PMQs as-it-happened

Adam Bienkov By

11.40 - It feels like the first prime minister's questions in several years. Actually it's only been a few weeks, but time passes slowly in Westminster during recess.

The big news today is the departure of disgraced Tory MP Patrick Mercer and the 'will he, won't he?' (he won't) candidature of Nigel Farage.

Ukip have dominated the airwaves in recent weeks in a way that should genuinely worry David Cameron and Ed Miliband. How will they try to deal with that today? So far, the reaction of their MPs has been to taunt Farage as a "chicken," a "mouse" or some kind of chicken/mouse hybrid. I'm not convinced this will be enough to counter the Ukip threat.

11.50 - There's no single obvious issue for Ed Miliband to go on today. Economic news over the past few weeks have been good for the government and Europe is not an obvious winner for Labour either. He may be tempted to raise the question of election debates. Miliband has been accusing Cameron of cowardice over the issue this week and he may want to get Cameron on the record.

11.59 - PMQs is about to start. Contain your excitement.

12.04 - Miliband raises the issue of hedge funds chosen for Royal Mail shares. "How were these chosen?" asks Miliband. Cameron ignores the question and gives a general answer about value for consumers.

12.07- Miliband says shareholders were given a "golden ticket" by the government. Cameron denies they were given any preferential deal and accuses Miliband of acting like "old Labour in criticising a successful privatisation." Miliband says he is criticising a "rip off".

12.09 -  "Why were they allowed to make a fast buck" at taxpayers expense? asks Miliband. Cameorn answers about Labour's sale of gold reserves.

12.11 - Miliband asks why Royal Mail workers had conditions placed on the sale of their shares but hedge funds weren't. A good question, but it isn't clear what Miliband's criticism is. Did he want the workers to make an even faster buck off taxpayers?

12.14 - Miliband asks about George Osborne's best man being handed Royal Mail shares. Cameron accuses him of "playing the politics of envy".

12.15 - Miliband accuses Cameron of selling "a national asset at a sweetheart price". Cameron answers about David Axelrod. Bercow interrupts him mid sentence. "I haven't finished" objects Cameron. "He can take it from me that he has," replies Bercow. Oh dear, Tory MPs will not be happy about that.

12.19 - Snap verdict - It was a difficult call this week but the Royal Mail sale was a good call by Miliband. Cameron's didn't really have any answers to Miliband's questions but the Labour leader didn't inflict much damage either. A narrow 2-1 win for Milband.

12.23 - Cameron asked about taking action on plain packaging of cigarettes and smoking in cars. He gives his clearest signal yet that there will be legislation in the Queen's speech.

12.25 - Cameron asks if he agrees with his new Treasury minister Sajid Javid's views on ticket touts. Cameron refuses to say but takes the opportunity to welcome him and attack Labour for criticising his appointment.

12.30 - The government apparently has a "long term economic plan". This is a fact so startling to David Cameron, that he has sought to mention it in almost every answer. Miliband meanwhile seems to have discovered a "cost of living crisis". As you can tell, not much has changed in Westminster over the past few weeks.

12.35 - Labour MP George Howarth asks about the rise in food banks. Cameron claims it's due to better "promotion" by the government. "The picture [Labour] are trying to paint is wholly false," he bellows.

12.37 - David Cameron reveals that he wants to see "good street lighting" in Britain. A spectacularly banal statement. 

12.40 - And the session finally finishes. Did we learn much? Not really. But we did get the clearest sense yet of the emnity that now exists between the prime minister and the speaker of the House of Commons. You can read our editor Ian Dunt's thoughts on this here.






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