PMQs as it happened

Prime minister's questions as it happened
Prime minister's questions as it happened

Follow our live coverage as Ed Miliband takes on David Cameron in this week's prime minister's questions.

By Alex Stevenson

11:45 - Hello and welcome to our coverage of this week's prime minister's questions. It's a key test for Labour leader Ed Miilband this week, as he's got to recover from last week's all-time low. That set the Sunday journalists to work. They came up with the goods - disquiet among Labour MPs over his leadership. He's going to have to work hard this week in order to keep the naysayers quiet.

12:00 – We're nearly ready to go. Big Ben is bonging 12, which means it's time for Miliband's big test to begin.


12:02 – First question is a teed-up opportunity for Cameron to clash Labour on welfare reforms. He doesn't hold back.

12:03 – Jeers for the Labour leader as he stands up. He begins by asking a question about cancer patients. Cameron responds by saying he wants to make sure those people are "helped and protected". He keeps banging on about welfare reform.

12:04 – Cameron says he doesn't know what's in his own bill. He cites Macmillan, the cancer organisation, to point out problems remain. "How can it be right that 7,000 people with cancer are losing £94 a week?"

12:05 – Cameron is on the offensive. "All we see is a Labour party desperate not to support welfare reform," he says. He calls on Miliband to stop "wriggling off his responsibilities" – interesting turn of phrase there.

12:05 – Miliband repeats that 'doesn't know his own bill' line. The same point, utterly repeated again. With no additions. Tory backbenchers are openly contemptuous as Speaker John Bercow interrupts.

12:06 – Cameron says Miliband is completely wrong. He says the definition of terminally ill hasn't changed. In response, Miliband gets a little worked up. "I ask him the question again," he says – again. This is the dog with a bone approach, it seems.

12:07 – John Bercow interrupts. "I think it is a disgrace members on both sides of the House are shouting their heads off."

12:08 – Cameron, calming down somewhat, retreats into the nitty-gritty. He says employment support allowance comes in irrespective of a person's income or their assets. "I know he wants to create a distraction from the fact he won't support welfare reform," he adds.

12:09 – "In case you've forgotten, I ask the questions and he fails to answer them," Miliband replies. He quotes the chief medical officer of Macmillan Cancer support, explaining that patients should not have to return to work before they're ready. "I'm amazed the prime minister doesn't know about these arguments," he says, getting alarmingly impassioned.

12:10 – Cameron says he's already answered the question three times. "He is attempting to put up a smokescreen because he's been found out. He can't take his divided party with him. That's what this is about – weak leadership of a divided party."

12:11 – "What an absolute disgrace," Miliband replies. "He doesn't know his own policy. It's not about people who are terminally ill – it's about people who are recovering from cancer." And he calls for another policy pause.

12:11 – Cameron says Miliband has "got on the wrong side of every issue". On the deficit, he lists a number of organisations – as well as "his brother" David Miliband and Tony Blair – on his side. On the NHS, he lists all the organisations who are backing the government. He finishes, once again, by calling Miliband "a weak leader of a divided party".

12:12 – Blistering stuff from both sides. Miliband's response from last week's disaster was to focus in on a single small issue and not let it go. By the fourth or fifth question he was getting thoroughly worked up – but it seemed a little insane rather than passionate. Still, he certainly showed feeling. And that will probably be judged enough for now by his spin doctors.

12:16 – Big cheers from the Tory backbenchers as one MP notes the anniversary of the British bashing up the Argentinean invaders of the Falkland Islands.

12:20 – An important question from the SNP's Westminster leader, Angus Robertson. Cameron points out the Scotland bill currently before parliament gives Scotland an extra £12 billion in spending power. Robertson shakes his head – he wants assurances that Alex Salmond's agenda will have the full backing of the coalition. Cameron obviously won't give that. He finishes by saying that he believes Scotland will always remain part of the Union.

12:23 – A question about fuel poverty is next. A Labour backbencher wonders whether there's any "struggling" going on about the energy bill. Cameron acknowledges that fuel prices have gone up, but says the government is trying to help families. "We've managed to cut petrol tax this year," he points out.

12:26 – A very cheery new Labour MP tells everyone she's never asked Cameron a question before. The MP next to her tries his best not to laugh. She wants to know what action is being taken against "excessive energy prices".

12:27 – Oh dear. A question about a factory which made part of the lace on the Duchess of Cambridge's wedding dress. PMQs hits a new low...

12:28 – Cameron comes to the rescue. He calls the dress "incredible" and says he's "enriched by the knowledge" that the MP's constituents were responsible for the lace. Slightly absurd, very sarcastic stuff.

12:28 – Deep embarrassment from Mike Gapes, who forgets the name of the First Sea Lord. Difficult to recover from that. Bercow lets him finish with a "quick sentence". Gapes staggers to the finish. Cameron, mocking, replies by telling him the name he's after is Mark Stanhope.

12:30 – Tory MP Mark Pritchard backs spending on aid. This is a relief for Cameron, whose defence secretary Liam Fox is opposed to spending on international development. "Yes, of course things are difficult at home," Cameron says, "but I think we should keep that promise even in the midst of aid difficulties".

12:32 – A question about carers wraps up the session. No, no it doesn't – there's time for one more, about a Channel 4 documentary about the Sri Lanka deaths of the Tamil people. "It refers to some very worrying events that are alleged to have taken place," Cameron replies – careful, diplomatic language. "We need to make sure we get to the bottom of what happened."

12:34 – Still time for more! Eric Joyce, Labour, Falkirk, wants strong standards of corporate governance in the City. Cameron, unsurprisingly, agrees. Gordon Birtwhistle, Lib Dem, forgets the name of the Speaker. Oh dear, this is going horribly wrong. He gives the PM an opportunity to welcome the action on the deficit.

12:35 – Finally, that is the end. An interesting PMQs, especially from the point of view of Ed Miliband. Did he quite do enough, then, to allay the fears? He certainly showed passion. But it may not have been quite as targeted as many would have liked.

Comments

Load in comments