PMQs as-it-happened

Another Cameron-Miliband showdown, in the week marking the 50th anniversary of PMQs
Another Cameron-Miliband showdown, in the week marking the 50th anniversary of PMQs

By Alex Stevenson Follow @alex__stevenson

Review our live coverage of this week's PMQs in a week dominated by crisis in the EU and Tory divisions over Europe.

11:30 - Hello and welcome to this lunchtime's coverage of prime minister's questions. This is the first session since Monday, when we marked the 50th anniversary of PMQs. So after all that waxing lyrical about how marvellous it is, I'm looking forward to the latest instalment of Cameron v Miliband immensely.

11:40 - According to my esteemed colleagues in the lobby, the possibilities for what Miliband might want to include are: the eurozone summit in Brussels, the Tory divisions over Europe (lest we forget Monday), and possibly the tougher inspection regime announced by health secretary Andrew Lansley. Then there's those protesting teachers, who are fed up with their pensions. It will surely be hard to avoid something about Europe, but Ed Miliband often does better when he picks up on something that the prime minister is less well prepared for.

11:50 - Right now the chamber is starting to fill up, as international develoment secretary Andrew Mitchell and his team take questions on their portfolio. Just a few minutes to go until John Bercow tells MPs to keep quiet, no doubt, as he always does... in the meantime, you might want to brush up on the eurozone crisis with our story on today's shaky talks taking place in Brussels.

11:57 - I've spotted quite a few MPs in the Commons are wearing poppies - but not all. It's that awkward time of year when they're not quite sure whether they should be wearing one yet or not...

11:59 - David Cameron is now in his place, and the Commons chamber is more or less packed. It's the prime minister's first apperance at the despatch box since his speech against an EU referendum failed to win over 81 Tory rebels on Monday. All the pressure is on him this Wednesday - he'll be looking to reassert his authority by getting a few cheers in the process.

12:02 - An extraordinary start to the session, when Labour MPs jeer David Cameron. The Tories had attempted to give the PM a big 'hear hear', but they were drowned out by the derisive opposition. Ouch! Cameron tries to deflect it with a joke about not having to read his engagements out in French.

12:04 - Astonishing! Even more pressure on Europe, this time from Tory rebel Bernard Jenkin. "I'm absolutely clear there will be opportunites to advance our national interest," Cameron says. "That is what we should be focused on."

12:05 - And now here's Ed Miliband. His first question is rather insipid, giving Cameron the chance to give a generalised speech about Europe and the economy. Miliband says "immediate action for growth" is needed sooner rather than later. He says the PM was distracted with "problems on his own side" before addressing Monday's rebellion.  "One serious question, then straight on to the politics. How absolutely typical," Cameron says irritably.

12:08 - Tory backbenchers are listening very carefully indeed as Miliband presses Cameron on the repatriation of powers to Brussels - and Nick Clegg's quote yesterday that he's not that keen on it. "On this crucial question, who speaks for the government?" Miliband asks. Cameron quotes another bit of Clegg's comments which makes him sound more, well, balanced. And then he goes on the offensive, calling the Labour leader "a complete mug who wants no rebalancing at all".

12:09 - "It's no wonder his backbenchers are saying there isn't clarity about the government's position," Miliband continues, banging on a little bit, high-pitched. Cameron responds: "It's this coalition that's worked together to get us out of the bailout fund!" Only limited cheers there from the Tories. "The split that we have is between the right honourable gentleman and reality!" Cameron says. But then he repeats a gag from Monday, rather desperately. Going over old material is never that good a sign...

12:12 - But Miliband won't let go, wondering what the government's position is at the European talks. Cameron says if Labour were in control Britain would have a "begging bowl" and not much else. He continues, building the attack on Labour. "It's not France they want to be like, it's Monaco!" But Miliband says the prime minister "can't speak for his government". And then, trying to turn serious, he says Cameron spent the last week "pleading", not "leading". Cameron's response isn't very good - "I might have had a problem on Monday, he's got a problem on Wednesday." So, sensing he hasn't quite polished Miliband off, he presses on, but only manages to finish with a very limited point.

12:14 - How fitting, in the week of PMQs' 50th anniversary, that we had such a strong performance from the two party leaders. On this occasion the critical nature of the eurozone talks, its proximity to the key issue of Britain's economic performance and the added spice of the PM's weaknesses following Monday's rebellion helped inject a degree of urgency and drive into the debate which we don't always get. This very high-tempo exchange felt like a score draw to me.

12:16 - Back in the chamber, Lib Dem MP Duncan Hames is complaining about cuts to the legal aid budget. Labour MPs are instantly suspicious of the backbencher's hypocrisy in voting through the changes. Cameron says: "It's no good people shouting down - every party in this House has accepted the need to reform legal aid," he says. "No we haven't!" Labour MPs reply. And so the long afternoon wears on.

12:19 - Cameron claims there are "some positive signs of rebalancing in our economy", citing expanding manufacturing companies, before Karen Lumley of Labour gets a big 'hear hear'. Her question on the pupil premium prompts a concession from the PM that headaches over divvying up the funding are proving "difficult to resolve". Gloria De Piero, another Labour MP, says women feel more negatively about the coalition than men. Cameron talks about "household budgets under huge pressure". He says "the government wants to do everything it can to help women".

12:24 - "Ann Widdecombe is often right, not always right, but often right," Cameron says wisely. Ken Clarke nods sagely from the front bench, looking delighted... for some reason. George Osborne, meanwhile, is frowning heavily. He looks like he's got something on his mind. Meanwhile ex-policing minister David Hanson asks a question on criminal justice. "Tough, determinate sentences" are promised by the prime minister.

12:26 - There seem to be a lot of questions allowing the PM to concentrate on the economy - especially from the government benches. I suspect a lot of these are somewhat pre-arranged. Not so much on the opposition benches, where Hillsborough papers are raised. Now then, here's another young Tory MP, Edward Timpson. His question is about fostering. Cameron is pro-fostering.

12:28 - Next, a Labour MP wants to know where the government report on gangs is that was promised after the riots. Cameron says when it's ready, parliament will get it. Tory backbencher Harriett Baldwin is next. "When I worked in the private sector," she begins, prompting a chorus of rather camp 'ooh!'s from the Labour benches. Cameron jumps to her defence, describing their "sneering" as "absolutely typical".

12:30 - After a question on localism, Labour MP Jamie Reed raises hospital closures. He asks for a pledge that there won't be any closures on the PM's watch. Groans from the Tories, before Cameron says he's already helped prevent Reed's local hospital from closing.

12:32 - A last-ditch attack on Labour's policy on free schools as Cameron quotes the new shadow education secretary. The Tory benches enjoyed that. Here's the NHS, next - prompting one of those Gordon Brown-esque lists of achievements from the PM. And then Tom Brake, the Lib Dem home affairs spokesman, raises the riots once more. "The public want to see swift justice and punishment," Cameron says. He wraps up by saying he wants to see the kind of justice doled out after the riots doled out all the time. Really?

12:37 - Ok, it's time for us to wrap up our coverage this lunchtime. A thoroughly invigorating set of exchanges between Cameron and Miliband, there... but before I go, just a quick point of order from Speaker John Bercow, who has effectively just ruled that Cameron's use of the phrases "bunch of hypocrites" (against Labour) and "mug" (against Miliband) were not in order. He's asked MPs not to use them in future. Right, time to write a news story. Must dash!


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