House of Lords.

After 10 years as a director of Save the Children UK, she entered politics with her election to parliament as the Conservative MP for Devon and West Torridge in 1987. She was vice-chairman of the Conservative Party between 1983 and 1987 and went on to join the Liberal Democrats in 1995.

She was made a life peer as Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne in the Royal County of Berkshire in 1997 and became an MEP in 1999.

In 2002 she was voted MEP of the Year by the readers of the Brussels magazine European Voice.

She is the co-founder of the Children's High Level Group with the author JK Rowling, which campaigns to make life better for young people in care across Eastern Europe.


DAVID MITCHELL

David Mitchell

Career: David Mitchell is a comedian, actor and writer, who stars in the BAFTA-winning Channel 4 sitcom, Peep Show.

He is one half of the duo Mitchell and Webb, with his Peep Show co-star Robert Mitchell, who he met through the Cambridge Footlights group, of which Mitchell was president.

As well as writing and starring in sketch shows on television and radio, including That Mitchell and Webb Sound on Radio 4, and That Mitchell and Webb Look, their first film, Magicians, was released in May 2007.

David Mitchell is a well-known face on political and comedy panel shows, including Have I Got News For You, Mock The Week and QI and is a regular contributor to Radio 4 programmes such as Would I Lie To You and The Unbelievable Truth, which he hosts.

He told The Independent: "When I was at school I either wanted to be a comedian-stroke-actor or prime minister. The turning point against politics for me was turning up at the Union Society and finding it to be a moldering institution, whereas Footlights was full of nice people who seemed fun."


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