(Question Time is now off air and will return on 15 January)
Question Time, the BBC's premier political debate programme chaired by David Dimbleby, was in Birkenhead on Thursday 11 December.
The panel included Schools Minister Jim Knight, Conservative MP Nadine Dorries, Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Opik, writer and commentator Will Self, and journalist and campaigner Esther Rantzen.
JIM KNIGHT MP
Career: Jim Knight is the Minister for Schools and Learners in the Department for Children, Schools and Families.
He first stood for Parliament in 1997, and was successfully elected MP for Dorset South in 2001. He served as rural affairs, landscape and biodiversity minister in the department for environment, food and rural affairs before becoming schools minister in 2006.
This week he expressed concern that the economic downturn could have a detrimental effect on children's behaviour. He called on schools to offer support to parents, saying: "There will be uncertainty for those families going through redundancy, and for those families going through stresses around an uncertain future for their housing. Those stresses potentially, I'm sure - if they haven't already - will start to be reflected in behaviour in schools."
NADINE DORRIES MP
Career: Nadine Dorries is the Conservative MP for Mid Bedfordshire.
She grew up in Liverpool, and worked as a nurse before entering politics. She unsuccessfully contested the constituency of Hazel Grove in 2001 before becoming MP for Mid Bedfordshire in 2005.
She is regarded as being on the right wing of her party, and is a high-profile campaigner against abortion. In 2006 she introduced a Private Member's Bill proposing a reduction on the time limit for abortion from 24 to 21 weeks, and earlier this year she tabled an amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill seeking to reduce the time limit to 20 weeks, which was defeated by MPs.
Last month she won the inaugural Spectator Magazine's Readers' Representative Award in the Parliamentarian of the Year Awards, for which she was nominated by the public.
LEMBIT OPIK MP
Career: Lembit Opik is the Liberal Democrat MP for Montgomeryshire. He has been the leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats and the party's spokesman on housing.
Born in Northern Ireland to Estonian parents, he entered Parliament in 1997, immediately becoming the party's spokesman on Northern Ireland and young people.
Once described in the Guardian as "an exotic, soft-spoken political gypsy", his private life has been the subject of much press coverage.
He has twice stood unsuccessfully for the presidency of the Liberal Democrats, most recently losing out to Baroness Scott last month.
He acknowledged that his public profile may have contributed to his defeat, saying: "I personally felt it would be valuable for the party to have someone whose image stretches beyond politics, obviously the party does not think so… I am dead serious about my politics but I do it with a smile. Sadly some people have mixed up my political narrative with my high national profile."
Career: Will Self is a writer and cultural commentator. As well as writing novels, he regularly contributes to a number of newspapers and magazines, including the Independent, New Statesman, Prospect and the Evening Standard.
He also regularly appears on television shows such as Have I Got News For You, and was a team captain on the comedy game show Shooting Stars.
Last month, he wrote about the case of Baby P, who died aged 17 months after being tortured, dismissing the idea that "some Cameroonian, state-supported, marital harmony [can] stop more Baby Ps in the future."
He went on: "The only way we can do that is to recognise exactly how dreadful the conditions under which this child lived and died actually were, and to commit ourselves, as a society and as individuals, to changing them once and for all."
Career: Esther Rantzen is a journalist, television presenter and campaigner, who founded the charity Childline.
She began her television career as a production researcher, before going on to present That's Life on BBC One for 21 years.
One of the UK's leading television personalities, in recent years she has appeared on television shows such as Strictly Come Dancing and Would Like To Meet. Last month, she was the fifth contestant to be voted off I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here on ITV.
She is a highly regarded advocate of children's rights, and has served on the board of the NSPCC, as well as being president of Childline. In a 2008 Daily Mail article that was largely critical of hysteria surrounding child protection in contemporary Britain, Rantzen partially blamed herself for said social changes: "I was part of the revolution in child protection which created these insidious jobsworths."
In 1991, she was awarded an OBE for services to broadcasting, which was raised to CBE in 2006 for her services to children. She has received a number of professional awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from Women in Film and Television, the Royal Television Society's Special Judges' Award for Journalism, their Fellowship, and membership of their Hall of Fame.