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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 March 2008, 12:57 GMT
Point-by-point: Question time
The main points from prime minister's questions on Wednesday, 19 March, from 1200 GMT:

  • Prime Minister Gordon Brown responds to Bridgend MP Madeleine Moon's question about apprenticeships by saying he had been pleased to meet young people from her constituency and said employment figures showed Britain had more people in jobs than at any time in its history
  • Tory leader David Cameron asked about the relationship with China amid reports of violence against protesters in Tibet and said "we must be absolutely clear that this is completely unacceptable".

  • Mr Brown said he had spoken to Chinese premier Wen on Wednesday morning and had made clear his view that the violence must end and called for restraint. He said he would be meeting the Dalai Lama when he visits London but the most important thing was to bring about reconciliation and see talks and dialogue.
  • Mr Cameron congratulated Mr Brown for taking "exactly the right decision" on meeting the Dalai Lama and for not delaying it. Mr Brown responded that "We make the right decisions at all times".
  • Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg demanded that all Gurkhas be given equal pay and pension rights and the right to live in Britain - currently those who retired after 1997 can automatically stay, but those who retired earlier must apply.

  • The prime minister praised the Gurkhas who he said had "served loyally in every part of the world and particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan". He said that this was the first government to extend equal pay and pension rights to Ghurkhas serving since 1997, but insisted prior to that they had been based in Hong Kong rather than mainland Britain.

  • Mr Clegg said it was a "spectacular misjudgement" by Mr Brown "the man who signed the cheques for the Iraq war" but had not had the "moral courage" to take responsibility for it. He asked Mr Brown whether he has "any regrets" for his support for the war.
  • Mr Brown said the war had brought about democracy in Iraq, better healthcare for millions of children and the economy was being rebuilt - he said he as sure Mr Clegg would not want to return to a situation where Saddam Hussein was in control.

  • Mr Cameron asked Mr Brown to answer some of the questions he has "failed to answer" over the last few weeks - such as whether MPs should have a free vote on the human embryology bill.
  • Mr Brown said the bill was vital to dealing with life-saving diseases and he would come back to the House with proposals to take it through at a later date. Mr Cameron asked why it was so difficult to answer the question.
  • Mr Cameron asked "again" whether Mr Brown would vote in favour of ID cards - "yes or no?". Mr Brown said he was in favour of ID cards and asked Mr Cameron whether he was in favour of compulsory ID cards for foreign nationals. Mr Cameron said if the PM wanted to ask him questions, he should call a general election now.
  • Mr Cameron asked a question about A-levels and said it was good to see Schools Secretary Ed Balls being quieter this week - a reference to a heckle from Mr Balls which prompted a row and disputed claims that the Hansard record had been doctored. Mr Cameron said Mr Balls had had the choice of heckling more clearly, or keeping quiet, and said he was pleased the latter option had been chosen. He then asked whether the PM wanted A-levels to remain "the gold standard".
  • Mr Brown said that, as he had previously said, there would be a review in 2013 and nobody would take away A-levels if they were working.

  • Mr Cameron said the PM could not make a decision about free votes or A-levels and quoted Mr Brown's new "spin doctor" as saying living in Downing Street was "like living in a surreal cartoon". He prompted laughter by pointing out a new No 10 strategist's favourite book was apparently called "The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organisations". He said if the PM couldn't run his office, "is it any wonder he can't run the country?"
  • Mr Brown rebuffed those claims and said it was interesting Mr Cameron had no questions on the global economy, NHS or local services. He said this was because the Conservatives have "no answers to the problems of this country".
  • Mr Brown was asked a question about the Labour London mayor Ken Livingstone's pledge to ensure that 50% of all housing in London should be affordable. Mr Brown said Mr Livingstone's Conservative rival, Boris Johnson, would "abandon that target if ever he was elected."

  • Tory MP Robert Goodwill asked why people who are given a driving ban, then sent to prison for something else, can count their prison time towards the time they are banned from driving. Mr Brown said it was an important point and "we will look into the matters he raises".

  • The prime minister was criticised for overseeing the closure of hundreds of post offices. He responded: "There are 800 post offices where on average 16 people attend these post offices a week. We've got to take action." He said the Conservatives were not proposing any extra money to save them and said they were making "unfunded promises".

  • Manchester Labour MP Graham Stringer said there was increasing anger in English regions about the Barnett Formula and asks for it to be reviewed. Mr Brown said the allocation of funds was based on a "needs assessment" that has been agreed by all parties but he would soon be publishing a review of the Barnett formula soon.

  • Conservative MP Douglas Hogg asks for a special one-off payment for Lincolnshire police which he says have been disadvantaged by local government grants. Mr Brown said the government had doubled expenditure on policing since 1999 and crime was falling.

  • Lib Dem MP John Leech referred to a Rwandan constituent of his who is HIV positive after being raped in her own country yet faces deportation. He said it was a "travesty of justice" - Mr Brown said if there was an issue with her treatment he would look at it.

  • Lib Dem Greg Mulholland complained about people being deported to Iran - Mr Brown said the government faces up to its "human rights responsibilities" but it was important the system was being used fairly.

  • Labour MP Martin Caton said biofuels targets should be abandoned until they were "truly sustainable". Mr Brown said the EU would hold fast to carbon reduction targets but in relation to biofuels "we will make the changes necessary" as based on scientific evidence.

  • Tory MP Anne McIntosh asks about Northern Rock, in which she owns some shares, asking when Mr Brown expects the EU Commission to give a ruling on state aid for the troubled bank. Mr Brown said he believed the EU would approve the proposals which he said were right for the company and for the economy.


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