Page last updated at 13:41 GMT, Wednesday, 4 November 2009

The Full Story: PM's questions

Watch the full PM's questions session: From Democracy Live

By Brian Wheeler

1337 OK that's your lot from our extended live coverage of PMQs and the expenses debate. Thanks, as ever, for all of your comments. For those who really love their politics there's just time to grab a sandwich and stretch your legs before the afternoon's excitement resumes with all eyes turning to David Cameron and William Hague and their joint press conference on Europe at 1600 GMT. It should be a fascinating, and highly significant, moment. We will be back for PM's questions again next Wednesday.

1333 Tory housing spokesman Grant Shapps (remember him from the Daily Politics a couple of hours ago - he really has drawn the short straw today) tells the BBC's World at One most MPs will be relieved just to put the expenses issue behind them and get on with their jobs.

1331 Solicitor General Vera Baird stirs up a row by suggesting MPs' pay and conditions should be looked at to ensure the low paid were not discouraged from entering Parliament. Chris Huhne - who is more than comfortably off - says the suggestion is ridiculous - and care workers, the example chosen by Ms Baird, get far less money than backbench MPs.

1329 Lib Dem frontbencher Chris Huhne warns against "tinkering" with the Kelly recommendations.

e-mail sent in by reader
Kelly's recommendations should be instigated before the start of a new govt not in 5 years time, giving those on the gravy train plenty of time to continue fleecing the tax payer, and why are MPs given a golden handshake if not elected - it is the equivalent to getting the sack for failing to do the job, we wouldn't get a golden handshake just the job centre. PMQs equivalent to Enid Sharples and Hilda Ogden discussing politics in the Rovers whilst the support cast try and get noticed.
David Govier, Dartmouth

e-mail sent in by reader
It makes me angry to see MPs saying they should be able to vote on Kelly's planned reform when the public are never given the chance to vote on issues that affect them other than at general elections.
KW, London

1326 Tough words from Sir Christopher for those MPs upset by his proposed ban on employing family members. The 465 MPs who don't employ their spouses seem to cope alright, he tells the World at One. The idea is to produce a system which is "beyond reproach". Using public funds to employ family members without an open recruitment process is not consistent with that aim, he adds.

1321 Sir Christopher Kelly tells the BBC Radio 4's The World at One he is "fairly reassured" that his recommendations will be implemented in full. Why not full fully reassured he is asked. Well, he says, "there is always wriggle room - they are politicians after all". He also says he was "mystified" by Harriet Harman's comment that they would be "shaped" by IPSA, the new independent standards authority.

e-mail sent in by reader
Whitewash. The politicians are given a budget which is paid by us and the businesses we work for, to keep us secure and provide us with good living conditions and education. Expenses are supposed to assist, not to be abused.
Scott, Chester

1313 Ms Harman finishes the brief debate by urging MPs to have a "self-denying ordinance" on expenses - having legislated to create an independent authority they should now let it get on with its work, she says.

1310 Lib Dem John Barrett brings up capital gains tax and second home "flipping". The first is a matter for revenue and customs, the second was banned in May, replies Ms Harman.

1308 The chamber is virtually empty now. Which is a shame as Tory MP Peter Bone has just brought up "wife swapping". Ms Harman bats away the question - which refers to claims MPs will simply trade spouses they employ to get around the rules - saying it will be down to, as so much else is to be apparently, the new Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.

1306 The SNP's Angus Robertson says MPs should not be allowed to "pick and choose" the bits of Kelly they like or don't like. Ms Harman agrees and says it should be down to the new authority, IPSA.

1305 Labour's Tony Wright says Kelly finally gives MPs a chance to "dig themselves out of the terrible mess" they have got themselves into.

1304 Tory grandee Sir Patrick Cormack calls for a "take note" debate on Kelly. Ms Harman rejects it and says she does not want to get into a situation where there is a vote on it, saying it was important to break the habit of MPs spending time debating their pay and allowances. They would get their chance to speak today and she did not rule out a debate in the future - but she did want to rule out a series of votes on Kelly, saying that would be "very undesirable".

1302 Labour's Tony Lloyd raises the issue of family members. Ms Harman says IPSA will need to comply with employment law and points to Kelly's comments that most were hard working. By the way, in his morning press conference Sir Christopher pointed out that employing family members was commonplace in small family firms but explicitly frowned upon or banned in most walks of life.

1301 Peter Robinson, of the DUP, calls on the government to back all of Kelly's recommendations and calls for MPs to have a vote on the pay and conditions of those members who do not take their seats (a reference to Sinn Feinn). Ms Harman says there will be a discussion about the situation in Northern Ireland.

Ross Hawkins
1300 From BBC political correspondent Ross Hawkins: Sir Christopher Kelly urged MPs to accept his ideas as an entire package, not a menu of options. He won't have heard much from the front benches to worry him. His work is being praised from all sides. But the real work will fall to the university professor who is to take charge of the new Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority - Sir Ian Kennedy. MPs jeered when they heard he would be paid up to £100,000, which is much higher than their salaries. But with a fair few members fuming about the expenses reform - some quietly, some noisily - Sir Ian will be working hard for his money. And the real debate won't now take place against the Commons Green benches, but in submissions to him.

1259 Ms Harman says she will consider giving the new Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority the power to decide MPs' salaries, as Kelly recommends, taking it away from the senior salaries review board. She says MPs will no longer vote on their pay and conditions in any case.

1258 Sir Stuart Bell says events in Afghanistan puts the expenses scandal in perspective. He says IPSA and the senior salaries review board should look at how pay and allowances can be married together, so that the allowances system can be abolished altogether, as Kelly suggests.

e-mail sent in by reader
Why should we the taxpayers, pay for a second home in any fashion for an MP? If I go for a job, and it means travelling I do not get a house nearby, I stay in a Premier Inn, or get up early and travel, why can't MPs do the same? With the country's finances in such a mess, I am appalled that MPs get such an easy ride. If I buy a second home near to work, can I send the MPs the bill for the mortgage?
D Cowper, Westbury

e-mail sent in by reader
I would like to hear why they think they are any different from every other company in UK that has people working in two places or have to relocate?
b r

e-mail sent in by reader
My heart bleeds for these spouses. If the job they got has been advertised publicly and they've been interviewed, then they might have a case for keeping their jobs. Otherwise it's just plain favouritism and nepotism.
Richard, Ruislip

1256 In reply Ms Harman says the report should be seen as a package, "not a menu of options" and acknowledges Kelly's criticism of the lack of coherence of Parliament's response to the expenses scandal so far.

1255 Mr Heath says the report's recommendations should be implemented in full - but calls for a full debate on them.

1254 David Heath, for the Lib Dems, attacks MPs who have criticised the report - "those who don't like it have a choice whether they reapply". He also points to criticism in the report of the piecemeal way changes have been made to the expenses regime.

Ross Hawkins
1253 From BBC political correspondent Ross Hawkins: Harriet Harman says the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority is already up and running. Its website says it will be fully operational by April 2010. In any case it needs to get busy. The MPs are making it quite clear the job of turning this debate into a new detailed expenses system will be down to the new authority.

1252 Ms Harman says the proposals on employing spouses should not cause a "cloud over the head" of those currently doing good public service work and ISPA must ensure any changes do not fall foul of employment law.

1251 Harriet Harman also deplores the leak. Responding to calls for greater urgency, she says ISPA is already up and running. But she says there is no need to legislate to change ISPA's structure, as Sir George suggested.

1250 Sir George ends by calling for urgent progress so MPs can get on with their normal work.

e-mail sent in by reader
I would like to hear that they're all standing down in favour of the children who appeared earlier taking over. They actually had a sensible, mature debate and didn't rip-off the public with their expenses!
[Psycr0w], Innerleithen

e-mail sent in by reader
What a farce Kelly is, all allowances to continue for another parliament, what planet is he living on, a 5 year grace period, another political coward.
Dean Murphy

1247 Sir George says the Tories support Kelly on accommodation rules but says the proposals on rent will have to be monitored by IPSA to make sure they do not end up costing the taxpayer even more than the current system.

1245 Sir George speaks up for spouses employed by MPs (while declaring an interest himself!) and asks to ensure any changes are in line with employment law.

1244 Sir George Young, for the Conservatives, begins by deploring the "selective leaking" of the Kelly report last week. He calls for the new regime to be speeded up and asks if it can be fully implemented by February - before a likely general election.

1244 Ms Harman says the report is "another important step on the road" to letting the public know that the system is being cleaned up and their anger is being addressed - "This will be resolved," she says in conclusion.

1243 There will not be a vote on the new regime, because MPs agreed that the IPSA would be in charge of implementing the report's findings, says Ms Harman.

e-mail sent in by reader
The MPs must not be allowed to delay the introduction of Kelly's proposal any longer. They should be implemented with immediate effect and subsequently reviewed if necessary. The one exception I would make is to allow employed spouses/family to continue until the next election which is by definition the end of the contract.
John Clifford

e-mail sent in by reader
I am shocked by those MPs complaining about the new expenses rules. They simply have no concept of morals or public outrage whilst they're on the gravy train do they?
[HughDP], Taunton

e-mail sent in by reader
I would like to hear exactly what action is going to be taken against those who "switched" their homes. Often making very large sums of money indeed.
John Ford, Exeter

1242 The new regime will come into effect in the new Parliament, she says. The government accepts Kelly's recommendations but it will be for the new watchdog IPSA to implement it and in the meantime the interim system will apply.

Ross Hawkins
1240 From BBC political correspondent Ross Hawkins: Harriet Harman's been talking about the reforms the Commons has agreed already. Sir Christopher didn't make much of them though. His report said they were "piecemeal" and at best "lacked coherence".

1239 MPs representing constituencies outside London need to be able to live in their constituency and Westminster, says Ms Harman. Parliament should not be just for people wealthy enough to afford a second home, says Ms Harman, and MPs should be allowed to have their families with them. These two things are both stressed in the Kelly report, she says.

e-mail sent in by reader
I should like Brown to say why he reneged on a promise to give us a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty and I mean a truthful answer not the usual rubbish he has spouted over this. We have been sold down the river and the electorate will make this clear in the General Election which cannot come quickly enough.
Lynn Scoones, Battle

e-mail sent in by reader
Now that the Lisbon treaty has been forced upon us, I'd like to know when will the European Union make its accounts public. Also with a reduction in our country's standing what will be done to prevent the European parliament becoming a perverse parody of the Eurovision Song Contest with blocks of small countries holding the larger ones to ransom?
Bill W, Glasgow

e-mail sent in by reader
I feel MP's need to understand this is make or break for our political system and they must agree changes must be made and quickly. I want to hear them admit they have done wrong and they now want to change for the better.
Man with No Name Wakefield

1237 Ms Harman is listing what has already been done to clean up the system - "Parliament has not sat back waiting for Kelly", she claims.

Harriet Harman
1236 Action needs to be taken to restore public confidence, says the Commons leader. MPs seem to have settled down after their fury over Sir Ian's pay.

1235 Harriet Harman is at the despatch box now delivering her statement on the Kelly report on MP expenses.

Ross Hawkins
1234 From BBC political correspondent Ross Hawkins: MPs normally vanish from the chamber pretty quickly after PMQs - but lots of them are staying today. It might have something to do with a statement on their expenses coming up next. Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg have all supported Sir Christopher Kelly. The loudest opponents are most likely to come from the back benches - on both sides of the House. The news the new head of the Parliamentary Standards authority - Professor Sir Ian Kennedy - will be paid up to £100,000 a year has already got them angry.

The Daily Politics analysis on PMQs

John Bercow
1233 PMQs finishes and Speaker Bercow announces that Professor Sir Ian Kennedy will be the first chair of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. He will be paid a maximum of £100,000 a year. MPs don't like this - there is uproar at the mention of his salary which is considerably more than a backbencher earns.

1232 Final question now and it's about Professor Nutt - did Labour shoot the messenger when it sacked the drugs advisor? Mr Brown says the Prof was sending out "mixed messages" on drugs. By the way Prof Nutt is thinking about setting up an independent version of the advisory council on the misuse of drugs that he led until recently.

1230 Following on from Ross's point - Mr Brown has a little joke at David Cameron's expense as he answers a question on nursery care, saying he hesitates to use the words "cast iron guarantee". Much chuckling from the Labour benches at another reference to the Tory referendum issue.

Ross Hawkins
1228 From BBC political correspondent Ross Hawkins: Twice warned by the Speaker for party political attacks Gordon Brown's having to put his criticisms of the Tories in code. He wants to say: David Cameron's done a massive U-turn on promising a referendum on the Lisbon treaty. He's left saying the government keeps its promises "unlike some people". By way of an aside in an answer about the Youth Parliament he tells the Speaker: "I don't always agree with your rulings." Mr Speaker looks unworried.

1227 We have had "tickets for troops" - now Labour's Stephen Pound wants seats reserved for members of the armed forces at question time. Some might say they'd already done their bit for the country!

e-mail sent in by reader
This week's PMQs seems to be different from most weeks in its sobriety - and probably a good thing. I've always thought that this part of the week should be a much more adult and mature debate than the childish bickering and point-scoring that we're used to.
Joe Hesketh, Sussex

e-mail sent in by reader
How can Gordon Brown talk about honouring commitments when they were the ones that originally promised a referendum on the European Constitution?
Ed Gray, London

ianvisits tweets: Clegg finds a way to stop noisy barracking when he is speaking - he mentions Afghanistan in mid-sentence.

1227 The SNP's Angus Robertson asks about compensation for the families of 14 people killed in an RAF Nimrod tragedy. Mr Brown says he will look into it.

1225 Tory MP David Davies calls for regular figures on how many soldiers have lost their limbs in Afghanistan. Mr Brown says the government gives regular information on casualties, "consistent with what the chief of defence staff advises".

1223 The sharp eyed amongst you may have noticed that the video stream above comes from Democracy Live. This is the BBC's new politics website which shows all proceedings in Westminster live. Apologies for the plug but it really is well worth a visit. There's lots of background info and you can sign up to "follow" MPs or even your Euro MP (or at least find out who they are and watch or read what they've said across the Channel recently)

1222Mr Brown says he favours lowering the voting age to 16, after Labour's Phyllis Starkey asks a question about the Youth Parliament, which took over the Commons chamber on Friday (and was arguably much better behaved)

Gordon Brown
1221 Mr Brown is going to get another warning from the Speaker for party politicking if he is not careful, as he answers a set-up question on tax credits from Labour's Ronnie Campbell. They are safe in the government's hands, declares Mr Brown to cheers from his own side, "unlike the party opposite!"

Ross Hawkins
1220 From BBC political correspondent Ross Hawkins: Nick Clegg also wants to talk about Afghanistan - what will Britain do if a legitimate government doesn't emerge in Kabul? The prime minister talks about wanting to improve governance in Afghanistan. But that answer is unlikely to be clear enough to please the Liberal Democrat leader.

1219 Mr Brown's reply - that Karzai will be judged on his words and actions - is not precise enough for Mr Clegg, who asks his question again. Mr Brown goes into a little more detail.

Nick Clegg
1218 Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg asks two very specific questions on Afghanistan - how much time will President Karzai be given to clean up his government and what action will be taken if he does not.

1217 On to Europe - and that seasoned attack dog David Blunkett uses his question to the prime minister to accuse Mr Cameron's "cast iron" guarantee of a referendum of turning to "plywood". Speaker Bercow warns the PM to stick to policy and avoid party political point scoring in his reply. We are back to PMQs as usual.

Ross Hawkins
1215 From BBC political correspondent Ross Hawkins: That was as quiet and sober an exchange between Gordon Brown and David Cameron as we've seen for a long time. That's not just because the issue of British troops in Afghanistan is a gravely serious one, but because the two men agree Britain should continue its efforts in the country. And when they finally got to the issue of MPs' expenses they agreed about that as well.

e-mail sent in by reader
I want to hear Brown say our troops are coming home from Afghanistan and the government will accept all of the Kelly report but I don't expect either will happen.

e-mail sent in by reader
Would our dear leaders like to see the expenses system altered to match that of the Swedes; basic government owned flats near Westminster for MPs, 700 a month 2nd home allowance for those not wanting basic accommodation and no allowance for home improvements?
Joe Hunter, Leeds,

e-mail sent in by reader
Now that the EU treaty has been signed, can the government get on deal with truly important with domestic priorities like crime, the economy and banking reform, each of which are far more important than annoying our European partners with tedious battles over treaties.
Mark, Newport

1213 On to the Kelly report now, with Mr Cameron calling on Mr Brown to join him in accepting the recommendations on expenses. Mr Brown says the report will be referred for implementation to an independent committee.

Gordon Brown
1211 President Karzai has promised to rid the Afghan government of corruption and the British government will be watching him closely, says Mr Brown. He also claims Afghan farmers have moved from heroin to wheat production.

1210 Mr Cameron asks if there will be a single coordinator to work with the Afghans and the Allied forces. Mr Brown confirms that is being talked about with the Americans.

1209 Mr Brown says the Taliban have claimed responsibility for the shooting, but he says the quality of the Afghan police will have to be improved. This is a very sober exchange, as expected. MPs are listening in silence.

1207Mr Cameron raises concerns about the Afghan police being infilitrated by criminals and drug dealers, asking what is being done to clean it up.

1206 Mr Brown says security will be reviewed, but he said the current strategy of working with Afghan forces would continue.

1206 Mr Cameron agrees with the PM that training and mentoring is essential but asks what immediate steps are being taken to protect other British soldiers working with Afghan forces.

Ross Hawkins
1206 From BBC political correspondent Ross Hawkins: The Speaker's exerting himself this afternoon - cutting the Prime Minister short as he begins an attack on Conservative health policy. Gordon Brown smiles, but doesn't look happy.

David Cameron
1204 Tory leader David Cameron also begins with condolences to the family of the dead soldiers. He asks how soon we will know what happened in the incident.

1203 What appeared to have been a planted question on cancer care, with Mr Brown repeating his pledge of a two week limit before they see a consultant. Speaker Bercow steps in just as he is about to launch into an attack on the Tories over the NHS: "I don't think we need to go into that today, prime minister."

e-mail sent in by reader
Given that Westminster has started a clampdown on expenses, what action is open for the British Government to take over the expenses being claimed in the European Parliament and can we withhold payments to the European Union until the expense scandal there has been dealt with to our complete satisfaction?
[Upemall], Midlands, United Kingdom

e-mail sent in by reader
I want to hear about a withdrawal from Afghanistan and a vote on Europe. I also want to know why certain advisers who speak the truth (Prof Nutt) are sacked whilst those who invent reasons to go to war are listened to.
Nigel Collins, Brighton

e-mail sent in by reader
I'd have liked Sir Christopher Kelly's report to go slightly further. MPs should have lost the honorific 'right honourable' as a permanent reminder to this and future generations of MPs of how they behaved, at the public's expense, for so long.
Darkseid Jones

1201 Mr Brown says it appears the men were targeted because they were doing what the Taliban "fear most" - mentoring Afghan forces.

Gordon Brown
1200 We're off. Gordon Brown sends his condolences to the family and friends of the five soldiers who died in Afghanistan on Tuesday.

1155 Lib Dem MP Nick Harvey, who sits on the committee governing MPs allowances, thinks the Kelly recommendations will be adopted in full, more or less, he has revealed on the Daily Politics. Grant Shapps think Kelly has set out a "reasonable" set of proposals which will, in time, bring an end to the expenses saga. Which, he makes clear, will be an almighty relief for all concerned.

Ross Hawkins
1152 From BBC political correspondent Ross Hawkins: We'll hear lots about expenses in the next hour - with Harriet Harman due to make a statement after PMQs. Expect plenty of honourable members to have their say on that. David Cameron's evolving policy on Europe may well spark some political knockabout. But the session will begin with reflections on the deaths of British soldiers in Afghanistan.

1153 BBC correspondent Jo Coburn is predicting a "noisy debate" on the Kelly report. There are some very grumpy MPs around apparently. They feel the ban on spouses working for them is very unfair - and they want a chance to vote on it.

1149 Grant Shapps is being quizzed on the Daily Politics about ex-Labour minister Kim Howells' call for British troops to be brought home from Afghanistan. He says "to walk away is not an option" but the government cannot afford to give a "blank cheque to Karzai".

1146 Grant Shapps has drawn the short straw as the Tory spokesman picked to appear on the Daily Politics to defend the Tories on Europe. Andrew Neil has been grilling him at the moment. Mind you, in the spirit of BBC balance, he has just accused Labour's Lord Adonis of lying to the public about a referendum too, telling him: "You're nose is growing longer as you speak."

1144 Amusing scenes in the Central Lobby in Parliment a few moments ago as Eve Burt, who has taken on the role of unofficial shop steward for MPs' wives has just had to abandon a live BBC interview mid-flow as Speaker John Bercow was about pass through on his traditional pre-PMQ parade.

David Cameron
1142 It is also a very big day for David Cameron - who will later set out the new Conservative policy on Europe after he was forced to abandon his pledge for an EU treaty referendum. But with news of five British soldiers shot dead and the controversy around President Karzai's election, it may be Afghanistan which dominates PMQs.

1141 Welcome to our live coverage of prime minister's questions which comes with an added bonus this week, as we will be bringing you Commons leader Harriet Harman's statement on Sir Christopher Kelly's report on MPs expenses which follows immediately afterwards. This is big news at Westminster, with many MPs hoping it will finally lance the expenses boil before a general election. Others, however, feel they are facing unfair changes and are demanding a full Parliamentary debate and vote.

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