PMQs as-it-happened

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09:30 - Prime minister's questions is back today for the first debate of the new parliamentary session. Last week saw the Queen's Speech massively overshadowed by outrage over the arrest of Damian Green, with speaker Michael Martin's statement to the House taking the monarch's place on the front pages. There's a chance David Cameron will lead on the issue today, but don't count on it. There are signs the public are uninterested in the controversy, viewing it as parliamentary navel gazing. A survey yesterday saw 56 per cent of the public say they were not following the controversy closely enough to form a view. The old Cameron would have run with today's housing benefit reform white paper, set to be released by James Purnell later. He would have associated the Tories with it strongly in an effort to stoke rebellion from Labour left-wingers. One the other hand he may just return to the theme of his speech yesterday and launch another strongly worded attack on Gordon Brown's economic management.

11:59 - The chamber is full. Gordon brown walks in. He's spent his morning meeting children winning bravery awards. The kids are in Westminster Abbey right now. The prime minister's current associates are not so nice.


12:01 - Before listing his engagements Brown lists the armed forces personnel to die this week, this time in Iraq. The first question is about small businesses. A Labour MP expresses how much they love what the government has done and how "concerned" they are with Tory "do nothing" proposals. Tories jeer her, and quite right too. Brown launches into one of his lists about how wonderful he is.

12:04 - Cameron is up. He asks Brown on bank lending. Behind him, it looks as if someone has switched off George Osborne's power switch. Has recapitalisation worked, and if not will he change it. Brown's answer is classic: He starts by saying it was intended to save the banks. "And we not only saved the world," he continues before correcting himself and saying banks. The Tories go into a kind of Bacchic ecstasy. They laugh at the prime minister for a full minute, at least.

12:06 - "Well it's now on the record," Cameron laughs. The Tory leader then cites examples of businesses dying because banks aren't lending. Brown replies by saying his loan guarantees scheme is in addition to the recapitalisation plan, and that the Tories opposed it. He also argues the deferred payment for various taxes by HMRC has helped. It's all dependent on the fiscal injection. "The Tory party are still clinging to the failed policies of the 1980's."

12:08 - The loan guarantee scheme only covers 0.2 per cent of businesses, Cameron retorts. "If it's all going so well," Cameron asks, why is the council of mortgage lenders (CML) saying government policy is conflicting and incoherent. Brown says the CML is backing his mortgage plan. They must be chuffed at all this press. Brown is now just insulting Cameron, along the lines of him needing economic lessons. This is becoming a recurring theme. Then onto recurring theme number one - that Tories want to do nothing, Labour are active.

12:10 - Cameron says the VAT cut was pointless, and the government should have concentrated on underwriting lending to businesses instead. Will the government support the national loan guarantee scheme the Tories are proposing? The answer to that is presumably 'no'. Brown responds by attacking the chairman of the public accounts committee for saying the VAT would only help poor people buy things they don't need. That was all rather pointless.

12:12 - The government already has a loan guarantee scheme anyway, Brown insists. He rests all arguments on being prepared to inject cash into the economy. It's getting boring to hear him say it, but it's a fair point. "They're on the wrong side of history," Brown concludes. Cameron replies: "He's on the wrong side of mathematics." Cameron tries to destroy Brown's legacy as chancellor - the rainy day stuff. Every point he makes ends with Tories shouting "Nothing (as in - he's done nothing) in unison. It's sad and childish, but that's how these things go. Brown looks up and Cameron shouts: "He can go on about saving the world in a moment." Things end with Brown saying the Tories haven't changed - essentially a repetition of his previous rhetoric.

12:16 - Alan Simpson, Labour, calls for the Tobin tax - a favourite of development campaigners for its attack on speculators. Brown disregards it.

12:17 - Clegg starts by mentioning a single mother who came to see him. Instant laughter. Presumably someone made a joke bout his sexual conquests. That's what MPs are like, but it wasn't caught by the mics so it's hard to tell. She had to go to court due to complications in the tax credit system, where the money you "get today is taken away by him tomorrow". Brown defends the tax credit system in the traditional way and promises to look at the individual case Clegg has brought to the House. "If he's seriously interested in preventing child poverty he should be supporting tax credits," Brown continues. Clegg's response begins with: "I know he thinks he's Atlas carrying the world on his shoulders". The theme of Brown as world-saver, both from his lips and theirs, is seriously doing the rounds today. It's a sign of opposition frustration as much as the prime minister's megalomania.

12:20 - Brown remains confident though - his posture is proud with the chest out, and he stands tall. He doesn't stammer as much he used to, and he seems on top of all the facts. He's asked if he'll apply the same pressure on student loan companies to reduce interest rates as he has on banks. He says he'll look into it, but there's something in his voice that suggest it isn't happening.

12:23 - A question on welfare reform allows him to preview Purnell's session in the chamber just after PMQ's finishes. The matter of the euthanasia death on TV tonight if brought up by the MP whose constituency the former-lecturer lived in. He asks the PM if the programme is voyeurism or an important contribution. Brown doesn't really answer, saying it's a matter of conscience. Interestingly, he says there should never be a sick or elderly person feeling forced to do it, and that's why he opposes euthanasia. Brown's comments on the programme have overtones of seriousness. He says its important its done right, and leaves the matter in the hands of the broadcasting watchdog. It's a clear sign the government is watching - it doesn't want to take responsibility, but it's got its eye on the TV.

12:27 - Graham Stewart, Conservative, says the children's committee just heard horrible evidence of the extent of children's deaths at the hands of abusive adults. What will the government do? Brown says there the current review, there better training for social workers, Ofsted inspections annually nationwide, and inadequate case reviews will trigger instant action. More measures will come after the current review.

12:30 - The last question, on heart operations, is a friendly one from a Labour MP. Brown seizes it and drones on about how well Labour has done on the issue. A DUP MP asks what else will be done to make banks starts lending and pass on decent rates to customers. Brown basically restates his answers to Cameron from earlier. The session ends and James Purnell gets up to outline the full details of his welfare reform proposals. We'll be back next week for the next session. See you then.

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