Page last updated at 15:10 GMT, Thursday, 22 May 2008 16:10 UK

The full story: PM's questions

Gordon Brown in PMQs in the House of Commons

DAVID THOMPSON'S VERDICT

Two great rivals, one red, the other blue, in yet another titanic clash, one which neither can afford to lose...

Oh, and apparently there is a football match on today as well.

OK, Prime Minister's Questions may not quite beat the Champion's League Final for glamour and drama, but it did have its moments.

As might well be the case in Moscow tonight, there was a cagey opening.

David Cameron started on Burma, trying to gently edge Prime Minister Gordon Brown towards the idea of dropping aid to the victims of Cyclone Nargis, with or without the permission of the authorities there.

Equally gently, Mr Brown ruled nothing out; and then explained why he would not be doing any such thing, at least in the near future.

When his turn came, Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, called for a defence review which would give our troops the equipment they needed for conflicts like Afghanistan.

The prime minister told him it was pretty much happening already.

But with polling day in the Crewe and Nantwich by-election less than 24 hours away, David Cameron decided to go for the win.

He taunted the prime minister about the 10p tax row and asked why, if his compensation package was for the long-term, he had not joined the campaign to explain it to the voters there.

Mr Brown claimed there was a convention that prime ministers did not get involved in by-elections, only to have the words of one T. Blair thrown in his face by a gleeful Opposition leader, who had apparently promised to lead from the front in a previous campaign.

You can tell how much Gordon Brown hates something David Cameron says by how much the prime minister grins when he says it.

After that exchange, Mr Brown was grinning a lot.

You can stretch an analogy too far, but if the outcome of today's PMQs is replicated in faraway Moscow, the Brits in the blue Cossack hats will have a lot more to smile about than their rivals in Red Square.

NICK ROBINSON'S VIEW

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The Daily Politics' analysis of Prime Minister's Questions, with Andrew Neil.

THE KEY POINTS

  • Gordon Brown pays tribute to the family and friends of the serviceman killed in Afghanistan on Monday.

  • Labour MP Kevan Jones asks about the cyclone in Burma, earthquake in China and the prospect of famine in Africa and says the developed world will be judged by how it responds to such crises.

  • Mr Brown sends his condolences to all the families of those who died in Burma and China and "all those who are suffering as a result of famine" in Africa. He commends the "heroic" rescue effort in China, but says progress in Burma is still "slow" and continued to hold the Burmese government accountable for loss of life in the country.

  • He says a civilian standby and humanitarian action force is needed to respond to disasters threatening the world.

  • Tory leader David Cameron says the situation in Burma remained desperate and asks what the assessment was of the amount of people still awaiting aid.

  • Mr Brown says pressure from the UN - along with aid from Asian countries - would make a difference but aid agencies believed it was best to concentrate on getting the aid to Burma, rather than "other options that may be available" in the future.

  • Mr Cameron asks for his best assessment on how direct aid could be delivered if it has to be.

  • Mr Brown says what has changed in the last few days is the determination of Asian countries to co-ordinate action, backed up by a donors' conference. He says "I don't rule out anything" but aid agencies still believed food drops would be counterproductive, as would military intervention.

  • Mr Cameron asks whether the 2.7bn tax package, announced following the row over the abolition of the 10p tax rate, would continue next year.

  • Mr Brown says he wants to continue to help people affected by the abolition of the 10p rate. He says the Conservatives cannot say if they support it or not and accuses them of prioritising inheritance tax and stamp duty.

  • Mr Cameron says that was "no answer" to the question and says people should conclude the tax package is a "one off" and a "tax con". He says the Institute of Fiscal Studies suggests 18m families would be worst off next year.

  • Mr Brown says Labour wants to help lower and middle income families while the Conservatives want to help "other people". To cheers from Labour MPs he asks why the Conservatives will not say if they support his tax package or not.

  • Mr Cameron asks why Mr Brown has not had the courage to go to Crewe and Nantwich, ahead of a by-election on Thursday.

  • Mr Brown says it is traditional that prime ministers do not go to constituencies before by-elections.

  • The Conservative leader says Tony Blair, on his way to a by-election, said he had "never understood" that convention and had believed in "leading from the front" - to Conservative MPs' laughter. He suggests Mr Brown has put himself "into his bunker".

  • Mr Brown says Mr Cameron can "get by without substance for some of the time but he'll never get by without substance all of the time".

  • Labour MP Andrew Miller congratulates a recent announcement on equal treatment for agency workers.

  • Mr Brown says he hopes all parties will welcome the agreement between the CBI and TUC.

  • Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg says a failure of the mission in Afghanistan would be "catastrophic" but asks the PM to accept that more could be done to explain to the British public why success is vital - and asks Mr Brown if he agrees it will take 30 years to ensure success.

  • Mr Brown agrees it will "take time". He says the strategy announced, backed up by "very brave" troops, is to move forward not just by military means, but by local government and economic reform.

  • Mr Clegg asks why Britain is spending money on "Cold War priorities" by spending on the Eurofighter, while failing to deliver armoured vehicles to troops in Afghanistan.

  • Mr Brown says 6bn had been spent on "urgent operational requirements" in addition to the defence budget for Iraq and Afghanistan and there had been major investment for the future in equipment. He says the Eurofighter will be of use in the areas British troops are fighting.

  • Labour veteran Dennis Skinner asks about "short money" used to fund opposition parties - and says large donations had been discovered going to the shadow cabinet.

  • Mr Brown says the Conservatives had received 4.7m and suggested a value for money inquiry look into whether it was "money well spent".

  • Tory MP Gregory Barker asks Mr Brown to take responsibility for the "sorry episode" of the "10p tax con".

  • Labour MP Andrew Love asks about the "growing disparity" between gloomy media predictions about the economy and independent research. He asks who people should believe.

  • Mr Brown says Britain is still one of the fastest growing economies in the G7, with 29.5m in employment "the biggest number in our history" - while unemployment was growing elsewhere.

  • Asked about compensation for sufferers of pleural plaques, which can lead to asbestosis - Mr Brown said the government would consult on the issue in the next few weeks. He says "we are determined to do what we can to help them".

  • DUP MP Gregory Campbell asks what is being done to stop "corruption, bribery and brutality" in Zimbabwe's elections.

  • Mr Brown said "a huge amount of disquiet" had been expressed about the last election and said the international community was putting pressure on for a wider range of election observers from different countries to ensure a "free and fair" process.

  • Brooks Newmark, a Conservative MP, asks about an apparent trebling of domestic violence - and a corresponding drop-off in convictions.

  • Mr Brown says there are more advice services and support for victims of domestic violence, which explains why more people are coming forward to report incidences in the first place.

  • Asked about rising global food prices, Mr Brown says the WTO has just published its papers to move towards a world trade deal. He says it would help if agricultural subsidies were reduced, and says he will work hard to "make progress" on getting a deal.

  • Chris Ruane, Labour MP for the Vale of Clwyd, says "Labour is working" as evidenced by increased numbers of people in work in his constituency.

  • Mr Brown agrees, saying there were 3m unemployed under a Conservative government.

  • Asked about fishing licences for disabled people, which have gone up 37%, Mr Brown said he would look at the issue.

WATCH THE FULL SESSION

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PMQs - 21 May




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