Page last updated at 13:37 GMT, Wednesday, 24 February 2010

The Full Story: Prime Minister's questions

Watch the full prime minister's questions session: From Democracy Live

By Victoria King

1330 Well, that's it for this week's PM's questions. Thanks for all your comments. We'll be back at the same time next week. With only half a dozen of these sessions - at most - left before the election it should be another crucial one. Hope you can join us then.

1323 The panel on Radio 4 are also asked about the Stafford Hospital report. Mr Grayling says it shouldn't be a political issue and there should be a public inquiry to give families the chance to get some closure. Ms Cooper denies that a culture of too many targets and too many initiatives was in part responsible for what happened there.

1320 Lib Dem Jeremy Browne tells BBC Radio 4's The World at One that at a time when Britain has such serious problems, we need the two men at the top - Gordon Brown and his chancellor Alistair Darling - to be working together, not at odds with each other.

1315 On BBC Radio 4's World at One, Work and Pensions Secretary Yvette Cooper accuses David Cameron of "twisting statistics" during PM's questions. She says he wrongly claimed national income per head of population was at its lowest since 1997. Shadow home secretary Chris Grayling denies this vehemently.

1304 Health Secretary Andy Burnham is speaking to a now almost empty Commons about the Stafford Hospital failings. At the same time, one of those who lost a loved one, Julie Bailey, tells BBC News that she will not rest until there is a public inquiry. "We are going nowhere", she says, "We are going to be a thorn in your side throughout the election campaign."

e-mail sent in by reader
how can there be so many empty seats on a debate that, as everyone there is saying, is such a stain on this country's record.
peter , edinburgh

This is why so few people bother to vote. Playground bickering and sniping from the people supposed to be running the country, long live "democratic government"
Oliver, Manchester, UK

Brown complains the Tories are using planted questions from back benchers to score political points and in the next breath answers one from his own back benchers?
Tony, Hull

I was disappointed to see that many MPs and ministers walked out before the prime minister's statement on child migration - I feel the House as a whole should have been present supporting the statement and representing previous parties and governments.
wr henshaw, bournemouth

Well some children in the House needed their legs smacking for poor behaviour today, as usual, but it was refreshing that the PM was seen to give his support to a couple of serious questions from the opposition, i.e. the motorcycle industry and communication on the work our Forces are doing in Afghanistan. It's a pity the House dosen't work together more often, then the UK might waste less and achieve more on the world stage.
Nigel, Ticknall, UK

1257 Just to update you a little more on Mr Brown's apology to child migrants - something he himself said had been too long in coming. "We are sorry that instead of caring for them, this country turned its back," he said. Announcing a £6million "family restoration fund" for those affected, the PM added: "We cannot change history, but I believe that by confronting the failings of the past, we can show we are determined to do all we can to heal the wounds."

e-mail sent in by reader
Don't you think it is about time that all government spending proposals are audited and approved independently before going into into effect? That way we can prevent the unrestrained spending based against expected future tax revenues that the government has been doing over the past years.
Gordon, Wiltshire

It makes no difference if the Tories ask about policy or not, the question NEVER gets answered.
Sam, Poole

When is somebody going to tell Gordon Brown to stop hitting the desk and affecting the audio quality ...
keith, Stockport, Cheshire

I am embarrassed for the conservative MP who raised the 'thumping fist' question. What a waste of parliamentary time..
Graeme, London

1252 Caroline Spelman is asked about recent polls that suggest the Tory lead is shrinking. She says the "core Labour vote" was always going to grow in the run-up to an election and the Tories "never said it was going to be easy" to win.

1250 Nick Robinson says the cabinet secretary has confirmed that he did feel the need to give the PM some advice about how to treat staff. Sadiq Khan question that interpretation of what was said at the committee hearing with Sir Gus O'Donnell.

1245 Labour's Sadiq Khan is asked why Britain's economic recovery is still so fragile, despite massive stimulus put in by the government. The transport minister defends Labour by saying there are 500,000 fewer people unemployed now than predictions said there would be, and says it would be "catastrophic" to cut back on that stimulus now.

1244 Caroline Spelman is asked on Daily Politics about Tory plans to make spending cuts sooner than Labour has so far planned. She says that whenever people are "living beyond their means" they have to do something about it. "It is an age of austerity," she insists but declines to give an idea of the scale of spending cuts to come.

James Landale
1242 From BBC deputy political editor James Landale: So, a little heat from David Cameron about Alistair Darling's "forces of hell" interview but not much light. The prime minister - very much on the defensive - claimed the chancellor had been right on everything in the last few years compared with the Tories. Apart, of course, from Mr Darling's claim in the summer of 2008 that economic conditions in Britain were the worst in 60 years. With hindsight, Mr Darling was right but at the time Number Ten said he was wrong. Mr Cameron tried to embarrass Mr Brown over his tense relationship with Mr Darling in the past but did not quite make the case that it mattered for the present. Nick Clegg tried to reclaim fairness as an issue for the Lib Dems by claiming Labour's new slogan - A Future Fair for All - was undermined by growing income inequality. Mr Brown pleaded tax credits. A foretaste, perhaps, of an interesting battle between Labour and the Lib Dems in the election. And nota bene: no mention of allegations of bullying in Downing St from Mr Cameron. Instead, it was left to a Tory backbencher to raise it by asking if Tony Blair had been speaking literally when he predicted Mr Brown's "clunking fist" as prime minister.

e-mail sent in by reader
Maybe David Cameron should try sitting on the Labour benches, he might just get an answer to his questions Sam, Grays, England

I am sorry. If the leader opposition wants to talk about politics and not hearsay then we will listen. Is this politics or Big Brother? Can someone talk about the economy, jobs, migration? What is this a comic sketch? Very frustrated with politics at the moment. Mr S, London

Funny how this Wednesday, Brown was talking in a softly-softly, less aggressive & seemingly 'more caring' way. Trying to show he's not the nasty bully he's portrayed as? Mark Templeman, Weston-super-Mare

1236 I'm going to focus on bringing you reaction to PM's questions from Daily Politics now. But you can continue to watch the Commons live as Gordon Brown apologises to those children who were sent to Australia.

PMQ analysis - 24 February

1234 Labour's Stephen Pound says he enjoys Guinness and a game of darts "as much as any old Etonian" - a reference to David Cameron's recent revelations about his pastimes. He then asks Mr Brown to back a Robin Hood tax, hinting, not very delicately, that it is Mr Cameron who "speaks for the Sheriff of Nottingham". Mr Brown says he cannot beat that humour, but certainly backs the sentiment.

1232 Conservative Michael Ancram asks about the recent car bombing in Northern Ireland. The PM says the biggest signal that could be sent to terrorists is for all parties to get behind the devolution process.

1231 Labour's Neil Gerrard asks for a guarantee from the government not to cut inheritance tax after the next election. Mr Brown responds with an attack on the Tory plans to do just that.

1230 Mr Brown answers a question about Afghanistan and the need to get the British public more on board with the mission. He insists it is vital to protecting Britain from terrorism.

1229Labour's Derek Wyatt asks a question about the national DNA database and plans to reduce the length of time material is held on it.

1227 Conservative Anne Main asks about changes to the motorbike test system which has led to a fall in the number of people passing. Mr Brown says he will look into it.

1226 A question now about the recently mothballed Corus steelworks in Teesside. Mr Brown says he deeply regrets the loss of jobs there and the government is doing everything it can to find a buyer for the plant. He says he has personally talked to those in power to try to move matters along. More finger banging picked up by the PM's microphone...

1225 Another Tory MP asks whether Mr Blair's famous description of Gordon Brown as a "clunking fist" was more literal than thought. Mr Brown accuses the party of again failing to ask about policies.

1224 The SDLP's Mark Durkan asks about the assassination of a Hamas leader by a group using false British and Irish passports. The PM says there is an investigation ongoing into the incident, but doesn't want to draw any conclusions this week.

1223 In response to a question about National Scams Week, Mr Brown claims the Tories are "led by the airbrushed" - a not very subtle reference to the recent David Cameron poster campaign.

1222 Conservative David Heathcote-Amory asks about the money spent by the government on advertising itself. The PM replies by saying he should know that a pledge is already in place to cut that budget in half.

1220 Mr Clegg says "a future fair for all" is a warning not a slogan, but the PM says it is the government's policies that are preventing people sinking into poverty during the recession.

Nick Clegg
1218 Now it's the turn of Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, who also begins by paying his own tribute to British military casualties. He moves on to talk about inequality - insisting Britain is more unequal now, not less - so how can the PM pledge "A Future Fair for all" on that basis? Mr Brown replies by saying that tax credits are making a big difference to children in Britain.

1216 Labour's Liz Blackman moves matters on with a question about cancer care. She welcomes the government's new guarantee of treatment within two weeks for all patients. Mr Brown says early diagnosis is crucial and his policy has "massive support". He says he cannot understand why the Tories don't like the idea.

James Landale
1215 From BBC deputy political editor James Landale: David Cameron's decision to begin with questions about NHS failings in Stafford was clearly designed to give him cover so he could raise the splits between Alistair Darling and the prime minister without being accused of not discussing policy. As it was, Gordon Brown's response was that Mr Cameron never discussed the "substance" of policy. NB: Alistair Darling has chosen to sit next to the prime minister. Chance or deliberate?

1214 Mr Cameron demands a straight answer from the PM - did you know anything about briefings against the chancellor? Mr Brown, in response, deflects that question, saying he would rather have to defend his man in Number 11 than the Conservatives' would-be replacement George Osborne.

1212 "Any closer and they'll start kissing", says Mr Cameron, as the PM and chancellor put on a show of chumminess, smiling repeatedly at each other. The noise in the chamber gets too much for Speaker John Bercow, who asks for quiet and jokes that if it carries on he might have to "call a helpline" - you don't usually hear a Speaker risking jokes on subjects of such political controversy as this week's bullying row.

1210 Much barracking as Mr Cameron begins speaking about the tensions between Mr Brown and his chancellor - oh, and some laughter too, as the two men in question turn to speak to each other. Mr Brown ignores the request to deny the rumours and instead says it's the closest Mr Cameron has got in some time to talking about the economy.

1208 Mr Cameron comes back again, demanding greater transparency and better ways of monitoring hospitals. Mr Brown says the government has done everything it can to learn every lesson possible from what happened.

David Cameron
1206 David Cameron is on his feet and also pays tribute to those who have lost their lives in Afghanistan. He then moves on to the failings at Stafford Hospital and says the families need a public inquiry into what happened. Mr Brown says the situation was "a completely unacceptable management failure" and says he was "shocked" to read about what happened. He says there have been recommendations for improvements but does not agree that an inquiry is needed.

1204 Labour's Jamie Reed asks for guarantees that bankers will not be let off lightly for their part in the financial crisis. The PM says, with a series of firm prods of his finger, that he is determined every single penny of public money will be paid back.

Gordon Brown
1202 Over in the Commons the chamber is packed and Mr Brown begins the session by paying tribute to soldiers killed in Afghanistan in the last fortnight.

1200 Some news just in… Cabinet Secretary Gus O'Donnell has been giving evidence to the Justice Committee. He says he has never spoken to the PM about how he treats Downing Street staff but said he had spoken to Mr Brown about "how to get the best out of his staff".

James Landale
1157 From BBC deputy political editor James Landale: Lots of material for PM's questions: the allegations of bullying at Number Ten; Alistair Darling's "forces of hell" interview; the state of the economy; the Falkland's stand off. The question for David Cameron is what strategy he deploys. Does he plump for bullying or historic government splits and risk accusations of again raising personality over policy? Or does he choose a statesmanlike discussion about the economy or foreign policy that looks prime ministerial but doesn't make the news?

1156 Sadiq Khan insists on Daily Politics Mr Brown and Mr Darling are close friends. He says he doesn't know why "poison" was spread about the chancellor, but it was "unacceptable". The two men have "healthy discussions", he says, that's all.

Nick Robinson
The BBC's political editor Nick Robinson is asked on Daily Politics about Mr Darling's claims that he was briefed against by Downing Street after making dire, but ultimately accurate, predictions about the economy. Nick Robinson says he was told by senior No 10 sources that Mr Brown wanted to replace Mr Darling with Ed Balls.

1147 Daily Politics guests are discussing donations to the political parties. Caroline Spelman is asked about Lord Ashcroft and his controversial millions, but she insists he is only one of a "broad base" of Conservative support. Sadiq Khan says Labour "cannot compete" with the Tory war chest and it will be a "David versus Goliath election". This looks like a deliberate tactic from the government. David Blunkett was saying the same thing recently, trying to frame the election as the poor David taking on the wealthy Goliath.

1145 MPs had a break last week because of half term, so will they come back with an extra bit of oomph? Well, there's certainly plenty for them to discuss. Social care could raise its head once again. So too could Mr Brown's newly unveiled election slogan - A Fair Future for All. The relationship between the PM and his chancellor might also be a topic too juicy for David Cameron to ignore, given Mr Darling's remarks today about "forces of hell" being unleashed on him. And the issue of bullying just won't go away either.

1140 Hello and welcome to our live video and text coverage of prime minister's questions. Before things kick off in the Commons at noon, we'll be dipping into the BBC's Daily Politics show, where Transport Minister Sadiq Khan and shadow communities secretary Caroline Spelman will be giving their views on the day's events. Our deputy political editor James Landale will also be on hand to give us some expert analysis. We'll also be keeping the live video from the Commons running after PM's questions ends at 1230 for those who want to see Gordon Brown's apology to the child migrants sent to Australia.


Gordon Brown The Full Story
All the action with key points, analysis and reaction from Gordon Brown's weekly grilling

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