The Full Story: PM's questions

Watch the full 30 minute prime minister's questions session

BBC POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT DAVID THOMPSON'S VERDICT
David Thompson
"Who won the battle of the Black Hole? Did David Cameron prove the government's plan for saving the economy was about to be swallowed up, or did Gordon Brown demonstrate that black holes, at least in VAT form, don't exist? Well, the Tory leader asked, very clearly, whether there had been a plan to increase VAT even further than the 18.5% proposal which was released into cyberspace by bungling Treasury officials. The prime minister said all options had been considered, but rejected. Mr Cameron took that as a 'yes' and then pressed Mr Brown to admit national debt was set to double. That didn't happen - instead, we got a good, old-fashioned PMQs knockabout. No clear winner - the prime minister probably edged it - but fun. If only it wasn't all actually quite serious. David Cameron accused Gordon Brown of giving Britain the debt levels of Italy and the accounting practices of Enron. His final flourish ? "The country's going bankrupt, he's been found out and New Labour is dead." Mr Brown's retort was that David Cameron was: "The do-nothing leader of a do-nothing party." Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said the Pre-Budget Report wasn't fair. The prime minister said it was. Scientific it wasn't. But it is what you'll be hearing a lot of between now and when the next election finally does arrive."

NICK ROBINSON AND DAILY POLITICS VERDICTS

The Daily Politics' analysis of Prime Minister's Questions. Andrew Neil and Anita Anand talk to Nick Robinson, Charles Clarke and Ken Clarke.

AS IT HAPPENED: BY JUSTIN PARKINSON

1333 As the party political differences of opinion about how best to deal with the economic downturn continue, it is time to end our live text coverage of prime minister's questions for another week. Please join us again next Wednesday.

1319 Mr Cruddas says handing back money to families, as has happened in Australia, could be a policy worth looking at. Mr Fox says any reductions in taxes have to be funded.

1316 Labour MP Jon Cruddas tells BBC Radio 4's World at One the government has not made a "bad start" in tackling the downturn. For the Tories, shadow defence secretary Liam Fox - who seems to be all over Westminster today, having already appeared on Sky News since PMQs - says the VAT cut makes little difference when prices are already falling in the shops. Lib Dem Lorely Burt agrees the measure will not be much of a stimulus to spending.

1302 So, as predicted, the economy has totally dominated PMQs again. The House of Commons is due to discuss the measures outlined in the pre-Budget report in more detail later, after the Conservatives secured an urgent Commons debate. Things are expected to get under way at about 1320.
You will be able to watch it as it happens.

Ken Clarke
1252 Ken Clarke tells Daily Politics that people who can afford it should be encouraged to spend. But the British have picked up bad debt habits, he adds.

1250 Tory MP Sir Peter Tapsell, who asked a question at PMQs, tells Sky News the increase in National Insurance in the pre-Budget report was foolish. Labour's Dave Anderson, who also asked a question, says the Tories believe "we should be doing nothing" and that communities cannot be destroyed as they were in the 1980s.

comment from blogger
1249 Liberal Democrat supporter Alix Mortimer blogs her PMQs verdict: Nick Clegg was heard with comparative quiet for once. He asked how the government will force banks to make good on their promises in return for recapitalisation. The PM, to my great surprise, did not once mention Winter Fuel Payments. He referred to existing government schemes for funding small businesses, confirming the now total merging of state and private sector in the collective hive mind of Labour. Read more on Lib Dem Voice

Nick Robinson
1246 BBC political editor Nick Robinson tells Daily Politics Mr Brown could do better in a "crisis election" in the near future than a contest in the longer term. Charles Clarke says Mr Brown should announce today that he will not go to the country until 2010. Ken Clarke says he thinks the PM wants to have an election in 2009.

1244 Charles Clarke - a ferocious past critic of Gordon Brown - says Labour MPs are "pretty much" united behind Mr Brown and his handling of the economic crisis. This is a much bigger issue than earlier problems about which they had disagreements, he adds.

1241 Shadow defence secretary Liam Fox says the government has not put enough money aside. Labour MP and former cabinet minister Peter Hain says David Cameron has given "cheap" comments but contributed nothing.

1239 Ken Clarke says that more will have to be done to allow banks to lend. Charles Clarke agrees it is an "absolutely burning question".

Ken Clarke
1238 Former Conservative chancellor Ken Clarke tells Daily Politics Mr Cameron is right to tackle the "heart" of the downturn crisis, including the availability of credit.

1237 Former home secretary Charles Clarke tells Daily Politics it is "ludicrous" of Mr Cameron to suggest the government should not be looking at all options to deal with the downturn.

Nick Robinson
1237 BBC political editor Nick Robinson tells BBC Two's Daily Politics says Mr Brown went out of his way to say he would never raise VAT as prime minister and was trying to "kill the notion" that he has been privately trying to arrange doing so.

comment from blogger
1232 So Tory MP Douglas Carswell asked his question - but it was not one proposed by readers of his blog. Read more on Douglas's blog

1231 The PM says the government is prepared to spend money to help the economy and that the Tories are not. And that is the end of this session of PMQs.

1230 Conservative David Jones asks about the loss of value of the pound. The PM accuses the Tories of talking the currency down and says he agrees with Margaret Thatcher's view that talking it down was "unBritish".

1229 Tory Douglas Carswell repeats Mr Cameron's question about national debt doubling. Mr Brown again says the Conservatives are a "do-nothing" party.

1228 The economy again. Tory Simon Burns asks, if the PM thinks the downturn started in the US, why he keeps using former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan as an adviser. Mr Brown says Mr Greenspan continues to offer useful advice for seeing out the downturn.

1226 Lib Dem Phil Willis says the charity sector will lose funds in the downturn, while money is being given to irresponsible bankers. Mr Brown says more money is going to charities and the issue will be looked at further.

1225 Mr Brown says the solution to problems in the Democratic Republic of Congo must be political rather than military alone.

1223 Conservative Nicholas Soames asks whether the PM will assure the House that the "inevitable" cuts following the PBR's policies will not affect defence. Mr Brown says defence spending will continue to grow.

1222 Onto the economy again. Mr Brown is asked to name one of the three countries in the developed world with a bigger public deficit than Britain. To laughter and jeers he gives a one-word answer: "America."

1220 Mr Brown is asked about the Baby P case, with a Tory MP suggesting that information has been suppressed. The PM says opposition spokesmen have been allowed to see relevant documents.

1219 Mr Clegg expresses sympathy to two sisters abused by their father for many years, whose case has come to court recently. Mr Brown agrees and says a review is being carried out.

Nick Clegg
1218 Liberal Deomcrat leader Nick Clegg says the VAT cut will benefit big spenders rather than ordinary families and that the National Insurance rises will hit low earners. The PM says the government has taken pensioners and others out of poverty.

comment from blogger
1217 Labour supporter Hopi Sen is blogging during PMQs: Cameron going on VAT. Nice soundbites, but very lightweight in content. An easy Gordon win so far. Read more on Hopi's blog

1215 Labour MP and Treasury select committee chairman John McFall urges the government to get banks to resume lending. Mr Brown says overdraft rates must not be raised and that the government's action on the economy was "the right thing to do".

David Cameron
1214 Mr Cameron says the PBR is not a response to the economic crisis but a consequence of Mr Brown's handling of the economy and a politically motivated document. The PM reiterates his view that the Conservatives would give no help, adding they have "abandoned compassion", calling them a "do nothing" party.

1212 Mr Cameron asks whether the 58% figure for the national debt as a proportion of GDP is the same as under Labour in the 1970s. Mr Brown says he is sick of having to deliver "an economic lecture every week" to Mr Cameron.

1210 Mr Cameron says there is "absolutely nothing stimulating" in the government's pre-Budget report. He repeats the question about doubling the national debt. Mr Brown says it will reach 58% of GDP. He argues the government is giving "real help" to the economy.

1208 The Tory leader asks whether Mr Brown's plans will double the national debt. Mr Brown says national debt will still be lower than that of the UK's competitors. Conservative policy would "do nothing", he adds.

1208 Mr Cameron says the minister, Stephen Timms, had signed off an agreement to raise VAT and that Labour is planning a tax "bombshell". He asks whether there were plans to raise VAT higher than 18.5%. Mr Brown says the government has cut VAT to 15% and said the Tories are a "do nothing" party.

David Cameron
1205 Conservative leader David Cameron asks whether, if the government does not have a secret plan to increase VAT, a Treasury minister put his signature to it. Mr Brown said the government had looked at all options but had learned from mistakes made when the Tories had increased VAT, hitting families.

comment from blogger
1204 Tory MP Douglas Carswell is number 9 on the list of MPs to ask the Prime Minister a question this morning and has asked readers of his blog for some help with what to ask. One reader says he should ask the PM to hold an election now on the stimulus plan Read more on Douglas's blog

1203 Veteran Tory Sir Peter Tapsell asks the PM to apologise for wrecking the British economy. Expect more of this later from the Conservatives. Mr Brown makes a joke, implying that Sir Peter is inconsistent in his economic opinions.

1201 The prime minister sends his sympathies to the family of a Marine killed in Afghanistan.

1200 Gordon Brown is in the chamber - and the Speaker starts the session.

1159 Almost time to start. BBC political editor Nick Robinson tells BBC Two's Daily Politics he expects the economy to dominate PMQs. He says the timing is a "Godsend" for the Tories, who will ask whether there has been a difference of opinion between the Treasury and 10 Downing Street.

1157 On a cold and dreary London day the MPs are huddling up in large numbers in the Commons, as we come towards the end of Wales Questions. Justice Secretary Jack Straw is already in.

1156 Other possible topics include "fit notes" - under which GPs would be able to say what tasks an ill worker is still able to do - and a think-tank's recent call for the cap on student tuition fee limits to be listed. There is of course the revelation that the government considered putting VAT up to as much as 20% after 2011.

1155 In a week, like so many others recently, where the economy has dominated the news, it is hard to see the party leaders going far beyond the PBR. Whether two days of detailed analysis of the document will sharpen up the debate is questionable.

1150 Hello and welcome to our weekly live text coverage of prime minister's questions from the House of Commons. It will be the first time Gordon Brown, Conservative leader David Cameron and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg have gone head-to-head since Monday's pre-Budget report. Expect some fireworks. Mr Cameron is likely to accuse the prime minister of fiscal irresponsibility, with Mr Brown claiming the Tories are doing nothing to save the economy. You can send your comments via our Have Your Say debate

YOUR VIEWS

e-mail sent in by reader
Have Your Say "How does the PM intend to fix a economy broken be debt by getting the nation in to more debt? Moreover how moral is it to expect those who have been frugal to pay for those who have not?"
Sam, UK

e-mail sent in by reader
Have Your Say "We are running two wars and propose to host the 2012 Olympics with an economy in tatters. There should be culpability for the vandals who have allowed this country to have such fiscal insecurity."
Kevin, Horsham

e-mail sent in by reader
Have Your Say "I would like to ask the PM what he is actually doing about the financial situation. This pre-budget report seems to be an utter waste of time as most of it is not happening for several years by which time things may be worse"
Fred, London

e-mail sent in by reader
Have Your Say "Why did the prime minister not just take the money and give everyone a tax break for a month or so rather than giving it to the banks? Then the money would get to those that need it most."
Jacqui, UK

e-mail sent in by reader
Have Your Say "If the PM is really bothered about green issues, why is Diesel 15p a litre more than petrol? It's cleaner, and uses less crude oil per litre to produce."
"Freedom Matters", Newcastle

e-mail sent in by reader
Have Your Say "I never thought I'd say this but why hasn't the government completley nationalised British banks? I think blame should be shifted from Gordon Brown and onto the lenders who have landed us in this situation."
Sean Thomas, Liverpool



PRIME MINISTER'S QUESTIONS

Gordon Brown The Full Story
All the action with key points, analysis and reaction from Gordon Brown's weekly grilling
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