Page last updated at 13:07 GMT, Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Point-by-point: Question time

The main points from prime minister's questions on Wednesday, 26 March, from 1200 GMT:

  • Prime Minister Gordon Brown welcomed President Sarkozy and his wife to the UK. He said he would be discussing joint action on illegal immigration and measures to tackle global financial instability.

  • Conservative leader David Cameron also welcomed the Sarkozys to the UK.

  • Mr Cameron used all six of his questions to attack Mr Brown's record on the economy. He used a Treasury Select Committee report to criticise his handling of the Northern Rock crisis, accusing the government of "dithering" compared to the swift action taken by the US government over the collapse of Bear Stearns. Mr Cameron said the Bank of England should be in charge of bank rescues rather than the Financial Services Authority, which he said was short of expertise in key areas.

  • Mr Brown said the Financial Services Authority had done a good job. He said it could do more - but every regulator around the world was facing similar problems. He accused Mr Cameron of having "no basic grasp of arithmetic" - a quote from Tory supporting novelist Frederick Forsyth.

  • Mr Cameron said it was "pathetic" for Mr Brown to read out quotes from novelists. He challenged Mr Brown to name one other major country that was responding to the downturn by putting up taxes. He said every other country had put away money in the good times except Britain and he called on Mr Brown to take responsibility for this.

  • Mr Brown said the government was cutting the basic rate of income tax to 20p and was "injecting more money into the economy this year". He said Britain had the lowest rate of inflation of the major countries and had unemployment at half the rate of other EU countries.

  • "I just wish he knew something about economics when he came to this house to tell us what to do," said Mr Brown, adding that all Mr Cameron could offer was "slogans not substance". He said the Tories had learned nothing since the 1990s.

  • Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg also focused on the economy - calling on Mr Brown to take action to prevent banks repossessing homes "at will". He said the situation was as bad as under the Tories in the first two years of the 1990s.

  • He asked: "is complacency the only thing he has to offer to thousands of British families who are frightened of losing their homes?"

  • Mr Brown said the economic situation was nothing like that under the Tories in the early 1990s when interest rates reached 18% and home repossessions were much higher. He hailed Labour's record on economic stability and low interest rates.

  • Rev Ian Paisley (DUP, Antrim North) called on Mr Brown to ensure the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill did not legalise abortion in Northern Ireland through "the back door" - something he said would be opposed by all parties in Northern Ireland.

  • Mr Brown paid tribute to Rev Paisley - who was making his first appearance in the Commons since announcing he was stepping down as First Minister - for bringing the parties together in Northern Ireland. He said the amendment to the embryology bill Rev Paisley was referring to would be subject to a free vote in the Commons.

  • Responding to a question from Sir Paul Beresford (Con, Mole Valley), Mr Brown confirmed the government's commitment to the fluoridisation of water saying it was "good thing for the teeth of the people of this country".

  • Former Europe minister Denis MacShane (Labour, Rotherham) called on Mr Brown to transform the entente cordiale with France into an "entente amicable, even an entente fraternale". Mr Brown agreed that the entente cordiale was moving into a new era.

  • Bob Spink (Independent Conservative, Castle Point) - recently expelled from the Tory ranks at Westminster - called on Mr Brown to press Conservative-controlled Essex County Council to make a new access road in his constituency a top priority. Mr Brown said it was a matter for the council.

  • In response to a question from Gerald Howarth (Conservative, Aldershott) on Anglo-US relations, Mr Brown said he said the "special relationship is a term I use with pride".

  • Responding to a question from Bernard Jenkin (Conservative, Essex North), Mr Brown said he expected an agreement from Mr Sarkozy to bring EU members "closer to the heart of Nato".


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