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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 November 2007, 11:15 GMT
At-a-glance: Wednesday at Westminster
Houses of Parliament


The main points from prime minister's questions, which began at 1200.

  • Prime Minister Gordon Brown sent his condolences to a serviceman killed in Afghanistan and two men killed in Iraq.

  • He paid tribute to the Queen and Prince Philip on their diamond wedding anniversary.

  • On the loss of the disc of Child Benefit data records, Mr Brown said: "I profoundly regret and apologise for the inconvenience and worries that have been caused to millions of families who receive child benefit". He assured people there was no evidence of fraud and said people would not lose out financially if there was.

  • He said he had ordered a review by the Cabinet Secretary of data safety in government and would give the Information Commissioner the power to spot check government departments to ensure data is safe.

  • Conservative leader David Cameron congratulated the Queen on her wedding anniversary and sent his condolences to the families of the dead servicemen.

  • Turning to the data loss crisis, Mr Cameron asked it if was an "isolated incident or systemic failures in the department".

  • Mr Brown said the proper procedures had not been followed - the data should not have been accessed by unauthorised staff, it should not have been removed without the proper authority and it should not have been sent without being encrypted.

  • Mr Cameron said it had been happening for years. He asked: "Does the prime minister feel at all responsible for this?"

  • Mr Brown said the Tories had supported the merger of Revenue and Customs and wanted to cut its budget even further.

  • Mr Cameron said it was "pathetic to blame the opposition". He said people wanted Mr Brown to "stand up, show some broad shoulders, be the big man and take some responsibility," like his Chancellor Alistair Darling had.

  • Mr Brown said "the idea we are complacent about this is ridiculous". Reports had shown HMRC and its resources and staff were "not the reason why things have gone wrong," said Mr Brown. "There is no excuse for not following proper procedures," added the PM.

  • Mr Cameron asked if Mr Brown would have a rethink on plans for an identity card scheme.

  • He said if there was no rethink "people will find it truly bizarre, they will find it weird that the prime minister does not want to stop and think about the dangers of a national identity register". People would think Mr Brown had "lost touch with reality" and was "trying to run everything but could not run anything".

  • Mr Brown said he would not accept advice on competence from Mr Cameron. He hailed Labour's record on the economy over the past 10 years.

  • Former Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt called on the prime minister to back the EU plans to fight climate change.

  • Acting Lib Dem leader Vince Cable congratulated the Queen and sent his condolences to the families of the dead servicemen.

  • He used his first question to ask about Northern Rock, and asked Mr Brown if he thought it was time to follow Tony Blair's advice and break up the Treasury.

  • Mr Brown said he did not think the new leader of the Lib Dems would support such a move. He said the government had made the right decisions over Northern Rock.

  • Mr Cable then turned to a forthcoming report on the privatisation of Qinetiq, the former defence research establishment, which he said was the "next Treasury disaster".

  • Mr Brown said he hoped the fact that Mr Cable had not asked a further question about Northern Rock meant the Lib Dem leader now supported the government on it. He said the privatisation of Qinetiq had raised 800m and the company was still a valued contractor of the government.

  • Conservative MP Edward Leigh, chairman of the Commons public accounts committee, said decisions about data auditing at HMRC had been made at a "high level".

  • When the National Audit Office asked for "narrow details" which did not include bank details, they were told it would be "too burdensome" for HMRC to comply, said Mr Leigh. He asked Mr Brown if the problems could have been caused by an increase in the workload at HMRC coupled with a cut in the number of staff.

  • Mr Brown said there was a dispute between the NAO and HMRC about what had been said about the data - but it would be settled by the inquiry.

  • Conservative MP David Heathcoat-Amory asked why wind turbines were being imposed on local people by government planning inspectors.

  • Mr Brown accused Mr Cameron of "going red" at Mr Heathcoat-Amory's question, which he said showed his party was "all talk and no action".


    The director of public prosecutions, Sir Ken MacDonald, has told MPs he will not be pressing the government for the current 28 day limit for holding suspects to be extended. Ex-Attorney General Lord Goldsmith also appeared before the home affairs committee to cast doubt on the government's plans.


    Wednesday: Commons: Welsh questions. Prime Minister's Questions at noon. Debate opened by Conservatives on hospital infections. Debate opened by Tories on "failure of the Government to pursue schools reform". Adjournment debate on policing in Northern Ireland. Westminster Hall: Debates on future of British horse racing industry; Customs and security at Welsh ports; Barnett formula; Housing in Northampton; Funding for Dyfed-Powys Police. Lords: Dormant Bank and Building Society Accounts Bill, second reading. Debate on report on BBC chairmanship.
    Thursday: Commons: Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform questions. Sale of Student Loans Bill, second reading. Adjournment debate on bass minimum landing size. Westminster Hall: Debate on the Inter-Parliamentary Union. Lords: Debate on armed forces. Social Security (National Insurance Credits) Amendment Regulations. Housing Benefit orders.
    Friday: Commons: Not sitting. Lords: Not sitting.


    The briefing was dominated by issues surrounding the loss of 25 million child benefit records by Revenue and Customs.


    Jenny Scott and Andrew Neil
    Andrew Neil and Jenny Scott and the team are forced to present the programme from College Green after a power cut at the BBC's Millbank studios. They cover prime minister's questions and the continuing fallout over the lost data discs.


    Chancellor Alistair Darling faced MPs to outline the scope of the loss of data discs by Revenue and Customs.


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