The Full Story: PM's Questions

Gordon Brown and his rivals clash over the economy

David Thompson
First PMQs of 2009 and it was business as usual. No, scratch that. Actually, it was Business. As usual. Gordon Brown got off the mark by promising that the new package of measures announced today by the government would provide significant help for British companies struggling with the downturn. But David Cameron said it was based on policies purloined from the Conservatives, that the credit crunch proved the prime minister was wrong to have claimed he had abolished boom and bust and that in short, despite the billions spent, nothing Labour had done was working. His jibe for the day - "It's not a butler they need in Downing Street, it's a photocopier." Gordon Brown hit back by claiming that no one was copying Tory ideas - not Barack Obama, not Angela Merkel, not Nicolas Sarkozy and certainly not him. His jibe? The Tory policy was "a do-nothing policy." Then Nick Clegg joined the fray. The Lib Dem leader accused the Prime Minister of "playing copycat with the Conservatives when he should be playing hardball with the banks". Sound familiar? It was like it was 2008 all over again - and I suspect we'll be hearing a lot more of the same, all the way until 2010, or at least until the next general election - whichever comes first. Moment of light relief? Tory MP Richard Bacon speaking up on behalf of the British pork industry. With a name like that, you'd think he would have declared an interest.


PMQ analysis

1320 That's all for another week. It was hardly a vintage PMQs but of some interest nonetheless, in terms of the main parties' future strategies. The slogans and soundbites might get a bit wearing after a while, but I'm afraid we'll have to get used to them. Please join us again next Wednesday. Things can only get better. Can't they?

1318 Time for some final opinions on the big issue of the day from the inside. Pensions minister Tony Mc Nulty tells BBC Radio 4's World at One the government is not "copying" the Tories on loan guarantees, accusing the opposition of using "tortuous" arguments to suggest otherwise. Shadow transport minister Justine Greening takes the opposite view, calling the plan a "pale imitation" of her own party's one. Lib Dem work and pensions spokesman Steve Webb says the government's scheme carries too much "dead weight".

1309 Thanks for your many, many e-mails during prime minister's questions. I've tried to include as many as possible. A lot of strong views on the measures intended to help the economy. MPs are currently debating an urgent question on the financial assistance package announced this morning. You can watch it live on the BBC Parliament website.

1301 It seems the economy is set to dominate PMQs as much this year as it did towards the end of last year. The lines of battle are clearly drawn. Expect the Tories to continue accusing the government of irresponsibility in its tax policies. Mr Brown's labelling of Mr Cameron's party as a "do nothing" organisation is sure to go on too.

Nick Robinson
1248 BBC political editor Nick Robinson says Mr Brown's ruling out of a parliamentary vote on Heathrow expansion amounts to an admission that he will push ahead with the plans, with the only issue now being when it is formally announced.

Nick Robinson
1243 Nick Robinson says the Tories are trying to "reopen public irritation" at the prime minister not answering questions. They regard it as a "point of vulnerability", he adds.

Lord Tebbit
1243 Lord Tebbit tells Daily Politics the government placing blame for the economic crisis on global events is "risible". Had ministers behaved properly with spending, there would now be more scope for more to happen, he adds.

Phil Woolas
1240 Immigration minister Phil Woolas says people will become more aware of the benefits of government economic policy as the year progresses, putting Labour in a stronger position politically.

1239 BBC political editor Nick Robinson tells BBC Two's Daily Politics the session was unilluminating.

1233 Mr Brown promises more investment in environmental industries. And that's PMQs over for another week.

1232 More laughs as Mr Brown is asked what differences there are between him and Barack Obama. He pays tribute to outgoing president George W Bush for his work to fight terrorism. He adds that the whole world, apart from the Conservatives, share a consensus in favour of fiscal stimulus.

1231 Mr Brown says the problems besetting car makers will be addressed.

1230 The PM reiterates that he has "no plans" for an early general election.

1230 Mr Brown uses a question from a Labour backbencher to criticise Tory economic policy.

1228 Lib Dem Tom Brake asks if plans to rebuild St Helier hospital will have the PM's support. Mr Brown says he will ensure there are no barriers to the 140m project.

1228 Labour's James Plaskitt asks for reassurances that loss of incomes during the recession will not lead to home repossessions. Mr Brown says he is looking to building societies for a moratorium on repossessions.

1226 There is laughter as appropriately named Tory MP Richard Bacon asks a question about pork-labelling.

1225 Mr Brown sends his good wishes to Barack Obama, who becomes US President next week.

1224 Tory John Randall asks for a vote on any expansion of Heathrow. Mr Brown says there will be a report to Parliament soon and if it is recommended, it will go to a planning inquiry.

1223 Labour's Eric Joyce asks whether increased social mobility is "common sense". Mr Brown says a White Paper released earlier this week would help this.

1222 A Labour backbencher says those guilty of "war crimes" in Gaza should face prosecution. Mr Brown says the government is doing all it can to ensure a ceasefire.

1220 Mr Clegg urges the PM to use one of the large banks in which the government has shares as an effective "state bank". Mr Brown says the latest policy is an "important element" of getting money moving. He adds that he "will not hesitate" to take further action when necessary.

Nick Clegg
1219 Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg asks why the PM is playing "copycat" with the Tories over the bank loans guarantee scheme, rather than "hardball" to get the banks lending. Mr Brown says that, since November, 20,000 firms have benefited from government initatives to increase cashflow.

1218 Labour MP and home affairs committee chairman Keith Vaz asks the PM to call for a ceasefire in Sri Lanka. Mr Brown says he will be talking to other leaders about the situation.

1216 They are still arguing about VAT. Mr Cameron says this, and other government moves, are achieving nothing, "bogus" and building up debts for Britain's children. The PM says the Tories would cut services for children.

1214 The PM says the Tories are internationally isolated on economic policy. They trade remarks about ex-Tory chancellor Ken Clarke. Mr Cameron says Labour has squandered his "golden economic inheritance" since 1997. Mr Brown replies that Mr Clarke has said he might consider a VAT cut as a viable policy.

1212 Mr Brown defends the VAT cut, saying it gives the typical family an extra 5 a week to spend.

1211 The line of questions and answers is pretty much as predicted so far. Mr Brown says Tory plans to cut the business department's budget are a "do-nothing" policy. Mr Cameron says the government's temporary VAT cut is adding to government debt and "an expensive failure".

1208 The Tory leader gets in a jibe about the stories saying a butler is being employed in Downing Street. He says the government is in more need of a photocopier - for policy formulation.

1207 Mr Cameron is straight onto the economy, asking whether the PM was wrong to say he had abolished boom and bust. Mr Brown says it is a global economic crisis and attacks Conservative policy, accusing the opposition of wanting to cut spending.

David Cameron
1207 David Cameron is up. The last question was "planted" and the loans policy "copied" from the Tories, he says. He adds that it was a shame the "good Conservative" policy had not been announced in a Commons statement.

1205 Labour's Liz Blackman asks the first question of the year, on the loan guarantees for small businesses which was announced by Lord Mandelson this morning. She asks if it will be "properly targeted". Mr Brown says it will give real help for business now.

1203 The PM begins by paying tribute to service personnel killed in Afghanistan.

Nick Robinson
1201 BBC political editor Nick Robinson predicts the economy will dominate, complete with "soundbites" in place for the next general election. The Speaker calls MPs to order and gets PMQs under way.

Lord Tebbit
1200 Lord Tebbit says he thinks it does not matter "a damn" whether the heir to the throne - ie the Prince of Wales - calls a friend "Sooty", as has been reported in the press. Will this come up at PMQs?

1159 A few minutes to go. The House of Commons is buzzing with excitement. Well, it's been almost a month now since the last instalment. David Cameron is in.

Phil Woolas
1158 Immigration minister Phil Woolas tells Daily Politics his recent comments on his brief have been aimed at making the country talk about it. Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne says there was "clearly a mistake" when the government "unilaterally" removed controls on immigration from eastern EU countries. Lord Tebbit says it is "extraordinary" that ministers were saying things he said a decade ago and was accused of "dreadful things".

1152 This week's precursor to PMQs is Duchy of Lancaster questions. The chamber looks pretty busy already.

1150 The weather at Westminster is gloomy, cold and misty. Symbolic of events to come within the Commons chamber? Let's hope not.

1146 It won't come as a surprise to regular PMQs watchers, but today's Sun reports that shadow foreign secretary (and ex-Tory leader) William Hague has been "sensationally anointed" as David Cameron's deputy. Will this allow Mr Brown to make jibes about the Tories being backward-looking? The Oxford English Dictionary's definition of "anoint" is "to smear or rub over (medicinally or cosmetically) with oil or unguent; to oil, grease, apply ointment to". Tabloid language apart, that would indeed be a sensational event.

1144 Business Secretary Lord Mandelson has received a grilling from the Commons business select committee. He said rumours of a turf war with Schools Secretary Ed Balls were "absolute and complete stuff and nonsense".

1142 Among those near the top of the MPs' ballot to ask questions this week are Labour's Liz Blackman, Lib Dem Tom Brake and a trio of Tories: Simon Burns, John Randall and Richard Bacon.

1140 Another thought regarding possible questions. Jonathan Ross is to host the Baftas next month. Several MPs were angry that the BBC did not sack him over the Andrew Sachs row. Will Mr Brown be asked about this?

Phil Woolas
1138 Mr Woolas says the government is talking to the banks to ensure "perfectly sound" businesses do not fail because of a lack of credit. Asked for examples of strategically important companies which might need help from the loans guarantee scheme, he cites IT firms.

Lord Tebbit
1135 Lord Tebbit tells Daily Politics that the government's scheme to underwrite bank loans is "modest", arguing that ministers themselves have overborrowed in recent years. Will Mr Cameron follow the same line?

1133 As well as live text coverage today, there will be analysis by BBC political correspondent David Thompson. We will also be putting up comments from former Tory chairman Lord Tebbit and immigration minister Phil Woolas, who are appearing on BBC Two's Daily Politics.

1131 Hello, Happy New Year and welcome back to our live text coverage of PMQs. Gordon Brown, David Cameron, Nick Clegg and a host of backbenchers return for more spats over the issues of the day. Once again the economy looks set to dominate, with the government having announced a 20bn scheme to underwrite loans to small businesses. Meanwhile, a leading economist has predicted unemployment will reach 2.8 million this year. There is also a possible rebellion by Labour MPs over part-privatisation of Royal Mail for Mr Brown to contend with. Expect the imminent government announcement about a third runway at Heathrow to stir the passions too. Oh, and another political outsider - banker Mervyn Davies - is to be given a peerage and a ministerial job. Might that cause a little resentment among Labour backbenchers?


"A fiscal stimulus like VAT cutting doesnt work!! If the banks were lending then the conomy would move agin. I have tried to put myself in the position of buying house but couldnt get a rate of better than 7.5% so i cant afford to move. If I was able to get a competitive rate then not only would it stimulate the housing market (in a small way..) i would be putting 10k in moving fees into my local economy. Better than 2.5% of a 1 product any day!"
Alistair Eaton, Birmingham

"In order for the Main Banks to begin lending, I agree with Mr Clegg's point that a state owned bank with adequate lending would force the other main banks to begin lending again. The competition from the state owned bank would begin the trend of lending again whilst paying back any Government Loans they may have, instead of just the latter."
Lee, Liverpool

"I see David Cameron has gone back to asking "whether the PM was wrong to say he had abolished boom and bust". Come on is that the best he can come up with? We've heard it a few times David.,"
John, Durham

"Why on earth is it considered a cutting remark that the Conservatives are a 'do-nothing' party? I'd rather they sat back and let the banks sort themselves out rather than suspend competition laws, throw the moral hazard arguments to the wind and not allow anyone to get repossessed even if it's obvious that they borrowed more than they can afford for a house that was priced at more than it was worth."
Richard Wagg, london

"Do people still read into the choice of tie that MPs make for question time? Gordon brown is halfway between blue and red, and Jack Straw looks like a boy who's just been given school colours."
Phil, Sunderland

It is up to the speaker to ensure that questions are responded to. It is a shame he does not do so.

John, St. Albans

"Why is it that the government is being held liable for recession impacts such as house repossessions? Do people not read the small print on their mortgage application that says that their house will be at risk if repayments are not made? Why should individual debt be passed on the to the general tax payer?"

James B, Bristol

Cameron appears to be on the front foot on the subject of the economy for the first time in a long while at PMQ's.

Jonathan Cook, Winchfield

"Brown has to remind the country that the opposition are exactly the same as the mob that labour defeated in '97. Lest we forget."

Nick Jeffrey, Dunstable

"Brown is wrong about VAT. People do not have more money to spend. They are just spending the money differently, or saving it. Something that costs an individual 117.50 incl VAT now costs 115.00 incl VAT. A person will only have MORE money to spend if they have a Payrise or Tax cut. Otherwise they still have only 117.50 to spend."

Paul C, Harlow

"Shouldn't both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party along with other political parties be working together given the seriousness of the current financial situation affecting everyone in the United Kingdom ? Bickering and finger pointing won't save anyone's jobs or secure the future for our children!"

Martin Y, Grimsby

"PMQs has become pointless, GB never answers questions. I'm sick of hearing 'do nothing party'. Sometimes doing nothing is better than new initiatives that sound good, help no-one but saddle the taxpayer with vast debts."

Jola, East Anglia

"Forget the politics, VAT cut has worked. It may not be a nice thought, but there are thousands of daft people (including myself) that have whole-heardtedly engaged in the novelty of a 2.5% discount at the checkout - especially in conjunction with the sales. M&S, Sainsbury's etc, look at sales figures after VAT cuts and scrutinise; think of sales if the cut wasn't there, then scrutinise!"
David Smith, Belfast

"Another Wednesday PM Question time, another series of endless bickerings, and another example of fruitless, wasteful and destructive dialogue. Both sides need to be more constructive in their approach if they are to stand any chance of securing any public respect."
Andy, Guildford

"The more Cameron bangs on about the VAT cut, the more absurd it will look when he inevitably tries to strengthen his weak Shadow Chancellor with a return for Ken Clark who openly recommended a VAT cut."
Steven Nash, Dudley

The Tory government of the early 1980's and 1990's did nothing to help people get into jobs. At last we are seeing a Labour government acting to help people instead of writing off a generation of people to long term unemployment and poverty.
Chris, Birmingham

"Why do Gordon Brown and the other Labour Party members constantly refer back to pre '97 to tag the conservative party with. Surely he must realise Labour have been in power for 11 years now and so it is their policies have failed this country."
James K, London

"I find it amazing how Gordon Brown always uses the same answer to turn a question against him into a critisim against the opposition. He's been in government for 11 years, answer the question put forward! We want answers from the party in charge, NOT the party opposite."
Christopher Cox, Swansea

"I cannot stand this - a month off and it's the same. Gordon refusing to answer the questions and throwing a grown up version of 'takes one to know one'. Actually, grown up isn't quite the phrase I'm after."
Dave, London

"Brown's delivery is so bad that you can't help but stop listening to what he is saying. Cringeworthy."
Ben Davies, Manchester

"I wish David Cameron and the Conservatives would get on with being an effective opposition and scrutnising the current situation alongside the government instead of keeping harping back to statements made years ago. I still think he looks like a dog nipping at the heels of the PM."
Ben Elder, Milton Keynes


Gordon Brown The Full Story
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