Page last updated at 12:49 GMT, Wednesday, 16 December 2009

The Full Story: PM's questions


The full session of PM's questions on 16 Dec: From Democracy Live

By Justin Parkinson

1245 Well, that's that for our last prime minister's questions of the "noughties". It was a subdued session, with all the party leaders absent due to Mr Brown's decision to go to Copenhagen. Mr Hague and Mr Cable ensured a serious line of questioning and Ms Harman largely maintained the same tone. It was not very festive or full of goodwill. With everyone getting into election gear in the new year I'm sure we can look forward to rather more riveting clashes in 2010. A very merry Christmas and happy New Year to you all, and I hope you can join us for the first PM's questions of 2010, on 6 January.

Charles Clarke
1240 Charles Clarke tells Daily Politics the issue of tax-raising should not be ignored when the deficit is discussed. He says he is not sure what the mixture of changes to taxation and spending should be, but it would have been clearer to mention this in last week's pre-Budget report.

1239 BBC political editor Nick Robinson notes that spending cuts were not mentioned. The chancellor is due to appear before the Treasury select committee later today.

Charles Clarke
1237 Former Home Secretary Charles Clarke says PMQs should revert to 15 minutes on a Tuesday and a Thursday - as it was under Mrs Thatcher - rather than half an hour on a Wednesday.

Greg Clark
1236 Shadow climate change secretary Greg Clark says David Cameron has not expressed a view on frontbencher Sir George Young's proposal to move PMQs to a peak-time TV slot on a Thursday.

Ross Hawkins
1235 From BBC political correspondent Ross Hawkins: One passable gag dubbing David Cameron and George Osborne the Brothers Grimm didn't save Harriet Harman's session. Vince Cable cued her up to attack the Tories, and she just managed to call William Hague 'Foreign Secretary' before losing her way completely. Maybe honourable members were quietly planning their Christmas holidays, but this was no classic.

1234 Ms Harman rounds of with a criticism of the Tories over their help for small business. And that's it for PMQs not only for this week, this year, but also for this decade.

1233 Tory Nigel Evans says the country is run by "Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum" and calls for an election soon. A Christmas reference - Ms Harman says she does not think that "turkey is going to fly".

1232 Labour's Clive Betts praises government legislation on local transport. Ms Harman says the Tories would revoke it.

1231 Lib Dem Roger Williams says plans to phase out cheques after 350 years will disadvantage the elderly. Ms Harman says banks must take this into account.

1229 Tory James Arbuthnot is stopped by the Speaker, who is obviously not a believer in football's golden rule that the less you notice the referee the better they are. He has intervened several times now.

1228 Ms Harman is asked by Conservative Anne McIntosh about her favourite fairy tale. Ms Harman bats it back by saying that bringing in the Tories would put the "Brothers Grimm" into office. Laughter all around and another word from the Speaker to keep the noise down.

1226 Ms Harman praises the government's school-building efforts, following a very friendly question.

1225 Tory Gerald Howarth asks about planning processes. Mr Harman says that, if he has any problems with the procedures in place, he should make them known.

1223 Tory Mark Francois asks about homeless ex-service personnel and urges the government to do more to help them. Ms Harman says ministers must do all that is possible and says any suggestions from Mr Francois would be listened to.

1222 Lib Dem Simon Hughes says cabinet ministers' salaries have increased by £30,000 over the last decade. Ms Harman says all ministers' pay has been frozen.

1222 On the government's promise to halve its budget deficit, Ms Harman says fiscal responsibility is a policy which can be combined with maintaining public services.

Ross Hawkins
1221 From BBC political correspondent Ross Hawkins: So Lib Dem Vince Cable sparks a discussion about the tax status of the Conservative donor Lord Ashcroft but Harriet Harman gets lost somewhere through a question about him and is pulled up short by the speaker. If this was supposed to result in a pincer movement by Labour and the Lib Dems against the Tory front bench it didn't work. William Hague is laughing his socks off.

1220 A question about the jailed paedophile nursery worker Vanessa George. Ms Harman says she hopes it was an exceptional incident but that any lessons which need to be learned will be learned.

John Bercow
1218 Mr Cable says "non-doms" - those non-domiciled for some tax purposes - should not sit in Parliament. He calls Lord Ashcroft a "non-dom". Ms Harman criticises the Tories, in particular Mr Hague - the party's ex-leader. She starts to ask a question about Lord Ashcroft, but is stopped by the Speaker.

1216 Ms Harman says the government has been determined to take action and says that example should be followed in the House of Lords - a coded reference to the tax status of Tory donor Lord Ashcroft.

Vince Cable
1215 For the Lib Dems, deputy leader Vince Cable pays tribute to soldiers killed in Afghanistan. He asks where tax evaded by UK residents has gone. Speaker John Bercow has to ask MPs to quieten down.

1214 Ms Harman says she will make sure the House is kept updated on Iran. She adds that official figures show employment has risen and that this has not been mentioned by Mr Hague. As Ross noted, it was quite a sombre exchange by the standards of these two.

Ross Hawkins
1214 From BBC political correspondent Ross Hawkins: When Harriet Harman and William Hague take over at PM's questions many Westminster observers look forward to a bit of knockabout fun. No one could accuse them of playing Punch and Judy today. Illegal logging, climate change and Iran's nuclear programme all made for sensible deputy discussion - and very little Christmas cheer.

1211 Mr Hague urges the government to commit to accelerate EU sanctions against Iran. Ms Harman agrees.

1210 Mr Hague moves on to extradition, following the arrest warrant for former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni. He asks for fresh advice on the law. Ms Harman says she hopes the situation will be resolved soon.

1208 Mr Hague says the Tories have proposed plans to save the rainforests, which the government now agrees with. Ms Harman says the government will take every action possible to prevent the import of illegal timber. The atmosphere is subdued so far.

William Hague
1206 William Hague is on his feet, praising the armed forces. He says the Christmas recess is the earliest for 31 years. This means the government will not be able to report to Parliament for three weeks on Copenhagen. Ms Harman says the point is "spurious", as MPs are returning for work earlier than normal too.

Harriet Harman
1204 An easy question on the Copenhagen talks. Ms Harman says there could not be a more important task than reaching an agreement. There are Tory jeers as she praises the absent Mr Brown.

1203 Tory Andrew Mackay asks about the planned strike by BA staff. Ms Harman says she hopes it can be averted, as it is important to the firm's long-term future.

1201 Harriet Harman begins by paying tribute to the service personnel killed this week - and all year - in Afghanistan.

Charles Clarke
1201 On BBC Two's Daily Politics, former Home Secretary Charles Clarke, no fan of Mr Brown, says his favourite PMQs moment from the last decade was Tony Blair's emotional farewell in 2007. He calls it "ham acting", but moving nonetheless. Anyway, in the Commons the action gets under way.

Nick Robinson
1200 BBC political editor Nick Robinson tells BBC Two's Daily Politics it must have been "tempting" for Gordon Brown to miss the last PMQs for the year, as he feels he can make a difference at Copenhagen, and get some more publicity.

1154 As we await the main event, Northern Ireland questions is happening. The Commons chamber is busy. Maybe some of the MPs are sheltering from the cold outside. It's still snowing, but not very much.

1151 Oh, my. It's snowing at Westminster. With not much to do, will David Cameron be out with the huskies before the day is over?

1149 Ms Harman might be in for a series of most unseasonal set-tos. Several Tories, including Andrew Mackay, David Heathcoat-Amery and Mark Francois, are at the top of the MPs' ballot to ask questions, as is Simon Hughes, the Lib Dem climate change spokesman. But a more friendly inquisitor awaits in Labour's Clive Betts.

1147 So, what's on the agenda today? It's the first PM's questions since last week's pre-Budget report, so that should come up. And, with the PM in Copenhagen for climate change talks, green issues might come up. It would be a surprise if the defence cuts announced on Tuesday pass by without mention.

1145 Hello and welcome to our live text coverage of the final prime minister's questions of 2009. The end-of-term, even festive, feel is augmented by that fact that the understudies are in charge for the day. Gordon Brown is at the Copenhagen climate summit, so Labour's deputy leader Harriet Harman steps in. For the Tories it will be be shadow foreign secretary William Hague, with Lib Dem deputy leader Vince Cable completing the merry trio.

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