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Page last updated at 15:02 GMT, Wednesday, 1 October 2008 16:02 UK

This week's panel

Jacqui Smith MPMichael HeseltineCharles Kennedy MPRichard LambertJanet Street-Porter

Question Time, the BBC's premier political debate programme chaired by David Dimbleby, was in Birmingham on Thursday 2 October.

The panel included the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, former Conservative defence secretary Lord Heseltine, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats Charles Kennedy, CBI director general Richard Lambert and the editor-at-large of the Independent on Sunday, Janet Street-Porter.

JACQUI SMITH MP

Jacqui Smith MP

Career: Jacqui Smith is the Home Secretary.

After 10 years as a teacher, she entered Parliament in 1997 as the MP for Redditch.

She served as deputy minister for women and equality, and as a minister of schools in the Department of Education, before entering the Cabinet as chief whip in May 2007.

She was made home secretary by Gordon Brown in his first cabinet, and is the first woman ever to hold the post.

Last week she unveiled the government's controversial new identification card, which will be issued first to foreign students and immigrants before being extended to the rest of the population. Predicting that up to 60,000 cards would be issued by the end of next March, she called the announcement "a mark of our commitment to the ID scheme".


LORD HESELTINE

Lord Heseltine

Career: Michael Heseltine is one of the most senior Conservative politicians, whose political career has spanned four decades.

He became the Conservative MP for Tavistock in 1966 and served as a junior minister in Edward Heath's government, before being promoted to secretary of state for the environment, and later defence secretary, by Margaret Thatcher.

Upon retiring from the Commons in 2001, he was made a life peer in the House of Lords. After backing David Cameron's election for party leader, he has led the Conservatives' Cities Task Force, aimed at increasing Tory support in urban areas.

He made a return to the headlines last month, albeit indirectly, when David Miliband was reportedly overheard saying that he had toned down his speech at the Labour conference to avoid "a Heseltine moment". Although the remark was denied by the foreign secretary, it was interpreted as a reference to the fact that Lord Heseltine had been widely expected to succeed Margaret Thatcher in the run-up to her fall from power, but lost out in the leadership race to John Major.


CHARLES KENNEDY MP

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 the leadership of the Liberal Democrats in January 2006 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.

During the Liberal Democrat conference last month, he urged the party's leader, Nick Clegg, to avoid "pandering to any extent to Euroscepticism". He went on: "This party is at its best when we have taken principled stands on foreign affairs: Ashdown on the plight of the Hong Kong Chinese and during my own time on Iraq."


RICHARD LAMBERT

Richard Lambert

Career: Richard Lambert is director general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

He entered the financial world in 1966 as a journalist for the Financial Times, and went on to edit the paper from 1991 to 2001. He served as a member of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee from 2003 to 2006, the body which sets interest rates in the UK.

Last week he urged the government to take a "calm look at regulation in financial markets in the months ahead," and warned: "Some trade union leaders were even talking longingly about a return to the 1970s. We have to make sure that everyone who matters accepts that this idea is total nonsense."

He went on: "We mustn't forget the huge benefits that a competitive financial market has brought to businesses and consumers over the past 20 years. It's an area where we are world leaders... We mustn't jeopardise all this in a rush to find scapegoats."


JANET STREET-PORTER

Janet Street-Porter

Career: Janet Street Porter is the editor-at-large of the Independent on Sunday, having been the paper's editor between 1999 and 2002.

She began her Fleet Street career at the age of 21 and has subsequently established herself as a journalist as well as a BAFTA award-winning TV producer and broadcaster.

Famous for her outspoken views, she describes herself as a "shame-free zone". She has appeared as a contestant in a number of reality TV shows including So You Think You Can Teach and I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here, and is vice president of the Ramblers' Association.

Last week she criticised the decision for the prime minister's wife to introduce her husband's speech at the Labour conference, writing: "Sarah's move is a step backwards for women. I would have been more impressed if she'd taken the microphone and announced she'd decided to run for Parliament, instead of acting as her fella's warm-up."




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