Question Time


Page last updated at 17:20 GMT, Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Last week's panel

Douglas Alexander MPGeorge Osborne MPBaroness NeubergerAdam Price MPJustin King

Question Time, the BBC's premier political debate programme chaired by David Dimbleby, was in Basildon on Thursday 27 November.

The panel included the Secretary of State for International Development Douglas Alexander, Conservative shadow chancellor George Osborne, Liberal Democrat peer Rabbi Julia Neuberger, Plaid Cymru MP Adam Price and chief executive of Sainsbury's Justin King.


Douglas Alexander MP

Career: Douglas Alexander is the Secretary of State for International Development and Labour's election coordinator.

After joining the Labour Party as a schoolboy, he entered politics in 1990 as a speech writer and parliamentary researcher for Gordon Brown.

Having first stood for Parliament while still a student, he was elected as the MP for Paisley South in November 1997.

After holding a number of positions in government, including minister for E-commerce, and minister for Europe, he was promoted to the cabinet last year, simultaneously taking on the posts of transport secretary and secretary of state for Scotland. He has long been regarded as one of Gordon Brown's closest political allies, and was made secretary of state for international development when Brown became prime minister in June 2007.

Earlier this month he was forced to play down speculation that he had begun to coordinate preparations for an early election, after polls showed the Conservatives' lead over Labour narrowing. He told the Andrew Marr show: "As election coordinator I haven't spoken to Gordon Brown about the possibility of an election... I am trying to work with other colleagues in cabinet to take Britain fairly through the downturn. I think that is what the British people would expect of us and that is the entire focus of our work."


George Osborne MP

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.

Reacting to this week's pre-Budget report, he said: "No one can doubt now that the prime minister's claim to have abolished boom and bust was one of the greatest deceits ever told to the British people. The chancellor has just announced the largest amount of borrowing ever undertaken by a British government in the entire history of this country… That is the bill for Labour's decade of irresponsibility initiated by this prime minister."

Rather than borrowing to fund tax cuts, he has called for "radical monetary action", saying: "Interest rates are 3% here, they are 1% in the US. It is clear they can come down."


Baroness Neuberger

Career: Julia Neuberger is a rabbi and Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords.

She was Britain's second female rabbi and the first to have her own synagogue. She was also chair of Camden and Islington NHS Trust from 1992 to 1997 and chief executive of the King's Fund from 1997 to 2004. In 2004, she became a life peer and chose to take the Liberal Democrat whip.

In 2005, she published a study of morality and public policy in modern Britain, entitled The Moral State We're In. Her most recent book, Not Dead Yet: A Manifesto For Old Age, is a critique of the treatment of old people in the UK.

In 2007 she was appointed by Gordon Brown as an adviser to the government on volunteering.


Adam Price MP

Career: Adam Price is the Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, and is his party's treasury spokesman.

The son of a coal miner, he was the managing director of an economics consultancy firm before he entered Parliament in 2001.

In 2002 he won the Spectator magazine Parliamentary Inquisitor of the Year, for his expose of links between then Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Labour donor and steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal.

He speaks for Plaid Cymru at Westminster on treasury and trade and industry issues, and this week gave his reaction to Alistair Darling's pre-Budget report, saying: "Plaid Cymru have been calling for a fiscal stimulus for some time, and we do welcome many of the measures. But unfortunately we are concerned by how they are going to be funded. The level of borrowing suggested is reckless and irresponsible."


Justin King

Career: Justin King is the chief executive of J Sainsbury plc, the parent company of one of the UK's biggest supermarket chains.

One of the country's pre-eminent business figures, he was previously director of food at Marks and Spencer, and has held a number of key positions at Asda/Wal-mart and Haagen Dazs UK.

He was appointed CEO of Sainsbury's in 2004, at a time when the ailing supermarket had lost market share for 14 years in a row. He has since achieved 13 successive quarters of like-for-like sales growth, generated an extra £2.7bn of sales, and doubled profits to nearly £500m.

Reacting earlier this month to the supermarket's latest figures which appeared to buck the current market trend, he said: "All grocers are grappling with customers' massively changing behaviour. Surveys of customer sentiment are as downbeat as they have ever been for at least 10 years. But the perception is significantly worse than reality. They fear what is coming, but today they are still able to make ends meet."

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