PMQs & Mid Staffs report as-it-happened
11:47 – Morning. Well after yesterday's mammoth blog I am once again on the live coverage roster for PMQs. Today's schedule will be a little different because the session will be immediately followed by David Cameron 's statement on the Mid Staffordshire hospital scandal, which you can expect to be a sombre, depressing affair. It will also be uniquely difficult for shadow health secretary Andy Burnham, who was straight-up health secretary at the time. Kickoff is at 12:00 GMT.
11:56 – Francis Maude just said "reckless incontinence".
11:59 – Clegg sits down. He is flanked by former health secretary Andrew Lansley and Maude. Maude has a better forehead and brain. Lansley has a better… No. There's really nothing.
12:00 – Cameron sits down and has a quick word with Clegg. You rarely see then talk to each other unless they really have to, although I'm told they genuinely admire each other. My guess is Miliband will go on gay marriage, but it's possible he will focus on the NHS. Hard to tell. Both have their difficulties, but gay marriage would be the wise choice, especially if he played it smart and was polite and collegiate.
12:01 – And we're off. Christopher Chope (Con, shrivelling) starts banging on about gay marriage. He wants straight couples to be able to have civil partnerships. Cameron says he’s listening carefully but "I'm a marriage man, I'm a great supporter of marriage".
12:03 – Miliband kicks off with the bedroom tax, citing a mother of servicemen who says they will come home to find no place to sleep. What’s Cameron's answer? The PM says that while Labour was in government, there was no benefit for empty rooms in the private sector, so why should they get it in social housing? If someone's away from home their salary isn't counted so her benefits won’t go up.
12:04 – "He misunderstands the concept of social housing," Miliband replies. He cites the example of someone with illness who often sleeps in a separate bedroom to his wife. Why is that fair, that he gets hit by bedroom tax? Cameron says he will look at specific cases if asked, but there's a £15 million fund to deal with these cases. "Let me make the basic argument of fairness he seems to miss," Cameron adds. He repeats the comparison with the private sector.
12:06 – "We know all the things he's against, but we’re beginning to wonder what he's for," Cameron says. Miliband: "It doesn’t sound like he's going to do anything for military families or the disabled." He picks up a letter from the Tory treasurer on a mansion tax, promising no homes tax and keeping the taxman "out your home". He adds: "What is it about the plight of those people he finds so much more compelling than those hit by the bedroom tax?" Very good from Miliband. Cameron seems angry.
12:07 – "All he can ever do is spend more money," Cameron barks. Miliband: "He shouldn't get so het up. After all, he’s got nearly half his parliamentary party behind him." Very good.
12:09 – Miliband struggles a bit but moves on to another letter. Tories groan – that was ill-advised. "I don’t know why they're groaning, there are thousands of their constituents being hit by this," Miliband points out. He’s doing well here, and now suggests those going to the private sector, costing the taxpayer even more. Cameron shouts (wrongly) that the government is building more homes. "He’s got absolutely no suggestions for how to get on top of welfare," Cameron says. Miliband: "He hasn't even got a clue about his own policy. The only people he listens to are a small group of rich and powerful people at the top. He's a prime minister who is weak, incompetent and totally out of touch." Cameron: "Totally pathetic pre-scripted rubbish. I know who he listens to." Apparently Miliband asked union leader Len McClusky what his three wishes were for power. His answer was trade union freedom, apparently. Yes I know that's one thing – he said it three times apparently.
12:13 – Snap verdict on that: Easy Ed Miliband win on a potentially troublesome policy. Miliband: 3 Cameron: 1.
12:14 – OK, 15 minutes of backbench questions coming up. Get comfortable, learn how to fire a gun. Julie Hilling (Lab, disaster) carries o the Miliband focus on the bedroom tax. "I have many armed forces families in my constituency, but they want a government that wants people to work hard and do the right thing," Cameron responds. Jane Ellison (Con, bloated) wants more focus on female genital mutilation. Cameron says he has made changes, particularly on our aid programme and he wants the CPS doing everything it can to prosecute at home. Michael McCann (Lab, decent) asks the PM whether he can confirm ATOS have judged Richard the Third to be fit for work.
12:18 – Cameron responds to an MP by saying he "tries to avoid the opinion polls". Oh God, Peter Bone keeps trying to get a question in.
12:19 – Tom Blenkinsop (Lab, salt of the earth) mocks Cameron's "confidence" in his chancellor. Cameron offers the standard reply about "clearing up the mess left by the party opposite". I've written that down too many times. Jim Shannon (DUP, poor man's Michael Fish) asks about suicide, which apparently is increasingly popular. Cameron says it is not talked about enough. John Leech (Lib Dem, child in a young adult’s body) starts his question with the "mess Labour left the country" line. Groans all round. He can hardly be heard. He asks if the PM is dismayed by Manchester City Council closing libraries while spending money on an Alicia Keys concert. IS that how you spell her name? Sorry if not, I have no idea who she is.
12:23 – Henry Bellingham (Con, animated statue) wants us to celebrate the Somalian president and demands some comment on the Somalian Diaspora in the UK. Cameron says the country sparks many problems, but our aid budget is helping the country for the future. He hopes Somalis here give support to their president. Paul Flyn (Lab, Father Christmas) says Cameron's career peaked when he was a backbencher on the home affairs committee. Will he find his courage again and look at the new report on drugs? "I didn’t learn some important lessons from that [drug reports he helped write]… but I don’t think we should be legalising any drugs that are currently illegal," he replies. So that's a no.
12:27 – Gregg McClymont (Lab, greasy hair) asks what the difference between the bedroom tax and the mansion tax is. Cameron says he doesn't accept it is a tax. he insists Labour also wanted to fix housing benefit. Zack Goldsmith (Con, lightweight but what a face) asks, as he always does, about the environment. Cameron makes the obvious point that we need to take big decisions on airports. The slow U-turn continues. Diane Abbott (Lab, dear God her new haircut) says we should pay tribute to those who fought to equality and justice on the back of yesterday's vote. Cameron: "Last night's vote will be seen not just as making sure there is a proper element of equality. I thought many speeches last night were very moving. They want their love to count in the same way that a man and woman's love counts."
12:30 – So where did Cameron watch it? On TV? He could have always gone. Perhaps he stuck to my blog. Wise man, the prime minister. Labour frontbenchers spent all the last questions whispering "where were you". On the government front bench, George Osborne looks like he’s having a brain haemorrhage.
12:33 – More Labour questions n the bedroom tax. It’s been thoroughly prepared. What's interesting is that this all comes from several very effective memes doing the rounds online. The government didn't address it and now Miliband is going to make the running with it. Cameron sounds on increasingly shaky ground when answering. And now it’s the Mid Staffs statement.
12:35 – Cameron says he loves the NHS and never forgets what it did for his family. But what happened in Mid Staffs was "not only wrong, but dreadful". He recounts the full horror – lying in urine for days, relatives being reproached for pointing out basic measures. It is appalling stuff. Cameron is flanked by Clegg on one side and Jeremy Hunt on the other. As ever, Hunt looks like he is struggling to understand simple concepts.
12:37 – The first report found the problem was caused by failure of the hospital trust board. The inquiry finds the failure is wider. The trust believed others were taking responsibility. The strategic health authority was remote from patients and insensitive to signs patients were at risk. "Too many doctors kept their heads down. The Royal College of Nursing was ineffective. The Department of Health too remote."
12:39 – No one policy was responsible. The former health secretary was not responsible. However: Targets dominated thought. Managers suppressed inconvenient facts. "This is one of the most disturbing findings," Cameron says. "There was a manifest failure to act on the data available. In the end the truth was uncovered because of the persistent complaints of a small group of patients."
12:41 – Cameron apologises as prime minister to the families. "On behalf of the government and indeed the country I am truly sorry," he says.
12:42 – Cameron says he will create a single failure regime for care and finance. As far back as 2006 only a quarter of the Mid Staff staff said they would want their relatives in that hospital."These voices were ignored, indeed the hospital was updated to foundation trust status in this period." From this year every carer, every member of staff can say whether they would put their relative in that hospital. When it reaches a certain level an investigation is triggered and suspension of the board could follow.
12:44 – Nurses should hired on having "compassion as a vocation". He wants a new style of leadership. Pay should be linked to quality of care, not just time in hospital.
12:45 – "The regulatory bodies are going to have some difficult questions to answer." He mentions the Nursing and Midwifery Council specifically. Next he says he wants to end the "culture of complacency". In schools we have a clear system on the culture at an institution – based on independent experts who walk the corridors, not just scan the stats. He wants the same for hospitals, including an "open and explicate judgement". The new inspection regime should be in place by autumn. Hospitals should be clean, safe and caring – not just conduct an "exercise in box ticking".
12:49 – Families of the victims are in the public gallery, but their faces reveal no emotion. Down in the Commons, Burnham is nodding in agreement with the prime minister. Cameron looks up at the families as he pays tribute to their "tireless campaigning". They want an "NHS safe for everyone". Cameron ends. Miliband gets up. He thanks the PM for his statement and how he made it.
12:50 – "In Stafford, patients became victims," Miliband says. He pays tribute to former patients and staff who spoke out. "What happened at Stafford was not typical of the NHS."
12:51 – Here comes Miliband's questions. Regulators can’t be everywhere, but patients, family and staff are, so the challenge is to make sure they are heard. The NHS constitution offers whistleblower protection, but the report highlights concerns around previous and current arrangements. Does the PM agree these patient representation bodies must have power to challenge the system?
12:53 – Does he want benchmarks on skills? Does he support a civil regulator on patient care? Does he agree we need training and registration on standards and safety? On foundation trusts (which labour and Tories support): Has this made the PM reassess the timetable for other trusts to achieve foundation status. On waiting times: The report does not say targets can’t provide benefits to patients. "Targets have their place but they must be put in their place," Miliband says. Wasn't the problem that targets were all they care about, but he doesn’t want people waiting too long for operations either?
12:55 – An increasingly elderly society will see these problems potentially get worse. "We cannot turn the clock back but we owe it to those who suffered to act together to work on this report and we on our side of the House will play our part to make that happen." Cameron is polite in response. He apologises for not giving him the report earlier – "it was a technical mistake, not something more sinister".
12:58 – Complaints need to be given a bigger voice. He says the report is a bit critical of MPs. They want to stand up for their local hospitals, so they go along with culture that says everything is alright all the time. Interesting. He moves onto foundation trusts, the trouble isn't with trusts, it’s with focusing so much on converting them that patient care slips down the list of importance. Miliband listens intently, Burnham continues to nod.
13:00 – Cameron says this should be a moment where everyone works to improve patient care via a "good rational system". He adds: "I hope this is a moment the country comes together over our NHS".
13:01 – Cameron finishes talking and the debate passes on to backbench MPs. I'll leave it there for now, on that rather sombre note. We'll be back next week for PMQs. See you then.