The Full Story: PM's questions

The full session of prime minister's questions

Talk of a fiscal stimulus - in translation, the government borrowing and spending more - seems to have given Gordon Brown a bit of a physical stimulus recently.

He looks sharper and more robust at the despatch box but he was quickly deflated by his opposite number.

A Labour backbencher read out praise for the prime minister from a Nobel Prize-winning economist but, quick as a flash, David Cameron said that "only the PM could be quite so smug" when unemployment had gone up.

This early skirmish simply raised the curtain on one of the most ill tempered exchanges I have seen at PMQs since David Cameron and Gordon Brown became leaders of their respective parties.

The opposition leader moved swiftly from the tragedy of mass unemployment to an individual tragedy -the death of 'baby P' in Haringey in north London.

Polite platitudes were exchanged initially but the atmosphere quickly deteriorated with Labour MPs clearly believing it was distasteful to raise the issue and the opposition leader quickly becoming impassioned in the face of hostility and sticking to his demand that the social services department in Haringey, which had been monitoring Baby P's parents, needed to be sorted out.

The PM accused David Cameron of playing party politics with the issue - there was no witty or sarcastic rejoinder; David Cameron denounced his attack as "cheap" and called for the PM to withdraw his accusations.

Gordon Brown refused to do so but called for unity - from his long years of experience in the Labour Party, that's usually what they say when divisions are unbridgeable.

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg denounced Gordon Brown as a "petty pickpocket" over his tax plans - and as predicted, also denounced tax avoidance - but it was this pre-prepared attack which looked petty after the intense clashes over the death of Baby P.

And it allowed the prime minster to get back on to his pre-prepared script - that the Lib Dems' plans for spending cuts wouldn't give the economy that 'fiscal stimulus' it needed.

It was his fellow Lib Dem Lynne Featherstone who appeared more assured - she's a Haringey MP and called for an independent public inquiry into the case of Baby P.

A final question on Christmas lights didn't quite restore peace and goodwill to the chamber.

So the verdict?

David Cameron tried to wrong-foot the prime minister and articulate an issue of great concern to voters which had dominated the broadsheets as well as the tabloids this morning.

Gordon Brown looked increasingly uncomfortable but the opposition leader - despite his protestations and his passion - might not have been quite able to shake off the impression that his line of questioning was motivated at least partly by politics.


The Daily Politics' analysis of Prime Minister's Questions with Nick Robinson, Charles Kennedy and Jon Cruddas.


1328 OK. That's it for another week. Those widely diverging opinions among MPs follow what was one of the bitterest PMQs sessions in a long while. The feeling on both sides of the House is one of anger.

1323 Labour MP and former cabinet minister Ruth Kelly tells BBC Radio 4's The World at One that Mr Cameron's words on Baby P were "ill-judged" and that he was "ill-informed". Shadow Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude says Mr Cameron was "very angry" and that Mr Brown made a "false step" in accusing the Tory leader of making party political points. Lib Dem Treasury spokesman Vince Cable describes the exchanges as "rather grubby".

1249 This week's PMQs should provoke an unusually large amount of debate in Thursday's papers, given the highly emotive nature of the Baby P case and the mood of revulsion among the public over his death.

1243 Nick Robinson asks whether Mr Cameron thought he could not "believe my political luck" with the debate veering away from the economy towards the Baby P issue.

Nick Robinson
1240 BBC political editor Nick Robinson says it was an "extraordinary" PMQs and that people had expected much more debate on the economy. Mr Brown showed a "political tone-deafness" to the mood outside Westminster, he tells Daily Politics.

Charles Kennedy
1239 Former Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy tells Daily Politics says Tony Blair would have dealt with the Baby P issue with far greater empathy than Mr Brown. The PM seemed "out of touch", he adds.

1239 Mr Cruddas says MPs' behaviour during the exchanges over Baby P did not "shine a positive light" on his own party.

1234 Labour MP Jon Cruddas says, on Daily Politics, that Mr Cameron was "absolutely right" to raise the issue of Baby P.

1232 The session - one of the noisiest and most combative of recent times - ends.

1231 Tory Sir Michael Spicer asks what was the economic theory behind "an end to boom and bust". The PM says the Tories are still "stuck in the old policies of the past".

1230 Lib Dem Lynne Featherstone, MP for Haringey, urges a full inquiry into the Baby P case. Mr Brown says the report the government has received will point a way to improving child safety procedures in the borough.

1229 On a third runway at Heathrow, Mr Brown says it is backed by the government, subject to environmental concerns which are being looked at.

1228 Senior Tory James Arbuthnot says the best way of helping post offices would be to award Post Office Ltd the contract to run card accounts straight away rather than "in due course". Mr Brown says the government is doing all it can to support the network.

1226 Lib Dem Greg Mulholland asks for a meeting on Alzheimer's research funding. Mr Brown says more is being spent on this.

1225 Mr Brown says lending to small business should be supported during the economic crisis.

1224 Conservative Charles Hendry asks about waits for poorer people needing to have boilers installed, which he calls "inhumane". Mr Brown says funding has been improved.

1222 The SNP's Angus Robertson says US president-elect Obama showed judgement into opposing the Iraq war and asks for an inquiry. Mr Brown replies that UK forces are making great progress and relations with Iraq would become similar to those with any friendly nation.

1220 Mr Brown says the government is committed to improving care for people with diabetes.

1220 Lib Dem Bob Russell says the Gurkhas who served before 1997 should be allowed to live in the UK. Mr Brown pays tribute to Ghurkas and says the home secretary is reviewing guidelines.

boxing glove
1218 Mr Clegg asks for an end to tax breaks for the rich and tax cuts for other people. The PM says the Lib Dems' policies would see spending cut by 20bn and not give the economy a stimulus.

Nick Clegg
1217 Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg accuses Mr Brown of being a "petty pickpocket" on taxes. He calls for cuts which are big, permanent and fair. Mr Brown says the "liberals'"' policies would affect public services.

1216 After those heated scenes, Mr Brown says the government is looking at the future of the Post Office card account with a statement to be made in due course.

1215 The Conservative leader asks for a pledge on the independence of investigations. Mr Brown says the report into the incident by Lord Laming will be independent.

1214 Mr Cameron is clearly very angry with Mr Brown's claim about party politics. The Speaker tells MPs not to shout. Mr Cameron says he is not guilty of party politics and again says the PM should withdraw his accusation that Mr Cameron was playing party politics. Mr Brown says the whole House should agree that the government is doing the right thing in relation to the Baby P case.

1211 Mr Cameron says the PM's point was "cheap" and asks him to withdraw the attack. Mr Brown says parties should maximise their agreement on action.

1210 Mr Brown says the government will act fully and quickly on the Baby P case and accuses Mr Cameron of making a "party political issue" of the tragedy.

1209 Speaker Michael Martin tells MPs not to shout at the Tory leader while questions about Baby P are being asked. An angry Mr Cameron urges the PM to consider whether the time has come for Haringey social services to be taken over. Mr Brown says they both agree that a full investigation is needed.

1207 Mr Cameron asks about the local review of social services in the London borough of Haringey, where Baby P died. He asks if it is unacceptable that the person running the relevant department is investigating the death. Mr Brown says a report is with the government and it is looking at the issue in the "right way".

David Cameron
1206 Tory leader David Cameron responds to a dig about not living in the real world, accusing the PM of being "smug" in light of the unemployment figures. He asks about the tragic death of Baby P and whether the council involved should not investigate its own failings. Mr Brown says the country is "appalled" by the child's death. He says "serious questions" must be addressed.

Gordon Brown
1204 Labour's Paul Wilson asks Mr Brown a friendly question about his economic policy. The PM says the world is dealing with unprecedented circumstances and that needs a "fiscal stimulus". In everyday language that means tax cuts.

1202 A Tory MP raises the subject of unemployment. Mr Brown says the figure is lower than the three million under the Conservatives.

1201 We are off. Mr Brown is outlining his engagements. The atmosphere is very lively already.

Nick Robinson
1200 Nick Robinson adds on Daily Politics that the plummet of sterling will offer some comfort to the Conservatives in outlining their policies.

1159 Just a few minutes to go now. BBC political editor Nick Robinson says the prime minister should have a "spring in his step". Gordon Brown has arrived.

1157 The chamber is really filling up. Justice Secretary Jack Straw is in his seat.

Charles Kennedy
1156 On the economy, former Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy tells Daily Politics that "desperate diseases require desperate remedies".

1154 Not much sign of any of the cabinet in the Commons yet, except Liam Byrne, of course.

Iain Watson
From BBC political correspondent Iain Watson The outlook for the UK economy has deteriorated sharply - that was the official view of the Bank of England this morning and their gloomy prediction comes on the day that latest figures reveal 1.82million people were unemployed last month. So it would be surprising if today's PMQs aren't dominated by the economy and the exchanges are likely to focus on "who got us into this mess" - and who is best placed "to get us out of it". David Cameron has written in the Evening Standard about how shocked he was by the death of 'Baby P' in north London - how was this allowed to happen? And Nick Clegg intends to denounce supermarkets for tax avoidance later today so he may well shop around for some cross party support in the commons.

1148 The Commons chamber is about a third full for questions to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Given the grave nature of today's unemployment figures and economic outlook, it should be jam-packed for PMQs.

1147 Mr Cruddas says there is a "danger" of Labour seeming to come up with too many seemingly unfunded tax cuts.

1144 For the Tories, shadow work and pensions secretary Chris Grayling tells Daily Politics his party has "real reservations" about government borrowing. Will Mr Cameron do the same later?

Jon Cruddas
1141 Labour MP Jon Cruddas tells BBC Two's Daily Politics says this is going to be a "tough year" for the economy and that some of the "slogans" of the past have to be put aside.

1140 Before PMQs, there are questions for the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Liam Byrne. For those wondering what that job entails, it is a fairly flexible thing. In the 90s one holder of it described it as "minister for banana skins". Ex-immigration minister Byrne would probably prefer to call it a roving cabinet enforcer role.

1130 It is a bright, sunny day at Westminster, but Mr Brown looks set to face the gloomiest of sessions. In its quarterly inflation report, the Bank of England says the UK entered a recession in the middle of this year and that this is likely to continue through 2009. The timing of the news that unemployment rose by 140,000 to 1.82 million in the three months to September is not great for the PM either. Mr Cameron has a choice of attack angles. Just half an hour now before we find out which one he'll choose.

1124 Among those chosen to question the prime minister this week are Liberal Democrat Dem Bob Russell, Labour's Andrew Dismore and Conservative Charles Hendry.

1123 There could also be questions about the terrible death of the child known as Baby P and the lessons to be learned in light of the criticisms of social services.

1114 Another suggestion. Sixteen MPs have signed a Commons motion, calling on ministers to work with the forces to show "how best Britain can learn and remember from the sacrifices our armed services have made to protect this country's freedom". They suggest a public holiday for Remembrance Day. There could also be a question on the government's general treatment and equipment supply for the armed forces.

1110 After an outbreak of Obamania last week, where will the party leaders take us this time? Expect some skirmishes between Gordon Brown and Tory leader David Cameron over unemployment, which has reached its highest level in 11 years. Taxation policy and, of course, the general state of the economy are likely to feature too. Maybe the third runway at Heathrow could get a mention?

1105 Hello and welcome to our live text coverage of prime minister's questions from the House of Commons. As usual, we will provide all the build-up, details of events as they happen, expert reaction, BBC political correspondent Iain Watson's instant verdict and your views.


e-mail sent in by reader
Have Your Say "This brutal murder of a young child is the second similar case reported recently where a baby was murdered by being brutalised over a long period and having its back broken. In both cases I say that the only moral punishment for the murderers is a death sentence. Taxpayers' money should not be used to imprison and maintain the lives of these vicious, sadistic, inhumane people." 'Savemesomething'

e-mail sent in by reader
Have Your Say "The prime minister has shown his complete lack of tact, discretion and decency during this debate. He's a one-trick pony; an ex-chancellor - and, unfortunately for British tax payers - he's never been any good at that either." 'Pavillionend', Canterbury

e-mail sent in by reader
Have Your Say "There must be an independent review of the Haringey failings." Stephen waldock, London

Have Your Say "I would like to hear the Prime Minister justify the huge tax burden that he and he alone inflicted upon the people of this country when now, under his own admission, it would be 'prudent' to cut taxation in order to stimulate the economy" J Thompson, Derbyshire

comment from blogger
Tony Makara, Torydiary,ConservativeHome: We are paying the price for having an unbalanced economy. For being too dependent on services, too dependent on credit-led domestic demand. The decline of our export sectors under Labour is an absolute disgrace, all because Brown and the MPC wanted a high-interest rate economy to support financial services... The British economy is now a one-trick pony, a nation that no longer produces, no longer exports and cannot even feed its own people. Little wonder Brown bemoans the world economy, he has made us totally dependent on it. Read Torydiary

e-mail sent in by reader
Have Your Say "If borrowing got us into this mess, how can borrowing even more get us out of this mess?" John, London

Have Your Say debate: "Now that the UK is in recession and unemployment is back to 1997 levels, will gordon now admit that nothing has improved?" Snidey c, Rochester

e-mail sent in by reader
Have Your Say debate on unemployment: "Undoubtedly like any debate concerned with the unemployed, this will shortly turn into a roll call of every popular myth about the jobless, from living lives of luxury to benefit migrants. The actual truth is that living on the dole is a miserable existence and the vast majority of those on it are trying to become employed as soon as possible. Those few who do sponge off he system wouldn't change if their benefits were stopped, they'd just turn to crime instead. Ebon Bear, Stoke

comment from blogger
Jim Dodd, Blogs, Labourhome: The right-wing, foaming-at-the-mouth crowd are understandably angry about the meaningless and horrible death of this baby. They are furious about injustice. I wonder if it ever occurred to us that we should aim to get them as angry about the meaningless and horrible death brought about by world poverty or the injustice of pointless discrimination. Read Labourhome

comment from blogger
Alex Foster, Lib Dig, Liberal Democrat Voice: What wonders are the Tories pulling out of their hats to help with employment rates? ... employers to take on new staff, so long as those staff have been jobless for more than three months prior to hiring. Where to begin with the problems on this? Read Lib Dem Voice

e-mail sent in by reader
Have Your Say "Politicising the death of a child! Is there no bandwagon David Cameron will jump on?" Neil Fraser, Ilkley


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All the action with key points, analysis and reaction from Gordon Brown's weekly grilling

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