PMQs as it happened

Alex Stevenson By

Review our live coverage as Ed Miliband and David Cameron clashed over the economy in this week's PMQs.

11:30 - Good morning, one and all, and welcome to another prime minister's questions. After last week's humdinger of a session following on from David Cameron's speech on Europe, the case is drastically altered this week. Instead of barely having any kind of a position in response to a suddenly beloved PM, Ed Miliband finds himself confronted with the prospect of coalition divisions after yesterday's boundary changes vote. It should be the work of a moment for him to conjure up some suitably withering questions making the prime minister especially uncomfortable. With Nick Clegg adopting his usual sullen neutral 'this isn't happening' look, it should be a session for Labour MPs to make the most of.

11:35 - I have half a feeling Miliband may decide not to use up all his questions on this, though. He may feel it's about time he bolsters his statesmanlike qualifications by asking some questions about Algeria. This is going to be the news story dominating the evening bulletins, after all, as the prime minister is jetting off to north Africa this afternoon to address the region's anti-terror problem just as soon as PMQs is out of the way. The prime minister's spokesperson has said he's heading out that way to show the UK stands "side by side" with West African countries in defeating terrorism.

11:40 - In the Commons chamber, international development questions is now underway. Alan Duncan, whose parliamentary career has been much less entertaining since his excellent role as shadow leader of the Commons, now looks far too grown-up as he answers questions. The chamber is barely half full right now - give it another ten minutes or so and that will all change...

11:50 - Sir Gerald Howarth, the former minister who was reshuffled out of a job last autumn, attacks the 0.7% development spending pledge. He's a big fan of Duncan, he says, before adding: "BUT..." Duncan says he's a "doughty defender" of the 0.7% target, and tells Howarth to go away. Ne-ext!

11:55 - Speaker John Bercow, having rebuked Labour backbenchers for their "noisy conversations", then proceeds to ruin minister Lynne Featherstone's answer to a question about aid agencies' limited access to Mali. They're going to carry out an assessment but can't yet. Wrapping up, Featherstone concludes:  "At the moment, they're pretty much confined to..." But just as she gets to the key bit, Bercow interrupts prematurely. "We're imm-ense-ly grateful," he says, blocking out Featherstone and preventing me from getting the quote down. Annoying, Mr Speaker, very annoying!

12:00 - What a change from the start of the session, as the chamber is now packed and getting very noisy indeed. Ed Miliband and Ed Balls enter the chamber together. On the government benches,the international development ministers are dividing Nick Clegg from David Cameron. Awkward...

12:03 - Time to get underway, then, and question number one is from the Labour MP Alison Seabeck. She raises the 'bedroom tax', and mixes it up with a constituent who can't accommodate her son returning from duty in the armed forces. Cameron restates the reason for the reform, and moves on. Andrew Lansley seems to think the government's being very clever. Tory Rebecca Harris points out Ucas applications are up 3.5% this year, reminding everyone (albeit obliquely) of the Lib Dems' tuition fees promise...

12:04 - Ed Miliband time now, and he's starting out with the economy. That's a surprise! Surely we're not going to have yet another exchange over GDP... Cameron points out the Bank of England governor is being upbeat about "moving in the right direction". As is now the kneejerk response from any opposition frontbencher, the coalition is being "extraordinarily complacent", Miliband says. This is a carbon copy of yesterday's Treasury questions so far...

12:07 - Miliband digs in against the "part-time chancellor", telling him to spend less time trying to wriggle out of HS2 going through his constituency. Osborne looks completely disgusted. "What?" he scoffs. After Bercow singles out Michael Ellis for a bit of a rebuke, Miliband continues by pressing on with his attack on the PM's economy. Osborne, not put off in the slightest, continues wittering away to Cameron. The PM jumps to his defence - sort of - by saying how marvellous the high speed rail plans are. On the economy, Cameron references positive economic assessments from global organisations.

12:08 - Miliband replies: "We've got used to that kind of answer from the prime minister. He promises a better tomorrow and tomorrow never comes." That is a really excellent soundbite, actually. Will Cameron do anything differently in the next two years? No, all the PM's doing is quoting those who support him. Not very imaginative from Cameron, there. This is all a bit predictable. He quotes the IMF saying "I shiver" to think what would happen about the Labour government's plans. Yet again Bercow intervenes, before Cameron continues. Osborne's arms are folded - he looks like a miffed female teenage schoolgirl. Miliband and Balls look like teenage schoolboys who are trying to pretend they haven't just said something unacceptable.

12:12 - Cameron picks up a point or two by asking Miliband why he wants to keep on borrowing. "His whole message to the British people is give the car keys back to the people who crashed the car in the first place." Miliband responds by hitting back. "He's borrowing more for failure" - some points there, but not very well expressed. He wraps up on script, finishing by stating this recovery is the slowest in 100 years. Not at all statesmanly, really, and Cameron can defend the government's economic policies since the cows come home. And attack Labour's approach for even longer than that.

12:15 - So much for boundary changes. A real missed opportunity for Miliband, there, who just kept on with the same old economic debate and getting nowhere this week. We've heard it before, and we'll hear it again - but the problem is the coalition has an answer which isn't going away. Namely, that it's Labour's fault. The polls show the British people continue to blame the Labour party, which is why Miliband's lead in the polls isn't enough to put him in overall majority territory.

12:16 - Back in the chamber, a Labour backbencher gets in the now mandatory weekly question about the PM's food bank approach. Cameron says he'll be visiting a food bank in his constituency very soon. Cameron has the same answer every week: the number of food banks went up ten times under the Labour government.

12:17 - This is proving to be a rather unpredictable PMQs. Two MPs have now raised concerns about the coastguard and search and rescue services. This is obviously starting to be one of those issues which puts pressure on backbench MPs - and really matters locally. Might be worth following up, that one.

12:18 - Sir Peter Bottomley raises Syria, which hasn't been mentioned much in PMQs recently. Cameron says Britain is the second largest donor into refugee camps, and calls on the Chinese and Russians to "consider again their positions" and recognise regime change would be good for the whole of that part of the world.

12:19 - Michael Gove can't help smiling when a Labour MP called Grahame presses Cameron about schools policy, asking the PM to speak to Gove "perhaps in Latin". Cameron responds by saying he'll leave the latin to the mayor of London, Boris Johnson.

12:21 - Not a whiff of boundary changes in this session so far... it's like it never happened. Meanwhile, the SNP's Westminster leader Angus Robertson gets mocked for accepting the Electoral Commission's referendum findings in full. Robertson wants to know how Cameron responds. The PM says: "The Electoral Commisison were worried that frankly it was a biased question... of course we'll work with the Scottish government in providing information... but let me make clear what he will not do. We will not prenegotiate Scotland's exit from the United Kingdon. It is his party which wants to break up the United Kingdom, and it is for his party to make the case."

12:24 - Julian Brazier, the Tory right-winger from Canterbury, makes a very staunch immigration question. "We have taken responsible decisions," Cameron insists. He accepts the government needs to "do more", however, and dodges any of the big issues now rumbling away in the background - most notably, the wave of immigrants set to arrive from Bulgaria and Romania next year.

12:25 - Next, Labour MP Frank Roy asks ANOTHER question about food banks... and this one riles Cameron, who suggests that the Labour whips use some sort of modern technology to change questions as the session progresses. This one's obviously getting under his skin.

12:27 - Tory MP Richard Graham calls for an increase in the maximum sentence for dangerous driving, and gets a strong response from both the government and opposition benches. Cameron recognises that and pledges to "look carefully at what he says". This one might actually go somewhere, you know. "Where there are appalling crimes you can take exemplary action."

12:28 - And then comes the question of the session from Alex Cunningham, about traces of a  "stalking horse" being found in the Conservative party. A reference to the Adam Afriyie story over the weekend, of course, which Cameron freely admits completely stumps him.

12:29 - It's immediately followed by another corker, from the Father of the House Sir Peter Tapsell, who raises concerns about the French getting bogged down in Algeria in the 50s. Cameron says he's sure Tapsell put down an urgent question about the issue "at the time". Lots of raucous laughter in the chamber now, with the session finishing on a high. What a great couple of questions they were... by far the highlights of this session so far.

12:32 - The permanently angry Labour backbencher John Mann is fed up this week about people being prevented from building their own homes. Cameron responds in general terms. Meanwhile, next to him, William Hague looks as alert and sprightly and ever. And Osborne, sitting back slightly slumped with arms folded, looks like a wet weekend.

12:34 - The session continues beyond the half 12 deadline, something we've got used to under Bercow. His next question comes from a Welsh MP, Alun Cairns, who attacks Miliband's economic approach. The leader of the opposition looks a bit confused in response.

12:35 - Next is George Galloway, and the Commons erupts in hatred at the man who must be parliament's least popular MP. "Never here!" a Labour backbencher yells at him. "Who is he?" another yells. Galloway uses the word "adumbrate" in his question. He's talking about Mali and Syria. "Has the prime minister read Frankenstein?" Galloway asks. Cameron's response is nothing but contemptible. "Wherever there is a brutal Arab dictator in the world, he'll have the support of the honourable gentleman."

12:38 - That's the end of the session, and George Galloway raises a point of order... he wonders whether John Thurso, the Lib Dem MP and former peer, is a "noble" member of the Commons, or not. Does that work? Bercow says Galloway's point of order is "exquisite" and complains he didn't have any notice of the point. The Speaker offers a thoroughly complex answer...

12:40 - Time to rush off and write a news story or two, now; thanks for following our coverage this week. It was a score-draw in the main exchanges, but was lit up at the end by some rather animated and zippy questions at the end there.

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