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The Full Story: PM's questions


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By Brian Wheeler

1336 And that's your lot for this week. Thanks for all your comments - shame it was not a more interesting session, although some of you seem to prefer a less-heated PMQs. Spence91 was not impressed by my quick update on the cricket score, pointing out that there is a separate sports section on the BBC News website. Must check that out some time... Join us next week for the final PMQs before the MPs' long summer recess (they don't like it being called a holiday), when the A-team of Brown, Cameron and Clegg will be back in their usual places. Will public spending continue to dominate? Don't bet against it...

1325 Only the prime minister and his "close confidants" believe that public spending can go on rising, claims Andrew Mitchell, who calls for some "integrity" to be brought back into the debate. Lord Adonis accuses the Tories of wanting cuts now, which he says would be counter-productive.

1324So why did Mr Hague go on public spending yet again at PMQs? Andrew Mitchell says it was to "show up" the prime minister as treating voters "like fools". Lord Adonis says capital spending has been much higher under Labour and there would be "huge slashing" of investment under the Tories. Lynne Featherstone says whoever wins will have to "make reductions".

1321 Speaking on BBC Radio 4's The World at One, Andrew Mitchell, for the Tories, says the chancellor's new financial stability council will just cause confusion. Transport Secretary Lord Adonis insists it will be a lot more than usual Whitehall "musical chairs". Lynne Featherstone is not convinced, saying it sound like "gobbledygook".

1317 Away from the Commons, but on a subject that some might see as more important than politics - Australia are on top at lunch on day one of the Ashes test, with England 97 for three.

1309 Meanwhile, back in the Commons, Chancellor Alistair Darling has announced plans to set up a Council for Financial Stability, bringing together the Bank of England, the FSA and the Treasury. George Osborne, for the Tories, says it will just lead to more confusion.

1304 Given the state of the country, Mr Cameron would be better off modelling the administration he hopes to form on The Wire rather than The West Wing, says Andrew Neil. Is the Tory leader like Mayor Carcetti? Answers by e-mail please, Wire fans.

1301 David Cameron's supporters need a name with more gravitas, reckons Alex Salmond. They'll never get anywhere being called the Cameroons - it makes them sound like cakes.

e-mail sent in by reader
On the question of Afghanistan, there seems to be a big battle going on with very little TV coverage and no video to speak of. When Israel bombed Gaza or in the Sri Lankan conflict, the respective governments were heavily criticised for the lack of information but now this government seems to be taking the same course of action but with no criticism from the media
Peter, Preston

e-mail sent in by reader
Interesting how important PMQs are, yet every question to the people who run this country are responded to with either another question or a dismissal of the original request.
Ben, Rugby

1249 Andrew Neil quizzes Tessa Jowell about the quality of British military vehicles in Afghanistan, which he says are not adequate to protect our soldiers. Alex Salmond brings up replacing Britain's nuclear weapons system, saying it is something all parties will have to face up to soon.

Alex Salmond
1247 Tessa Jowell reminds people that Afghanistan is an international effort involving 40 countries. SNP leader Alex Salmond says there should be a statement on Britain's war aims and exit strategy.

Ben Wright
1241 From BBC political correspondent Ben Wright: After kicking off with a gag, Vince Cable asks about bonuses in the nationalised banks but Harriet Harman tells him to wait for Alistair Darling's statement. The Tory MP John Maples makes a thoughtful point about Afghanistan and asks why 170 soldiers have been killed there. It's a question that rises above the knockabout and Harriet Harman replies that the mission is to stop terrorism and increase education. The government may find itself needing to answer that question more fully in the near future.

It is interesting that Harriet Harman gives her full support to engaging young people in politics through the UK Youth Parliament's consultation. Yet cub scouts are banned from lobbying their MPs because they are too young to vote
Matthew, Colwyn Bay

1239 The only really interesting question was from Tory MP John Maples on Afghanistan, the panel seems to feel. Nick Robinson says it is interesting that there is not more of a debate at Westminster on what Britain's mission there is and whether "we are getting it right".

The Daily Politics' analysis of PMQs with Nick Robinson, Alex Salmond and Tessa Jowell.

1238 It was a bit of a sluggish session, Andrew Neil says on the Daily Politics, with Hague and Harman going through the same arguments on spending as Brown and Cameron.

1236 Ms Harman ends with a pledge to build more affordable housing - saying there had been silence on the issue from the Tory benches.

1232 Julia Goldsworthy, for the Lib Dems, and Labour's Ronnie Campbell both bring up the issue of respiratory disease pleural plaques. Mr Campbell calls for the same deal for sufferers in England and Wales that they get in Scotland. Ms Harman promises a statement.

e-mail sent in by reader
This is exactly how PMQs should be: measured and about policy. Well done Speaker Bercow.
Tim, Chester

1231 A planted question from Labour MP Alan Whitehead on housing standards, giving Ms Harman a chance to trumpet the government Building Britain's Future policy programme.

1228 It's been a fairly straightforward session so far for Ms Harman, dominated by bread and butter issues such as fuel prices and jobs. Nothing really from out of left field.

1227 John Maples, Tory MP for Stratford-on-Avon, asks Ms Harman to remind people what Britain's military objective is in Afghanistan. Ms Harman says it is about preventing the region being a "crucible" for terrorism. The mission is also important for education and economic development, a more secure democracy and security in the region and the world, she adds.

Ben Wright
1226 From BBC political correspondent Ben Wright: Different cast, same subject. William Hague invited Harriet Harman to rip up the government's line on future cuts but she resisted, reciting her boss's line that the government is bringing forward capital spending now but ducking questions about future spending. Labour's deputy steers clear of figures but has a neat jab at George Osborne for the amount of time he spends thinking about the economy. But this rather sterile exchange threw no new light on a crucial subject.

e-mail sent in by reader
A much better debate. I don't miss the heated exchanges between Cameron and Brown.
Thomas, Surbiton

1223 Mr Cable goes in on pensions and bonuses in the public sector - one of his regular themes - asking why two thirds of civil services need "excessive" bonuses to "get out of bed in the morning". Ms Harman bats his questions away with what sound like standard replies.

e-mail sent in by reader
I am a civil engineer and find it infuriating when the government talks about capital investment because it is not happening. None of it is getting past the bureaucracy. Everyone is holding onto what little cash is available and thousands are being made unemployed every week because of this government.
Mark, Leeds

Vince Cable
1222 Vince Cable, standing in for Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, starts with condolences for the families of the fire victims and Afghanistan service men. He follows it up with a joke at the expense of Silvio Berlusconi, which raises a laugh.

1220 Former defence secretary Des Browne brings up job losses at a Diageo distillery in Kilmarnock, in his constituency. Ms Harman says the government is talking to the firm this afternoon.

John Bercow
1218 Speaker John Bercow steps in to tell MPs to calm down as Ms Harman replies to Mr Hague's final question. It seems the Tories are not going to let go of the spending issue - they must see electoral mileage in it.

e-mail sent in by reader
Harriet Harman seems to be deluded about the economic situation when she said we need to make sure the recession is as shallow as it can be. It's as deep as the atlantic ocean.
Ryan, Poole, Dorset

1217 Mr Hague persists with trying to expose what he claims is the dishonesty of the government's position on capital spending. Ms Harman hits back with a standard reply, contrasting what she says is Labour action with Tory inaction.

1215 A rather subdued clash so far. It's a lot more heated when Brown and Cameron clash about spending figures.

1213 Mr Hague calls on Ms Harman to "come down on the side of reality" and admit that spending will fall after 2011. Ms Harman is having none of it. She says the Tories only want to talk about figures in the future, not action now.

1211 Public spending again! Mr Hague picks up on David Cameron's favourite topic and asks if Ms Harman can put in "plain English" Mr Brown's now famous O% public spending increase. Ms Harman replies with a dig at Shadow Chancellor George Osborne, who this week said he spent 40% of his time thinking about economics.

1209 Mr Hague asks about equipment for Britain's armed forces. Ms Harman says there is no complacency from the government.

William Hague
1208 William Hague, standing in for David Cameron, sends his condolences to the families of those who died in Camberwell, which is in Ms Harman's constituency. He also pays tribute to the servicemen killed in Afghanistan.

1207 Ms Harman insists progress has been made over the past 11 years on care for the elderly.

1206 Labour's Malcolm Wicks asks about care services for the elderly. Ms Harman says the government will bring forward a green paper to boost choice, quality and affordability. Stephen Dorrell, for the Tories, says we have heard it all before from Tony Blair.

1204 The house listens in silence as Ms Harman also offers her condolences to the families of people killed in the recent fire in flats in Camberwell.

1202 We're off. Harriet Harman sends her condolences to the familes and friends of the servicemen killed in Afghanistan.

1200 On a more serious note, there is a question expected about long-term care, says Nick Robinson.

Nick Robinson
1159 BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson predicts the 'odd joke' from William Hague - always a safe bet when the shadow foreign secretary is at the despatch box. With the summer 'silly season' approaching MPs' thoughts could be turning to who will be in charge of the country when Gordon Brown is on holiday. Loyal Tessa Jowell says it's a decision purely for the prime minister.

Tessa Jowell
1153 Tessa Jowell is on the ropes a little on the Daily Politics, as Andrew Neil quizzes her about why the government does not break up the banks, as Mervyn King has suggested. It is best left to the market, she argues. Andrew Neil tries the same line of questioning with Mark Hoban, for the Tories, but does not get much further.

Ben Wright
1150 From BBC political correspondent Ben Wright: GB's at the G8 so it's the second team today and Harman, Hague and Cable will be at the crease. Recent PMQs have been dominated by the question of public spending, with David Cameron clobbering the PM on what cuts could be coming after the next election. Gordon Brown's response has been to dig in and insist there is a dividing line between the two parties that boils down Tory cuts versus Labour investment. But even some in the PM's own party question whether the position is credible and William Hague might chose to probe the issue again with Labour's deputy. Vince Cable's in luck; his specialised subject (banking reform) is hot news today so expect a sharp dig at the White Paper.



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