PMQS 11 January 2011: David Cameron And Ed Miliband Face Off For The First Time This Year

11/01/2012 11:42 | Updated 11 January 2012

David Cameron and Ed Miliband faced off for the first PMQs of 2012 on Wednesday, sparking a war of words between Labour and the Tories over rising train fares.

Cameron claims that Labour allowed Train Operating Companies to vary the fares, only imposing a cap on them in 2010 because it was an election year. Ed Miliband accused the PM of failing to address the issue - that fares had rocketed by record amounts earlier this month and Cameron hadn't done anything to stop it.

The PM insisted the mechanism which allowed railway firms to put the fares up by so much was a Labour invention. But he also said a lot of the extra money from tickets would be re-invested into the railways - including the controversial High Speed Two project approved yesterday yesterday.

A document from the department of transport indicates that Labour did bring in a reduction in fares - but only from 2010-11.

However Labour's Andrew Adonis said in a statement that Ed Miliband was right, adding: “The ending of the flexibility was strongly opposed by the train companies, but they complied and it was highly popular with passengers. It was my firm intention to continue the policy for subsequent years, and I was mystified when Philip Hammond, my successor, reinstated the fares flexibility. The only people who supported this change were the train companies."

The Commons is back in business after a long Christmas recess, and a difficult start to the year for the Labour leader.

On Tuesday, Miliband said a future Labour government would accept some cuts and have to make "tough decisions" to pay down the deficit, in what was billed as a fightback speech.

The new year's first battle over the despatch box between the two leaders comes almost a month after Miliband had a disastrous final PMQs of 2011. This meant he was always coming into today's PMQs at a disadvantage, and in fact Cameron was quite merciful, not mentioning any of the twitter gaffes or Miliband's mangling in the press this morning after his detail-light speech on the economy yesterday.

Overall we felt that David Cameron just about edged it over Ed Miliband, who improved as the questions progressed and looked statesmanlike, if boring, during the questions about the timing of the Scottish independence referendum, upon which Labour and the Tories almost entirely agree.

Still, encouraging that we might just have some humdinger close-run PMQs some day.

Here's how it played out in detail.

11/01/2012 12:34 GMT

Our Verdict? Cameron edged it over Miliband...

Strange PMQs this week because of Scotland sort of hovering over everything and uniting Labour and Tories.

Given the flack he's taken it was inevitable Ed Miliband would get some stick and patronising depreciation from Cameron, and it didn't help that the Labour leader was nasal this week.

The train fares issue itself will be fact checked to death this afternoon. But on Ed Miliband's third question we saw some outrage and charisma, genuinely angry about something and demanding action from the PM.

To quote the trailer from the Iron Lady, "That's the tone.... that you want to strike.".

We're not sure that Cameron's quip to the SNP about a "Neverendum" will catch on, either.

Twitter was not impressed. But then, when is it?

11/01/2012 12:29 GMT

Last question on executive pay.

Cameron is told of another fat cat. He tells MPs that he is not against people earning lots of money if their companies are growing.

But if the companies are not performing then the pay should reflect that. Then accuses the past government of doing "sweet nothing", quite spikily too.

11/01/2012 12:21 GMT

@ SophyRidgeSky :

RT @IsabelOakeshott Ed miliband better have his facts right on rail fares or he's in serious trouble #pmqs

11/01/2012 12:21 GMT

@ catherine_mayer :

"I sometimes think what [the SNP] wants is a neverendum not a referendum" Cameron #soundbitesthatmakeyougroan #Scotland #pmqs

11/01/2012 12:21 GMT

@ SophyRidgeSky :

Note David Cameron has usual row of three women MPs behind him #pmqs

11/01/2012 12:20 GMT

@ joeyjonessky :

haven't the foggiest who's winning this argument at the moment. will try to find out! oddly messy pmqs all round so far

11/01/2012 12:20 GMT

@ joncraig :

Newly knighted Sir Bob Russell desperate to be called in PMQs. Bet Speaker does call him. He just called new Tory knight Sir Roger Gale!

11/01/2012 12:20 GMT

@ jamesrbuk :

Not sure about Cameron's "Neverendum" line... #pmqs

11/01/2012 12:20 GMT

SNP Angus Robertson is on his feet.

He has used the panda joke on Cameron. That's been around for a while.

Robertson wants some clarity on the government's position on the referendum. He doesn't get it. Cameron just says he wants it to be fair.

11/01/2012 12:19 GMT

Clegg is fidgeting and looking detached.

PMQs has become very non-confrontational with a string of MPs asking easy and uncontroversial questions.

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