PMQs as-it-happened

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By Ian Dunt

11:23 - Well we are still expecting this week's PMQs to go ahead despite the snow. The truth is that conditions in London really aren't too bad at all, although the snow is falling heavier now than it has so far. Many people's commute back home could prove problematic. The temptation for David Cameron will be to find something snow-related to attack on, like a lack of salt. He knows the news agenda is dominated by the weather and evidence of under-planning would guarantee a section on the evening news. Shadow energy secretary Greg Clark tried as much yesterday when he suggested UK only had the equivalent of eight days' worth of gas usage left in storage yesterday.

11:43 - Here's the running order, in case you want to stay on top of things:
1. Brian Donohoe (Labour, Central Ayrshire)
David Cameron
2. Joan Walley (Labour, Stoke-on-Trent North)
Nick Clegg
Labour backbencher
3. Andrew Pelling (Independent, Croydon Central)
4. Andrew Dismore (Labour, Hendon)
5. Ben Wallace (Conservative, Lancaster & Wyre)
Labour backbencher
6. Ann Winterton (Conservative, Congleton)
Labour backbencher
7. Sir Michael Spicer (West Worcestershire)
8. Alison Seabeck (Labour, Plymouth, Devonport)
Opposition MP
9. Graham Allen (Labour, Nottingham North): What recent representations he has received on bringing forward proposals arising from the report of the select committee on the reform of the House of Commons (Note: this is a "closed question"; any member asking a supplementary to this must stick to the same subject).
Opposition MP
10. David S. Borrow (Labour, South Ribble)
Opposition MP
11. Dr Stephen Ladyman (Labour, South Thanet)
Opposition MP
12. Nia Griffith (Labour, Llanelli)
13. John Mason (SNP, Glasgow East)
Labour backbencher
14. Philip Dunne (Conservative, Ludlow)

11:56 - Welsh questions are dying down now, with Peter Hain still holding court.

12:00 - The House is packed by the way. As expected, no-one seems to have struggled to get to Westminster.

12:01 - Before listing his engagements the PM pays tribute to those who died in Afghanistan over the Christmas break. He also sends condolences to the wife and children of David Taylor, the MP who died on Boxing Day. "He will be greatly missed," Brown says. His family is in the House today, Brown reminds MPs.

12:03 - Brian Donohoe discusses heroin use in Scotland, and how it is harvested in Afghanistan. He pays tribute to Taylor and asks for an update on the Detroit terrorist incident. Since the incident the government has taken several actions, Brown says. He mentions the full-body scanners and their introduction to Heathrow. He reminds MPs the man detained was already on the UK's watch-list and was refused a visa. He voices the possibility of greater intelligence service integration.

12:05 - Cameron stands. He pays tribute to those who died in Afghanistan, and Taylor. Cameron says the government will borrow £178 billion. British debt will probably have to be downgraded. He says many experts say the British plan doesn't really exist. Why do so many people take that view? Brown says British debt is lower than in America or France or several other countries. "We will not stop the fiscal stimulus before we are out of recession. We will not take his advice." Brown is strong and prepared. But when he mentions the deficit reduction plan, the Tories jeer loudly.

12:08 - Brown launches a familiar attack on Tory plans to cut inheritance tax. "For him to ask me questions about public spending this week - when he said it was the year of change, he changed his policy in the morning, he changed it in the afternoon, and he changed it in the evening." A reference to the tax break proposal there. Cameron attacks by citing all the institutions and experts expressing a loss of confidence in the government's financial plans. "Why does he think all these people think his plans are so feeble?"

12:09 - Brown quotes back, using the Bank of England and the IMF. Tories don't like it and shout loudly. "It comes down to this, if we had taken his advice there would have been no action and unemployment would have risen much faster," Brown says. Cameron: "The fact is this chancellor is now taking our advice." Cameron berates the "feeble" fiscal responsibility act (still a bill). He suggests it is an irresponsible bill designed to "con the public". Cameron reminds Brown he said public spending would rise by 0.8 per cent in real terms each year last Sunday. Isn't that disingenuous? Brown says it's Cameron who misled the public, with his to-and-fro on married couples' tax breaks. Brown cites the cost of the policy and suggests it's unwise if Cameron wants to reduce the deficit.

12:12 - Bercow reminds MPs "we're not on the hustings now." Cameron: "I wish we were. I wish this prime minister had the courage to call an election and get on with it. I have to say, Mr Speaker, what a lot of desperate rubbish. I thought he might mention marriage. The difference between me and the prime minister is this: when I lean across and say 'I love you, darling', I really mean it. The only divorce that's taken place is between him and reality." Very good. Brown: "For him to talk about love and marriage today.... when he can't say 'I do' or 'I don't'." They're really getting stuck into the marriage puns, evidently. Beside Brown, Straw is smirking like a bemused uncle. "His policies are only fit for opposition, not for government," Brown shouts. Cameron: "If he wants to turn this around and call it prime minister's questions, he should call an election." Everyone knows the business secretary privately thinks the PBR is a failure, Cameron points out. Doesn't he understand a divided party without a proper plan is putting Britain's economic recovery at risk?"

12:15 - Brown cites more examples of Cameron floundering on policy. Cameron: "The appalling state of the public finances show the great truth of British politics. He's had two years to demonstrate leadership and he's completely failed to do so. He ekes out his time as an unelected leader completely incapable of leading the country." Brown mentions all the things Cameron got wrong - Northern Rock, etc. "Nobody will trust him, not just on married couples' allowance, but on the economy at all." And with that, questions move on, to Karen Buck asking about Gaza.

12:17 - She brands the Gaza siege as collective punishment. Brown says she is absolutely right and says he's raised the aid and humanitarian assistance question with the Israeli prime minister. "In the end this will require a political settlement." Clegg stands.

12:18 - He pays tribute to British troops and Taylor. He "always, always" spoke his own mind, Clegg says. "What is aspiration about a tax system where the poorest 20 per cent pay more of their income in tax than the richest 20 per cent?" Brown says that's why the tax credit system was introduced, in that patronising tone he reserves for Clegg. "He talks about justice, he hasn't delivered justice in the tax system," Clegg replies. He cites the 10p band and national insurance. "Where is the fairness, the aspiration?" Brown says he presumes Clegg will now support taxes on bank bonuses and the higher rate of income tax. "The burden has got to be shared. I hope he will agree with that."

12:21 - Just nine minutes left for backbenchers. Bercow's big plans to get more of them involved in PMQs shows no signs of progress. By the way, Brown's new haircut makes him look younger, and not in a good way. He's like some grotesque overgrown schoolboy.

12:22 - Andrew Dismore, Labour, says cancer recoverers need more advice, citing Macmillan research published today. Brown says the advances in cancer care mean many lives are being saved, but that he appreciates after-care is important. He goes party political by citing Labour's two-week guarantee. "We are determined to do it, I hope no party seeks to abolish that." Ben Wallace asks why the government has cut funding for defence research. Brown says security spending is up from £1 billion to £3 billion. "I don't think any government has done more," he says.

12:26 - Nia Griffith says Copenhagen was pitiful. What's being done to maintain momentum? Brown defends the summit a little, and cites a few policies. There has been greater transparency achieved, he says, but admits we don't have the international treaty we need. He agrees more talks are needed. "A treaty is necessary. I think she'll she further announcement in the next few days." Ann Winterton cites the failure of Copenhagen and the current weather, "which clearly indicates a cooling trend". Laughs and mockery. Will the PM reconsider the proposed wasteful expenditure on wind farms? The Tory MP is fast becoming Cameron's worst nightmare. Labour absolutely loves it.

12:28 - Harriet Harman looks at all Tories like they're an ugly growth on the side of a friend's face - mild curiosity combined with disgust.

12:30 - More questions on the weather. Maria Miller (Basingstoke) asks what action the government is taking to make sure salt and grit goes it's needed. Brown says those areas that need to grit the roads will have the support needed. "Salt supplies have been built up as a result of last year." He promises greater co-ordination.

12:33 - BREAKING NEWS: Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt have just called for a secret ballot on the leadership of the Labour party. With that, will leave PMQs so we can find out what's going on. See you next week, but stick around for all the news and analysis on this big new development.


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