PMQs as-it-happened

Prime minister's questions as it happens
Prime minister's questions as it happens

Review our live coverage of this week's prime minister's questions, as Ed Miliband took on David Cameron over the coalition's NHS reforms once again.

By Alex Stevenson

12:41 - Finally, it comes to an end. Some interesting questions in the extra time period, on extradition and Scottish funding, but it was definitely the main exchanges which will attract the headlines today. One of the more rumbunctious sessions, that's for sure. Come back in half an hour or so for my colleague Ian's sketch! As MPs head off for their lunches, I've got some story-updating to do on the NHS...

12:38 - A question from British pubs is next. Then comes Mike Crockart - it's well after 12:30 but we're still going! Green technology and the green investment bank are raised. Cameron says Edinburgh is being considered for this location, but makes no promises. And another question! Harriett Baldwin gets another one in. She's just back from Ethiopia, it seems, and wants to know what the UK will do to tackle malnutrition around the world. Cameron says she's "entirely right about this". So that's settled, then.


12:35 - Following a question about racism in football, which Cameron is highlighting today, and Scottish Labour MP Jim McGovern's rather long question about defence cuts at the Royal Marine reserve HQ in Dundee, Jo Johnson asks about an extradition case for one of his constituents. A lot of strong feeling in the House about the US-UK extradition treaty. Cameron is grave in response, as he reads out a pre-prepared response. A recent review didn't call for fundamental reform, Cameron points out - but acknowledges that a "proper, sober, thoughtful review" will take place in the Home Office taking into account parliament's views.

12:29 - A bit of a drought in interesting questions right now. Perhaps Peter Bone can rescue proceedings. "Last week at the breakfast table Mrs Bone was saying how she knew the prime minister wanted to deport the terrorist Abu Qatada straight away... but she knew it was being blocked by the deputy prime minister and the Liberal Democrats," he begins. Thank goodness for this man. "Suddenly our 11-year-old son asked is Nick Clegg a goodie or a baddie. What does the prime minister think?" "THere's only so much detail I can take from the Bone household," Cameron begins in reply. But he adds: "Mrs Bone is indeed psychic - that is exactly what I believe... and the deputy prime minister thoroughly backs that approach."

12:27 - Priti Patel is next. She's keen on work experience - unlike, she claims, the "militant hard-left". Cameron says around half of people who actually take place on these schemes get work. So they should be encouraged.

12:25 - The SNP's Angus MacNeil is next. I didn't really understand his question, I'm afraid. Something to do with devolution. Cameron responds by attacking the SNP for "running away" from independence. After that, Cambridge MP Julian Huppert waxes lyrical on the joys of cycling. He's keen to get more people on their bikes. Cameron says "anyone who's got on a bicycle knows you are taking your life into your hands every time you do so". Well, that's a vote of confidence. 

12:23 - After a quick q on elected mayors - Cameron says cities are being offered cash to shape their own futures - we come to Tom Blenkinsop, who quotes Michael Gove's concerns about the "chilling effect" the Leveson inquiry is having. "I do think that my rt hon friend is making an important point which is that even as this inquiry goes on, we want to have a vibrant press that feels it can call the power to account." He adds, chuckling to himself: "Although sometimes one may feel some advantage in it being chilled, that is not what we want."

12:22 - Frank Field, the Labour backbencher, wants a major debate in the House on the 'English question' - what measures of devolution does England need? A substantial 'hear-hear' for that. Cameron says a group has been established to look at this. But he says the UK has been "incredibly successful" and that, far from wanting to appeal to English people to "nurture a grievance", he says he would rather appeal to them and say "this has been a great partnership".

12:20 - My snap verdict of that unusually scrappy encounter was probably 4-3 to Miliband. Or something like that. This was, I think, the fourth consecutive PMQs in which Miliband has raised NHS for at least some of his questions. It was the first time he did not secure a hands-down win on the issue. Yet while Cameron may have held up a little more effectively than previously, this is a war of attrition; he will not be able to produce embarrassing Labour briefing documents every week, that's for sure.

12:18 - And to finish, the usual list and audience participation. "Down!" the Tories chant as Cameron lists falling NHS waiting lists, etc, etc. He finishes with another attack on Miliband's leadership. Ultimately, though, that's playing the man, not the policy. 

12:15 - Cameron attacks the length of Miliband's question. Any longer and he's have had to put him "on a waiting list for care". Lansley is an excellent glove puppet for the PM now. He produces "Labour's brief for this afternoon's debate!" - like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat. Cameron is grinning. Labour are "not fit for opposition", he says. But Miliband comes back strong: "I'll match his record on the NHS any day of the week," he says. Massive cheers. Miliband, finishing well despite everything, says the NHS reforms have become a symbol of Cameron's arrogance. "This will become his poll tax. He should listen to the public. He should drop this bill." Cameron, ignoring that, says Miliband is guilty of an "absence of leadership" for not asking a question about the risk register.

12:13 - "What we can see is complete opportunism," Cameron says insistently. Attack is certainly the best form of defence, the PM's thinking. Miliband is scornful in response. "He doesn't even understand his own bill," he moans. More disturbances, as opposition members become "over-excited", Bercow says. "Let me say to the health secretary I don't think the prime minister wants advice from him," Miliband says. This is descending into farce. Another intervention from Bercow. Both sides are out of control. Miliband is, rather uncharacteristically, doing a bit of bullying himself.

12:10 - Miliband retreats to a simple question. What changes are going to be made to the bill following Monday's summit? That's actually quite good. Cameron, in bully mode, says Miliband should "stop worrying about my diary". It's bluster, pure and simple. Cameron is very good at it. Miliband is smiling, now. "Are you going to ask a question about it or are you frightened of your own motion?" In response, Miliband slaps down health secretary Andrew Lansley. He should "be quiet and listen to people in the health service!" So far, Miliband isn't quite ruling the roost.

12:08 - "He's got no answer to his ridiculous summit," Miliband says scornfully. After quoting Cameron underlining the importance of taking the nurses and doctors with the government, he suggests he's lost their confidence entirely. A good point. "When is he going to ask a question about the substance of the reforms?" Cameron says desperately. Miliband looks down at his notes, trying to ignore this ribbing about what Labour used to support - and how they've changed their mind. At least this is a more original response from the PM. "As we're being kept here to vote at 7.00 on the publication of the risk registers, why don't you ask a question about that?" Miliband is shouted down by Tory MPs when he stands up to respond. He sounds a bit tired - but that's just Miliband, I suppose - before he gets shouted down once again.

12:07 - Right, here's Miliband for his first question, after he says Marie Colvin was a "brave and tireless reporter" and an "inspiration to women in her profession". Q number one is on... the NHS again! Well, well. He says Cameron excluded the main organisations representing... well, everyone. Lansley looks rather vulnerable here. "What I want to do is safeguard our NHS," Cameron says, to cheers from MPs behind him. He's not doing too badly here - but, of course, we've heard these arguments about why "we've got to reform the NHS" many, many times before.

12:04 - Clive Betts, communities and local government committee chair, suggests that crime is rising as a result of police cuts. Cameron points out that recorded crime is down under this government. Then comes Sajid Javid, who raises the coach crash in France last week which claimed the life of a local teacher and left many schoolchildren injured. Cameron says the case is "desperately, desperately sad".

12:02 - After a tribute to a fallen soldier, Cameron pays tribute to Sunday Times journalist Marie Colvin.

12:00 - Right - time to get underway. The prime minister is in place, doing his usual thing of leafing through those last-minute notes. Nearly ready to go. And there's Big Ben, bonging 12...

11:59 - And more laughter, now, from Tory backbencher Peter Bone, who is turning his art of phrasing his questions in terms of the views of his wife into something of an art form. "Mrs Bone and I were talking about public expenditure in Scotland and the first minister as one does," he said. "When suddenly our 11-year-old son Thomas asked is Alex Salmond a goodie or a baddie?

Moore replied: "The goings-on at the Bone household breakfast table are of national interest... when his son gets the chance to meet the first minister he'll be delighted by the conversation he has."

11:55 - Laughter for John Robertson, who informs MPs that he has the highest proportion of single women in his country. "Lucky you!" they reply, laughing to themselves. Robertson doesn't seem impressed. "This is not a laughing issue!" he roars. But Jack Straw, sitting next to him, can't help but grin broadly.

11:50 - This is rather one-sided stuff. Westminster is so united against Scottish independence, with the exception of that small enclave of nationalists, that the issue is exactly making this session much easier for Moore than it would otherwise be. "They should answer some of the fundamental questions at the heart of this debate which they are so far ducking," Moore says scathingly. This ease explains why Moore's shadow, Margaret Curran, focused on the youth contract in her questions. Will Miliband do the same?

11:40 - Nothing much doing in Scottsih questions, as the SNP's Stewart Hosie and Scottish secretary Michael Moore spar over 'devo-max'. Both sides are attacking the other for a lack of detail in their proposals. It's all very much smoke and mirrors at present, as the preliminary manoeuvrings of a very long campaign continue.

11:30 - Right, the Commons sitting is beginning. In a few minutes we'll be getting underway with Scottish questions, which - given the state of relations between London and Edinburgh at the moment - should have one or two interesting moments. So I'll be keeping more than an ear on that in the run-up to the main event, which - as always - will get underway at high noon.

11:25 - An alternative might be the NHS, of course. Labour has secured a debate about the risk register, set to get underway fairly soon after PMQs. Miliband built up a strong head of steam on the government's NHS reforms before the half-term break, and is performing strongly against Cameron on this topic. But he can't go banging on about it every week, can he? Can he? The temptation must surely be there.

11:20 - Morning everyone. The weather in Westminster is overcast and quite windy. (I don't know why I always describe the weather at the start of these live blogs. I'm probably trying to draw some sort of pathetic fallacy, which this week would almost certainly relate to it still being fairly gloomy, but at least there are some light patches showing). Actually, this week is much more interesting than that: the Budget is now exactly one month away and the pressure is already building on George Osborne from all sides for tax cuts. Liam Fox's intervention with a Financial Times article has underlined the strength of feeling on the Tory benches. Will Ed Miliband give his shadow chancellor a boost by focusing in on the need for a VAT cut? It's an obvious option for the leader of the opposition this morning.

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