PMQs as-it-happened

PMQs as-it-happens
PMQs as-it-happens

Follow every twist and turn of this week's PMQs with politics.co.uk's live blog.

By Ian Dunt

11:32 - Welcome to another Wednesday morning and another PMQs; the political equivalent of a methadone shooting gallery. Things have been looking up for Ed Miliband the last couple of weeks. He came out top, pretty much, of last week's joust. He had a storming session in the Commons yesterday, tying David Cameron up in knots ("It's NOT an EU treaty") and then stamping on his head ("It walks like an EU treaty"). Alas, anything achieved was suddenly (and suspiciously) wiped off the front pages by the announcement of Fred the Shred's stripped knighthood. Attaching the word 'strip' to a knighthood never gets old and I make no promises at all about moderation in this respect. Miliband even claimed victory earlier in the week by forcing Stephen Hester to back down on his bonus by tabling a Commons vote. Expect more on that today - support for the Fred stripping followed by demands for more action against bonuses. The usual disclaimers apply: There will be typos and, quite possibly, a series of easily-avoided factual errors. There may also be cruelty, resentment, a pervading sense of doom and John Bercow. Kick off is at midday.

11:47 - Lots of questions about prime ministerial interventions in the Fred stripping saga during this morning's lobby. The PM's spokesman made no bones that the committee started looking at the knighthood after Cameron triggered it, but he stuck to the line about its independence.


11:53 – It's international development questions at the moment, by the way. Andrew Mitchell, whose hair always appears as if it should framed by a chequered dressing gown, is doing his hardest to demonstrate his competence, something he has struggled with in the past.

11:54 - Ivan Lewis, bumbling shadow international development secretary, said something about tying trade to aid. I couldn't maintain attention. On the front bench, Sir George Young looks extremely bored. Phillip Mitchell looks decidedly beta and Alan Duncan is extremely arrogant. It's coming out of every pore. This is not a man who gives coins to the homeless.

11:59 - Alun Michael asks all questions with a critical glare over his glasses. He must be a nightmare when he bickers with the wife. Cameron, George Osborne and Nick Clegg are now in and suitably expectant.

12:00 - And we're off.

12:02 - Osborne, as ever, seems in the midst of deep existential despair. Clegg's eyes will make you cry. Paul Farrelly (Lab, bruiser) says policing is on a cliff edge due to coalition cuts. At the election, Cameron promised more police. How does that match with what's happening now? Cameron insists the percentage of police on the beat has increased, by moving them out of back-office roles.

12:04 - Alok Sharma (Con, academic) back the government's welfare cap. Cameron says it's "right and fair". Miliband is up.

12:05 - Before the election a law was passed to force banks to disclose how many employees earn over a million quid. It needs the government to trigger a change. Will Cameron do it? Cameron ducks, says the system is tougher than ever before. Labour laugh at him. He won't do it unless other EU countries do it. "No leadership on top pay from this prime minister," Miliband says. He quotes Osborne (in opposition) saying he backed proposals to make the banks disclose the high salaries. Calm and composed from Miliband. "It's another broken promise from this government. The legislation is on the books. It's ready to go. Why doesn't he make it happen?"

12:08 - Cameron attacks Labour for allowing million pound bonuses in government. For once Labour cheers drown out Tory mockery. Miliband is still calm, Cameron visibly angry. miliband accuses Cameron of hypocrisy. "He says the class war against the bankers is going to be led by him and his Cabinet of millionaires. I don't think it's going to wash." Miliband asks for an ordinary employee on remuneration committees. Bercow says hypocrisy is not parliamentary and asks the PM to withdraw it. Cameron does so. "We're expected to listen to the people who presided over the biggest banking disaster in our history. Who was it who failed to regulate the banks? Labour." He says putting a worker on the remuneration committee is not practical and breaks important principles. He attacks Miliband for proposing to ban performance related pay.

12:11 - Miliband again. "Now we know where the prime minister stands." He says the chancellor was telling the business community at Davos how he will cut the top rate of income tax. Cameron mocks Miliband for criticising Osborne for going to Davos when Miliband went there himself. "I think the word Peter Mandelson used was 'struggling'." The Tories loved that last bit, and it gave them some confidence back, after a difficult session for Cameron. So far, it's Miliband:2 Cameron:1. That was a violent little battle right there. Good, meaty stuff.

12:14 - Miliband's up again. He mentions the medical journals' joint editorial branding the NHS reforms "damaging". Why does Cameron think he has so comprehensibly lost the medical profession's trust? Cameron looks desperate and says Miliband isn't talking about the welfare cap. He says many doctors back the reforms. "Look at what is actually happening in the health service," Cameron says. He insists the stats are good.

12:16 - Miliband: "Everytime he talks about the NHS he just shows how out of touch he is." Miliband lists all the people against the bill - royal colleges, GPS etc. Labour benches chant "against the bill" for each one. Strong stuff here. Labour seem confident, although Ed Balls and Harriet Harman, on the front bench, look unmoved. He demands Cameron drops the bill. Cameron says the attempt to bring choice into public services will always bring opposition. Bercow intervenes to kill some of the noise.

12:17 - Cameron tries to quote Tony Blair on the difficulty in reforming public sector services. It's really weak and unconvincing from Cameron.

12:19 - Miliband's best PMQs ever? The Tory benches look glum, Cameron looked unconvinced by his own arguments. His decision to quote Blair at length actually killed what Tory support there was. Could this be a turning point - or just another good day for Miliband that he fails to turn into consistent support?

12:22 - Esther McVey (Con, glamorous) asks about overcharging and intimidation by social services in her constituency. It sounds serious. I'm not aware of it and will stay very far away from it, if it's all the same to you. Katy Clark (Lab, windswept) says a hundred thousand children will be affected by the move to universal credit. Labour throw hatred at Cameron, in a way only Labour can do, and then only when faced with a Tory prime minister. Cameron loves questions about the welfare cap. He jumps on one eagerly and shouts at the Labour front bench - "are you with us or are you against us"? It's better from him, but nothing like enough to save the session. Cameron is on good form actually. He's confident and eloquent. That's the most damaging thing. This was not a Miliband win because Cameron was weak. This was a Miliband win because Miliband was strong.

12:28 - By the way, Cameron called Liam Byrne 'Baldemort'. Which was funny. Question after question from the Tory benches on the benefit cap. Remarkably thorough Tory whipping operation. For the third time Cameron asks the Labour front benches to come to a position. "One more go?" he asks. This worked well beforehand, but it's now grating and appears a little desperate.

12:30 - Rosie Cooper (Lab, talks in Matrix bullet-time) asks if the British people were wrong to take Cameron at his word. Cameron defends his policies on midwives, who she claims were downgraded. Greg Mulholland (LD, stern) says a constituent of his was killed by a drink driver who was then allowed to drive until the court case. He wants change. Cameron says his heart goes out to them. He says he'll look at the bail conditions - and will look at it around the moves on drug driving. Nigel Dodds (DUP, self-important) says he backs the government on the benefits cap - but supports the Lords' amendments on cancer suffers. He wants more time for the debate. Cameron backs the cancer proposals in consensual mode, but doesn't answer on debating time.

12:34 - Our correspondent in the Commons, Alex Stevenson, has judged the best PMQs heckle of the week to have emerged from a Labour MP's mouth. It came after the question on midwives: "Come on, deliver!"

12:35 - Well, that's that. A substantial win for Miliband, despite the six - count 'em, six - questions on welfare reform, from the Tory and DUP benches. Miliband must be keen for the welfare reform to be done with, he's not enjoying having it thrown in his face. But the Miliband wins came on bigger issues - executive pay, NHS reform and the biggest issue of all - responsible capitalism. These are the fruits of Miliband's labours (excuse the pun) framing the agenda during his conference speech, which was widely mocked at the time. It was as close as he has got to a knock-out blow. Nothing game changing just yet, but the Labour leader will have a spring in his step this afternoon. See you next week.
 

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