PMQs as-it-happened

PMQs as-it-happened
PMQs as-it-happened

Follow all the twists and turns of this week's PMQs with politics.co.uk's blog.

By Ian Dunt

11:00 - Morning all. Even on a good day Ed Miliband focuses on NHS reform. This is not a good day, it's the start of the endgame, really. With the bill in the Lords, complete with more amendments than a teenager has tantrums, this is the last-chance saloon for opponents of the reform. And there are plenty of those. The British Medical Association, The Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Midwives..... you get the idea. Everyone basically. David Cameron might as well have wrapped up the health and social care bill in Christmas paper and put a bow on it. Frankly, Labour might even secretly want the bill to pass. After all: If it does, every single bad thing the NHS does from the moment it becomes law will be blamed on the coalition. On the other hand, another U-turn now would make the government look absolutely chaotic. Expect all Miliband's questions to be on NHS reform today. Except Cameron to struggle, but probably win in the end. Couple of jokes about David Miliband should do the trick. Usually does.

11:16 - Miliband's focus will likely to be on Andrew Lansley, the beleaguered health secretary. His colleagues have been briefing against him, with a little New Labour brutality, it must be said. Someone somewhere called for him to be "taken outside and shot". Cameron has expressed his support - he's not the firing sort. But Lansley is generally considered to have done a bad job of an impossible task. Of course, it's his fault that impossible task exists in the first place. One of Downing Street's better speech writers (a former Guardian hack) wrote Lansley's speech for him the other day and filled it with lots of personal anecdotes about his history with the NHS. You know the sort of the thing - emotive, life story stuff. It was sent to Lansley's office, whereupon he added a great deal of material about integration and health outcomes. That about says it all really.


11:21 - Kick off it as 12:00. Our correspondent Alex Stevenson will be in the Chamber and providing a sketch afterwards, while we'll bring you news and the live coverage. The usual disclaimer: Expect typos.

11:55 - Five minutes to go. It's Cabinet Office questions at the moment, with Francis Maude (Con, allegedly intelligent), fielding Labour attacks.

11:56 - By the way, 'Arry Redknapp was found not guilty of tax evasion.

11:59 - Cameron is in. He sits next to Theresa May, who is wearing a shocking silk scarf. Horrible. Oliver Letwin, to Maude's right, is fading fast. His eyebrows have become considerably greyer over the winter.

12:00 - Lansley is chatting with Philip Hammond, the man who makes grey look sexy. He has the face of a man who knows lots of people are looking at his face.

12:01 - And we're off

12:02 - Cameron starts by paying tribute to the Queen, saying her 60th anniversary on the throne is "an inspiration to us all". Big cheers. Andy Slaughter (Lab, broken) kicks off. he says the PM said in March there was no reason for a reduction in frontline police officers. Will he confirm they have been cut. Cameron insists the proportion - subtle difference - is up. He congratulates Boris on his record on crime. Slaughter, by the way, had trouble with the Queen in a tweet. Cameron reminds him of it.

12:04 - Miliband is up.

12:05 - Miliband also celebrates the Queen, once Tories are done with the ironic cheers for him. He leads on NHS, as expected. At the end of the pause, he said some who worked in NHS were sceptical but that he was taking people with him. Labour laugh. "It is in that sprit of unity that we want to continue," Miliband continues quoting. Why has he failed? Cameron insists GPs are supporting and implementing the reforms. This is not an effective line, as he must surely know. Bercow interrupts for order. "Calm," he insists. Cameron says 50 foundation trusts have supported the reforms.

12:06 - Miliband: "Even he doesn't believe that nonsense that he just came out with." Last Friday the Royal College of Medical Practitioners said it would cause "irreparable damage" - Miliband stabs Lansley for shouting from a seated position. "It's nice to see him here. Some distance away I notice." Cameron comes in with the inevitable brother joke. "It's always nice to have a lecture on happy families from the honourable member."

12:08 - Cameron says Miliband used to back "sustained reform". He then reminds everyone that Labour don't back maintaining spending on NHS - "They're a bunch of opportunists." Miliband: "Isn't this interesting. He says this is all about reform. The Tory reform Group has come out against these proposals. It comes to something when even the Tories don't trust the Tories on the NHS." Labour are loving it. Good from Miliband here. He attacks the government benches for groaning when he quotes medical groups. 

12:10 - Cameron goes a bit Gordon Brown and reels off lists of statistics. The Tories want to support him by chanting up or down etc, but it's a mix up and they can't make it stick. Cameron says that in Wales, where the NHS is run by Labour, one third of people are waiting longer than 18 weeks. "If you didn't put the money in, if you didn't have the reform, it would happen here too." Miliband says the NHS was Cameron way to modernise the Tory party. "The promises he made before the election are coming back to haunt him. Now he says he knows better than the doctors, better than the nurses. This is a matter of trust in the prime minister. Can he honestly look people in the eye and say he kept his promise of no top-down reorganisations." Cameron avoids the question and defends the reforms again. He says he won't listen to the people "who ran the NHS under Labour". He cites the wasted money on the NHS computer system. Very weak from Cameron now. He sounds desperate. Tories are stone-faced. 

12:13 - Miliband very confident. He says "I'll tell him about our record on the NHS." He lists waiting times etc, but gets the appropriate cheers from the benches behind him. "The reality is this - all his attention is on this pointless top-down reorganisation. Why won't he just give up, stop wasting billions and drop his bill." Cameron gets really desperate. "If the record was so good why were they thrown out at the last election." He says Miliband put up a clear test for the reforms - waiting times dropping. Cameron says his figures show this has happened. He parrots the statistics; the Tories try to echo, with marginally more success this time. "That's what it proves about this Labour leader, even when he moves the goal posts he can't put it in the back of the net." 

12:15 - Miliband says waiting times are up 43%. He says Cameron knows in his "heart of hearts" the bill is a disaster. That's why his aides want Lansley taken out and shot. "Every day he fights for this bill, everyday trust in him on the NHS melts away, and everyday it becomes clearer the NHS is not safe in his hands. Cameron says Lansleys got better career prospects than Miliband. Lansley keeps talking animatedly to the man next to him. Very weird and ineffective. 

12:17 - Now that was a PMQs. Really meaty, full throttle knock about. It was also easily Miliband's best week. Snap verdict - Miliband: 4 Cameron: 1.

12:18 - Interesting about Cameron's words on Lansley. He didn't quite back him. He just said his career prospects were better than Miliband's. Ed Balls is relentlessly talking. "They're not cheering today," he says. Julian Lewis (Con, violent vicar) warns against 'virtual wards'. Andrew Miller (Lab, Father Christmas) wants leadership from the PM on public procurement. 

12:22 - The Tories look sour faced. Cameron still looks upset. The interesting thing to note about Miliband's performance was that he was actually responding to Cameron's points, he didn't just work his way through a list of pre-prepared questions. Could this be the start of a serious run for him? Has he mastered the format? Only time will tell, but that's a clear three week winning streak for the Labour leader.

12:25 - Steve McCabe (Lab, creaky) says Cameron is being "dangerously complacent" on the Abu Qatada issue. Cameron is now busy defending himself on the Indian fighter plane decision. He gets incredibly angry all of a sudden, saying Labour doesn't stand up for the British defence industry and British jobs. I mean, a bit too angry. 

12:28 - Barbara Keeley (Lab, impressive) says the PIPs row has seen the NHs dither. She wants support and... as an aside, Cameron to drop the health and social care bill. Cameron splits it - fair enough - and backs her on PIPs, saying it's a scandal. On the health and social care bill, he's obviously not going to agree. He says it's right to have choice and competition in the NHS. He adopts a more conciliatory tone towards the backbencher than her leader.

12:30 - Guido Fawkes just appeared at Leveson.

12:31 - Sir Menzies Campbell keeps trying to ask a question. He's not getting anywhere. Instead, Peter Bone (Con, unspeakably trivial) says the children's minister won't support the government on a policy and yet remains a government minister. Katy Clarke (Lab, wrong aspect ratio) asks about welfare claimants, suggesting the government has no values. Cameron says there are two groups in unemployment allowance. "I know Labour has set its face against all welfare reform but they've made a massive mistake in doing so." Campbell finally gets called and asks what effect Russian intervention will in Syria. Cameron says it won't. he attacks Russian and China for preventing the UN resolution. He wants the strongest possible international alliance to coordinate effort. "The bloodshed is absolutely appalling. The Russians have to look at their consciences and think about what they have done."

12:35 – Alan Michael (Lab, headmaster) again demands Cameron abandons the health and social care bill. Cameron just talks about Wales some more, stressing cuts to spending under Labour control there. "That's what you get if you get Labour. No money, no reform." Martin Vickers (Con, BBC Radio voice circa 1940) asks about enterprise zones. He wants one in his constituency. Boring question gets a boring answer. And that's it for today.

12:37 - That shot over very late. Well Miliband really piled on the pressure today. The question is, will it be enough to convince the Lords to rebel? Anyway, join us here next week to see if Miliband's winning streak can continue.
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