Prime minister's questions as-it-happened

Prime minister's questions as-it-happens - October 30th 2013
Prime minister's questions as-it-happens - October 30th 2013
Alex Stevenson By

12:40 - Well, Ian has just come in and said that was all a bit "blah-blah". He was struck by Cameron's anger though - that rasp definitely makes it even more biting. The prime minister is cultivating this rabid side to him; why get others to go after Miliband when you can be your own attack dog? He certainly did enough to create an element of doubt about who really won this session. I'm going to hand it to Miliband - but Cameron's incessant attacks, helped by backbenchers, on HS2 and Unite definitely came close to evening things out.

12:34 - "Where trade unions play a positive role I'll be the first to praise them," Cameron says. Whaaat? He's talking about the Automotive Council. But not for long. The PM quickly switches to talk about Unite, and repeats his demand for a full inquiry into the issue.

12:33 - David Anderson asks whether the PM regrets "the cack-handed privatisation of the utlities by the former Tory government". Cameron chooses to ignore the question completely. Of course. 

12:32 - Julian Huppert, who has previously complained about being bullied by MPs, actually gets listened to for the first time. His question is about intelligence, Snowden and the like. "I believe in Britain we have a good way of having intelligence and security services overseen by a parliamentary committee." What he doesn't say is that the parliamentary committee isn't really parliamentary - its chair is appointed by the prime minister, after all.


12:30 - Lucy Powell, a Labour MP, says "I've got a question for the prime minister on the economy". That was not a good idea as it prompts a wave of sarcastic cheers from the government benches.

12:29 - Cameron points out that Labour haven't asked a single question about the economy just yet. "They've got nothing to say," he says. The switch to cost-of-living issues has been thoroughly comprehensive, it has to be said.

12:29 - Yet another Tory MP stands up and tees up a nice juicy one for Cameron. This time on HS2, giving Cameron a chance of quoting back Miliband, who he says is obviously guilty of "petty politicking".

12:27 - Natascha Engel raises concerns about "race hate and discrimination" when it comes to electoral conduct. This is an important issue - Cameron says he'll do anything possible to "keep racism out of politics".

12:26 - After a horribly localised question from Lib Dem Duncan Hames, Peter Hain asks a question about green levies. Cameron plunges into policy detail, saying he's been cutting green subsidies since the start of the coalition. This last week has seen an extraordinary unleashing of anti-renewables. It's going to prompt a real division with the Lib Dems, that's for sure.

12:23 - Here's an awkward question from Labour MP Jim Sheridan, who's worried about protecting "indigenous workers" in Britain. Cameron plays that one with a straight bat, saying he wants to see a "flexible" workforce. He then goes on the offensive against Sheridan by pointing out he's the parliamentary chair of Unite. Cameron calls for a "proper inquiry" into the Falkirk scandal. Told you that one would get mentioned...

12:21 - Yet another energy question, this time from Tory Paul Uppal, who gives the prime minister he obviously thinks is marvellous another opportunity to talk about foreign investment in nuclear energy. He says he suspects Labour might be against that sort of thing. "With all the flip-flops they've done this week I wouldn't be surprised if they started opposing nuclear, too."

12:20 - Emily Thornberry, Labour, says an 'affordable' two-bed flat in her London constituency is on the market for £720,000. Not that affordable, really... she gets a big laugh from the Labour benches.

12:19 - Simon Hart, another Tory, uses the phrase "nom-nom" in the chamber. Is this a first? He's referring to the company of that name, but still...

12:19 - It's all getting a little bit repetitive now. A sarky question from Tory Stephen Doughty gives Cameron the chance to say the "price con" line once again. 

12:18 - The prime minister is desperate to raise HS2 at every opportunity. He seems to want to associate it with the word "weak" for some reason.

12:15 - And that is the end of that. A more even set of exchanges than last week, but I still think Miliband managed to maintain the upper hand here. Whether it was luck or wit I don't know, but he seemed able to respond quickly to Cameron's switches. Nice pivoting from the Labour leader there. Nice pivoting.

12:14 - As expected, Cameron takes the opportunity to raise HS2 out of nowhere. His voice is harsh and gravelly, which makes him sound a little bit like a very angry cheese grater.

12:13 - Miliband calls on Cameron to "institute a price freeze now". Cameron: "It's not a price freeze, it's a price con. He is hiding behind this economically illiterate policy." The PM says "he's got nothing else to say, he's just a weak leader with no ideas". Miliband comes back quickly and very well, telling Cameron he is too weak to stand up to the energy companies. "It's time he stopped acting like a PR man for the energy companies." Big cheer from Labour. Cameron retreats to a "too weak" list against Miliband, which is ruined by an intervention by John Bercow.

12:12 - Lots of quoting back in this set of exchanges - now the PM cites a Labour peer who isn't happy about the price freeze. "He's a one-trick pony and he's run out of road." That makes no sense. No sense at all.

12:10 - Cameron blames the Big Six for Labour. He says the Labour Lords types voted for a "price rise" by pushing for decarbonisation. Miliband responds very smoothly, switching to an attack on green levies. Earlier this year - "I kid you not," Miliband says - Cameron was boasting about the energy companies obligation earlier this year. All good stuff, but then Miliband stalls a bit. Put off by the heckling, perhaps. He dismisses the idea of an inquiry, because this would kick the issue into the long grass. "We want a competition inquiry that starts straight away, that is our policy," Cameron declares.

12:08 - "Switching is part of competition," Cameron continues. He completely ignores Miliband's question and quotes the company he switched to, which doesn't like Miliband's energy price freeze idea. "It's the same old Labour!" he barks, his voice suddenly getting all gruff. Miliband is looking very jaunty as he works through the logic of his price freeze. "We should call them the Big Seven - the prime minister and the big six!" He then quotes back Cameron in opposition at him. Lots of finger-wagging from Mili. "Why has he gone from Rambo to Bambi in four short years?"

12:06 - David Cameron says he wants "more competition" and "lower levies and prices to drive profits down". Then he plays the man, by raising Miliband's decision to switch his supplier - just as Cameron advised last week. "He adopts Tory policy to help his own family!" The Tories love that, but Miliband says what families really need to do is to "switch the prime minister". He calls the PM "the unofficial spokesman for the energy companies".

12:05 - Ed Miliband gets a prolonged jeer of welcome from the Tory backbenches. He only gets halfway through his question before being interrupted by the Speaker. "His role is to nod his head in the appropriate places and to fetch and carry notes," Bercow says to David Cameron's PPS. When the question comes, it's about energy. Here we go again.

12:04 - Sheryll Murray gets the opener. She's not happy about the Labour opposition's job gloominess. A nice easy loosener for the prime minister.

12:00 - As Big Ben bongs, Peter Bone asks about his private member's bill bidding to give all religious institutions charitable status. Will the government support it? Answer: No.

11:59 - An interesting question from Michael Dugher, the shadow Cabinet Office minister, who wants to know when No 10's annual Chequers guest list will be released. It hasn't been published since mid-2011, he says. Francis Maude is unimpressed.

11:55 - Yikes, it's nearly midday! Somehow time always seems to speed up just before PMQs. In the Commons chamber right now it's Cabinet Office questions, and the backbenches are steadily filling up.

11:40 - This is a promising one for Ed Miliband. After one of his most comprehensive victories last week, when he ran rings round David Cameron on the issue of energy policy, the leader of the opposition can once again hope to slap the PM around some more. Not literally.

His menu of options includes the government's defeat on back-to-work programme in the courts this morning (yet another setback for the struggling Iain Duncan Smith). Or More energy policy (very tempting).

David Cameron has a fair amount of ammunition in response, though. He'll be desperate to mention the Unite/Falkirk scandal, which has reared its ugly head again this week. And then there's HS2, which Labour looks hopelessly split on. Unfortunately for him, he doesn't get to ask the questions. Perhaps a handy Tory backbencher might provide a useful opportunity and win a bit of prime ministerial favour at the same time.

11:35 - Hello one, hello all. Welcome to politics.co.uk's live coverage of a little thing called prime minister's questions. It's a terribly good idea really. The most important man in the country spends half an hour of his Wednesday lunchtime shouting at people who don't like him, and everyone else - whether they like him or not - shouts back. Great fun. So from midday we'll be providing our usual blow-by-blow coverage. Literally (Well, you never know).

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