Page last updated at 13:50 GMT, Wednesday, 13 January 2010

The Full Story: Prime minister's questions



By Emma Griffiths

1335 And that's it from us for this week after a noisy PM's questions session. Thanks for all your comments, join us again next week, same time, same place.

1334 Is Mr Cameron vulnerable over the "airbrushed" poster? Ms Spelman says not - the election campaign will be about policy and protecting NHS spending. Danny Alexander says the Conservatives are not making it clear where the money will come from. Ms Spelman says it's obvious that if you protect spending on two departments, the rest will have to make savings. Minister John Healey says the posters look like the Tories are trying to "buy the election"- "Oh come on, John," says Ms Spelman - and asks if Labour will not be putting up any posters.

1327 Caroline Spelman says Mr Brown - who was asked at PMQs about debt levels before the recession hit - was "in denial" about "mistakes" made when he was chancellor. But minister John Healey says the Conservatives are "cracking under pressure" on their policies. Lib Dem Danny Alexander says neither of the two main parties want to talk about themselves - just attack each other. A clear, positive agenda is needed - not a "slanging match", he says.

1325 Caroline Spelman, for the Tories, tells the World At One asking about the grit situation was the "statesmanlike" thing to do. Housing minister John Healey says it is sensible to ensure the main roads are kept open. Lib Dem Danny Alexander says the problems could have been better anticipated.

1315 What is being said elsewhere about the leaders' performances at prime minister's questions? The Telegraph's James Kirkup says Mr Brown is refining his personal attacks on the Tory leader . James Macintyre at the New Statesman looks at Nick Clegg's questioning on the Iraq war .

1300 In other political news from the Press Association - a witch has announced he intends to enter the cauldron of politics and stand for Parliament at the general election. "Magus Lynius Shadee, who calls himself the King of All Witches, hopes to become Cambridge's next MP" the news agency says - he'll stand as an independent.

1258 "We will not sit with any political party that has a racist agenda," says Mr Farage - when asked about a member who has refused to sit with their grouping in the European Parliament. He suggests she may not be a UKIP member much longer.

1254 UKIP MEP Nigel Farage is with the Daily Politics team talking about the Lisbon Treaty. He predicts that within six months there will be a mass of legislation coming Britain's way. He says there will be a European common foreign policy, which he says is a "fundamental change" in the way the EU operates.

1249 Charles Kennedy says the NHS cannot be immune from the international pressures other aspects of life are subject to. Dr Hilary Jones says HIV and TB cases among people coming in from abroad are a major cost for the NHS.

1248 Peter Hain says a lot of European citizens are entitled to treatment - as Britons are when on holiday in Europe, but you have to make sure there are no abuses.

1248 Dr Hilary Jones is in the Daily Politics studio talking about the NHS and population. He says there are not enough doctors for the number of people on their books - a clearer policy was needed on who was entitled to NHS services. If people are not contributing, should the NHS pay their bills?

1245 Welsh Secretary Peter Hain, who was in the cabinet when the decision to go to war was taken, says he "acted honestly at the time". It was hard to "re-run history", he says. "You can't escape your responsibility," he says - if it was politically difficult you had to "take that on the chin".

1243 Mr Hain said he had genuinely believed the evidence on Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq - most people did he says though he pays tribute to the late Robin Cook, who quit the cabinet over his opposition to war. Nick Robinson said while some of the Iraq detail had been heard before - the argument about the judgement call by Tony Blair was important.

Peter Hain
1241 Cabinet minister Peter Hain says the PM was right to say the order of guests at the Iraq inquiry was a matter for the inquiry chairman. "I don't think he has got anything to hide," he adds.

Nick Robinson
1238 BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson says Mr Cameron must have wanted to surprise Mr Brown by splitting up his questions - he suggests it was not the best performance by the Tory leader. He seems to want to stick to the "boom and bust" question, which Mr Brown just refuses to answer. He also says Nick Clegg might be able to work the Iraq inquiry to his advantage - the party's anti-war policy served it well in the 2005 general election.

1235 And it is all over now.

1235 And we're still going! Tory MP Christopher Chope welcomes the extra time and asks what the government is doing to limit population growth - Mr Brown says they have introduced a points system for immigration.

1234 Labour MP Charlotte Atkins asks why the Tories "talk down" schools - Mr Brown goes on to talk about his government's actions on education. He accuses Tory MPs of "sneering".

1232 Labour MP Andrew Mackinlay appears to be struggling with a bad throat as he asks a question about a turbine delivered in southern Afghanistan.

Iain Watson
1231 From BBC political correspondent Iain Watson: At last the leadership question. David Cameron scored a hit by asking how many Labour MPs would put Gordon Brown's pictures on election leaflets - only a small number on the government benches put their hands up but nearly everyone on the Conservative benches did. But the substance of the attack was whether Gordon Brown would face up to the need to make cuts - apart from saying he would face up to reducing the deficit (he still uses the 'c' word rarely in public) Gordon Brown countered by attacking the Conservatives on marriage tax plans and on inheritance tax. What we witnessed was a mini election campaign - shrill in tone, with both sides focusing on each other's perceived weaknesses (Gordon Brown's credibility and personality; David Cameron's apparent lack of grasp of detail and policies which are said by Labour to favour the wealthy few) rather than a level-headed discussion on the economy and public spending.

1230 Some confusion over a Tory MP's question about the situation in the "western Sahara" - Mr Brown says there are a lot of issues he could be talking about before going on to discuss the growth of terrorist groups.

1228 Labour MP Alun Michael asks about Welsh economic recovery - it's a pop at the Tories' economic plans which one of his colleagues denounces as "savage". Mr Brown says Labour's actions mean less people are unemployed than they would have been in the 1980s/90s recessions.

1227 Labour MP Lynne Jones talked about a "member of this house" having resigned due to mental illness. Then Tory MP Mark Pritchard asks how confident the PM is he has a "firm grip" on national security. The PM says at every point he tries to be as vigilant as possible. The Detroit bomb scare prompted a review, he says.

1227 Lib Dem David Heath asks if the PM personally regrets any of the decisions taken in the run-up to Iraq. Mr Brown says planning for the aftermath was, he accepts, insufficient. But he stands by decisions made by the cabinet.

1226 Labour backbencher Gordon Prentice asks if the government will back an amendment to ban "parasitic non doms" from Parliament. We'll have a look at it, says Mr Brown.

1225 Harriet Harman got a name check during Mr Cameron's attack - she's on the front bench and doesn't look too worried. Mr Brown turns his fire on the Tories' inheritance tax policy. Mr Cameron urges him to find some "courage" and call a general election. "everyone can see he won't change the way he governs". He says Labour colleagues are too disloyal to support him but too incompetent to remove him - to huge cheers from the Tory benches. The PM makes another airbrushing quip but it comes against a background hubub and falls flat. The Speaker shouts - actually it was pretty close to a scream - "order". "Ooo" comes the reaction from MPs.

Gordon Brown
1223 The two main leaders have moved back onto familiar ground - whether Mr Brown had or had not abolished "boom and bust" - Mr Brown accuses the Tory leader of changing policies. Mr Cameron says Mr Brown has three people co-ordinating his election campaign. He goes on to cite the times it took for ministers to come out and support the PM during the attempted coup. He goes on to ask about spending cuts. Mr Brown says "he is getting even redder" than his photographs.

1222 Mr Cameron suggests conducting some "market research" and asks Labour MPs to put their hands up if they intend to put Mr Brown's picture on the front of their election leaflets. Only a few do. "He's been airbrushed out of the whole campaign," says Mr Cameron - to laughter. By the way, more Tory MPs put their hands up from what I could see.

1221 A Cameron question about the leadership plot - how will Mr Brown "be different" he asks? The PM quips that the Tory leader looks pretty different to the posters of him that have gone up everywhere. Much laughter from Labour. There have been suggestions the posters were airbrushed.

1220 A Labour MP asks about "resolute action" against extremist groups. Yesterday the group Islam4UK was banned by the government. Mr Brown says there are extremists who use freedom of speech to incite hatred. He says it's about "standing up for our shared values" and reaching out to Muslim communities.

Iain Watson
1219 From BBC political correspondent Iain Watson: The Lib Dem leader raised the Iraq war inquiry as he thinks the conflict is still a vote loser for Labour in many seats which the Lib Dems took at the last election - and he wanted also to make the PM look evasive on the issue as Gordon Brown's evidence to the inquiry won't be taken until after the general election. But given that this was a decision for the inquiry chairman, the prime minister didn't appear to be too troubled. His hope is that much of the anger over the war has subsided and that in the current economic climate people are more worried about their homes and jobs.

1218 Mr Brown is recounting action the government has taken to help young children in response to a Labour MP's question. There is some discussion of family intervention projects - some families are "so chaotic" the government needs to intervene. It's noisy in the chamber today, Mr Brown is raising his voice. Think he must be jabbing the table with his finger as there is a drumming noise as he speaks.

Iain Watson
1216 From BBC political correspondent Iain Watson: In an initial flurry, David Cameron was hoping to rub salt in the prime minister's wounds over how the government was dealing with the extreme weather. The PM responded initially by sounding like a 5 live travel reporter - pointing out main routes were open, but adding that five airports were temporarily closed. He then metamorphised into a rather Soviet-sounding broadcaster as he announced productivity in the salt mines was on the increase.

1215 Mr Brown says the government has given the inquiry all the relevant documents - but it's for them to decide how to proceed. He says Mr Clegg had backed that approach. Mr Clegg's question went down well on his own benches.

Nick Clegg
1214 Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg is on his feet. He repeats the previous tributes. He says Mr Brown should volunteer to give evidence to the Iraq inquiry before the general election - to loud cheers from his benches. The PM says he has "nothing to hide on this matter" - to some shouts. But he says the inquiry decides the order in which witnesses are heard. Mr Clegg says it's a matter for the prime minister's "own conscience" and he should insist on going to the inquiry "now". Noise levels rise and there are shouts when he asks "what has he got to hide?"

1213 Mr Cameron breaks with his recent strategy by deciding to ask his six questions in two separate batches. So business moves on to Labour MP Dari Taylor who asks about children in care - there is much background noise among MPs. Mr Brown says the number of children in care is a "real challenge" - they must have the same chances as everyone else. Some progress had been made in educational achievement but the government must "move faster" he says.

1211 Mr Cameron asks if there will be a review involving local councils to ensure lessons are learned for the future. Mr Brown says arrangements will be reviewed at the end of the cold spell but they are building on salt supplies and are doing "everything we can".

1210 Mr Brown says virtually all main transport networks have remained operational - he says the country has "come together as one". Five airports have closed this morning but are due to open. The government is working with the Highways Agency to manage salt supplies which, he says, must be "sustainable" - one of the salt producers has said they will be providing additional salt and salt imports are expected too.

David Cameron
1209 Mr Cameron is on his feet. He echoes the tributes Mr Brown paid and sends his support to the people of Haiti. His first question is about the weather - paying tribute to the emergency services. He asks for the PM's reassurance about salt supplies.

1207 Mr Brown goes through actions taken on aid for Gaza, he is flanked by Harriet Harman and Jim Murphy on the front bench.

1206 Mr Brown says "we took the right action" while the Tories "advised the wrong action" - much cheering from the Labour benches. Labour MP Richard Burden raises the issue of Briton Tom Hurndall killed in Gaza some years ago - he pays tribute to the family's efforts to get to the truth about his death.

1205 Mr Brown also promises aid to help the people of Haiti recover from the "devastating" earthquake. Tory MP Bill Wiggin has the first question - about the economy. Does the PM "regret" the level of debt before the recession? Mr Brown fires back with a list of countries Britain was lower than, in terms of debt.

1203 Mr Brown starts by paying tribute to the courage of a soldier killed in Afghanistan and the Sunday Mirror reporter killed last week.

1201 PMQs begins a minute late. In the studio Peter Hain says he got in touch with the PM's office early on last Wednesday to stress his loyalty.

1200 BBC political editor Nick Robinson is in the Daily Politics studio, he says he keeps being told the coup attempt nearly succeeded. He says it is likely Mr Cameron will use the "we can't go on like this" quote against Mr Brown.

Iain Watson
1159From BBC political correspondent Iain Watson: MPs are gathering for PMQs and wondering how Gordon Brown intends to make light of the attempt to oust him as Labour leader. At a meeting of the parliamentary Labour party this week he suggested, in the current cold snap, that Labour rebels should be sent down the salt mines. The cabinet discussed election tactics yesterday - we may see some of those tactics deployed at PMQs - especially attacking the Conservative plans on recognising marriage in the tax system and inheritance tax - although with snow falling in London again today, the politicians may show determination to talk about grit.

1157 The PM's official spokesman has also been asked about letters between Tony Blair and George Bush mentioned at the Iraq inquiry yesterday. Several newspapers focused on the letters, which implied the former PM had assured Mr Bush months before the war that Britain would support any regime change plans for Iraq. The PM's spokesman would only say that Gordon Brown would cooperate fully if he was asked to. The prime minister will give evidence to the inquiry after the general election.

1155 In other political news cyber security minister Lord West has told a House of Lords sub-committee that UK officials plan to debrief Google after it said it had suffered a "sophisticated and targeted" cyber attack originating from China.

Charles Kennedy
1152 Lib Dem Charles Kennedy says banks are borrowing money from the Bank of England at low percentage rates and lending it to the public at much higher rates - how can that be right morally, he asks?

1148 Bank bonuses are being discussed in the studio. Peter Hain says everyone has an interest in banks rebuilding their capital - but no-one will understand if "huge" amounts are being paid out in bonuses - nothing annoys people more, except perhaps MPs' expenses, he says.

1144 And, in timely fashion, the word from this morning's lobby briefing by Gordon Brown's official spokesman: "It is essential we all work together to keep Britain moving. The prime minister feels very strongly about this." I assume he was talking about the weather...

Peter Hain
1142 The discussion in the Daily Politics studio has started with a discussion of the snow that's hit the country over the past few weeks. Central London has escaped the worst of it but there's a layer of snow in Westminster this morning. Cabinet minister Peter Hain says it has been difficult but the authorities and government had acted "pretty effectively". Former Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy says he wants to pass up the opportunity for political point scoring. Mr Hain says his mother-in-law says "we are all getting soft" - people managed to cope in the 1950s and 60s. "I think that's a bit harsh," he adds, but things need to be put "in perspective".

1140 Hello and welcome to our live video and text coverage of prime minister's questions. It's been quite a week since last week's PM's questions, which was still under way when news broke of an attempted Labour leadership coup. It fizzled out but will David Cameron seek to make some political capital out of it at today's session? Helping set the scene for the main event in the Commons former Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy and Welsh Secretary Peter Hain are in BBC Daily Politics' studio. My colleague Iain Watson will also provide us with his analysis and hopefully we'll be getting your views on events via emails, texts and tweets.

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Iain Watson's view: "What we witnessed was a mini election campaign - shrill in tone, with both sides focusing on each other's perceived weaknesses (Gordon Brown's credibility and personality; David Cameron's apparent lack of grasp of detail and policies which are said by Labour to favour the wealthy few) rather than a level-headed discussion on the economy and public spending."


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