Prime Minister's Questions: David Cameron v Ed Miliband

Key points

  • David Cameron faced his weekly grilling from MPs in the Commons
  • Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude delivered a statement on the public sector pensions strike
  • Foreign Secretary William Hague announced the withdrawal of British diplomats from Iran
  1.  
    1124:

    Good morning and welcome to our live coverage of events in the House of Commons. We'll begin with Prime Minister's Questions and after that there'll be a statement from Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude on the public sector strike. Finally, there'll be a statement from Foreign Secretary William Hague on the withdrawal of British diplomatic staff from Iran.

     
  2.  
    1130:

    Prime Minister's Questions takes place against the backdrop of the biggest public sector strike in decades. Workers and unions are angry at planned changes to their pensions, which will require them to work longer and contribute more. The government says the changes are unavoidable because we're all living longer.

     
  3.  
    1135:

    As well as the strikes, the state of the UK economy is bound to come up during. Yesterday, Chancellor George Osborne said the government would respond to the latest gloomy predictions - growth downgraded to 0.9% for this year and 0.7% next year. He announced further spending cuts, as well as a number of measures he hopes will put a rocket under the economy.

     
  4.  
    1140:

    Over on BBC2's Daily Politics, Labour's shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna says the strike should not be going ahead. He says he "cannot support this mass disruption", but equally "cannot condemn those taking action", who include, he says, some very close friends and family.

     
  5.  
    1145:

    "This is simply a continuation of Plan A," insists Lord Strathclyde, Conservative leader of the Lords, on the measures outlined by the chancellor yesterday. He's thoroughly on message - the government has been adamant that it isn't changing course.

     
  6.  
    1150:

    Any MPs using the front door to get to Prime Minister's Questions today will have had to cross the picket lines outside Parliament.

    Union members protesting outside Parliament
     
  7.  
    1159: Vicki Young Political correspondent, BBC News

    Tricky day for Ed Miliband as he decides how to respond to strikes. Might get somewhere challenging David Cameron over the economy and his claim that "we're all in this together".

     
  8.  
    1201:

    David Cameron is on his feet. He begins by paying tribute to Rifleman Sheldon Steel who was killed during the past week in Afghanistan.

     
  9.  
    1202:

    First question from Welsh MP Nick Smith. He asks David Cameron to support greater financial support for enterprise zones in Wales.

     
  10.  
    1202:

    Mr Cameron begins his reply by thanking Mr Smith for his facial hair - grown as part of charity campaign Movember. He says he does want to support enterprise zones and will help in the MP's area if he can.

     
  11.  
    1204:

    Richard Drax, Conservative, says there is "alarm, anger and disbelief" at the planned closure of Portland seach and rescue base. Mr Cameron says he'll listen to any concerns but says it's important that work to reform the service goes ahead.

     
  12.  
    1204:

    Ed Miliband is on his feet and begins by also paying tribute to Rifleman Steel.

     
  13.  
    1206:

    Mr Miliband opens with a question on strikes, quoting a headteacher who was highlighted by the PM in June for not going on strike then. Mr Miliband said she was on strike today and had given the reason for her change of mind on no longer having faith in the government. He asks why so many decent public sector workers feel the government isn't listening.

     
  14.  
    1207:

    The PM says they're striking because they disagree with the pension changes - but these changes are vital. He says workers have walked out while talks are still ongoing. He reminds Ed Miliabnd that earlier this year he too said strikes were wrong while talks were continuing.

     
  15.  
    1208:

    The Speaker intervenes to stop what he calls "orchestrated barracking".

     
  16.  
    1208:

    Mr Miliband says the government declared it had made its final offer weeks ago. He says the PM has been "spoiling for this fight" and people have lost faith because "he's not being straight".

     
  17.  
    1208:

    In response to a question from the Labour leader on the scale of increased pension contributions, Mr Cameron says what Mr Miliband has said is "simply not true". Negotiations are going on, there'll be a meeting tomorrow. He says Mr Miliband backs the strike now - unlike earlier - "because he's left-wing, irresponsible and weak".

     
  18.  
    1209:

    Mr Miliband says he isn't going to "demonise" the teacher, the dinner lady or the nurse. After a dig about the cost of Mr Cameron's annual skiing holiday, the Speaker has to intervene again because the shouting gets so loud.

     
  19.  
    1209: Vicki Young Political correspondent, BBC News

    These are the most furious exchanges for weeks. David Cameron and Ed Miliband using very personal attacks on each other.

     
  20.  
    1210:

    Mr Miliband says private sector workers are also paying the price of the government's failure - he asked whether as a result of cuts an average family will lose the equivalent of a week and half's wages because of newly announced cuts to tax credits.

     
  21.  
    1210:

    In reply, the PM goes back to the issue of public sector pensions. He tries to demonstrate that many workers will actually be better off, listing changes for teachers and nurses. "These are fair changes," he insists.

     
  22.  
    1211:

    "What we are seeing today is a party opposite that is in the pocket of the trade union leaders," the PM says.

     
  23.  
    1212:

    A bit of a tiff between the Speaker and the PM. Mr Bercow asks him to keep his answers short - to which he says he'll wait for Mr Miliband's next "union-sponsored question" to reply.

     
  24.  
    1212: Vicki Young Political correspondent, BBC News

    It's clear that Ed Miliband's tactic is to paint the Chancellor as out of touch with low paid workers while Mr Cameron's response is to accuse Labour of being in the pocket of the unions.

     
  25.  
    1213:

    Mr Miliband accuses the prime minister of not understanding his own policy - not understanding the impact on women and children. He accuses the PM of "cooking up a deal" with the Deputy PM Nick Clegg to cut a billion pounds from tax credit.

     
  26.  
    1213:

    The Labour leader asks what unemployment will be at the time of the next Autumn Statement.

     
  27.  
    1214:

    Mr Cameron says independent assessments show more people will be in work and the claimant count for unemployment benefit will be lower than at present.

     
  28.  
    1214:

    Mr Cameron lists what he says is Labour's "appalling record of attacking the working poor" - for example, by seeking to scrap the 10p tax rate.

     
  29.  
    1215:

    Mr Miliband tells Education Secretary Michael Gove to calm down - but doesn't call him "dear" - during his next question.

     
  30.  
    1215:

    Mr Miliband accuses the PM of seeing unemployment as a price worth paying. He asks the PM to admit that his central promise - to balance the country's books by 2015 - has been broken.

     
  31.  
    1216:

    The PM says the government will take the country through the storm and says under Labour the country would have been even deeper in debt.

     
  32.  
    1217:

    "The truth is his plan has failed and he's making working families pay the price," Mr Miliband says. To cheers, he says the PM will no longer be able to say "we're all in this together".

     
  33.  
    1218:

    Mr Cameron replies by attacking Mr Miliband for taking the side of striking workers causing disruption across the country. To Labour backbenchers, he says: "They're all shouting in unison. Or should that be shouting on behalf of Unison."

     
  34.  
    1218:

    Lid Dem Jo Swinson has the next question. She changes tack completely and asks about the rights of women in Afghanistan.

     
  35.  
    1219:

    Mr Cameron begins by wishing Ms Swinson - and all fellow Scots - a happy St Andrew's Day. He says progress is being made on the education of women in Afghanistan and the government is on the side of those working to help them.

     
  36.  
    1220:

    Labour's Lilian Greenwood asks about predicted rises in unemployment - and the correspondiong growth in the benefit bill. Mr Cameron says yes, there will be a big fall in public sector employment, but a much bigger rise in private sector employment alongside.

     
  37.  
    1221:

    A question now about full-time trade unionists working in the public sector on public time. Mr Cameron says it is a problem and the government is going to put a stop to it.

     
  38.  
    1222:

    Labour's Kate Green asks about cuts to working tax credits announced yesterday which she says will not help to make work pay. Mr Cameron says there will be increases in child tax credits - most of which are received by the same people.

     
  39.  
    1223:

    Conservative Jacob Rees-Mogg refers to the "patriotic volunteers" keeping the borders open in today's strikes. He asks about getting tougher with "recalcitrant air traffic controllers". Mr Cameron thanks all those helping out - and says reports suggest 40% of schools are open, less than a third of the civil service is on strike and only 18 Job Centres closed.

     
  40.  
    1223:

    "It looks like something of a damp squib," the PM adds.

     
  41.  
    1224: Vicki Young Political correspondent, BBC News

    Mr Cameron wants to highlight what he sees as a contradiction in Labour's economic argument; that they attack the Coalition for borrowing more, yet they themselves want to spend more. Ed Miliband wants to be heard speaking up for those on low incomes who'll be affected by a pay and tax credit freeze.

     
  42.  
    1224:

    Another question on the impact of pension changes to the lowest paid worker. Mr Cameron says at the end of this process most staff will still have a better deal than those private sector taxpayers who fund their schemes.

     
  43.  
    1225:

    Mr Cameron calls the invasion of the British embassy in Iran "completely appalling and disgraceful behaviour".

     
  44.  
    1225:

    A closed question now. Judging by the response, it's about the importance of early years intervention to give children the best chance in life. Mr Cameron says the government knows it's a huge priority.

     
  45.  
    1227:

    Labour's Graham Allen, who asked that question, replies now and calls on the government to make early years intervention a priority in the next spending round. The PM says that's a good idea but he isn't even waiting that long - the families committee that he's chairing is working "as we speak" on helping those most troubled families.

     
  46.  
    1227:

    A question now on overseas territories who fly the Union flag. He asks the PM to pledge to protect everyone in those territories. Mr Cameron says he's happy to give that guarantee and as long as those people want to remain tied to the UK, that will continue.

     
  47.  
    1229:

    Julie Hilling MP, Labour, asks why the PM is asking people like Jackie - one of her constituents - to pay for the failure of his economic plans. Mr Cameron says the whole country is paying for the failure of the previous government - and goes on to list the things the government is trying to do to help, like scrapping the planned rise in fuel duty.

     
  48.  
    1230:

    "What message does the prime minister have today for small business owners who are struggling with their pensions," Fiona Bruce, Conservative, asks. It's a nice set up for the PM to thank private sector workers like that for the contributions they make to paying for the public sector pension scheme.

     
  49.  
    1231:

    A question about the British aerospace industry - a Labour MP is unhappy about where money is being spent. Mr Cameron says the industry has "massive backing" from the government.

     
  50.  
    1231:

    Another soft one from Conservative Mark Spencer about strikes - now is not the time, he says. Well, quite, replies the PM - he uses the opportunity to have another dig at the Labour leader for not condemning the action.

     
  51.  
    1232:

    Are these hard-working people who've gone on strike today left-wing and out of touch, the PM is asked? Those were words he used earlier about Mr Miliband. Mr Cameron says he understands people feel angry but change is needed.

     
  52.  
    1233:

    Conservative Andrew Bingham asks about ways to cut bureaucratic red tape for small businesses. Mr Cameron says the government is already on the case - there's a new "one in, one out" policy for regulation, for example, he says.

     
  53.  
    1234: Vicki Young Political correspondent, BBC News

    Labour MPs have continued Ed Miliband's line of attack on the Government with several of them giving examples of constituents who'll be hit by changes announced to pay, pensions and tax credits.

     
  54.  
    1234:

    Cathy Jamieson MP asks about the predicted growth in the number of children living in poverty. Mr Cameron replies by listing some figures on the increases in child tax credits under his government.

     
  55.  
    1235:

    Amber Rudd, Conservative, asks the PM if he shares her indignation that some Labour MPs had "to ask the permission of the GMB" union to be present in the House today.

     
  56.  
    1236:

    "I think it is genuinely baffling that somebody who said he wouldn't support strikes while talks are ongoing has come to the House today to speak on behalf of the unions," Mr Cameron replies. He says he would compare Ed Miliband to former Labour leader Neil Kinnock, but he thinks he's even worse.

     
  57.  
    1237:

    Final question now from Roger Williams, Lib Dem MP. He asks about tax incentives for small businesses to help them grow. In reply, Mr Cameron thanks the MP for "the magnificant specimen lurking under his nose" - another reference to Movember. He then lists several schemes that are already up and running.

     
  58.  
    1239:

    PMQs is over and Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude is on his feet. He's giving an update to the House on the strikes.

     
  59.  
    1239:

    He begins by thanking "the majority of public sector workers who have turned up to work today".

     
  60.  
    1239:

    He says the strike is about long overdue reforms to pension schemes and industrial action while talks are still ongoing is "just plain wrong".

     
  61.  
    1241:

    Mr Maude explains the government's case for change - longer life expectancy in particular. He also discusses the more generous offer that ministers made earlier this month, which will do more to protect the lowest paid workers.

     
  62.  
    1241:

    "The offer on the table is by any standards a generous one," Mr Maude says.

     
  63.  
    1242:

    "It's simply not true to say the government is not negotiating and I was surprised to hear the leader of the opposition say that," Mr Maude says. The camera cuts to shadow chancellor Ed Balls who is gesticulating angrily towards the minister.

     
  64.  
    1243:

    Mr Maude says Mr Balls is asking from his seat whether the government has met with the TUC. He replies that, "Yes he has" - to which Mr Balls mouths, "When?" Speaker John Bercow isn't happy about this exchange - he says questions must wait until after the statement.

     
  65.  
    1244:

    135,000 civil servants - not much more than a quarter - are on strike, Mr Maude says.

     
  66.  
    1244:

    Only 16 of the 930 JobCentres are closed to the public and borders are operating with only "very minor delays", the minister says.

     
  67.  
    1244:

    Speaking on the BBC's Daily Politics the BBC's Political Editor Nick Robinson said both sides knew this was a "defining week" that could set the image of both the government and Labour. They know that at this moment the public is engaging with politics, he says. That's why the PM repeatedly tried to paint the Labour leader Ed Miliband as the "striker's friend".

     
  68.  
    1246:

    Estimates suggest some 60% of state schools have closed, says Mr Maude, and thanks those teachers who have gone to work - some of whom, he acknowledges, will still have concerns about their pensions.

     
  69.  
    1247:

    The NHS is coping well, he says, with "only a minor impact on patient services". Several trusts have cancelled elective surgery, however.

     
  70.  
    1247:

    "I have huge respect for the dedicated women and men who keep our public services running. They deserve to retire on decent pensions - our reforms will ensure that," Mr Maude says. He then sits down.

     
  71.  
    1249:

    The Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna says on Daily Politics that David Cameron has to be "very very careful" in the language he uses to describe those on strike. He says the PM is in a sense the "father to the nation" and his tone is wrong.

     
  72.  
    1249:

    In the Commons, for Labour, Jon Trickett says the government carries much responsibility for the disruption that is happening today. He says changes to pensions under Labour were achieved without industrial action.

     
  73.  
    1250:

    Mr Trickett accuses the government of taking the extra contributions set to be made by public sector workers for the Treasury - rather than directing them back into helping to pay the growing pension bill.

     
  74.  
    1251:

    Mr Trickett says it has been a "difficult personal decision" for those who've decided to strike, but they've done it because of "a burning sense of injustice".

     
  75.  
    1252:

    Mr Trickett asks Mr Maude what his strategy is to resolve the dispute. When will he be meeting union leaders?

     
  76.  
    1255:

    The Leader of the Lords, Lord Strathclyde says on Daily Politics politicians must be straight with people about what is involved in tackling the downturn. "We have seen crises before and we will get through this one," he says. "But we need to be honest with people about what is involved."

     
  77.  
    1257:

    We're going to keep rolling with live coverage from the Commons - William Hague's statement on relations with Iran is set to follow the current statement on the strike. Just a reminder that for detailed coverage of the strikes from right around the UK, you can go to our dedicated live page.

     
  78.  
    1300:

    Labour backbencher David Winnick attacks "sickening trade union bashing" by Conservative MPs. "Rubbish!" shout opponents.

     
  79.  

    Mr Maude is questioned by Conservative Priti Patel on whether the strike is justified given the levels of turnout in the ballot. "I don't think the strike is justified on any grounds," replies the minister.

     
  80.  
    1314:

    "People are living longer", Mr Maude tells MPs. "If there isn't significant reform [on pensions] the burden on future generations will be significant".

     
  81.  
    1320:

    The DUP's Sammy Wilson says Northern Ireland "can ill-afford today's action". However he urges Francis Maude to consider the impact of pension reforms on low-paid, part-time workers.

     
  82.  
    1335:

    Conservative MP Philip Hollobone asks Mr Maude to praise workers who have crossed picket lines and gone in to work and condemn "hot headed, overpaid, union leaders who are itching for a fight".

     
  83.  
    1340:

    Labour's Frank Roy accuses Mr Maude of treating Parliament with contempt for not stating when he personally took part in negotiations with trade unions. The Cabinet Office minister replies that unions have requested that details of negotiations be kept confidential.

     
  84.  
    1344:

    It's now the turn of Foreign Secretary William Hague to make a statement to MPs. He's giving more details of yesterday's attacks on the British embassy in Iran. He describes tha attacks as "a grave violation" of international conventions.

     
  85.  
    1345:

    Mr Hague confirms he has had a phone call with the Iranian foreign minister "to protest in the strongest terms", against the attack. He thanks France for the "robust support" that it has provided to British diplomatic staff in Tehran.

     
  86.  
    1347:

    The foreign secretary says he has requested the closure of the Iranian embassy in London, but denies this signifies a total severance of relations between the two countries.

     
  87.  
    1352:

    Responding to Mr Hague, shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander offers "clear and unequivocal condemnation" of the "deplorable attacks".

     
  88.  
    1408:

    Former Foreign Secretary David Miliband urges condemnations of Iran not to lead to a "drumbeat of war". William Hague says the UK is not advocating military action in Iran.

     
  89.  
    1430:

    OK, we're wrapping up our live text coverage for the day now. You can continue to follow everything in Parliament as it happens on BBC Democracy Live. You can keep up with all the latest BBC news coverage in these stories about on the strikes and UK/Iran relations.

     

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.