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Page last updated at 13:20 GMT, Tuesday, 21 October 2008 14:20 UK

Last week's panel

Lord HattersleyBaroness WarsiJo SwinsonAlex SalmondLionel Barber

Question Time, the BBC's premier political debate programme chaired by David Dimbleby, was in Peterborough on Thursday 23 October.

The panel included Labour peer Lord Hattersley, the Conservative shadow communities minister Baroness Warsi, Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesperson Jo Swinson, First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond and the editor of the Financial Times, Lionel Barber.


LORD HATTERSLEY

Title: Labour peer

Roy Hattersley

Career: Roy Hattersley is a senior Labour grandee who held a number of ministerial positions under the 1970s governments of Harold Wilson and James Callaghan.

From 1983-1987 he served as Deputy Leader and Shadow Chancellor under Neil Kinnock, helping modernise the party.

In light of a recent surge in fuel prices, he has argued that the government should levy a "windfall tax" on energy companies' profits, writing:

"In hard economic times, it is intolerable for directors of energy companies to draw huge bonuses while their customers go cold because they cannot afford to pay the bills. It is also inimical to the spirit that sees a nation through its difficulties. That is a patriotic argument for an energy windfall tax."

Earlier this year, he accused the current Labour leadership of appearing to "identify with the financial sector of the economy and to apologise for its mistakes - at a time when the general public is growing ever more impatient with its inadequate performance and social irresponsibility."

He went on: I have nothing in common with the deposed directors of Northern Rock other than a mutual inability to run a successful bank. But I have not lost faith in social democracy. Too many men and women at, or near, the top of the Labour Party have."


BARONESS WARSI

Title: Shadow communities minister

Baroness 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.

In a speech last month, she attacked Labour's record on community cohesion, blaming a "decade of state-driven multi-culturalism".

She went on: "It has sent out the message that we're not sharing a society, we're just cohabiting a space. It has led people to retreat into separate cultures rather than reach for a shared community... and their obsession with self-appointed community leaders and crude use of patronage politics has led to communities divided against each other, with people losing that inner instinct of what it is to be British."


JO SWINSON MP

Title: Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesperson

Jo Swinson

Career: Jo Swinson is the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for foreign affairs.

She has been the MP for East Dunbartonshire since 2005, and at 28 is the youngest MP in the House of Commons.

After being active in the youth wing of the Liberal Democrats, her first foray into Westminster politics was at the 2001 election, when she unsuccessfully stood against Deputy Labour Party leader John Prescott in his Hull constituency.

She went on to win the seat of East Dunbartonshire, where she grew up, four years later.

She has held a number of front bench positions, including spokesperson for Scotland and spokesperson for women and equalities. Nick Clegg appointed her spokesperson for foreign affairs when he became the party leader in January 2008.

She has campaigned to have the voting age lowered to 16, saying: "16 and 17-year olds can pay taxes, join the army and get married, so denying them a vote is simply inconsistent. Lowering the voting age would let young people know that that politics is relevant to them and that politicians care about what they think."


ALEX SALMOND MSP

Title: First Minister of Scotland

Alex Salmond

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

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.

At the SNP's annual conference in Perth last week, he dismissed claims that the UK banking crisis added fuel to fears for the stability of an independent Scottish economy, saying: "the Prime Minister thinks this is an advert for the Union? I would have thought that the condition of the economy, the fears of our people and the state of the financial sector are a staggering condemnation of the state of the United Kingdom.''

He has openly opposed the government-backed takeover of HBOS, created by the 2001 merger of Halifax Plc and Bank of Scotland, by London-based Lloyds TSB Group Plc. He has described the Bank of Scotland as "wired into the social and economic fabric of Scotland."


LIONEL BARBER

Title: Editor, Financial Times

Lionel Barber

Career: Lionel Barber is the editor of the Financial Times. He was previously the managing editor of the paper's US edition, and the editor of the FT's European edition, a role in which he briefed US President George W. Bush prior to his first official European trip.

His journalistic career began at The Scotsman in 1978. In 1981, after being named Young Journalist of the Year in the British press awards, he moved to The Sunday Times, where he was a business correspondent.

He has written several books, included The Price of Truth, a history of the Reuters news agency, and has also lectured widely on US foreign policy, transatlantic relations, European security and monetary union at universities including Harvard, Georgetown and Stanford.

Responding last month to the $700bn US banking bailout plan, he said: "It's important to remember how serious things became… you saw a virtual meltdown of the financial system… I likened it to that scene in [the film] Independence Day when the president's leaving town and he looks behind him and there's the White House, crumbling. We were seeing that with the banks on Wall Street, one after another going down, so this was really scary to anybody who was in London, Tokyo or Frankfurt."




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