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The Full Story: PM's questions


Prime minister's questions in full

1255Things are quietening down now so I'll wrap up the coverage here. This week's session appeared dominated by Tory attacks on the prime minister's authority - and his response that the Conservatives are not up to dealing with serious policy issues. Many thanks for all your emails, please join us again next week, same time, same place for the next session.
1254A little update from the BBC newsroom - Communities Secretary Hazel Blears, whose article was much quoted during PMQs as evidence of Mr Brown's loss of authority, has been asked if he is the right man to lead Labour through the next general election. She told the BBC: "Yes he is. As I have consistently been saying all along. I think the priority for us now is to get out there, be campaigning for the European and council elections and that's our priority."
Ben Wright
1253From BBC political correspondent Ben Wright: Deference to the prime minister has never been a feature of the weekly Commons grilling but today's session was striking for the confidence with which the PM's political opponents were prepared to mock Gordon Brown. There weren't many proper policy questions today - the one on Trident from Plaid was an exception - and Gordon Brown was clearly furious by what he thought were trivial questions from the Tories. But Gordon Brown's ability to deal with trivial questions matters and he can struggle. The risk for David Cameron could be that he ends up looking like his politicking rather than wrestling with policy. Nick Clegg had a notable success with the Gurkhas last week but chose not to try and capitalise on it this time. Instead he had a dig at the PM wrapped up in a policy-based question. The battle lines are being drawn ahead of the June elections.

1243Phil Woolas says the government would be criticised for calling an election now, in the middle of a recession.

1242Will there be a reshuffle? Nick Robinson says there hasn't been a specific briefing about it and even if there was one, they tend not to make much difference. On John Prescott's joke impression of Gordon Brown - Phil Woolas says millions of Labour voters get upset by "mickey taking" of working class people.

1240Immigration minister Mr Woolas says "we haven't got the media with us at the moment" but ministers were waiting for Tory policy to be more closely scrutinised.

The Daily Politics' analysis of Prime Minister's Questions

1239Lord Strathclyde says that in a week when there has been a series of U-turns and the Hazel Blears article, it was legitimate to question the PM's authority. Nick Robinson says Mr Cameron knows the media are looking for the negative in what Mr Brown is doing and is trying to extend the run of bad news - but there is a danger in that, he said. The Tories may find themselves being questioned.

1236For the Conservatives Lord Strathclyde says there is no point asking the PM serious questions as he never gives a straight answer. His party leader was right to go on about calling a general election, he says.

1235It was a bit of an own goal, Nick Robinson says. But Phil Woolas says the newspapers are "in the mood" that Gordon Brown can do no right. If he walked across the Thames, they would say he was a bad swimmer, the immigration minister quips.

Nick Robinson
1234Back in the Daily Politics studio - there is some discussion of Mr Brown's response to the bullying question. Nick Robinson says the Tory MP phrased the question cleverly and Mr Brown had not been able to think of the right thing to say. By appearing to take it seriously - he was encouraging reporters to take that report seriously, he said.

1233That's it. The Speaker brings this week's prime minister's questions session to a close.

1232Some party political banter from Labour's Anne Snelgrove who says Swindon's park and ride is under threat due to Tory councillors - to cheers from Labour and groans from the Conservative benches.

1231Concerns are raised about Christie's Hospital in Manchester, which has money tied up in Icelandic banks - Mr Brown says they are looking at it but many different bodies are in the same position and it must be looked at "in the round".

Nick Clegg: 'This government has vilified and criminalised young people'

1231Labour's David Kidney raises concerns about Stafford Hospital and the need for a full inquiry - Mr Brown says anyone concerned about treatment could seek an independent clinical review. He says staff have been boosted and patient care improved. He says the Healthcare Commission has already carried out a review.

1228Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith asks about the Gurkhas and says the whole House had united to reject the government's plans - he asks if the government feels bound by the vote? The PM says Labour were the first to improve treatment of Gurkhas but says they will "listen to the voice of the House" and were looking at judicial reviews and speeding up applications.

1226Another dig at Hazel Blears from Tory Edward Garnier - to groans from Labour MPs. And again it is dismissed by the PM who says the Tories are "prohibited by their policies" from asking anything about Europe ahead of the June election.

1225Plaid's Elfyn Llwyd asks about the Trident programme and an assurance that there would be a full debate on the next stage of the programme - he doesn't get a guarantee but Mr Brown says there are many defence debates at which the matter can be raised.

1224A Labour question focuses on help for car companies. Mr Brown says they are in close touch with British based companies and they are determined to protect Ellesmere Port and lists car companies they want to help.

1223Tory MP Gerald Howarth is asking how the "epic project" of Mr Brown setting out his vision - the reason he gave for not calling a general election in 2007 - was going? Mr Brown again tells off the Tories for not asking about policy.

1221Another dig at Mr Brown. Tory MP Andrew Rosindell says twice as many people have signed a petition asking the PM to resign as voted for him at the last general election. Mr Brown says Tory backbenchers should be "ashamed" of themselves for not asking about policy.

1219Tory MP Stephen Crabb makes a jibe at Gordon Brown about bullying in the workplace - asking about reports a "senior Whitehall official" had been throwing around printers - a reference to reports about the PM. An annoyed looking Mr Brown says any complaints were "dealt with in the usual manner".

1217A friendly question from Labour's David Chaytor extols new developments in his constituency and suggests the Tory spending plans would cut police numbers. Mr Brown says voters will have to compare spending policies between the parties and says it is "clear that thousands of police would lose their jobs" as a result of Tory spending policies

Ben Wright
1217From BBC political correspondent Ben Wright: So David Cameron senses blood in the water and can't resist making Gordon Brown's leadership the issue. He goes for Mr Brown, saying it's a government in "terminal decline". The Tory leader asks where Hazel Blears is - in fact she can be spotted next to the Speaker's chair. Why is she still in the cabinet demands Cameron? The PM says the Conservatives have nothing to say about policy and that David Cameron is out of his depth. He says Compassionate Conservatism has gone and Labour MPs cheer. But the Conservative leader's charge will sting and he demands a general election. There's no let up from Nick Clegg, who goes for the PM with the same mixture of mocking and venom. The government front bench is looking on grimly.

1216Lib Dem Steve Webb asks about interest rates and why people should bother to save. Mr Brown says the government has kept inflation low, which has helped savers, and has helped elderly savers in the Budget.

1216Labour MP Kevin Barron advises Mr Brown not to worry about the "blustering from the opposition front benches". Mr Brown says the government was helping people get back to work - while "doing absolutely nothing" would not help - a dig at the Tories.

1215Mr Brown says Labour doubled education investment over 10 years. But Mr Clegg suggests the PM is not exhibiting stubbornness but "stupidity", he says the PM's speech was "vacuous". After some cries from Labour MPs he says "at least I say it to his face". Mr Brown says his government is doing "the right things".

Nick Clegg
1214Lib Dem Nick Clegg is on his feet - he says Tuesday's speech by the PM on education was only "tinkering" and did not address why many youngsters still can't read or write properly, why the care system was in crisis and why British youngsters are reportedly amongst the unhappiest in Europe.

1213David Cameron says the government is "utterly busted" and the PM should do "the last bold thing left to him - call an election". Mr Brown says not one question has been about the unemployed, mortgage holders, small businesses or the state of the economy and suggests, to Labour cheers, that Mr Cameron is "completely out of his depth". The Speaker steps in to restore order in a rowdy Commons chamber

1210Mr Cameron asks why Mr Brown doesn't call a general election. Mr Brown says nobody in the world supports the Conservatives' policy and claims they are "completely isolated". He says they are in the "dark ages on policy". Mr Cameron says the PM is "isolated in his own cabinet - he's the only one who thinks he's any good" and says Mr Brown doesn't have the courage to go to the country now.

boxing glove
1209Mr Cameron says the PM has got his judgement wrong on many issues - including the Gurkhas and expenses. Mr Brown says the Tories have performed their own "u-turns" and refers to the "hug a hoodie" headline. He says compassionate Conservatism has "gone, gone gone". A smiling Mr Cameron quips: "I'm sure that sounded great in the bunker."

1207Mr Brown goes through some of his measures to help people through the recession which he says are the "real issues" in government - he says Mr Cameron is "simply not up to the task" of dealing with big issues.

1206Pointing to Ms Blears he says her phrase "YouTube if you want to" was "mocking" - Ms Blears does not look amused. Why is she still in the cabinet Mr Cameron asks?

Gordon Brown
1205Mr Cameron says Mr Brown's leadership is the issue - he talks about Hazel Blears' article at the weekend and asks why she is still in the cabinet. Mr Brown, quoting Ms Blears, says it would be "lamentable" were he to copy Tory policies. He says Mr Cameron has made his own "u-turn" after promising to support the government on its economic response

David Cameron
1204David Cameron stands up to claim there's been a "series of U-turns" and ministers openly questioning the PM. He says the government is in terminal decline - Mr Brown says he "reduces everything to personality" - to some laughs

1203Labour MP John McDonnell asks about measures to help trafficked children. Mr Brown says it is "unacceptable and inhumane" and he will investigate reports in the Guardian about the issue

1202A DUP MP, Gregory Campbell, asks about what help is being given to Northern Ireland during the recession. Mr Brown goes through the government's economic measures and says they will continue to do everything they can to help

1201In the Commons - Gordon Brown has just stood up, a little late.

Nick Robinson
1200BBC political editor Nick Robinson says he expects the Royal Mail row to come up - he says the union backlash to the plans is making potential private investors have second thoughts

1200David Cameron will be turning up on a borrowed bike by the way - his was stolen earlier. The second time in less than a year.

1159Lord Strathcylde says the Royal Mail argument is part of the "Labour on Labour spat".

1159Lord Strathcylde says the review that proposed the disputed Royal Mail plans was good and the Tories will help the government get the measure through. He says that is "sensible" politics.

1158 Back in the Daily Politics studio - Labour backbencher Kate Hoey has been talking about the government's plans for the Royal Mail - she like many of her colleagues say it would be the beginning of the end of a publicly-owned Post Office. Mr Woolas says the same arguments had been made about air traffic control. He says some Labour MPs are not facing up to the fact that "people don't post letters anymore". Without junk mail there wouldn't be a Royal Mail, he says.

Ben Wright
1156From BBC political correspondent Ben Wright: With even one of his own Cabinet ministers complaining about the government's "lamentable" failure to communicate with voters, the heat's on the PM. After last week's debacle on Gurkhas and the faintly farcical expenses debate Labour MPs desperately want something to feel better about. A confident, gutsy performance by the PM today would help. David Cameron might want to stir trouble about Gordon Brown's leadership but I think ID cards is more likely - a clear policy split between the parties.

1154 We can probably expect the chancellor's Budget predictions to come up again. In a report just out MPs on the Treasury committee say growth predictions were "optimistic" and says there are "considerable uncertainties" about what the new 50% rate of income tax for top earners will actually raise.

1147Mr Woolas says there was a "coming together of issues" with the Gurkha vote - including general feeling about immigration policy. He says governments always face the accusation people are abusing the system. He says the government was between "a rock and a hard place".

1143On the Gurkhas, Mr Woolas says the government will be coming back with new proposals but there is some uncertainty over how many would want to come to the UK. Lord Strathclyde says last week's Commons defeat for the government was historic.

1140Immigration minister Phil Woolas is in the Daily Politics studio for the government, Lord Strathcylde for the Conservatives. They've been discussing ID cards - Mr Woolas says it won't cost £5bn and that figure is an "urban myth". The Tory peer says no-one believes it will only cost £5bn and says it won't work.

1130Hello and welcome to our coverage of prime minister's questions. Gordon Brown will be taking questions from David Cameron, Nick Clegg and others. What might we expect to crop up? The economy is usually a safe bet, but swine flu, Gurkhas' settlement rights, plans for the Royal Mail and Labour leadership speculation might well be raised, when the session gets underway at noon. We will have plenty of comment and reaction in the build up to kick off and the usual post-match analysis.


e-mail sent in by reader
I think it is outrageous that Gordon Brown is allowed to get away with not answering every question by claiming it is the wrong question. Does the Speaker not have any role in ensuring that questions are answered.
Dave Groves, Farnham/UK

e-mail sent in by reader
It annoys me that BOTH parties ask pointless questions to the PM. A wasted opportunity.
Steve, London

e-mail sent in by reader
Conservatives don't have a clue. They've lost sight of the real issues because they've focused too much on attacking Brown.
Rory Clapham, United Kingdom

e-mail sent in by reader
Once again GB fails to address the questions put to him which is the point of PMQs .All he wants to do is make silly repetitive political points. A very sad man.
Mike Jackson, , Anglesey Uk
e-mail sent in by reader
The prime minister behaved even more shamefully than usually. He refused to answer any questions from the Conservative benches, saying that questions about issues like public petitions were unimportant. Of course he didn't feel it was unimportant to jump on the bandwagon of the success of a football team.
Neil, Glasgow
e-mail sent in by reader
I laughed at the "bullying" question but that surely is a two edged sword. It was nothing but bullying from Cameron today. Is that all he is fit for, When are we going to see what he is made of? So far it seems to me - precious little.
Muriel Wickenden, Roche
e-mail sent in by reader

Does the PMQS actually have any relevance to issues about the economy or is it simply an opportunity for MPs to slate and mock each other with witty remarks?
Brad, Bristol

e-mail sent in by reader

Brown didn't deny the accusations of his bullying. The public don't like bullies - Gordon Brown is a major electoral liability.
Jonathan Cook, Hampshire

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