PMQs 7th March 2012 - Sombre Mood As Afghanistan Attack Hangs Over Commons


The Huffington Post UK   First Posted: 7/03/2012 11:02 Updated: 7/03/2012 13:03

Prime minister's questions got off to a sombre start this lunchtime. following the the grim news coming from Afghanistan of the apparent deaths of six British soliders in an explosion.

It's one of the worst single losses of life for UK troops in many months, and both David Cameron and Ed Miliband paid tribute to them in the Commons.

"Our mission in Afghanistan does remain vital to our national security. Our task is simple, it is to equip the Afghan government with the capability and capacity to take care of their own national security," the prime minister told MPs.

However having asked two questions on the war, Miliband then returned to the Despatch Box to hammer Cameron on benefit reforms.

The Labour leader accused Cameron of breaking his per-election promise not to change child benefit payments for middle income families.

However the prime minister said he had not choice given the budget deficit. "Government is about difficult decisions, It's a pity he [Miliband] is not capable of taking one," he said.

Cameron could also not resist, as predicted, poking fun at the Labour leader for the tough time he was given by callers during a radio phone in yesterday.

"When people dial up a radio phone in and they work out who he is, they say the same thing, 'he's not up to the job'," he joked.

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Not sure why the Speaker has recently decided it's now up to forty minutes long. Quality would be better than quantity.

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@ NickiBrooksx : Cameron ruder than usual today #PMQs

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David Cameron responds to a question about Nadine Dorries' criticisms of him as a public school boy as "nonsense" - in a not so subtly disguised response to a Labour MP.

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The Labour MP quotes Dorries on her earlier "two public schoolboys" comment about Cameron and Clegg. Cameron says it's nonsense.

We know that Nadine is not in the chamber. She opted to watch it on the telly in her office.

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@ JessicaFWilkins : Douglas Carswell gives a ripple of Coalition discontent. The end always comes from your own party, Dave. #PMQs

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@ toadmeister : Serious cleavage behind @Ed_Miliband's head. Anyone know who it belongs to? #pmqs

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Cameron raises Miliband's troubled radio appearance: "When people dial up a radio phone in and they work out who he is, they say the same thing, 'he's not up to the job'".

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They we hoping that resignation would lead to a searing attack on the coalition. Instead it was a question on circus animals. Maybe the Speaker wasn't expecting that when he called the Tory MP.

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Miliband accuses Cameron on breaking his promises to middle income families not to change it.

Cameron says people earning £25,000 should not have to pay child benefit to the rich.

"Government is about difficult decisions, its a pity he is not capable of taking one," he says.

But Miliband says the prime minister said before the election he would not take child benefit away from people.

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@ Jos21 : The PM clearly has no handle on the unemployment crisis - As EdMili says 5 people chasing every vacancy. Just trots out deficit #pmqs

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@ NikDarlington : Miliband is on shakier ground when hasn't got the #NHS to beat the PM with. #PMQs

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Ed Miliband is back. This time he is taking a more political approach asking about working tax credits.

Cameron says: "We do need to reform the tax credits system. Tax credits were going to nine out of ten families...including MPs."

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Cameron defends the Welfare Reform Bill. Tells Labour MP Joan Ruddock that as a father who had a disabled child he knows what it is like to fill in disability forms.

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You could hear a pin drop in the chamber over the past nine minutes, but now the atmosphere is changing... Questions about Vince Cable's RBS letter and the NHS have triggered the return of the jeers.

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The chamber is in a sombre mood as David Cameron and Ed Miliband discuss Afghanistan.

The prime minister says: "Our mission in Afghansitan does remain vital to our national security. Our task is simple it is to equip the Afghan government with the capability and capacity to take care of their own national security."

Miliband says the international community must "up the pace of progress" towards a political solution.

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The Health Secretary has opted to stand at the bar of the House, not on the front bench. He shows no sign of moving with two minutes to go until PMQs.

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@ Jesse_Norman : Looking forward to playing some jazz for charity this eve at the #PalaceofVarieties with that crazy cat John Hemming MP. #macmillancancer

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The government doesn't care about Middle Britain, according to a Tory backbencher.

Nadine Dorries has criticised the government over child benefit cuts. According to the FT, she said:

The problem is that policy is being run by two public school boys who don't know what it's like to go to the supermarket and have to put things back on the shelves because they can't afford it for their children's lunchboxes. What's worse, they don't care either.

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It has emerged that Cabinet Secretary Jeremy Hewood advised the Prime Minister to drop the Health Bill, fearing it would undo progress made under Labour.

According to the Mirror, Heywood feared the Bill would loosen Whitehall's control of the NHS.

A source told the paper: “He wanted it dropped. He was one of those in the Government arguing against it.”

This story will no doubt be useful ammunition for Ed Miliband as he decides what to ask this week...

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@ paulwaugh : Just asked No.10 if Cam will pay tribute to Steve Hilton or @SteveHiltonGuru in #PMQs."I'm Sure he'll answer Qs that come up"

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@ JoelTaylorMetro : #pmqs was set to be full of horse jokes & mentions of Vince Cable. Think it will be a very sombre affair after this morning's terrible news

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@ PSbook : Now taking bets on the number of horse jokes in this week's #PMQs #horsegate

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@ johnnyr78 : Observing the pre #PMQs atmosphere in #Portcullis house. Reminds me of match day down the #Spurs but with men in suits.

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@ catch21p : #PMQs Will the agenda finally move off the health bill? or will the London election influence the questions #StreetPolitics

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Some bruisers and fervent loyalists on the order paper for PMQs today. Expect lots of planted questions and vitriol...

  • Nick Boles (Grantham and Stamford): 
  • Mr Virendra Sharma
  • Simon Hart
  • Dame Joan Ruddock
  • Nadhim Zahawi
  • Paul Blomfield
  • Douglas Carswell
  • Lee Scott
  • Oliver Colvile
  • Brian Donohoe - asking specifically when the PM next expects to visit central Ayrshire.
  • Louise Mensch
  • Nigel Adams
  • Sheila Gilmore
  • Lindsay Roy

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