Page last updated at 17:56 GMT, Tuesday, 8 December 2009

This week's panel

Question Time, the BBC's premier political debate programme, will be broadcast from Wootton Bassett on Thursday 10 December.

The market town in Wiltshire has come into national focus for honouring those who have given their lives in the service of their country.

The panel will include the former head of the British Army General Sir Richard Dannatt, the Minister of State for the Armed Forces Bill Rammall MP, the shadow foreign secretary William Hague MP, the former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Ashdown, the former newspaper editor Piers Morgan and the Respect Party's Salma Yaqoob.

You will be able to continue the debate after the programme on our website as usual and in addition Radio One will have a special Newsbeat programme from Wootton Bassett on Friday lunchtime at 12.45pm featuring extracts from the programme and reaction from listeners.


BILL RAMMELL MP

Bill Rammell MP

Bill Rammell is the Armed Forces Minister.

He became involved in politics as a student, and was elected to Harlow District Council in 1985.

He became the MP for Harlow in 1997 and was returned in 2005 with a majority of just 97 votes. He has held ministerial positions at the Department of Education and the Foreign Office, before joining the Ministry of Defence in June this year.

Last month he opposed the suggestion that fresh allegations of abuse by the UK military in Iraq warranted a new public inquiry, saying instead that each case should be examined individually. He told the BBC: "There is no credible evidence that endemic abuse was a coherent part of the way our military operated."

Announcing the deployment of the first Merlin helicopters to British forces in Afghanistan last month, he said it was "evidence of our ongoing commitment to increase capacity, and further improvements to helicopter capability in Afghanistan will follow over the next 12 months."


WILLIAM HAGUE MP

William Hague MP

William Hague is the shadow foreign secretary and former leader of the Conservative Party.

After his first foray into politics aged 16, with a speech at the 1977 Conservative Party conference, he was elected to Parliament in 1989 as the MP for Richmond, North Yorkshire and was promoted to the cabinet as secretary of state for Wales in 1995. He succeeded John Major as leader of the Conservative Party after Labour's 1997 election victory.

He spent some years as an active backbencher, notably speaking in favour of Tony Blair's proposal for military action in Iraq in 2003. He returned to frontline politics in 2005 when David Cameron made him shadow foreign secretary.

Last month, in advance of Gordon Brown and Barack Obama's announcement of the beginning of the transfer of Coalition forces out of Afghanistan in 2011, he told the Commons: "It is not possible to have a timetable in a province such as Helmand, which would set a timetable for the Taliban to work to."

He called for "a strategy involving true counter-insurgency operations… winning over the local population and the proper co-ordination of the civilian and economic effort behind the troops. It's only if we get these things right that we can have these kinds of withdrawals and handovers to Afghan security forces."


LORD ASHDOWN

Lord Ashdown

Paddy Ashdown was leader of the Liberal Democrats from the creation of the party in 1988 until 1999, leading the party in 1997 to the most successful Liberal election performance since the 1920s.

After retiring from British politics, he was made a life peer in 2001 and became the UN High Representative to Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2002.

Last year Lord Ashdown confirmed reports that he had turned down the offer of a cabinet post from Gordon Brown, saying: "You do not build partnership government by seeking to add the Liberal Democrats as a bungalow annexe to a Labour government."

In January 2008, it emerged that his proposed appointment as the United Nations super envoy to Afghanistan, supported by the UK, USA and UN, was blocked by the Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Lord Ashdown confirmed that he "almost did, but thankfully didn't" take up the role, saying he thought that Kabul opposed his appointment "partially based on my nationality and Britain's role in Afghanistan".

Speaking last year of Britain's engagement in Afghanistan, he said: "You can defeat the enemy militarily on the battlefield but what we have to do is win the political battles… I'm not saying for a moment that we have lost. I'm saying that we're getting pretty close."


SALMA YAQOOB

Salma Yaqoob

Salma Yaqoob is the leader of Respect and a Birmingham City councillor. She is also the head of the Birmingham Stop the War Coalition and a spokesperson for Birmingham Central Mosque. Respect is represented by George Galloway in the House of Commons.

She grew up in Birmingham and trained as a psychotherapist. As head of the Birmingham Stop the War Coalition, she was one of the founding members of Respect, a coalition of left-wing organisations founded in 2004 in opposition to the Iraq war. In the 2005 general election, she stood as the Respect candidate for Birmingham Sparkbrook and Small Heath, finishing in second place.

In 2006, she was elected to represent the area on the City Council, saying her election was "only possible because we united people around a progressive message of anti-racism and social justice."


GENERAL SIR RICHARD DANNATT GCB, CBE, MC

General Sir Richard Dannatt

Richard Dannatt was Chief of the General Staff of the British Army from 2006 until August this year. He now holds the ceremonial position of Constable of the Tower of London.

He joined the army after university and served in a number of places, including Northern Ireland, where he was awarded the Military Cross. From 1994 to 1996, he commanded 4th Armoured Brigade in Germany and Bosnia. From 2001 to 2002, he was the assistant chief of the general staff in the Ministry of Defence before taking command of NATO's Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC). He assumed the appointment of chief of the general staff (head of the British Army) in August 2006, replacing General Sir Mike Jackson.

As head of the Army, he said: "Too right I am waging some kind of campaign… I'm not running any kind of political campaign; I am running a military campaign to make sure that our men and women on the front line have got what they need to do what the government and ourselves are asking them to do in the interests of the nation in Afghanistan today."

In October it emerged that he had been asked to act as an adviser on defence to the Conservatives, a role which may see him enter the House of Lords.


PIERS MORGAN

Piers Morgan

Piers Morgan is a journalist and television personality.

At 29, he was made editor of the News of the World newspaper, and went on to a high-profile editorship of the Mirror, during which the paper became a vociferous opponent of the Iraq war.

He was sacked from the job after publishing photos of the abuse of Iraqis by British soldiers which were shown to be fake. He later said: "I didn't mind losing my job. Maybe Tony Blair or one of the cabinet will have the good grace, after 100,000 Iraqis died, to lose their job."

Since leaving the Mirror, he has become a well-known face on television, appearing as a judge on both America's Got Talent and Britain's Got Talent.

In the past he has been a vocal supporter of Gordon Brown, who he interviewed last month for GQ magazine.

As well as a brother who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan, he has a number of other family members who have been in the British Army, of whom he has previously written: "For loyalty, pride, discipline, respect and a deep-rooted devotion to the cause, there is nobody to beat our armed forces."



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