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Sometimes our media hacks are just plain ignorant buffoons!

October 11, 2009 Leave a comment

The latest idiotic frenzy running new rooms is the story regarding Prime minister, Gordon Brown’s remaining good eye, he clearly does a great deal of reading. He has apparently two tiny tears in his retina, I had something similar a few years ago, it is quite common for people over fifty to experience this. Moorfields Eye Hospital treated me very quickly at the time with laser surgery, quick and easy. Yet inches of column prinitng ink and volumes of excited BBC, ITN and Sky News jouranlists with nothing better to do weigh into this story as if this is equivalent to an earthquake.

Such tiny, stupid minds do our journalists have!!!

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PMQs. Weds. 17 June 2009.

June 17, 2009 Leave a comment

The clash between Prime Minister Gordon Brown and David Cameron focussed on the hot topic of future cuts. David Cameron appears as the weeks go by to become more childish, churlish and insulting. There is no attempt to discuss policy. If people really think that Cameron should be the next prime minister they should be more discerning. Many of us know the Tories will very likely introduce savage budget cuts, we already know that 10% all round is likely. I do feel though that Gordon Brown should be more open about the prospect of cuts that may be scheduled in the future. Nick Clegg on the other hand does indeed raise issues of policy and does deserve more detailed responses. The clash between Gordon Brown and David Cameron is in the full BBC TV News clip and the full text from Hansard follows:

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PRIME MINISTER

The Prime Minister was asked—

Engagements

Q1. [280103] Dr. Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test) (Lab): If he will list his official engagements for Wednesday 17 June.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): Before I list my engagements, this is your last Prime Minister’s questions, Mr. Speaker. The whole House will have a chance to acknowledge your great contribution to public life in a few minutes’ time.

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall have further such meetings later today.

Dr. Whitehead: Mr. Speaker, may I add my appreciation of your kindness and generosity towards me and many other hon. Members in your time as Speaker?

In view of recent speculation, can the Prime Minister assure me that budgets relating to the support of green energy development and combating climate change will be maintained and enhanced over the next three years? Would he reflect on what the United Kingdom’s ability to meet its carbon budget commitments would be if such funding were cut by, say, 10 per cent.?

The Prime Minister: In the Budget we committed an additional £1.4 billion of support for the low-carbon economy. That would not have been possible if we had followed the advice of the Opposition to make cuts of 5 per cent. this year. It would be impossible in the future if we went for the plans that have been suggested by the shadow Health Secretary to cut departmental expenditure by 10 per cent. We are for investing in the environment, not for using the money for inheritance tax cuts for the very few.

Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): Welcome to Prime Minister’s planted questions! [Interruption.] Some Labour MPs were a bit confused: when they were told about Mr. Ten Percent, they thought it meant his opinion poll ratings.

In our exchanges last week, the Prime Minister read out figures for total Government spending after 2011. Will he agree that, using the Treasury’s own forecasts for inflation, those figures mean that spending is going to be cut in real terms?

The Prime Minister: I welcome this debate about public spending. I relish the chance to debate policy for once with the Opposition. The first thing that the right hon. Gentleman has to confirm is that he is cutting spending this year.

Hon. Members: Answer!

Mr. Speaker: Order. Let the Prime Minister speak. That is the best way—we hear what the Prime Minister has to say. [Interruption.] I am not responsible for his answers.

The Prime Minister: The first thing that the right hon. Gentleman has to confirm is that he would cut spending by 5 per cent. this year. That means that vital services would be losing money. I welcome the debate that we are having in this country. We are investing to get ourselves out of the recession; the Opposition would cut, and they would make the recession last longer. That would lead to higher debts and higher deficits that would have to be spent for. As for spending beyond 2011, the right hon. Gentleman knows the truth: he wants to spend less—10 per cent. less in most Departments—whereas we want to spend more.

Mr. Cameron: Absolutely no answer to the question. For the time that Peter Mandelson allows the Prime Minister to go on doing the job, he should at least answer the question. Every year, at every Budget, the Prime Minister stood there and read out figure after figure for total spending and told us it was an increase in real terms. Now he stands there, reading out figures for total spending, without admitting that they represent a real-terms cut. The country will conclude that he is taking them for fools. Everyone knows that what matters is spending over and above inflation. Let me ask him again: will he now accept that his spending plans from 2011 mean a real-terms cut? The Chancellor says that they are a cut. Are they?

The Prime Minister: The first thing we are absolutely sure of is that, regardless of economic circumstances, employment, investment and inflation, the Conservatives will cut expenditure by 10 per cent. The right hon. Gentleman said it himself last week—Tory cuts versus Labour investment. Now let me read out the figures for current expenditure. Current expenditure will grow every year to 2013–14, not just in cash terms but in real terms. Capital expenditure will grow until the year of the Olympics. After that, it will be less but asset sales will make up much of the difference. So we are increasing current expenditure, and increasing capital expenditure up to the Olympics. Unfortunately, the right hon. Gentleman’s proposal is to cut expenditure by 10 per cent. He had better admit the truth: he is cutting expenditure by 10 per cent.

Mr. Cameron: It sounds more and more desperate. Whichever way we look at the figures, the Government plan to cut spending. Let us consider capital and current spending. Capital spending will go from £44 billion in 2009–10 to £22 billion in 2013. That is a massive cut. Now let us look at current spending. We must exclude debt interest and paying for unemployment—what the Prime Minister used to call the bills of social failure. When we do that, we see that current spending is also being cut. Capital spending—cut; current spending—cut. Those are Labour cuts. Let me ask the Prime Minister again—the question will not go away until he answers it. Will he admit—I would not listen to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the right hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Woodward); he was pretty useless when he worked for us and he is still pretty useless. The question will not go away. Will the Prime Minister accept that his spending plans from 2011 mean a real-terms cut?

The Prime Minister: What the right hon. Gentleman is saying to us—he had better listen to the debate because it will go on for many months—is that, regardless of growth, employment, interest rates or inflation, he is dogmatically set on a 10 per cent. cut in most departmental expenditures. Let me read out the real-terms current expenditure: 603 to 629 to 633 to 638 to 642. What is that but a rise in real-terms current expenditure? I have already explained about capital expenditure and what is happening after the Olympics, but gross investment, real terms—[Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman has not produced one figure yet and I have just given him the figures in the Red Book—63, 55, 49—and we will make that up by the asset sales that we have already announced in the pre-Budget report. I have to tell him that current expenditure will continue to rise in cash and real terms. The issue is that the Conservatives will cut current expenditure in real and cash terms. It is exactly what I said—Tory cuts, Labour investment. What is worse is that they would cut expenditure so that they can help the few with inheritance tax cuts, while we are the party of the many. Let him say that he is abandoning inheritance tax cuts.

Mr. Cameron: Every commentator and every economist has concluded that the Prime Minister is wrong and looks increasingly ridiculous. Let us take just one. Last week, Robert Chote, the director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said that

“judging from his performance at Prime Minister’s questions on Wednesday—Gordon Brown needs some help to interpret his own Chancellor’s Budget.”

Let us take one of the Prime Minister’s former Treasury Ministers, whom he appointed to work with him in Treasury. The right hon. Member for Bolton, West (Ruth Kelly) said that

“as the Budget made clear, the only way to clear a huge debt overhang in the medium term will be to cut billions of pounds from public spending.”

Why does the Prime Minister find it so impossible to give a straight answer and be straight with the British people?”

The Prime Minister: I am the person who is giving the House the figures. The right hon. Gentleman has given not one figure to back up his proposition. The only figure that we have had is the admission by the shadow Health Secretary that he would cut public expenditure in vital Departments by 10 per cent. What we will not be doing is cutting expenditure by 10 per cent.

Let me tell the Leader of the Opposition what the real-terms rise in current expenditure is, and perhaps at some point he will listen: 603 to 629 to 633 to 638 to 642. These are rises in expenditure after inflation has been taken into account. Once again, he is trying to hide the fact that he has got 10 per cent. cuts. His is the party of cuts; we are the party of investment. Because he wants to use the cuts to pay for inheritance tax, let us remember once again: the Conservatives are the party of the few and we are the party of the many.

Mr. Cameron: The right hon. Gentleman is just sinking and sinking. He thinks that everyone is so stupid that they will not notice that once we take out debt interest and unemployment benefit, the Departments of all those Ministers on the Treasury Bench will be cut, cut, cut. That is the truth. Why does the Prime Minister not just stand back for a moment and ask why he is so distrusted? It is not actually the recession: there is a recession all over Europe; and yet no other European leader—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker: Order.

Mr. Cameron: The reason the right hon. Gentleman is in the hole that he is in is because he is not straight with people. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker: Order. We must allow the Leader of the Opposition to be heard. [Interruption.] Order. Allow the right hon. Gentleman to speak. [Interruption.] Order. I do not want a Minister pushing his luck, so I ask the right hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Khan) to behave himself.

Mr. Cameron: Labour Members shout for half an hour on a Wednesday and spend the rest of the week trying to get rid of the Prime Minister. His problem is that he is not straight with people. He was not straight over the cancelled election; he was not straight over the 10p tax; he was not straight over flying to Iraq during the Tory conference; he was not straight over Damian McBride; he was not straight about who he wanted as his Chancellor; and now he will not be straight with people about the level of Government spending. Will everyone not conclude that if you cannot be straight with people, you are simply not worthy to be our Prime Minister?

Mr. Speaker: Order. Even though it is my last day, the Leader of the Opposition knows that the term “you” is not something that I approve of, and I think that the candidates at all these hustings will be saying that they do not approve of it either.

The Prime Minister: The right hon. Gentleman is learning all the time. At last he has a European policy, and he now admits that there is a European recession. As far as his last comments are concerned, is it not remarkable that he descends back into personalities? He cannot deal with a policy debate. I have said that we are taking action to deal with the recession, and that means that more people will be in work, that more businesses will be saved and that more help will be given to mortgage holders. We are spending money to take people out of recession; he would cut the money now. There would be more unemployment, more debt and more deficit. The Conservative party has to face up to its responsibility. The Conservatives are calling for public spending cuts at a time when every country in Europe and the rest of the world knows that we have to inject more money into the economy.

As for the future, everybody also knows—this is where the serious debate lies—that what can happen depends on growth and what happens to inflation, employment and interest rates. There is good evidence that the proposals that we have put forward are working, whereas the proposals that the Conservatives have put forward would not work. As for the future of public expenditure, let us just be clear: I have read out figures showing that there are not only cash rises in all our current expenditure in each year, but also real-terms rises. The Leader of the Opposition has given us no figure, except the figure of his Health Secretary, which is a 10 per cent. cut in public expenditure. The public will remember one thing about the last week: 10 per cent. cuts in public expenditure under the Tories; investment under Labour. They are the party of the few; we are the party of the many.

Mr. Cameron: Why does the Prime Minister not understand that character and policy come together in the vital question of telling the truth that public spending will be cut, according to his own plans? Everyone will have seen today that the Prime Minister has drawn one of his precious dividing lines between himself and reality. That is what we have seen. People know that they have a Prime Minister whom they never elected, a Prime Minister who cannot be straight with people and a Prime Minister who will not even give 10 per cent. of the truth.

The Prime Minister: The leader of the Conservative party said:

“We’ve made it clear that a Conservative government would spend less than Labour.”

So it is absolutely clear that the Conservatives would be spending less every time. They would be cutting spending on vital services, and people should not forget that. He wants to read out quotes from this person or that person, but why does he not face up to the policy issue? We are spending 5.5 per cent. more on the health service this year, and 4 per cent. more on education. We are building more schools, employing more nurses, building up the health service and making the policing in our community work. At every point, the Conservatives would be cutting these vital services. They should go back to their constituencies and explain how many police, nurses, doctors and teachers they would cut under policies that are in the interest not of the many but, in their case, only of the few.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr. Speaker: Order. I am going to call you, Mr. McGrady, but you will be brief, won’t you?

Mr. Eddie McGrady (South Down) (SDLP): Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will be brief, but I want to thank you for your personal kindness to me and my party over your many years in the Chair and outside this Chamber.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will be aware that devolution to Northern Ireland has not been completed owing to the absence of the devolution of policing and justice. This issue has now become a political football between the two parties in power, and the situation has been exacerbated by the recent European elections. Will he take a personal new initiative to complete that all-important stage of devolution, which is the prerogative of the whole community in Northern Ireland?

The Prime Minister: I think that the benefits to Northern Ireland of the devolution of policing and justice will be very considerable indeed. I realise that there are very delicate issues that have to be dealt with, and that there are conversations to be had, but I recognise that progress has been made with the commitment of the major parties to devolution in principle. Talks are now taking place that I hope will yield results, and I hope it will not be long before we complete the process of the devolution of policing and justice under terms that will give security to every community in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Nick Clegg (Sheffield, Hallam) (LD): Does the Prime Minister agree with the comments made by his Chancellor this morning when he blamed the banks’ boardrooms for the recession but refused fundamentally to change the way we regulate them?

The Prime Minister: We are fundamentally changing the way we regulate our banks. We are banning them from giving bonuses at the moment where we have taken over the banks. We are changing the structure of the boards by the way we are dealing with the problems that have been created in this recession, and we are introducing new financial services legislation in the next year to change the structure of regulation. In every area in which abuse has been found, we are taking action to deal with it. I hope that, when the legislation comes before the House of Commons, the right hon. Gentleman will support it, because that is the right thing to do. When people make mistakes, that has to be dealt with, and we are dealing with the mistakes that have been made in the City.

Mr. Clegg: I still think that the Prime Minister is trying to have it both ways. He cannot just blame the bankers but not change the basic way we control them. He is just passing the buck. I will tell him who is to blame for this recession: a Government who did not listen to warnings, who let the bankers get away with blue murder and who, even now, refuse to separate ordinary high street banking from casino investment banking. Can he not see that if he just keeps passing the buck, the only certainty is that this kind of crisis will happen all over again?

The Prime Minister: The right hon. Gentleman is speaking as though high street banks and investment banks did not fail. The truth is that both failed, and we have to deal with that. The solution is to have better regulation and better supervision. It is actually about cross-border supervision at a global level as well. It is about bringing in those countries that have been outside the scope of supervision and regulation. That is what the G20 was about: to bring them all into the regulatory and supervisory net. To be honest, I think the right hon. Gentleman actually supports what we are doing but cannot bear to say so.

Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): Is my right hon. Friend aware that, despite all the promises, the Lloyds group of banks is planning to decimate jobs in Yorkshire and take them down south to Peterborough? Will he urgently talk to the management of the Lloyds group and point out that we are major shareholders in that bank and expect better standards?

The Prime Minister: I am very happy to talk to Lloyds, which made promises at the time it took over HBOS about what it would do to safeguard the jobs of its employees. We will look at the issue in that context; any jobs lost are to be regretted and we will do everything we can.

Q2. [280104] Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): The Prime Minister will have satisfied virtually nobody with his private inquiry into the war in Iraq. He does, however, have the opportunity to satisfy one family—the Al-Sarraj family. Mr. Al-Sarraj, who is detained in Camp Cropper in Baghdad, is the husband of my constituent, Shereen Nasser. Will the right hon. Gentleman talk to the US authorities to try to secure a release date for Mr. Al-Sarraj?

The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman has raised the case with me; I shall look further at what he says and write to him.

Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley) (Lab): Will the Prime Minister take this opportunity to condemn the appalling racist attacks on Romanian families in Belfast?

The Prime Minister: Yes indeed, and I hope that the authorities will be able to take all the necessary action to protect those families.

Q3. [280105] Mr. John Randall (Uxbridge) (Con): Will the Prime Minister confirm that the Department for Transport has been compiling dossiers on opponents of the third runway at Heathrow and handing them over to the police? Will he find out whether there is one on me and one on his hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell)?

The Prime Minister: I know nothing about this—[Interruption.] Any allegation that the hon. Gentleman makes will of course be investigated, but it is not something that has been drawn to my attention. As far as the Heathrow expansion is concerned, it is a contentious issue but the House has voted on the matter.

Q4. [280106] Mr. Mark Hendrick (Preston) (Lab/Co-op): My right hon. Friend will know that the Lancashire police constabulary is the top-performing police force in the country. Burglary is at a 27-year low and vehicle crime at a 20-year low. The number of police officers, police community support officers, special constables and other staff has increased by 1,400—30 per cent. since 1997. Will my right hon. Friend tell me what impact a 10 per cent. cut in policing will have on staff and crime in Lancashire?

The Prime Minister: It could involve the loss of about 15,000 police. Those who advocate 10 per cent. cuts in the Home Office have to face up to the consequences, as it will mean fewer policemen on the beat, less neighbourhood policing and less protection against crime. [Interruption.] I notice that Conservative Members are not worried about a 10 per cent. cut in the police; I think they would hear from their constituents if such a cut were ever to happen.

Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East) (DUP): Has the Prime Minister any concern about the expressed intention of the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland to axe the full-time police reserve in Northern Ireland? Does he recognise that there is a heightened level of dissident activity and that the Chief Constable is leaving his job, so is this not a decision that should be left to the new Chief Constable?

The Prime Minister: I think the hon. Gentleman will recognise that we have committed additional resources to deal with the problems posed by the dissident groups in Northern Ireland. I spoke to the former chief of police in Northern Ireland at exactly the time of the incidents and we promised him that the resources would be there to deal with the problems arising from the actions of those dissident groups. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the security of the people of Northern Ireland will not be put at risk in any way.

Q5. [280107] Judy Mallaber (Amber Valley) (Lab): Mr. Speaker, may I thank you for your kindness over the years and wish you well?

Knives, age-related games and alcohol were all bought online recently by a 16-year-old acting for Greenwich trading standards without any checks being made. They were bought from Debenhams, Marks and Spencer, Argos and other stores, even though his card was registered with his real date of birth and address. Will my right hon. Friend look to extend the provisions in the Gambling Act 2005 to restrict and have simple checks on age so that our young people cannot get easy access to knives and other age-restricted goods, in accordance with the recommendations of the children’s charities digital manifesto on internet safety?

The Prime Minister: I know about the document to which my hon. Friend refers. She may be aware that yesterday we published the “Digital Britain” document describing the steps that the Government are taking to ensure the online safety of children, and the ways in which the Government will continue to support further action by the industry against such practices. We have also set up the UK Council on Child Internet Safety, which, as she probably knows, is examining these issues.

Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP): The Calman commission reported this week that the Scottish Parliament should have additional limited powers. The First Minister has offered to test that proposal, together with the proposal for independence, in a referendum. Does the Prime Minister agree that the people should have their say?

The Prime Minister: I am sorry that the Scottish National party is not supporting the Calman recommendations. They give a new basis on which the Union can move forward, providing a measure of devolution that will allow the Union to be safeguarded for the future. The difference between us and the Scottish National party lies in the fact that the SNP wants complete independence, although all the evidence suggests that the people of Scotland do not.

Q6. [280108] Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North) (Lab): May I thank you personally for your kindness, Mr. Speaker?

On policy, let me say to my right hon. Friend that my constituents are nervously awaiting the outcome of the Learning and Skills Council’s review of the Building Colleges for the Future programme? We need that money. Will he give some reassurance that when the review takes place our Government will make an immediate decision, and that he will take account of our commitment to urban regeneration in Burslem and to the university quarter so that the full amounts can be provided for the campuses in Cauldon and on the Burslem site?

The Prime Minister: In the Budget, we announced an extra £300 million of capital spending on further education colleges to meet some of the demand that has arisen as a result of the number of colleges that wish to expand and build new facilities on their campuses. We are looking at all the projects. The LSC has talked to the principals of all colleges this month, and we hope to announce the projects that will proceed to their next stages as soon as possible.

Q7. [280109] Mr. Lee Scott (Ilford, North) (Con): Will the Prime Minister tell the House whether the Government have received any informal briefings from Damian McBride?

The Prime Minister: I have not.

Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) (Lab): I should like to ask the Prime Minister about a modest constitutional innovation. Will he invite the House of Commons to amend its Standing Orders to allow senior Ministers in the House of Lords to come to this Dispatch Box to defend their stewardship of their Departments, and to pilot legislation of which they are the principal architects? Even the most senior junior Minister will on occasion be nothing more than a superior parrot unless that change is made.

The Prime Minister: We have a strong team of Ministers in the House of Commons, who are perfectly able to answer questions and conduct debates in the House of Commons. If my hon. Friend has proposals for constitutional innovation, perhaps he could put them to the Committee chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock Chase (Dr. Wright).

Q8. [280110] Mr. Paul Burstow (Sutton and Cheam) (LD): This is national elder abuse week. According to the Government’s own figures, 5,980 older people are victims of abuse every week in this country. Will the Prime Minister consider the need for legislation? The overwhelming majority of organisations responding to a Government consultation said that it was necessary, not least at a time when 5,900 people every week are unprotected from assaults and those who commit the assaults go unpunished. Is it not time for legislation, and will the Prime Minister meet me to discuss the matter?

The Prime Minister: Any abuse of the elderly is completely unacceptable. I hope that the criminal law will protect them, and that the regulatory framework will be such that we can give the protection that is necessary. We will continue to keep that regulatory framework under review. In a week when the amount of abuse of the elderly is being noted, I think it right to say that no citizen should be engaged in anything that puts the dignity and security of elderly people in our country at risk.

Emily Thornberry (Islington, South and Finsbury) (Lab): I wonder whether my right hon. Friend could explain a phrase that I heard recently: “Play the ball and not the man.” Perhaps as an ex-rugby player he could explain both its meaning and its application to Prime Minister’s questions.

The Prime Minister: It means that on only a few occasions in the past year has the Leader of the Opposition managed to raise questions about policy. We welcome the debate about policy which will be held in the country over the next few months, when we will show that we will safeguard the health, education and public services of this country against 10 per cent. cuts by the Conservative party.

Q9. [280111] Willie Rennie (Dunfermline and West Fife) (LD): Will the Prime Minister join me in commending the work of the Chernobyl children’s charities, which bring thousands of children over from Belarus every year for recuperative holidays? Will he also explain why the Home Office has decided not to give free visas to the Chernobyl children from the north of Ukraine, who are suffering worse conditions than those from Belarus, and will he meet me and a delegation of the charities to discuss this important issue?

The Prime Minister: I know that the hon. Gentleman has raised this matter on many occasions and has taken a deep interest in it. I also know that he has held an Adjournment debate on it. He is asking about the Home Office and what it can do to help. I suggest that he ask for a meeting with the Home Secretary, and I am sure the Home Secretary will be happy to meet his delegation.

Mr. Brian H. Donohoe (Central Ayrshire) (Lab): As my right hon. Friend may know, I have in my constituency three of the five biggest energy users, and they are very concerned about increasing energy costs. What steps are my right hon. Friend’s Government taking to protect them against excessive profits, which has happened before in respect of the energy companies?

The Prime Minister: Everybody is concerned about the 50 per cent. rise in oil prices that we have seen over the last few weeks. The oil price was $150, then it went down to $30, and it has now gone up to $70. That means that it is very difficult for energy companies in this country, but also very difficult for consumers, and very difficult when we consider future gas and electricity bills. I believe that the world has got to look at what it can do to make sure that supply of and demand for oil is far more in balance, so that we can keep oil prices under control.

Hansard

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PMQs Weds. 10 June 2009

June 10, 2009 Leave a comment

Today Tory punch & judy boy, David Cameron, made one of his more ridiculous contributions. He ventured into the realm of policy, for the first time, even though the prime minister was to announce details for electoral and parliamentary reform in 30 minutes. Cameron’s contribution then deteriorated into the usual snide and personal comments. Cameron seemed most obsessed with future proposals for electoral reform. There was also an exchange in regard to public expenditure and it is not at all clear how much Cameron’s Tories will want to cut public spending: David Cameron: “One of my plans for dealing with the recession was the same as the Prime Minister’s last week—to sack the Chancellor. The Prime Minister might be talking about a second-preference voting system, but the fact is that he is left with a second-preference Chancellor.

On the issue of public spending, let us be clear about the answers that the Prime Minister has given. He said last week:

“Public spending is rising every year”.

His Chancellor said:

“I have cut overall public spending”.

The figures that the Prime Minister is hawking around are his own figures. He is planning to cut public spending by 7 per cent. in every Department over the next three years. The next election—when he has the guts to call it—will not be about Labour investment versus Tory cuts, but about the mismanagement—[Interruption.] It will be about the mismanagement of the public finances, the appalling deficit that he has left and his plan for cuts.

Let me just ask the Prime Minister this question. On the issue of electoral reform, why not admit that the current system gives the country the chance to throw out a Government who are weak, divided and incompetent? That election is what we should be having now.

The Prime Minister: Let me read the figures for public spending, so that there is absolutely no doubt about the truth of what I am saying and that the right hon. Gentleman has got it wrong. Public spending this year is £621 billion; it rises next year to £672 billion—that is this financial year. It then rises to £702 billion, then to £717 billion, then to £738 billion and then to £758 billion. Those are public spending rises. The only party proposing a cut in public spending is the Conservative party.

The right hon. Gentleman is right. At the next election, there will be a choice: a choice between a Government who helped people and actively intervened to take us through a downturn and a Conservative party that would do nothing. [Interruption.]…”

Cameron had stated that a truly proportional electoral system has “massive drawbacks”, as shown by the election of the BNP, a group of “fascist thugs”, in the European elections on Sunday night….the Prime Minister said he had never supported PR for Westminster. But it exists for European elections. The Jenkins report for AV+ PR would have made it impossible for the BNP to get a seat at Westminster.

Nick Clegg at least asked more sensible questions on housing. Prime Minister Gordon Brown has recently improved in his handling of PMQs which is good progress.

Video and transcript are below:

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PRIME MINISTER’S QUESTION TIME 10 JUNE 2009 – HANSARD.

The Prime Minister was asked—

Engagements

Q1. [278778] Andrew Selous (South-West Bedfordshire) (Con): If he will list his official engagements for Wednesday 10 June.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall have further such meetings later today.

Andrew Selous: Our specialist hospitals are the jewels in the NHS crown, but unfortunately their knowledge and expertise are not always passed on to district general hospitals, which means that some patients undergo inappropriate operations which later have to be reversed by specialist hospitals, or even worse, are prevented from having operations which could free them from pain. Could the Prime Minister spare just 10 minutes to meet the chair of the federation of specialist hospitals to see how matters could be improved?

The Prime Minister: Of course I will, and I think he will understand, as I will understand, that that depends on proper investment in specialist hospitals. He will be as concerned as I am by the remarks of the shadow Health Secretary that he will cut spending in the vital areas that are important to our country. The shadow Health Secretary said that he would review the national health’s organisations on a “zero basis”. He said he wants to ensure that the unit costs considerably reduce, rather than increase. He said this morning that he wants a 10 per cent. reduction in the departmental limits. Before the Conservatives ask for more spending on the health service, they should talk to the shadow Chancellor and the shadow Health Secretary.

Sir Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton) (Lab): Will the Prime Minister affirm the Labour Government’s commitment to maintaining funding for public services such as housing, universities, police, law and order, transport and pensions, and reject the Tory party policy of a 10 per cent. across the board cut, which would take this country back to the worst days of Thatcherism?

The Prime Minister: Specifically, this morning the shadow Health Secretary spoke of

“over three years after 2011 a 10 per cent. reduction in the departmental expenditure limits for other Departments. It is a very tough spending requirement indeed.”

He said that the job of the shadow Chancellor was to be clear about where the spending restraints bite. There can be no doubt that the choice, whenever it comes, is between a Government who are prepared to invest in the future and a Conservative party that will cut.

Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): When even the old-timers are reading out the Whips’ handout questions, we know things are really bad for the Government. May I say how pleased I am to see the Prime Minister in his place? Let me be clear about what we think of electoral reform. We want to keep the existing system. We support the link between one MP and one constituency, and we back our system because weak, tired and discredited Governments can be thrown out. We supported the system when we were behind, when we were ahead, when we won, when we lost. Why has the Prime Minister suddenly discovered an interest in changing the electoral system? Does it have anything to do with the fact that his party got 15 per cent. of the vote last week?

The Prime Minister: Finally, after many, many weeks, a question on policy. Is it not remarkable that it has taken that amount of time for the Conservatives to come up with a question? [HON. MEMBERS: “Answer.”] The statement that I shall make in a few minutes, after 12.30, will deal with exactly those problems. I have to remind the right hon. Gentleman that there are different electoral systems in different parts of the United Kingdom, in many cases with the Conservative party’s support. There is a different one in Northern Ireland, a different one in Scotland, a different one in Wales, a different one for the European Parliament, which is based on proportional representation, and a different one in the House of Commons. I shall deal with the issue in the constitutional statement in a few minutes.

Mr. Speaker: Mr. Eric Illsley. [Interruption.] My apologies, I was too quick. Mr. Cameron.

Mr. Cameron: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am sure that you will agree that it is no good the Prime Minister saying, “Wait for the statement,” when he has briefed all the details to the press. And, I have to say that, on asking questions about personalities, what is there left to ask when so many members of the Cabinet have walked out because they cannot work with him?

I want to ask the Prime Minister questions about the issue of electoral reform and the process that he intends to follow. On that issue, does he agree that a truly proportional system has massive drawbacks? Did we not see that on Sunday night, when the British National party, a bunch of fascist thugs, got two members elected to the European Parliament? Does he agree with me that that is a very, very strong argument against proportional systems?

The Prime Minister: Let the whole House send the message that the politics of discrimination, prejudice and bigotry have no part to play in the democratic life of our country. Let us all take action together to expose the racist and bigoted policies of the British National party. And, let us be clear that, on the Labour side of the House, we will do everything in our power to show that the problems that made people vote for the BNP are the problems that we are dealing with—on housing, on social justice and on employment. Nobody, however, will support the BNP’s anti-Semitic policy or its policy that is even against mixed-race marriage. I believe that the whole country can unite on that.

What I say about electoral reform, however, is that I have never myself supported the policy of proportional representation for a Westminster Parliament; that has always been my view. The right hon. Gentleman has to accept that the policy of proportional representation exists for the European elections, and I do not see a proposal from his party to change it at the moment. He has to accept also that the Jenkins proposals for the additional vote plus PR laid down criteria by which it would be impossible for the British National party to hold a seat—even under the PR system—in the British Parliament, unless it won a constituency seat.

Mr. Cameron: Everyone will agree with what the Prime Minister says about defeating the BNP, and it does mean all mainstream parties making sure that they go door to door and get their voters to go out and vote.

Let me ask about the process, and let us be clear about what the Prime Minister seems to be considering. We are in the fifth and final year of a Parliament, and there have been reports that a referendum is being considered for before the general election. Can the Prime Minister confirm those reports? Is that something that he is considering?

The Prime Minister: There are no plans for that, and let me just say that when the right hon. Gentleman hears the statement later, he will hear that there is an interest throughout the country in what happens on electoral reform. We published a review—[Interruption.] I am sorry, but we published a review on electoral reform only a few months ago. That has led to a serious debate in the country, but we are not putting proposals forward today. If I may say so, I said that he had moved on to policy, but there seems to be an element of self-interest in the way that he is approaching—[Interruption.] Is it not strange—[Interruption.] Is it not strange, Mr. Speaker—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker: Order. It is getting too noisy—[Interruption.] Order. I am not getting much help from the Opposition Chief Whip. Maybe I can get a bit of help from him here. It will be a bad day when I have to tell the Opposition Chief Whip to be quiet, but the Prime Minister must be heard.

The Prime Minister: Is it not strange that the Opposition are not even interested in discussing that democratic reform, and that the first questions that the right hon. Gentleman asks on policy are not about the economy, not about the health service, not about education, not about public services—not about the issues that the public out there know that we and they are concerned about?

Mr. Cameron: I have to say to the Prime Minister that remarks such as that make him a figure of ridicule across this country. Everyone is entitled to ask what the Prime Minister’s motive is. For 12 years there was not a squeak about electoral reform, but now that he has been trashed at two elections he suddenly wants to put it on the agenda.

This is all of a piece with the Prime Minister treating the nation like fools—expecting us to believe that the right hon. Member for Edinburgh, South-West (Mr. Darling) is his first choice as Chancellor, and telling us that he cancelled the election because he was going to win it. The Prime Minister said that he had “no plans” for a referendum. We all know what that means—he said that he had no plans to put up taxes in 1997. Instead of saying “no plans”, let him stand up at that Dispatch Box and rule out a referendum.

The Prime Minister: I said that I had no plans, and I repeat that I have no plans. Is it not again remarkable? What MPs are being told by their constituents is that they should concentrate on getting the politics of this country sorted out, on getting us through the recession and on building us a better future. Not one question from the Leader of the Opposition has been about the central issues facing our country.

Mr. Cameron: The Prime Minister has chosen today to make a statement about constitutional reform; he cannot complain that I am asking questions about it. The Prime Minister talks about the economy, but let us be clear about what his legacy will be: not the most useless Government that we have had in history—although they are—but the biggest budget deficit in Europe and the biggest that we have had in our history. So let us be clear about “no plans” or “no proposals today”, as he put it. A man with no democratic legitimacy, who has never been elected as our Prime Minister, who has been defeated every time the public have been able to vote for him, is now considering trying to fix the election rules before the next general election. Is that not what is happening?

The Prime Minister: First of all, on public spending and deficits, let the right hon. Gentleman confirm that his proposals are for a 10 per cent. cut in most departmental expenditure. If he wishes to raise the question of deficits and debt, let him confirm that the proposal of the shadow Chancellor is now to cut public expenditure by 10 per cent., as confirmed by the shadow Health Secretary this morning.

Let us have a debate about the choice that really does exist in the country: between a Conservative party that now wants to cut, even at a time of recession, into our basic public services, and a Labour party that wants to invest in them. Let him also be honest with the country that when it comes to calling for an election, he has absolutely no plan for dealing with the recession. He has no policies for dealing with unemployment, no policies for dealing with small businesses and no policies for dealing with the problems of this country. He is an Opposition leader who has no plans for government, and he does not deserve to be in government.

Mr. Cameron: One of my plans for dealing with the recession was the same as the Prime Minister’s last week—to sack the Chancellor. The Prime Minister might be talking about a second-preference voting system, but the fact is that he is left with a second-preference Chancellor.

On the issue of public spending, let us be clear about the answers that the Prime Minister has given. He said last week:

“Public spending is rising every year”.

His Chancellor said:

“I have cut overall public spending”.

The figures that the Prime Minister is hawking around are his own figures. He is planning to cut public spending by 7 per cent. in every Department over the next three years. The next election—when he has the guts to call it—will not be about Labour investment versus Tory cuts, but about the mismanagement—[Interruption.] It will be about the mismanagement of the public finances, the appalling deficit that he has left and his plan for cuts.

Let me just ask the Prime Minister this question. On the issue of electoral reform, why not admit that the current system gives the country the chance to throw out a Government who are weak, divided and incompetent? That election is what we should be having now.

The Prime Minister: Let me read the figures for public spending, so that there is absolutely no doubt about the truth of what I am saying and that the right hon. Gentleman has got it wrong. Public spending this year is £621 billion; it rises next year to £672 billion—that is this financial year. It then rises to £702 billion, then to £717 billion, then to £738 billion and then to £758 billion. Those are public spending rises. The only party proposing a cut in public spending is the Conservative party.

The right hon. Gentleman is right. At the next election, there will be a choice: a choice between a Government who helped people and actively intervened to take us through a downturn and a Conservative party that would do nothing. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker: Order. Mr. Robathan, you cannot behave like that. You run the risk of being put out of the House. [Interruption.] Order. Everyone has to be quiet.

The Prime Minister: There will now be a choice between a Government who have actually intervened to deal with the recession and a Conservative party that said “do nothing”. It will be a choice between a Government who are increasing public spending by the figures that I gave and a Conservative leader who, for the first time in the House of Commons during this Parliament, has now admitted that the policy of his party is spending cuts. That is what he has told us today; that is going to be the choice before the country.

Mr. Speaker: Eric Illsley.

Mr. Eric Illsley (Barnsley, Central) (Lab): Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I know you are very anxious to hear this question.

The Prime Minister is aware that Barnsley college has been caught up in the incredible bungling of the Learning and Skills Council over the Building Colleges for the Future programme, to the extent that we have a half-demolished college. Incredibly, the LSC has, yet again, delayed the decision from 3 June on which colleges will be funded. My college is now technically insolvent and has announced 53 redundancies. When will the Prime Minister intervene to sort this mess out?

The Prime Minister: In the Budget, an extra £300 million was put into further education colleges. We are now looking at how we can help the individual colleges that have spending proposals for new investment. Let me remind the House that no investment was taking place in further education colleges when we came into power. We are now investing more in further education colleges than ever before. I believe that my hon. Friend’s college in Barnsley is one of the priorities for getting that new investment.

Mr. Nick Clegg (Sheffield, Hallam) (LD): Everyone who has been out on the campaign trail in the past few weeks knows how angry and frustrated people have become about the way in which this Government always raise people’s hopes only for people to see them disappointed again and again. Nowhere is that truer than in housing, where we have had more announcements than new homes. Since January, when the Prime Minister announced the biggest council house building programme in decades, only 20 new homes have been started. Will he, just for once, make a promise and actually deliver?

The Prime Minister: I do not accept the right hon. Gentleman’s figures. What has happened since January is that we have put in place measures, first, to protect people in their own homes, so the expected rate of mortgage repossessions has not happened and mortgage repossessions are roughly as they were a few months ago. Equally, at the same time, we are bringing in a programme to invest more in social housing over the next few months and, indeed, over the next few years. I have to tell him that we are prepared to take even more decisions to make available more social housing over the next few months. That is only possible because we have taken the decisions about the increased investment that is necessary at the time of a recession that his party and the Conservative party have opposed. I hope that if he is going to ask us for more social housing, he will support the necessary investment for it.

Mr. Clegg: If that is all true, why are a staggering 1.8 million families in this country waiting for a home—70 per cent. more than when this Government came into power? If the Prime Minister wants to do something now, why does he not stop the Treasury from grabbing all the money that councils raise in rents and sales and allow them instead to use that money to build desperately needed homes? Will he at least do that?

The Prime Minister: I have to tell the right hon. Gentleman that there are 1 million more people in homes than when we came into government in 1997. We have also improved houses for more than 1 million extra people. At the same time, we are putting aside extra money for social housing. By 2010, more than £40 billion in total will have been invested in housing since 1997, and we will have made house improvements for 8 million people. We are reducing the number of non-decent social homes by more than 1 million. Since 1997, more than £29 billion has been invested in social housing. We are not complacent, and that is why we are planning to invest more this year.

Mr. Michael Meacher (Oldham, West and Royton) (Lab): Since the stated objective of bailing out the banks was to maintain lending to businesses and home owners at 2007 levels, and since the latest official figures just published show that that lending is now absolutely flat—indeed, 20 per cent. down on 2007 levels—when will my right hon. Friend use the power that he already has from majority ownership of several major banks to force the banks to give priority to rescuing the real economy rather than simply looking after their own interests and letting the real economy go hang?

The Prime Minister: My right hon. Friend is right that the banks have a duty now to lend to small businesses and for housing. Since 1 March they have been under an obligation, as a result of quantitative agreements that we have reached. In other words, RBS has agreed to increase its lending this year by £25 billion. Lloyds TSB has agreed to increase its lending by £14 billion and Northern Rock by £5 billion. Voluntarily, HSBC and Barclays have agreed to increase their lending. The total increase in lending that has been agreed, to come from 1 March, is £70 billion extra over what was available last year. We will begin to see the companies that will benefit from that being able to say that whereas rejections were issued before when they put in applications, they are now having their applications accepted. We will continue to monitor the situation, but I assure him that £70 billion of extra money is going into lending to small businesses and for homes.

Q2. [278779] Sir Robert Smith (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine) (LD): Pensioners and others who rely on their savings are suffering greatly from the low interest rates needed to tackle the recession. Will the Prime Minister explain to them why the savings limit for council tax benefit has stuck at £16,000, when, if it had gone up in line with the retail prices index, it would now be £27,000?

The Prime Minister: In all areas, we have to look at what we can afford at different times. Obviously we have done a great deal for those who are on pension credit, to raise the amount of money that they receive. We have done a great deal for people who are on working tax credit and on child tax credit, to raise the amount of money that they receive. Obviously reform of housing benefit is something that we are looking at, but I think the hon. Gentleman has to accept that 1.5 million children have come out of poverty as a result of what we have done, as have 1 million pensioners. If we had not had the pension credit, the winter allowance and the free TV licence, pensioners would not be as well off as they are. There are many people in other parties who did not support those things when we did them.

Q3. [278780] Shona McIsaac (Cleethorpes) (Lab): Last week, Able UK announced a multi-million pound investment in my constituency, which is going to create 5,000 much-needed jobs. It is on the largest development site in the north of England, on a deep-water estuary. I would appreciate it if my right hon. Friend and his Ministers could tell me what further he can do to secure more economic development in my area and across the country. To that end, will he meet me and my colleagues to look at some of the barriers we still have to economic growth in my constituency, such as—

Mr. Speaker: Order. I think the Prime Minister will manage an answer to that.

The Prime Minister: Just for Opposition Members, the latest estimate shows that there would be 500,000 more people unemployed if we had followed the policies of the Conservative party.

At all times, we will seek foreign direct investment into this country. We have given people new allowances so that they can invest now, through the recession, in our future. The only way of making a better future is to invest in the future. That is what we are doing. Unfortunately, our opponents want to cut.

Mr. Mark Lancaster (North-East Milton Keynes) (Con): Parliament stands accused of being ever more distant from the country. Away from the political arena, what does the Prime Minister feel he has ever achieved in the real world that qualifies him to lead the nation?

The Prime Minister: I think every MP should return with a bit of humility after listening to their constituents over the past few weeks. Every MP has learned from their constituents that they want us to clean up their politics and get them through the recession, and they want us to build for the future. That is what I am going to do, and I believe I have the experience to do that.

Q4. [278781] Mr. Virendra Sharma (Ealing, Southall) (Lab): In the next two years, Ealing’s health services will see an increase in funding of more than £55 million, thanks to the Labour Government. However, is my right hon. Friend aware of concerns in the NHS about a zero-basis review of its budget? Will he reassure me that he will not implement those Tory plans?

The Prime Minister: I can also give the House the figures for current expenditure over the next few years. Including the health service, it will rise from £565 billion to £608 billion, then to £645 billion, £666 billion, £689 billion and £712 billion. That is not a cut, that is a rise in expenditure. The only way that the cash figures will be cut is if there is a Conservative Government cutting 10 per cent. out of the major Departments. This is the day when the shadow Health Secretary admitted that the Conservatives plan 10 per cent. cuts in our vital public services. This is the day when the Conservatives revealed their true manifesto for this country. This is the day when they showed that the choice is between investment under Labour and massive cuts under the Conservative party.

Q5. [278782] Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) (Con): In 2007, there were 8,324 deaths in which C. difficile was mentioned as a cause on the death certificate—an increase of 28 per cent. on the previous year. Yesterday, the British Medical Association produced a report, which said that infection control procedures were being damaged through overcrowding and understaffing at NHS facilities. Does the Prime Minister agree that any avoidable death is unacceptable? In the light of the report, what fresh actions will the Government take to eliminate all superbugs from our hospitals?

The Prime Minister: I am determined to do that. We have introduced new rules for nurses, for people being checked as they come into hospitals and for cleanliness. We have given matrons more powers and doubled their number so that cleanliness is at the centre of everything that happens in the national health service. We are determined to root out C. difficile and to deal with MRSA. I assure the hon. Gentleman and anyone who has had personal experience of that happening to any member of their family that we will continue our work to remove C. difficile and MRSA and we have the utmost sympathy for those who have been affected.

Mr. Parmjit Dhanda (Gloucester) (Lab): Does—[HON. MEMBERS: “It is Mr. Speaker.”] Steady. Does my right hon. Friend understand the anger among people who work in financial services, who have witnessed millions of pounds being rightly invested in our banks to shore them up, but now see thousands of jobs jettisoned by, for example, Cheltenham & Gloucester in the middle of a recession? Does he agree that the banks need to work with the unions to keep people in work during a recession rather than shedding jobs to pay money back to the Government?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is a great advocate for his constituents. I know that Cheltenham & Gloucester has made several redundancies, and that is a big issue not only for him but for the rest of the country. I am happy to meet him to discuss those issues, but let me say that we are determined to keep as many jobs as possible in this country and to prevent unemployment where possible, and, when it happens, to give people new jobs. A hundred and fifty thousand new jobs have been created as a result of new investment that we are making in the flexible new deal to enable young people and others to get jobs. Even in the current difficult situation, more than 200,000 people are finding new jobs every month. We will continue to provide that support, but I have to say again that the issue is clear: we are prepared to provide the investment that is necessary; the Conservatives are revealed again as the party of cuts.

Q6. [278783] Mr. Mark Harper (Forest of Dean) (Con): Last month before the local elections, the Prime Minister, in answer to a question from the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Dhanda) about his regional development agency, said that Conservative Members wanted to abolish regional development agencies. We do—we want to give the powers and the budgets to local authorities. He said:

“We will support it, we will invest; they would make cuts.—[Official Report, 6 May 2009; Vol. 492, c. 165.]

This week, after those elections, the South West of England Regional Development Agency has made £56 million of cuts, cutting projects in my constituency in Newent and Cinderford and halving the budget for regeneration in Gloucester. Why should anybody believe a word the Prime Minister says again?

The Prime Minister: Thousands of companies in the hon. Gentleman’s area are getting help under the Inland Revenue scheme and others that we are introducing. Thousands of companies are getting special help to take them through the recession. If his argument is that we must avoid cuts, he had better talk to the shadow Chancellor because he proposes massive cuts in services today and in future. The Conservative party has been revealed today as the party that will fight for the next few months on cuts in services. At some point, Conservative Members will have to tell us how many nurses, doctors, teachers, carers and public servants will lose their jobs as a result of the new policy announced this morning.

Q7. [278784] Mr. David Hamilton (Midlothian) (Lab): Would the Prime Minister join me in paying tribute to Lawrence Daly, the general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers from 1968 to 1984? He was the man who led the Wilberforce inquiry on behalf of the union and changed conditions in the mining industry more than any other individual. He was also a man who loved to sing and loved poetry. The NUM in Scotland—the Prime Minister is an honorary member of the Scottish miners union—is looking to pay a tribute to Lawrence Daly in his homeland of Fife. Would the Prime Minister consider coming to Fife and also paying tribute to him?

The Prime Minister: I would indeed. Lawrence Daly was a friend of mine, as well as of many people. There are few people who did more to advance miners’ conditions in this country than Lawrence Daly. He fought for miners’ safety in a way that brought about big changes in safety in the mining industry. He fought for miners to get the right to compensation for pneumoconiosis and other diseases. I believe that he and so many other miners’ leaders who fought for good conditions in what is a very dangerous industry deserve the wholesale gratitude of everybody, in all parts of the House.

Previous

PMQs Weds. 3 June 2009.

The British Parliament and Big Ben
Image by ** Maurice ** via Flickr

Today’s PMQs. Gordon Brown had actually been quite combative in this PMQs session. David Cameron the Tory Punch and Judy star, raised the impact of the resignation from the Cabinet of Hazel Blears (Lab. Salford) and listed other recent Cabinet members who have said they are standing down from the Cabinet as a sign that he is in denial.

Gordon Brown today his best fighting mood responded by outlining achievements in communities, crime etc and contrasting them with how former Tory governments cut police numbers and allowed crime to increase. Gordon Brown does have a point which clearly emerged in this session that Cameron never challenges the government on economic policy. Cameron always makes personal attacks and snipes at individuals and seems afraid of talking economics policy. Cameron may well indeed be the popular choice to head the next government but the voting public should really examine his economic policy.

Brown’s own jibes at Cameron as to:
What the Tories would have done to rescue the banks – nothing!
What would the Tories have done to help mortgage holders -nothing!
What would the Tories have done to help the unemployed – nothing!

All rings true as indeed in the 1980s and in the 1992 crisis they, the Tories did nothing to help those who suffered from their policies.

Cameron still squeals for a general election but this would kill any electoral and parliamentary reform stone dead! Let alone the probable backward step in public spending cuts etc.

PRIME MINISTER

The Prime Minister was asked—

Engagements

Q1. [277568] Mr. Mike Weir (Angus) (SNP): If he will list his official engagements for Wednesday 3 June.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): Before listing my engagements, I know that the whole House will join me in expressing our condolences to the families and friends of the seven servicemen who have lost their lives since we last met: Corporal Stephen Bolger of 1st Battalion, the Parachute Regiment; Lance Corporal Robert Richards of the Armoured Support Group, the Royal Marines; Lance Corporal Kieron Hill of 2nd Battalion, the Mercian Regiment; Lance Corporal Nigel Moffett of the Light Dragoons; Fusilier Petero Suesue of 2nd Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers; Sapper Jordan Rossi of 38 Engineer Regiment, the Royal Engineers; and the soldier from the 2nd Battalion, the Rifles, who was killed yesterday. These are exceptionally brave men, whose service should not, and will not, ever be forgotten. Recent operations have shown that we will not allow the Taliban to jeopardise the future of a free and democratic Afghanistan, and the whole country should be rightly proud of the sacrifice these men have made.

I have also to report that we have strong reason to believe that a British citizen, Edwin Dyer, has been murdered by an al-Qaeda cell in Mali. I, as will the whole House, utterly condemn this appalling and barbaric act of terrorism. Our thoughts and condolences are with the family. I have talked to the President of Mali. He knows he will have every support in rooting out al-Qaeda from his country. I want those who use terror against this country and against British citizens to know beyond doubt that they will be hunted down and brought to justice. There will be no hiding place for them, and there will be no safe haven for terrorists who attack our country.

This morning, I had ministerial meetings with colleagues, and in addition to my duties in the House I shall have further such meetings later today.

Mr. Weir: I represent 45 Commando, which has recently returned from a deployment in Afghanistan where, unfortunately, it lost nine men. My colleagues and I would like to associate ourselves with the condolences expressed by the Prime Minister for these brave men who lost their lives in Afghanistan recently, and also for the family of Mr. Dyer.

Just now, we are seeing the pathetic sight of the Cabinet attempting to reshuffle itself. When will the Prime Minister accept that he has lost all authority and call an election?

The Prime Minister: There is work to be done every day to deal with the recession. If we had taken the advice of the other parties, we would not have taken action to nationalise the banks, and we would not have taken action to deal with the problems that small businesses face and that people face with unemployment. These are the actions that are needed, and this Government are taking such action every day.

Q2. [277569] Dr. Howard Stoate (Dartford) (Lab): At last year’s Union for the Mediterranean summit, my right hon. Friend gave his backing to concentrated solar power as a means of providing almost limitless clean energy for Europe. Given that more than 170 Members of this House have signed an early-day motion supporting concentrated solar power and the development of a high-voltage, direct-current supergrid, what active steps is my right hon. Friend taking to work with our international partners to make this a reality?

The Prime Minister: This is a serious issue that needs European co-operation for it to happen. Our target is for 15 per cent. of energy consumption to come from renewable sources. We have spent more than £11 million over the last few years to support solar installations, and we will publish the renewable energy strategy, setting out our strategy to meet these renewable targets. We will work with all countries in Europe to develop a renewables strategy.

Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): I join the Prime Minister in paying tribute to the soldier from 2nd Battalion The Rifles who was killed in Helmand province yesterday. We will also remember Lance Corporal Nigel Moffett, Corporal Stephen Bolger, Lance Corporal Kieron Hill, Lance Corporal Robert Richards, Sapper Jordan Rossi and Fusilier Suesue. All of them have been killed in the past fortnight serving their country—we will not forget their sacrifice and we must care for their families.

I also join the Prime Minister in sending condolences to the family and friends of Edwin Dyer, who, it is believed, has been brutally murdered by terrorists in Mali. This must be a simply horrific time for his family, and I am sure that everyone in the country is thinking about them. In spite of all the difficulties though, the Prime Minister is right to say that we must never give in to terrorists.

This morning, the Communities Secretary resigned from the Cabinet. That follows yesterday’s announcement that the Children’s Minister is standing down, the Minister from the Cabinet Office is leaving and the Home Secretary is resigning. Why does not the Prime Minister accept that his ability to command his Cabinet has simply disappeared?

The Prime Minister: I think the first thing that the whole House would want to do is acknowledge the great work that has been done by both the Home Secretary and the Communities Secretary in the Cabinet. At a time like this, the House should come together to acknowledge contributions that have been made in the public interest. May I also say that under the Home Secretary what we have seen is crime come down, neighbourhood policing introduced, the fight on terrorism stepped up and better relationships between the police and the community? I have to remind the Conservative party that crime doubled under a Conservative Government and policing numbers were cut.

Mr. Cameron: The Prime Minister is in denial. If these people have done such good work, why are they walking away from their jobs? The Communities Secretary’s statement does not pay tribute to him or a single one of his policies. Let us be clear about what is happening: the Minister in charge of local government is resigning the day before the local elections. Is not the fact that she has chosen today of all days to go a direct challenge to his authority?

The Prime Minister: I think some people should take a step back and understand what has been happening. The past few weeks have been difficult for every Member in every part of this House. People have to recognise, in the politicking that goes on, that there have been enormous pressures on people and that while the public are angry, there have also been family pressures on Members of this House. That is true of those in all parts of the House, and I think that we have a responsibility to all Members of the House in this. Yes, there are elements of party politics that the right hon. Gentleman would want to raise, but he has to acknowledge that in all parts of the House there are issues that people want to sort out.

Mr. Cameron: I have to say to the Prime Minister that if this was about expenses, the Communities Secretary would have resigned weeks ago. The fact is that she has chosen to resign today. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker: Order. Do not shout down the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Cameron: Yes—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker: Order. Remember that there is a danger of the House being suspended if people continue to shout. That is the danger, and there will be no Prime Minister’s Question Time. [Interruption.] That goes for both sides of the House.

Mr. Cameron: The Prime Minister talks about pressures. I have to say that those pressures on the Communities Secretary and on others in his Cabinet include No. 10 directly briefing against them. The fact is that what we see is a dysfunctional Cabinet and a dysfunctional Government led by a Prime Minister who cannot give a lead. Can he perhaps at least guarantee that there will be no further resignations ahead of his reshuffle?

The Prime Minister: I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will acknowledge that for those on both sides of the House the events of the past few weeks have been difficult. It would be unfair for us to pass this Question Time without acknowledging that in each part of the House people have found it difficult with the pressures upon them. I want also to pay tribute to the Communities Secretary for the work that she has done, because she has brought new relationships between local government and central Government with the local government concordat, she has sponsored urban regeneration in shopping centres in our country and she has been active in building better relationships with the Muslim communities. At a time like this, it is the duty of all of us, in all parts of the House, to recognise the contributions that people have made.

As for what he says about the Government, we have two jobs of work to do. One is to clean up the expenses system. I think that everybody else in the House except him agrees that we have to take action now to clean up that system. The second thing is that we have got to take this country through the recession. The remarkable thing about the Leader of the Opposition is that this is yet another week when there has been not one question on policy.

Mr. Cameron: The Prime Minister must understand that the issue here is his leadership. The failure of the Government on appearance is not as bad as their failure on substance. Let me turn to the issue of the economy and let us take just one key individual, the person responsible for steering us through this recession: the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Prime Minister refuses to talk about him in anything other than the past tense. We know that the Home Secretary is going, we know that the Communities Secretary is going, so can the Prime Minister tell us whether the Chancellor, sitting there in front of us, will still be in his post in a week’s time?

The Prime Minister: Once again, that is nothing to do with policy. The right hon. Gentleman is incapable of dealing with the big issues that face this country. Let me say what this Chancellor is achieving. This Chancellor is leading the rest of the world in taking us out of recession. This Chancellor has taken action that the Conservative party has refused to support. What happened when we had to deal with the banks? What would the Conservatives have done? Nothing. What would they have done when we were helping mortgage holders? [HON. MEMBERS: “Nothing.”] Nothing. What would they have done when we were helping the unemployed? [HON. MEMBERS: “Nothing.”] Nothing. What is their policy? To do nothing. That is not the basis on which to ask for an election.

Mr. Cameron: If the Chancellor is doing such a good job, will the Prime Minister tell us whether he will be there in a week’s time?

The Prime Minister: I have said that the Chancellor is doing a very good job, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman would agree with me. The Conservatives are the only party to want an election when they have no policy to deal with the recession. They want an election, but they have no policy to help home owners. They want an election, but they have no policy to help the unemployed. That is a party that talks, talks and talks but has nothing to do with action.

Mr. Cameron: If the Prime Minister is not happy with our policies, why does he not call an election and test them out? The Prime Minister needs to realise how important this is. Why should the British public believe the Chancellor if the Prime Minister does not have confidence in him? Why should international markets have confidence in the Chancellor if the Prime Minister does not have confidence in him? That is why this is so serious. The Prime Minister told us that he had the right team to take the country forward. That team is now deserting him. The Government are collapsing before our eyes. Why does he not take the one act of authority left to him—get down to the palace, ask for a dissolution and call that election?

The Prime Minister: Once again, he proves to the whole country that there is absolutely no substance in anything that he says. We have to clean up the electoral system, and we are doing that. We are cleaning up the expenses system. The second thing that we are doing is cleaning up the economy and ensuring that it comes out of recession. The party opposite has no policies to deal with that. It is words, words and words. We will get on with the action.

Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab): My right hon. Friend has worked hard, along with the Business Secretary, to bring about a positive solution to the future of Vauxhall. Many of my constituents, of course, are not aware of what has happened behind the scenes. Will my right hon. Friend give them the assurance that the Government will continue with the high level of support that is being offered and will the Government distance themselves from the statements that it is not desirable to rescue the motor industry that have been made by the Liberal Democrats?

The Prime Minister: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has been a great supporter of Ellesmere Port and the car industry there. This is what people in the country are concerned about: the jobs of workers in car factories and in the car supply industry. That is why we have been working with General Motors and the two potential buyers. We are now working with the preferred buyer for General Motors and our determination is to save Vauxhall jobs in this country and to make sure that people have a secure future. We have also, as hon. Members know, introduced a scheme that allows people to sell cars that are more than 10 years old, and now 35,000 people have bought cars as a result of that, so we are doing whatever we can to move the car industry forward. I just have to say to this House that that would not be possible unless we were prepared to put public funds into making that happen; I am afraid that that is rejected by the Opposition.

Mr. Nick Clegg (Sheffield, Hallam) (LD): I would like to add my own expressions of sympathy and condolence to the families of Fusilier Petero Suesue, Sapper Jordan Rossi, Lance Corporal Robert Richards, Lance Corporal Kieron Hill, Lance Corporal Nigel Moffett, Corporal Stephen Bolger, and the soldier from 2nd Battalion the Rifles who died yesterday. As has been said, they all served with great distinction and courage in Afghanistan. Of course, I would like to support the Prime Minister in his expressions of sympathy and condolence extended to the family and friends of Edwin Dyer.

We can now see that the Government are in total meltdown. The Prime Minister is thrashing around, fighting for his own political survival, but does he not understand the extreme danger to our democracy when people start feeling that there is simply no one in charge?

The Prime Minister: The dangers are when one does not deal with the problems that are before us. One of the problems is to deal with the expenses system in the House of Commons, and the second is to deal with the problems and challenges of the economy. I thought that the Liberal party would support us in the action that we are taking to help the unemployed, to help home owners, and to help small businesses, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not join the other party in talking only about things other than policy. The country wants us to talk about what we are doing to help it.

Mr. Clegg: The Prime Minister just does not get it. His Government are paralysed by indecision, crippled by in-fighting, and exhausted after 12 long years. It is a tragedy that exactly at a time when people need help and action, the country does not have a Government; it has a void. Labour is finished. Is it not obvious that the only choice now is between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats?

The Prime Minister: I seem to remember the Liberals saying that at every election that I have ever fought. The right hon. Gentleman is right to say that the country needs action, and the action is coming from this Government. If he will listen to what we are doing, I think that he will find it very difficult to oppose the measures that we are taking to help the car industry, to help the banks, to help the unemployed, and to help those people who are home owners. We are the party with the ideas about how to take this country out of recession; neither of the main Opposition parties has anything to offer us.

Q3. [277570] Mr. Andy Slaughter (Ealing, Acton and Shepherd’s Bush) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend reaffirm the Government’s commitment to decent, affordable homes for all? In the past month in west London, the decent homes programme has been described as upgrading the deckchairs on the Titanic, and social housing as an incentive not to improve one’s lot through one’s own efforts. Will he condemn the Tory politicians who made those comments?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. When a Conservative council has cut the decent homes programme, and cut back on the investment in it, one does not need to look into a crystal ball to see what the Conservatives will do; one can see it in the action that they are taking to cut decent homes in a constituency. I support my hon. Friend in taking up the case of the many people in his constituency who are looking for decent homes, and who look to their council to provide them.

Sir Peter Tapsell (Louth and Horncastle) (Con): May I put it to the Prime Minister that the problem of Members’ allowances falls within the remit of Sir Christopher Kelly’s committee, and should be left there until it reports? The right hon. Gentleman has hinted that he wishes to gain a reputation as a constitutionalist over the issue, so may I suggest to him that as he is almost uniquely unsuited to play the role of a latter-day Thomas Jefferson, he should in fact look to the existing constitution and do as almost everyone in the country would ask him to do—use that traditional constitution to ask Her Majesty to dissolve this Parliament, so that the country can elect a new one?

The Prime Minister: I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s 300-year perspective on these issues. It is right that Sir Christopher Kelly’s committee report. It is also right that we take further action to end the system of self-regulation in the House. It is not right that there emerges a conflict of interest between the public interest and MPs’ interest. That is in none of our interests. Everybody wants it to stop. That is why an external regulator is of greater benefit to us, as well as being supported, I believe, in the whole country.

Q4. [277571] Joan Ryan (Enfield, North) (Lab): My right hon. Friend will be aware of the valiant campaign led by the Royal British Legion to have council tax benefit rebranded as a rebate, which would increase take-up and lift thousands of pensioners out of poverty, including up to 20,000 veterans. This Saturday marks the 65th anniversary of D-day. Does my right hon. Friend agree that this would be an appropriate time to announce such a change so that all pensioners, especially our veterans, who have served our country with courage and dignity, can live in dignity?

The Prime Minister: The whole House will want to honour today the sacrifice and service of all those people who were involved in the D-day landings, and all those who were involved in the sacrifice and service that made possible victory in the second world war and the peace that we now enjoy as a result. I want to pay tribute to the individual veterans who are still part of the Royal British Legion. I talked to the treasurer of my branch of the Royal British Legion only a few days ago. We have a delegation of the Royal British Legion coming in to see the Pensions Minister this afternoon. She is proposing that pension credit could be put in a new form, where it could be seen as a rebate. That will be discussed this afternoon. We want it to be as automatic as possible for pensioners to get their right, so we are prepared to discuss how we can move matters forward. I hope all sides of the House will support such a move.

Q5. [277572] Paul Rowen (Rochdale) (LD): With up to 50,000 home owners facing repossession this year, if the Government are doing so much to help them, why is it that only two people have been helped so far?

The Prime Minister: That is not correct. Thousands of people are being helped with the various schemes. The first is the mortgage income support scheme for people who are unemployed, which is now available for those with houses worth under £200,000, and large numbers of people are claiming that. The second is the moratorium that is available on people’s building society and bank payments, which we negotiated with building societies. The third is the shared equity scheme, where we are prepared to buy a share of the house to help people move forward. Discussions on that are moving forward for large numbers of people. The fourth is the measures that we are taking to deal with the way in which the banks approach mortgages in the first place.

The recent report of the Council of Mortgage Lenders said that they expected repossessions to be far less than they had predicted, as a result of the action that we are taking. Any repossession is to be regretted. There are many circumstances in which repossessions happen—for example, if there is a family break-up which is nothing to do with the financial situation of an employee—but there are other situations where repossessions are caused by the lack of money. We are trying to help those people to maintain their mortgages and renegotiate them. I think the hon. Gentleman will find that no Government have done more to help mortgage payers to prevent repossessions. That is what a Labour Government are about. We will not walk by on the other side.

Q6. [277573] Mrs. Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab/Co-op): Can the Prime Minister say when a decision will be taken about granting a pardon to Michael Shields, following the High Court’s decision last December? Michael has now been in prison for four years, following what I firmly believe to be a gross miscarriage of justice.

The Prime Minister: Mr. Shields, as everybody knows, has applied for a free pardon within the terms of the High Court judgment that was handed down on 17 December. I understand the Shields family’s concerns about delay. They have waited a long time. He has a large number of supporters. The Justice Secretary is determined to make the best and fairest decision he can, but he can do so only after, in the public interest, assessing all the material that is available. He expects to write to Mr. Shields’ lawyers later this month.

Q7. [277574] John Mason (Glasgow, East) (SNP): Is the Prime Minister embarrassed that Britain is now a more unequal country than at any time since the 1960s, and specifically that the poorest 20 per cent. in society have lost real income since 2005, and the richest 20 per cent. have gained?

The Prime Minister: We have taken millions of people out of poverty. We have taken children out of poverty and we have taken pensioners out of poverty, and we have set new targets for child poverty and for pensioner poverty. As a result of this Labour Government, child benefit has been raised, working families tax credit has been introduced, and child tax credit has also been introduced, taking 1.5 million people out of poverty in itself. If we had followed the policies of the Scottish National party, we would be in a far worse position.

Q8. [277575] Dr. Nick Palmer (Broxtowe) (Lab): I welcome the Prime Minister’s attack on the abuse of expenses that has so revolted members of the public, but will he also take action to curb the dependence of many Members on second incomes? I have calculated that the Conservative Front-Bench team alone has 57 other sources of income up to £250,000. Would it not be better if, instead of an alternative Government with 57 varieties of special interest, we all concentrated on the job that we were elected to do?

The Prime Minister: All Members want to show that they are undertaking public service, and that they are in it not for what they can get but for what they can give. But one of the issues that repeatedly comes up is Members’ second jobs, and it is right that Sir Christopher Kelly looks at the matter. [Interruption.] I hear some murmuring on the Opposition Benches. Methinks that they protest too much.

Q9. [277576] Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk) (Con): Will the Prime Minister find time today to meet the Pensions Action Group, which is outside lobbying Parliament on occupational pensions? Is he aware that although many of my constituents were offered 90 per cent., the reality is that they will probably get less than 70 per cent? Why is that? Does he feel in any way guilty that the changes that he made when he was Chancellor have destroyed what was once the best private pensions sector in the world?

The Prime Minister: We have already had a long debate in the House, some time ago, when I showed that the funds of pension funds doubled in the 10-year period that I was Chancellor. Despite what the hon. Gentleman says, all our changes made it possible for the pension funds to have large sums of money. The issue, however, as he knows perfectly well, is that pension funds’ income depends on what happens on the stock exchange as much as on anything else, and he must know that that is what has affected most pension funds recently.

Q10. [277577] Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh, North and Leith) (Lab/Co-op): I am sure that my right hon. Friend will have seen the latest scientific report showing that by the end of the century, global warming will be even more severe than previously thought. We have gone beyond the stage at which we can stop irreversible damage to our planet, and now the question is whether we can stop environmental catastrophe. What will my right hon. Friend do to ensure that the G8 summit, which is coming up shortly, recognises that point, so that we have the chance in Copenhagen to get the type of agreement that the planet so desperately needs?

The Prime Minister: We will lead the way at the G8 summit in proposing how we can solve the two problems that prevent a Copenhagen agreement. First, we need agreement on intermediate targets for carbon emissions reduction, and that requires us to persuade China and India, as well as America and Japan, to join the group of people who are prepared to commit to those targets. Secondly, finance must be provided to enable developing countries and emerging markets to make the investments that are necessary to reduce carbon emissions in those areas. We will come up with financing proposals, which we hope other countries will be prepared to support, but I must repeat today—I think it is relevant, because tomorrow people are voting on issues of Europe—that that cannot happen without co-operation across the European Union. Those parties that want to break from the European Union will have neither an economic policy that works for Britain nor an environmental policy. That is what we need, and we are going to push forward.

Q12. [277579] Sandra Gidley (Romsey) (LD): Does the Prime Minister agree that it is wrong to build on grade 2 agricultural land? If so, will he change planning policy to prevent the waste of that precious resource and prevent also Conservative-controlled Test Valley borough council’s disgraceful plan to build on fertile green fields?

The Prime Minister: The hon. Lady will have to write me about the individual instance of that council, but this Government’s record is that we wish to build on brownfield not greenfield land.

Q13. [277580] Dr. Stephen Ladyman (South Thanet) (Lab): Did my right hon. Friend note the International Monetary Fund report, suggesting that when we entered the global slowdown, public debt in this country was lower than in all our competitor countries, that it is lower now as we leave the recession and that it will be lower in this country over each of the next five years? Is it not the case that the actions of this Government prepared us to deal with the economic slowdown in a way that the Opposition’s policies never would have?

The Prime Minister: Once again, my hon. Friend is proving that the problem that we have to deal with is a global financial recession. Britain is coming through that by taking the right policies. The Opposition party is the first party to go into an election tomorrow with no policy to deal with the economy.

Q14. [277581] Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde) (Con): Is the Prime Minister aware that his departing Home Secretary leaves a legacy of 342,000 cases of domestic violence in this country every year? May I ask him to ensure that he re-examines the effectiveness of policies in that area, because of the cost in human misery on the victims and the cost to our caring services?

The Prime Minister: I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be fair and acknowledge that the Home Secretary has also led the way on tougher sentences on domestic violence, including in domestic violence courts. This Government, led by the Leader of the House as well as the Home Secretary, have a record in taking on domestic violence by also funding centres for women throughout the rest of the country. That is vital public expenditure, and we believe that it is important for the health of this country. We will continue to support that measure to help women in our country.

The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Sir Stuart Bell): The Prime Minister talked about policies as we go into the European elections tomorrow. Can he confirm that, under the Labour Government, 700,000 companies work with the European Union, that 3 million jobs relate to the European Union and that 60 per cent. of our trade is with the European Union? Which party goes into the elections tomorrow with the better record?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend will also know that EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, has said that the Conservative European policy

“is bound to reduce our influence in Europe”.

When the Conservative leader cannot talk to the German Chancellor, the French President or people in Spain and Portugal—[Interruption.] The German Chancellor said that she would not offer the hand of friendship to those who opposed the Lisbon treaty. When the right hon. Gentleman can talk politics about his European group only with a Czech forum, which also supports the Lisbon treaty, he is in real trouble.

Mr. Speaker: Order. Will hon. Members leave the Chamber quietly?

Text: Hansard.

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Rebel Labour MPs seek signatures for ‘Gordon must go’ letter: The Guardian.

I don’t know how much truth there is in this article from The Guardian but it is in the circumstances very likely as Gordon Brown is losing support left, right and centre!

LONDON - SEPTEMBER 10:  British Prime Minister...
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Allegra Stratton & David Hencke, THE GUARDIAN: “A group of rebel MPs have begun soliciting signatures for a round robin letter calling for Gordon Brown to step down, which they plan to hand to the prime minister after the results of the local and European elections have come in on Monday morning.

The Guardian has learned there are reports that the backbenchers think they can reach 70 or 80 signatories, with some claims that the letter could be delivered to Downing Street by the end of today.

Some backbenchers have seen the letter and are not signing it on account of a perception that the names already on the list are “too leftwing”.

No hard copy exists so far but a “tree” of backbenchers, extending throughout the reaches of the 350-strong parliamentary party, are attempting to canvass opinions to gauge the support for the prime minister.

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