Page last updated at 12:43 GMT, Wednesday, 30 November 2011

PMQs: Cameron and Miliband clash over strikes

David Cameron and Ed Miliband have clashed over public sector strikes, as workers stage a walk-out which is expected to be the biggest for a generation.

Opening with a question on strikes at prime minister's questions on 30 November 2011, the Labour leader asked why "so many decent public sector workers feel the government simply isn't listening?".

Mr Cameron said people were on strike because they disagreed with pension changes proposed by the government but added that the reforms were "absolutely essential".

The PM said workers had decided to strike while negotiations were ongoing and reminded Ed Miliband that earlier this year he had said strikes were wrong while talks continued, asking him why he had changed his mind.

Mr Miliband claimed the government had not met with the unions for four weeks and accused the PM of spoiling for a fight.

He said Mr Cameron had "not been straight with people", claiming 800,000 low paid workers on £15,000 a year or less faced an immediate tax rise of 3% on his pension plans.

But Mr Cameron retorted: "I know his entire party is paid for by the unions but I have to say it is extraordinary that what he has just told this House is completely and utterly untrue."

He maintained talks were ongoing and accused the Labour leader of being "irresponsible, left-wing and weak" for refusing to condemn the strike.

Mr Cameron tried to demonstrate that many workers would be better off as a result of the proposal, listing changes for teachers and nurses.

"These are fair changes," he insisted.

But Ed Miliband accused the prime minister of not understanding his own policy. He then asked what unemployment would be at the time of the next Autumn Statement.

Mr Cameron pointed to independent assessments which he said showed more people would be in work and the claimant count for unemployment benefit would be lower than at present.

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