The Full Story: PM's questions

The full half hour session of prime minister's questions

1321 That's it for our PMQs coverage. We'll be back later with live text coverage of Gordon Brown's speech to the joint meeting of the US Congress. We'll be starting from around 1500 GMT, in plenty of time for his expected start time of 1600 GMT.

Harriet Harman
1320 It's official. Harriet Harman has admitted she got it wrong on Sir Fred's knighthood. Her office issued a statement shortly after PMQs saying she was "happy to correct" the record. "It was, in fact, the case that he received his honour for services to banking but no doubt his contribution to the Prince's Trust would also have been taken into account," it read.

1318 On the issue of whether the PM should apologise, Minister Caroline Flint says the PM said there were "lessons to be learnt" but the solution lay internationally. Mr Hammond asks why Chancellor Alistair Darling had, in that case, called for "humility". He says the government had its "eye off the ball" in the last decade - and the regulatory system put in place by Gordon Brown had failed. Nick Harvey says one mistake was "uniquely British" that was allowing a "consumer splurge" in the aftermath of the dotcom bubble bursting.

1316 Lib Dem frontbencher Nick Harvey, part of the World At One panel, says Phil Woolas had "some grounds" for feeling aggrieved at the way the ONS released some immigration figures last week. But for the Tories Philip Hammond said public confidence was "shattered" in government statistics and ministers should "stand back" or risk looking paranoid. For the government, Caroline Flint said the issue was that the proper context should be provided.

1309 David Hill, former Downing Street communications director, tells the World at One Mr Brown has "said what he needs to say" on whether he will apologise - when it is the media and political enemies who keep going on about it. He needs to "look forward" to issues like the G20 summit which is what the public expects him to do.

1303 A quick check on the BBC News website of the honours list from 2004 suggests Ms Harman was indeed wrong on the issue of Sir Fred's knighthood. The link to the full file confirms it was given for services to banking. Oh dear.

1258 Chris Mullin, the Labour former minister who described serving as a minister in John Prescott's department as working in "the Department of Folding Deckchairs", is in the Daily Politics studio. He says his time in the Foreign Office was the "happiest of my political career" while working at the DETR "was not". He says he can point to "a few little things" he had changed for the better. Ben Bradshaw jokes that Mr Mullin was always "a reluctant minister".

magnifying glass
1257 Was Harriet Harman right when she said Sir Fred had been given his knighthood for his services to the Prince's Trust? The Downing Street website implies otherwise - a briefing by the PM's official spokesman in 2004 on the Queen's birthday honours list notes he "undertook many challenging projects that benefited both his company and the Scottish economy as a whole" - no mention of the charity.

e-mail sent in by reader
1256 For once I'm with the Daily Politics studio on HH v WH. She was a clear winner. He needn't have turned up.
Bill, Watford

e-mail sent in by reader
1254 It seems that Harriet Harman does not have the strength to out-do William Hague, what a shame. Gordon Brown can't handle the pressure and runs off to the US to make sure Obama hasn't fallen out with him, whilst Harman does her best to shout over Conservative MPs that are laughing because Labour keep shoving the spade into the hole that's already deep enough. It's Labour's fault we are not yet bouncing back and jumping out of the hole.
Philip, Manchester

e-mail sent in by reader
1253 Ask Ms Harman what the court of public opinion has to say on MPs expenses.
Richard, Ruislip

1247 Back on the subject of pubs closing down - Mr Bradshaw says pubs provide a wider social function but he is not sure there is a role for government to intervene to get people going to the pub rather than drinking wine at home.

1243 Kevin Maguire says Gordon Brown thinks Ms Harman is "up to something". Baroness Warsi says there were some "serious subjects" at PMQs and it was wrong to criticise Ms Harman for being "bossy" or "shrill" rather than on her policies. Women politicians are more prone to personal attacks, she says. "It's quite nasty when the attack is against women," she adds.

magnifying glass
1239 Meanwhile, back in the Daily Politics studio, Kevin Maguire - of the Labour-supporting Daily Mirror - says Harriet Harman's performance did any leadership campaign no harm at all and says she had wrong-footed Mr Hague on the deregulation question. But he says she has a public persona, much of which is unfair, that has "turned people off". Ben Bradshaw says she gave a "solid performance" but says the stories of a leadership campaign was based on pub conversations.

1236 Ms Harman finishes - to shouts for "more" from MPs. Next week we're expecting it to be the first Brown vs Cameron and Clegg clash for about a month. We're also going to be bringing you live coverage this afternoon of Gordon Brown's big speech to both houses of Congress in the US.

1233 Tory MP David Jones asks about electronic identification for sheep - which apparently becomes mandatory from 31 December this year and says the costs may well force many farmers out of the industry. He says it is "ridiculous" legislation. To some giggles from MPs, Ms Harman says it is a "serious issue" and ID of sheep is important for infection control and says the minister will write to Mr Jones about it.

David Thompson
1232 From BBC political correspondent David Thompson: So how about Round Two? Vince Cable mocked what he calls "Harriet's Law" - a reference to Ms Harman's claims at the weekend that the court of public opinion would trump the law courts when it came to Sir Fred Goodwin's pension arrangements. She hit back - but her target was William Hague, who she claimed received 30,000 from the Royal Bank of Scotland for two after-dinner speeches. Interesting, but by the time Labour's deputy leader got her retaliation in, the moment may have gone.

1230 Plaid Cymru's Elfyn Llwyd asks who nominated Sir Fred Goodwin for a knighthood and why? Ms Harman says she understands it was for his work with the Prince's Trust - not his services to banking.

1228 Tory MP Ann Winterton asks about the part privatisation of Royal Mail a plan that is very unpopular with many Labour MPs. Mrs Winterton says the plans have their roots in EU legislation. She says Royal Mail was "divested" of its more profitable business and asks what the sense was in it. Ms Harman says the plans for Royal Mail had their roots in the government-commissioned Hooper Review and was aimed at putting the Royal Mail on a "firm footing" for the future.

1227 Labour MP Andrew Dismore mentions the funeral of a 19-year-old constituent who was stabbed at a petrol station and asks what is happening to help families and tackle knife crime. Ms Harman replies that the government and other bodies are working together to tackle knife crime - including toughening the law. She sends condolences to the bereaved families.

e-mail sent in by reader
1225 I find it quite annoying that ministerial politicians of this Labour government say that those people that die in Afghanistan etc wont be forgotten - I would wager that if you put them on the spot, they would fail to name the names of 10 soldiers that have lost their lives.
CG, Leeds

e-mail sent in by reader
1224 I am absolutely disgusted with William Hague. There is no levity in my son being made redundant and in danger of losing his house and my daughter having her hours cut.
mjw, Clydebank, Scotland

1223 Mr Cable said the issue was not whether the pension was 400,000 or 700,000 but why it was being paid at all - he asks whether Ms Harman recognises concern about other "fat cat" public sector pensions - including those of ministers. Ms Harman says the Financial Services Authority has been asked to look at how to "improve the remuneration regime". She says William Hague got 30,000 from RBS for two after dinner speeches - to roars from Labour MPs to "pay it back".

e-mail sent in by reader
1222 With Harman's poor display at the dispatch box I cannot see that she has any hope in being the next Labour leader
Graham, Herts, UK

e-mail sent in by reader
1222 Can we give William Hague and Harriet Harman a 30 minute slot every week please?
Burton, London

Vince Cable
1221 Vince Cable steps up - to cheers from MPs. He adds Lib Dem condolences to soldiers killed in Afghanistan and the victims of the attack in Pakistan. He asks about the idea of a "rather eccentric Harriet's law" for Sir Fred's pension - and asks about whether existing legislation can be used instead. Ms Harman says UKFI have been asked to investigate "all the circumstances" around Sir Fred's 703,000 a year pension which "bears on the enforceability of the contract".

David Thompson
1220 From BBC political correspondent David Thompson: Ouch. Just for a minute, it looked as though William Hague would resist the temptation to tease Harriet Harman about her alleged designs on the leadership of the Labour Party - but then he let her have both barrels. Normally politicians don't mind being compared to Churchill and Macmillan, but when they're used to poke fun at them, as examples of people who replaced their leaders when they were out of the country, they don't find it so amusing. William Hague's best line? "I am only a Deputy now, but at least I'm a loyal one." If Harriet Harman was enjoying Mr Hague's quips as much as the rest of the House, she hid it well. If looks could kill, her Tory opposite number would have been carried out of the chamber long before the end of PMQs.

1219 Mr Hague replies that cabinet ministers are "manoeuvring" for the leadership while Mr Brown is out of the country and says the party that "got us into this mess" cannot get Britain out. Ms Harman repeats her claim he is focusing on "political gossip" while the government is getting on with "fighting for the future".

1218 Ms Harman, responding to questions about regulation in the financil markets says the Tories had lessons to learn - saying there was no "golden age" of regulation under the last Conservative government and accused them of calling for total deregulation of the mortgage market. Speaker Michael Martin steps in to call for order as MPs continue to shout throughout her comments. She accuses Mr Hague of previously backing de-regulation.

1217 Ms Harman says Mr Hague is focusing on "political gossip" while Labour is focusing on "fighting for Britain's future" - Mr Hague retorts that she should not describe her leadership campaign as political gossip - prompting a fresh round of belly laughs. Even a few Labour MPs are enjoying it.

1214 Mr Hague lists a series of government measures he says the government has yet to implement and suggests Ms Harman "step in" while Mr Brown is in the US. "This could be her moment" he says, reminding her of how Churchill stepped in when Chamberlain lost the confidence of his party. The MPs love it, with much laughter. Ms Harman, who has been at the centre of leadership speculation, says mortgage support was a "very important question" - to more laughter and jeers from Tory MPs.

boxing glove
1210 The speaker reproaches MP Greg Hands for shouting down Ms Harman - as she says the government has taken action to save the banks and help businesses which the Tories have opposed. She says the government has been getting "real help to businesses".

William Hague
1209 Ms Harman says the Tories would cut capital expenditure in public projects. Mr Hague takes her back to the loan scheme, saying the PM had said it would be operational by 1 March. He says hundreds of businesses are going under and thousands losing their jobs - he urges an undertaking from Ms Harman to speed up "this long delayed scheme".

1208 Mr Hague asks about the "working capital scheme" announced in January - which he says has not yet started and which he says has not yet guaranteed a single loan. Ms Harman says provisions are "being finalised" - to roars from Tory MPs. She says there is "real help" available to firms experiencing problems with cash flow now - as they could apply to defer tax payments.

William Hague
1206 For the Tories, William Hague also expresses condolences to the families of soldiers killed and asks whether any increase of troops in Afghanistan will also see an increase in helicopters and equipment necessary. Ms Harman says of course the government wants the best logistical support for soldiers. They also both condemn the attack in Pakistan on Sri Lankan cricketers. Ms Harman says the UK is working closely with Pakistan to combat the threat of violent extremism.

1205 Ms Harman is flanked by Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Chancellor Alistair Darling.

Harriet Harman
1203 And we're off - Harriet Harman stands up and says the whole House will send their condolences to soldiers killed in Afghanistan in the past week. "They will not be forgotten" she adds, before explaining, with a bit of added gusto, the PM is in the US.

1200 Harriet Harman takes her seat, with Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward moving aside as he finishes his stint answering questions.

1159 Baroness Warsi tells Daily Politics taxing alcohol is not necessarily the best way to stop people drinking - the real problem is about not enforcing the laws that already exist.

1158 Mr Grogan says beer has had a bad deal on taxes - while whisky duty is lower. Ben Bradshaw, who says he is a member of the Campaign for Real Ale, says alcohol must be taxed and the balance between beer, cider and whisky is a matter for Chancellor Alistair Darling. He says in his constituency only one pub a year has closed in the last five years - campaigners say 2,000 pubs have closed and 20,000 jobs have been lost since the chancellor increased beer taxes in last year's budget. Could this be a subject that is raised during this week's session?

1156 Pub landlords and brewers will meet ministers later on Wednesday to call for urgent help for the industry. Actor Neil Morrissey says the industry is in crisis. Labour MP John Grogan, who chairs Parliament's beer group tells Daily Politics cheap supermarket booze is "killing pubs". He argues that pubs are a controlled environment, while binge-drinking often started with people "pre-loading" on booze before they go out.

David Thompson
1154 From BBC political correspondent David Thompson: Today's Prime Minister's Questions could be a chance to play 'Leadership Bid Bingo.' Count how many times William Hague - and naughty backbenchers from all parties - tease Harriet Harman about her (hotly denied) ambitions to take over the top job from Gordon Brown

1153 Ben Bradshaw says the Obama administration recognises the need for a "hearts and minds" solution to Afghanistan - as well as the military operation, which the British government had been pushing for, for some time.

1149 For the Tories Baroness Warsi said she agreed people were getting "unhealthily" obsessed about whether the PM should apologise when what was important was for Mr Brown understanding what had gone wrong.

1147 The health minister says a "global system" of international financial regulation is needed - and that is what the PM has gone to the US to talk about. He said he cannot set up an international system on his own. He dismissed suggestions Mr Brown had ignored warnings on issues like public borrowing from financial experts. Thus far at least it seems that the real attention is in Washington rather than Westminster...

Ben Bradshaw
1147 Ben Bradshaw is asked about Chancellor Alistair Darling's comments about showing "humility" - Mr Bradshaw says the PM has said mistakes were made but there was a "parochial British obsession" with the idea of an apology. "We need a debate that is above that," he tells Daily Politics.

1146 Hello and welcome to our live coverage of prime minister's questions from the House of Commons. This week the prime minister is, of course, in Washington, so his deputy Harriet Harman will be standing in for him. William Hague will take the stand for the Tories and Vince Cable for the Lib Dems. My colleague David Thompson will be providing expert analysis. Health minister Ben Bradshaw is in the Daily Politics studio for the government, while shadow communities minister Baroness Warsi is there for the Tories - we'll also be bringing you the best of the political reaction from the BBC News channel and Radio 5 Live and the World at One, as well as the pick of the action from the chamber. You can also send your views using the postform on the top right hand side of this page.


Daily Politics' analysis of Prime Minister's Questions


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