PMQs 25 January 2012 - GDP, NHS, RBS
It's Huffpost UK's weekly coverage of PMQs, and as you might expect Ed Miliband kicked off by asking David Cameron about the GDP figures released earlier on Wednesday.
The main revelation was that a committee will meet this week to pave the way for Sir Fred Goodwin to potentially be stripped of his knighthood, and Downing Street was immediately inundated with queries about how that process might work.
Ed Miliband didn't go hell-for-leather on GDP, reserving three of his six questions for NHS Reform, which is very quickly running out of supporters, even among Tories. But on the economy Ed Miliband accused the government of "arrogance and complacency" over the economy, and all David Cameron can do is recycle his previous missives about record low interest rates, and all the initiatives the government are doing. And of course, remind us that it's much worse in Europe, because it clearly is.
Opinion is divided; even those who support the government's austerity agenda are worried that more needs to be done to stimulate growth. Earlier this week the National Audit Office cast grave doubts about the government's Work Programme to stimulate the jobs market, and our national debt passed £1 trillion.
It felt a bit like a score-draw for Cameron and Miliband this week. The Labour leader was bolstered by big cheers and roars from his backbenchers, which makes a change. For many, many weeks, the Tories have managed to cheer louder, and from inside the Commons the difference is palpable. Not so much this week, though. Cameron managed some good attacks on Miliband - but most of them didn't come in their head-to-head exchanges, they were delivered as asides to other questions from backbenchers.
He accused Miliband of "panic and backstabbing" every time Labour came under attack by the unions, and all Ed Miliband could do was shake his head.
Despite this, David Cameron must feel as though the public hasn't lost patience with him, even if Labour and the unions have. Remarkably despite all the economic doom and gloom, the Tories remain incredibly buoyant in the polls. And for that reason, once again the pressure remains on Ed Miliband to perform more than the Prime Minister.
It was a lively and fun PMQs which cast far more heat than light. But Cameron will be pleased that the attention this afternoon will shift to Sir Fred Goodwin, who's clearly more unpopular than the PM and Ed Miliband combined.
Here's how it played out in detail:
Nia Griffith (Llanelli): If he will list his official engagements for Wednesday 25 January.
Mr Angus Brendan MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar):
Mr William Bain (Glasgow North East):
Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock):
Mr Pat McFadden (Wolverhampton South East):
Nigel Adams (Selby and Ainsty):
Eric Ollerenshaw (Lancaster and Fleetwood):
Paul Maynard (Blackpool North and Cleveleys):
Lindsay Roy (Glenrothes):
Chris Ruane (Vale of Clwyd):
Chris Kelly (Dudley South):
Mrs Anne McGuire (Stirling):
Mark Hendrick (Preston):
Graham Stringer (Blackley and Broughton):
Nia Griffith has the first question
Cameron says the slump in GDP was in line with forecasts, says its worse in Europe. Insists we have low interest rates.
Labour leader is getting big cheers from Labour. But Cameron comes back saying Ed Miliband isn't listening to the earlier answer.
Cameron comes back and says Labour promised no more boom and bust. And look what's happened.
PM is reeling off his usual list of initiatives. And the speaker has now intervened.
Cam insists Labour is only interested in borrowing more.
"There are more people in work today than there were at the time of the last election."
David Cameron evokes Ed Balls' comments saying they should listen to the IMF, saying that they are backing their plans not to introduce "fiscal consolidation".
Miliband says the PM is borrowing £158bn more than forecast. When will the PM face up to the fact his policies are failing.
Commons getting very rowdy particularly on the Labour side. Speaker is on his feet again.
PM points out that overall the economy did grow by 0.9 percent in 2009.
The PM is asked whether Sir Fred Goodwin will lose his knighthood.
PM: we are looking at how we might do this.
Cameron says that the committee will meet soon and consider "all the evidence"
Whoops at the inclusion of his middle name. Not sure why that's in there.
He asks about Scottish sovereignty. Cameron gives the usual 'we are negotiating' line.
|@ joncraig : PM's spin queen Gabby Bertin, sitting in Govt spinners' box in Press Gallery, reading from Blackberry in left hand & iPhone in right hand!|
A reasonably short question from the father of the house. The IMF has warned about the Eurozone.
Cameron : Christine Lagarde agrees with us, there should not be support for currencies, only countries.
Now it's the NHS. The Labour leader says the PM has claimed health professionals support the bill and asks for an "update" on the bill's support.
Cameron: "When it comes to the NHS you should always expect a second opinion." But he insists thousands of GPs across the country support the reforms.
He's moved onto the NHS in light of the outrage by GPs at the reform Bill.
Cameron : there are 'thousands' of GPs across the country who support our reforms and are implementing them.
Labour is barracking. The speaker is up on his feet for the third time.
Cameron has found a GP from Ed Miliband's Doncaster constituency who is behind the reforms. Labour MPs are enjoying it nonetheless.
Cameron quotes a supportive note from a doctor in Doncaster (Ed M's constituency is Doncaster North)
"He said becoming one of the first national pathfinder areas is a real boost for Doncaster," the PM tells Ed.
Miliband quotes the PM who previously said 'we have to take doctors and nurses with us' and accuses the PM of being out of touch.
Cameron replies that Ed Miliband is out of touch with the doctors of Doncaster (well one of them)
His verdict on what's happening on the NHS: "Waiting lists up, morale down". "Let's be frank, Mr Speaker, this is a bill nobody wants. It's opposed by the doctors and the nurses and the patients."
|@ paulwaugh : That was EdM's best performance on the economy in #PMQs for months. Open goal and smashed into the onion bag.|
He moves on to the Health Select Committee this week, dominated by Tories, which has been critical.
Accuses Cameron of "pride and arrogance".
Cameron goes on to the union tack, saying Miliband "panics and backstabs" every time the unions kick off.
The PM insists that Labour secretly are in favour of more autonomy for GPs and says Labour doesn't have the guts.
6-0 , someone shouts. It's unclear from which side.
|@ oliver_wright : Cameron on the ropes over NHS reform at PMQs: If his best quote comes from a GP in Doncaster that's pretty desperate|
Accuses the PM of "offending basic sense of decency of the British people" by attempting to take benefits away from cancer patients.
Cameron says his changes to ESA will mean more cancer patients will get benefits.
Asks the PM to look at having meetings to secure the refinery, which closed yesterday.
PM: I will make sure the MP meets with ministers. Our priority is to keep the refinery operating while the finances are restructured.
|@ kiranstacey : That exchange showed how vulnerable cameron is on the nhs. Labour shd take note. #pmqs|
|@ MichaelWhite : #PMQs Miliband very keen on "complacent" and "arrogant" Cam this week. It must reflect private poll findings|
|@ joncraig : Andrew Lansley - his Bill savaged by Ed M - standing at Bar of House with Jeremy Hunt, who needs to sprint faster to PMQs in Olympic year!|
He says he met a "truly inspiring" holocaust survivor yesterday, and gives a shout out to the holocaust educational trust. "We need to make sure these stories are told in our schools," the PM says.
Highly supportive of the benefit cap, saying his constituents want to see people working. In his Lancashire seat many households bring in less than the proposed £26,000 cap proposed.
Cameron, unsurprisingly agrees.
Cameron says the 26-per-year cap is "fair" and he was disappointed by Labour's hypocrisy in voting against the cap in the Lords.
She asks about yesterday's reports that special advisers went to networking events with lobbyists.
PM - dodges the issue but says we are reforming the lobbyist system with a planned register.
He says the will be families who will have difficulties with the benefit regime. But what about elderly couples who have paid into the system throughout their lives, who now exist on £7,000 a year rather than the £26,000 maximum which will still exist after the changes?
Cameron: yes, many people couldn't dream of living in houses currently occupied by people living on benefits of more than £50,000 a year.
What does the PM make of the NAO report with its doubts on the Work Programme?
PM says Ruane hasn't read the report properly. It says the risk is on the part of the providers - the potential employers - not the taxpayer.
|@ joeyjonessky : I thought mili did v well today, and unexpected health questions forced uncomfortable issue back up agenda a bit|
It's on the Labour flip-flopping on the benefit cap votes in the Lords.
Cameron accuses Miliband of saying on the radio that he'd back the cap, only for the Labour peers to vote against it.
"What is he, weak, incompetent or both?" Cameron bellows.
He is criticising Ed Miliband, accusing him of "irresponsibility and short-termism"
The Labour leader is snarling and shaking his head. But his questions are up, there's nothing he can do about it. That's the PM's in-built advantage.
Not sure how to call it. Ed Miliband didn't do anything wrong in particular, he was pretty bullish and persistent, and as last week on the unemployment figures, all the PM can do at the moment is point out all the initiatives like the Work Programme he's introduced.
A score draw, really, when we haven't learned much new, but Cameron got some attacks in on Miliband during other questions from backbenchers, probably better comebacks than he managed during his exchanges with Miliband.
One thing is certain, Labour backbenchers were noisy and supportive of their leader. This has often been lacking. There's hope for Ed yet.