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The Full Story: PM's questions

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By Jon Kelly

1331Well, that's prime minister's questions out of the way until the autumn. No surprise that Afghanistan dominated proceeding this week. Thanks, as always, for all your emails, texts and tweets.

1329 Tory MP Richard Benyon says Lord Jones is "absolutely right to hold this government to account" about the effect of the recession on manufacturing. But International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander says the Conservatives are in no position to talk. "They want to see cuts" across the public sector, he says on BBC Radio 4's The World at One. Lib Dem Ed Davey says: "The answer is to invest in the infrastructure that we need."

1321 Back to Afghanistan. General Sir Mike Jackson, tells the BBC's World At One that in the three years he spent as head of the Army there were three defence secretaries. "As a matter of principle, it's better that such key positions as the defence secretary are held over a long period of time."

1315 If the government didn't have enough on its plate with Afghanistan, the latest news on the economy will hardly be welcome. New Unemployment figures show that there are nearly 2.4 million people out of work. On BBC Radio 4's World At One, former trade minister Lord Digby Jones warned that "manufacturing is really bearing the brunt of this". He calls for more investment in skills, adding: "We're only going to get out of this mess if we trade our way out of this."

1303 Away from PM's questions for a moment - where there was little mention I recall of the record rise in unemployment - a Speaker's Conference set up to examine how to make MPs more representative of society has suggested that political parties select women as at least 50% of their candidates and stand more ethnic minority candidates around the country. It also wants to see more disabled people standing. Vice-chair of the Speaker's conference, Anne Begg MP, said Parliament remained "predominantly white, male, middle-aged and middle-class".

Sir Menzies Campbell
1258 Ex-Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell is scathing about the decision to redact MPs' expenses forms by blacking out large sections. "Talk about shooting yourself in one foot and then shooting yourself in the other," he says.

1252 The politicians - even the most rugged among them - like the idea of promoting dancing. Anything which "gets people off their couches" is a good idea, says former SAS reservist David Davis.

Arlene Phillips
1248 Strictly Come Dancing judge Arlene Phillips tells Daily Politics she wants the government to "get the nation dancing" to improve its health. She says staying on her toes has kept her "fit, healthy and, well, young-ish" and wants ministers to ensure the practice is accessible and free.

e-mail sent in by reader
"Mr Brown insists that the number of helicopters has gone up by 60%" Typical Brownspeak. What does that mean? From 5 helicopters to 8?
Andrew, London

e-mail sent in by reader
With the prime minister's inability to answer the questions posed to him, would it be considered Parliamentary etiquette for the Leader of the Opposition to take up his allotted time listing the inadequacies of the government and not ask any questions of the Prime Minister? Supposedly the leader of the Libs could do the same. Andy, Dubai

1244 "These were not wars of choice," Mr Hutton insists. In the fight against terrorism, he says, "you are not more secure by not taking part".

e-mail sent in by reader
Too much about helicopters, why are they not talking about training/equipping the Afghan Forces to get involved into the operations with these International Forces. This will at least show the Allied Forces' intentions to leave the country (Afghanistan) in a better way/shape than they did in Iraq. Junaid, Leeds

David Davis
1243 David Davis says money has been wasted in the government's "incompetent procurement process". Helicopters were ordered too late, he adds.

e-mail sent in by reader
Cameron must be off on his hols as soon as PMQ's are over. He obviously hasn't sharpened his tongue today. Record unemployment in a month ? Come on Dave! Alison

The Daily Politics' analysis of Prime Minister's Questions on 15 July 2009

1241 Sir Menzies Campbell blames military overstretch on the fact that the UK had two conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan "running side by side". He urges to government to go around the UK's allies and "beg borrow and steal" helicopters and armoured vehicles; he says certain Nato members are "not pulling their weight".

e-mail sent in by reader
I spent 30 yrs in the Armed Forces and the last 8 yrs working for a support services company at an RAF base. All of our politicians are wrong about Afghanistan. We don't have enough of the right equipment, nor manpower, and far to many senior officers who know that but are only interested in their own careers and big, and I mean big, fat pensions. michaell, oxford

John Hutton
1237 Back in the Daily Politics studio, ex-defence secretary John Hutton says the government has acted on military advice to get more kit to Afghanistan all the way through the campaign. "The kit is better than it's ever been," he says, "but there's no finishing line".

1234 And that's it over. No-one can be surprised that Afghanistan dominated today's PMQs.

Reeta Chakrabarti
1234 From BBC political correspondent Reeta Chakrabarti:

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg is clearly trying to carve an image for himself as an honest plain-speaker. But his bluntness provoked anger in the Chamber when he accused Gordon Brown of "fiddling the figures," and then asked "who he thought he was kidding" by claiming to be an agent of change. Mr Brown responded with a dismissive tone. But Nick Clegg's unvarnished approach is becoming something of a permanent fixture.

1232 Tory Julian Lewis says the government is underfunding the Ministry of Defence. Mr Brown says the government's defence budget is the second largest in the world.

1230 Labour MP Julie Morgan calls on the prime minister to "show a vote in confidence in young people" by lowering the voting age to 16. Mr Brown says the Youth Parliament will meet in the Commons chamber over the summer.

1228 Tory MP Alistair Burt says the government's decision to take away responsibility for ruling on gypsy camps from local government to regional authorities is causing "intense concern" and damaging community relations. Mr Brown promises to examine the issue.

Reeta Chakrabarti
1228 From BBC political correspondent Reeta Chakrabarti: Afghanistan was the only topic for David Cameron - with the row over helicopter numbers, and mission creep continuing. The exchange between him and the prime minister started soberly enough - but escalated as Mr Cameron called the original objectives in Afghanistan "lofty and vague" and as Gordon Brown accused the Opposition leader of failing to provide suitable support. One feature was the length of both questions and answers from the two - 19 minutes or two-thirds of the session spent on the exchange between them - prompting the Speaker to ask them to be more brief. Mr Cameron obliged. The Prime Minister remained focused on ensuring he got his message across.

1225 "Comrade leader", begins a question from Labour MP Ian Davidson about shipbuilding. Is the death of New Labour truly on us at last?

1223 Mr Brown hits back: the opposition, he says, have "no policies for jobs, no policies to tackle the recession".

Nick Clegg
1221 Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg accuses the prime minister of dragging his feet on parliamentary reform. "People are crying out for change but we have a prime minister who is busy doing nothing," Mr Clegg says.

1218 The prime minister says helicopters need to be adapted for the terrain in Afghanistan. He insists that UK forces are "better equipped than ever before".

John Bercow
1218 Speaker John Bercow interrupts to say he has noted Mr Cameron's long questions and Mr Brown's lengthy answers. He asks them to keep it brief as he wants to hear from backbenchers, but the Tory leader says bereaved military families need to hear "responsible questions". He asks why Mr Brown isn't displaying "greater urgency" getting helicopters into the field.

1214 Mr Brown insists that the number of helicopters has gone up by 60% and more are due to arrive this year. "What we need on the ground is more Afghan forces," he says, adding that he is working with Afghan President Karzai to deliver this.

1212 Mr Cameron continues on the same topic. "If you want to move more troops around the battlefield you need more helicopters," he says. He says the government did not plan for them.

1210 Mr Brown hits back at Mr Cameron's accusation that British troops do not have enough helicopters in Afghanistan. The prime insists "we have done everything we can to increase the number of helicopters" and says the recent deaths were not the result of a lack of helicopters.

David Cameron
1208 Conservative leader David Cameron says the government needs to show "greater urgency" on its Afghanistan strategy if it is to succeed. He says the government needs an "even tighter definition" of its aims - not to build the "most perfect democracy" but to prevent terrorism.

1203 Tory MP John Maples suggests the prime minister does not have a "clear strategy" in Afghanistan. Mr Brown says ministers are determined to ensure that terrorism does not "hit the streets of Britain" again.

1202 We're off with a question about Afghanistan kicking off the last PMQs before the long summer break.

Reeta Chakrabarti
1157 From BBC political correspondent Reeta Charkabarti: It's the last bout of weekly verbal fisticuffs for this term - and David Cameron could go for a variety of topics over which to try and land his blows. Afghanistan and troop numbers remains high on the list of possible questions, with reports that military leaders asked for significant reinforcements which they didn't get. Unemployment could be another area. With the figures hitting nearly 2.4 million, talk of recovery Mr Cameron could say, would seem premature. Or he could focus on Lord Mandelson's comments yesterday that there will be constraints on public spending over the next ten years. Is that a chink between him and the prime minister? If so, the Tory leader is sure to want to prise it open.

1156 Could the government have saved the lives of UK service personnel in Afghanistan? John Hutton insists extra helicopters could not have saved the lives of many of those killed in recent days. But David Davis agrees with a suggestion that the government has "blood on its hands" and Sir Menzies says senior military figures have been "deeply unhappy" about the lack of resources for years.

1155 Talk in the studio turns to the environment and John Hutton - who arrived a bit late for the show - says nuclear power is needed to cut the UK's carbon emissions. David Davis agrees: "Of course it's going to be expensive, but so is wind power." Sir Menzies says that if the government needs to exercise the "precautionary principle" in its efforts against climate change.

David Davis
1154 On Daily Politics David Davis has defended the decision to take away the Conservative whip from MEP Edward McMillan-Scott, who defied party orders after opposing the Tories' decision to form a new group in the European parliament. But Sir Menzies Campbell for the Lib Dems says the Conservatives' new allies at Brussels and Strasbourg are a "rag tag and bobtail" outfit.

1150 Hello and welcome to our live coverage of prime minister's questions. We'll be starting off with analysis and commentary from the Daily Politics, where former Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell, Labour ex-cabinet minister John Hutton and former Conservative leadership contender David Davis are in the studio. They'll be joined by none other than Strictly Come Dancing judge Arlene Phillips. Hot topics this week? The government's strategy in Afghanistan is surely bound to come up following the deaths of 15 UK soldiers this month. With Climate and Energy Secretary Ed Miliband due to launch the government's Carbon Transition Plan, expect the environment to feature as well. And it's hard to imagine a PMQs these days that doesn't involve Labour and the Conservatives accusing each other of dishonesty over spending.



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