PMQs 1 February 2012 - Voldemort Strikes Back 1246187

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PMQs Comes Ahead Of A Potentially Long Debate On The Welfare Reform Bill
PMQs Comes Ahead Of A Potentially Long Debate On The Welfare Reform Bill

PMQs was particularly rowdy this week, partly because of the bruisers on the order paper and partly due to the looming showdown with the Lords on the Welfare Reform Bill, due to take place later today.

The comedy highlight was David Cameron's referring to shadow minister Liam Byrne as "Baldemort". It's the second time he's done this, but doesn't appear to attract the same hostility as "calm down, dear". HuffPost isn't clear why, perhaps Liam Byrne secretly likes it.

Ed Miliband appears to be finding his groove at the weekly knockabout lately, splitting his questions between executive pay at the banks and the NHS. On the former he was on slightly shaky ground, but he easily bested the PM on the health service, where David Cameron is struggling to rebut effectively allegations that the medical community is overwhelmingly opposed to the reforms going through.

Many questions from backbenchers were on Welfare Reform, where the PM was able to repeatedly taunt Labour backbenchers on whether they will support attempts to overturn the Lords amendments tonight. Three planted questions from Tories allowed Cameron to quiz Labour MPs, and they didn't respond at all. Chances are the votes in the Commons will go through, the only question is whether the government will make concessions or if the Lords will back down against the will of the elected chamber.

Here's a round-up up today's highlights.

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..and you get the sense that Labour are getting more organised at this. Cameron sounds increasingly on the back foot and Ed Miliband is finding his groove. The times they are a changing.

This is not the end of the focus on the Commons for today, though. MPs will be voting on the Lords amendments to the Welfare Reform Bill throughout the afternoon, and sending them back to the Lords. Expect the fireworks to continue throughout the day, and we'll be covering developments here.

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Claims that RBS hasn't signed up to the "Living wage" scheme which is about a pound higher than the minimum wage.

PM: I thought we might have a supporter for the benefits cap. But no. The government is "beginning to get this bank under control".

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@ DavidJonesMP : Ed doing less gurning. Think he's been spoken to. #PMQs

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Asks once again about the benefit cap, urging the PM to stand firm on the £26,000 figure.

PM says people need to be convinced that work is better on benefits.

Cameron for a third time urges Labour to agree. Not a sausage.

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Urges Labour to support the benefit cap.

Cameron: Yes. Is Labour with us in the lobbies tonight? "Absolutely hopeless".

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Rejects the PM's claim that the Welfare Reform Bill will adversely affect children recieving the lower rate of DLA.

PM insists that no-one on the lower rate will be worse off. He'd earlier said that some people might even be better-off.

Following on from a more supportive question by David Nuttalll, Cameron urges Labour to nod that they will be backing the government in the divisions tonight. Labour refuse to comply. Cameron describes it as "one big vaccum".

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Ed Miliband's advisers in the Galleries look happy. Government SpAds a bit glum. How things change, a few weeks ago it was the exact opposite.

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Is it a good use of money to do this top-down reorganisation?

Cameron reels of his earlier list of improving performance figures in the NHS

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Cam at PMQs today

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Slightly unusual for the opposition to go for a 4-2 split in questions, but was interesting that the backbench cheering rallies are once again becoming a Commons fixture. Cameron was strong on pay, but not so strong on NHS, was it a good idea to invoke Tony Blair as a weapon?

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@ gabyhinsliff : Labour MPs chanting along with Ed Mili on long list of organisations against the health bill. they've perked up then.

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The Labour leader says 98% of GPs are against the NHS bill, then reels off a list of other people who are against the Bill. Labour backbenchers yell "against the Bill" in unison behind him.

Cameron - after a lengthy pause - says reforms will be difficult . The Speaker moves to quieten down the chamber.

Cameron then quotes Tony Blair - "a man who knows about bonuses and pay" - who once said opposition is inevitable to form, but people have to go with it.

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As expected he quotes the medial journals who came out this week against NHS reforms. Why has the PM failed to win support from the medical community.

Cameron: I notice Miliband won't bring up the welfare cap today. Tory cheers. But Cameron fails to engage on the question and reels off a list of improving stats in the NHS.

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@ jreedmp : Michael Gove, behind Spkrs chair, silently mouthing Dave's answers as he delivers them. Good old Govey #pmqs

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Will the PM intervene to stop Portsmouth FC being put into administration?

PM: I know two Pompey fans and know they cannot support Southampton. So yes we will look at it.

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Will the government introduce means testing for pensioners' bus passes?

Cameron: says he will keep his promises on this - so, no.

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@ dlknowles : David Davis calls for David Cameron to get the Indians to change their decision re eurofighter, on basis that we give them aid...

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@ paulwaugh : After last week's "arrogance" attack, EdM has another class war point on 'Cabinet of millionaires'. Focus group message?

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Accuses the Chancellor of lobbying at Davos for a reduction in the top rate of income tax.

Not sure if that was a question.

Cameron points out that Miliband went to Davos as well. And points out that Peter Mandelson was there too, and said Ed Miliband was "struggling" on the Today programme.

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@ SophyRidgeSky : Prime Minister slapped down by speaker for calling "honourable member" a "hypocrite" - against the rules. But jeering/mockery ok of course!

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He says shouldn't an ordinary employee be on the board of every bank?

Speaker intervenes and asks Cameron to withdraw his earlier "hypocrisy" comment as it is not Parliamentary language. Cameron does, before saying Labour presided over all the bonuses and did nothing.

Cameron says he's looked over the plans for low paid workers on boards, but says it is not practical, and says Miliband has called for a ban on performance -related pay. PM says the idea is completely wrong.

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Miliband pushes the PM on Tory claims in opposition when Osborne said all senior salaries should be revealed. The law exists, but why hasn't the PM activated it?

Ed Balls has started his gesticulations again.

Cameron: Labour agreed massive RBS salaries while in power. Accuses Labour of hypocrisy.

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Will the PM enact laws to make senior bankers reveal their salaries?

PM: We are making the top 8 execs from every bank reveal theirs. But all countries must reveal the same information if it's to work.

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Have the Tories given up on that stratagem?

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He says the vote tonight on the benefits cap should have the support of the whole of the Commons.

PM: Yes I agree. Labour has to decide whether it is in favour of the cap or not.

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After the PM's tributes the deaths of two soldiers in Afghanistan in the past week, Labour MP Paul Farrelly asks about falling police numbers. Immediately the chamber gets noisy. What's the PM doing about frontline officers?

PM : we have put more offers on the frontline. He claims that the Labour frontbench supports the cuts.

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... But not as busy as last week.

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Could well be a lively PMQs today with some 'bruisers' on the order paper:

Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme) Alok Sharma (Reading West) Tom Blenkinsop (Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland) Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central) Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington Ms Margaret Ritchie (South Down) Esther McVey (Wirral West) Katy Clark (North Ayrshire and Arran) Sheila Gilmore (Edinburgh East) Thomas Docherty (Dunfermline and West Fife) Nadhim Zahawi (Stratford-on-Avon) Mike Gapes (Ilford South) Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) Rosie Cooper (West Lancashire)

Priti Patel (Witham): 

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