Prime Minister's Questions: David Cameron v Ed Miliband

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  • David Cameron answered MPs' questions in the last session of the year

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    Welcome to our live coverage of prime minister's questions. We're starting with coverage from the Daily Politics before keeping across what is happening in the Commons chamber from noon.


    Europe dominated last week's session and it's still leading headlines this week after Mr Cameron's decision to reject an EU-wide treaty change at last week's Brussels summit. It's causing some coalition tensions - on Monday Nick Clegg chose to stay away from the chamber as the PM delivered his statement - presumably he'll be back in his seat today.


    Labour's Ed Miliband might decide to go another way with his questions though - unemployment is up again - rising by 128,000 to 2.64m in the three months to October. It comes as travel agent Thomas Cook announces it will close 200 UK stores in the next two years. The economy is a popular topic at PM's questions and bound to get raised.


    BBC Europe correspondent Chris Morris is on the Daily Politics discussing the agreement that other EU leaders - minus David Cameron - are considering signing up to. Despite some apparent reservations by other EU states, he still thinks there could be 26 EU states signing up to it - but there are difficulties, he says.


    Chris Morris says there is a widespread perception in Europe that Mr Cameron hijacked the Brussels summit for his own ends - and that explains why there was some hostility in the European Parliament yesterday. Labour's Caroline Flint, who is on the Daily Politics, says the PM "put down a protocol he hadn't discussed with others before the summit and then walked away".


    Labour have been under pressure to say whether they would have signed an EU-wide treaty. Caroline Flint says Labour would have sought to win over allies and had a different approach and tactics - including months of negotiations. She says it is "better to be at the table".


    There's laughter as Conservative minister Grant Shapps says it's no secret his party and the Lib Dems disagree over Europe. He says the Commons supported the government in an opposition day debate last night, called by the Democratic Unionists.


    Grant Shapps is asked exactly what Mr Cameron refused to sign up to - when the UK already has a veto on any "financial transactions tax" which it fears will hit the City of London. He says any treaty would have had a "disproportionate" impact on the UK because of its large financial services industry.


    Conservative backbencher Peter Bone - standing next to Lib Dem MP Andrew George in the Commons - is asked whether he likes his colleague. "I like him enormously", Mr Bone says.


    In another rebuff to those seeking signs of coalition tension Mr George says the Lib Dems are "very happy" to be in coalition, he also confirms Lib Dem leader and deputy PM Nick Clegg will be in his seat on the front bench for PM's questions.

    Harriet Baldwin MP for West Worcestershire.

    tweets: Rev'd Jesse Jackson is in the public gallery for #PMQs and Cabinet Office questions


    Mr Bone says the parties have "come together to solve the economic crisis" and that's the only reason - after that, they'll be "going their separate ways". He is a little critical of Mr Clegg for "changing his position" when his party "kicked up a fuss" over the EU summit. It's not all sweetness and light.


    Did Mr Clegg really tell Lib Dem MPs he would be the last Lib Dem leader if a general election was called now because the coalition broke up - as reported in the newspapers? Lib Dem Jo Swinson tells the Daily Politics "I wouldn't believe everything you read in the papers".

    Anne McGuire, MP for Stirling

    tweets: PMQs in a few minutes. Will Deputy Prime Minister be in his usual place beside David Cameron or is he still a "distraction"?


    Lib Dem Jo Swinson, who was critical the outcome of the EU summit, says she had already made clear a "constructive and positive approach" in Europe was the way forward. She says the government "didn't start from a great position" in terms of planning.


    On to unemployment - the other big issue of the day. Minister Grant Shapps says a \u00a31bn fund will fund work placements with firms - he says the figures do show a slowdown in the rate of unemployment, which is welcome - but says he's not trying to say it's good news.


    Downing Street is saying that the unemployment figures are partly a result of the eurozone crisis. A Number Ten spokesman said: "Clearly firms decisions on hiring people are affected by what is going on in the eurozone." He said unemployment rates in the UK were still below those of other western countries as the EU rate was 9.8% and the US 8.6% - while in the UK it's 8.3%. But Labour's Caroline Flint says for every 13 jobs being lost in the public sector, only one is being created in the private sector.


    As we draw nearer noon - it's getting noisy in the Commons where Nick Clegg is indeed in his seat - as is David Cameron.


    BBC political editor Nick Robinson says Mr Miliband will connect the unemployment story to the EU story - and say Mr Cameron is losing British jobs because he's isolated. But he's got a problem - the Conservatives appear to have gone up in the polls and are going into Christmas ahead of Labour.


    The PM is on his feet. He begins by paying tribute to a British serviceman killed in Afghanistan - Sapper Elijah Bond, of the Royal Engineers, 35 Engineer Regiment, who died in hospital from injuries caused by a roadside bomb in Helmand.


    Conservative MP Richard Fuller begins with a question about this week's report into the Royal Bank of Scotland and what went wrong - big cheers as he accuses shadow chancellor Ed Balls of undermining regulations when Labour was in office.


    Mr Cameron is happy to take up this theme - he points at Mr Balls as he says he was personally named in the report.


    Mr Miliband is on his feet - noise levels fall as he repeats the tribute to Sapper Elijah Bond - and goes on to remember all troops serving overseas. Cross party support for that one.


    It's the last PM's questions of the year - Mr Miliband asks what's "gone wrong" as unemployment rises again. Mr Cameron starts by also paying tribute to British service personnel, he then says any increase in unemployment is a tragedy for those involved and the government will do everything it can to help.

    PMQs Nick Clegg is back on the frontbench alongside the PM

    Mr Miliband says the figures show the coalition's economic strategy is failing - he says for every private sector job being created, many more are being lost in the public sector. Mr Cameron says since the election there were 581,000 more private sector jobs - while 336,000 public sector jobs have gone.

    Amdy McSmith, The Independent

    tweets: Richard Fuller disappointed that bankers and minister aren't going to face criminal prosecution over the RBS collapse #pmqs


    Mr Cameron says it's all very well complaining, but the government is taking steps to reduce unemployment - not supported by Labour. Mr Miliband says on the central claim that the private sector increase would make up for the loss in the public sector is wrong. He goes on to attack the PM over youth unemployment.


    The PM hits back that even Mr Miliband's brother David has recognised that youth unemployment did not start with the coalition. He says the key is getting the UK economy moving to boost the private sector - to roars from the Labour benches.

    Grahame Morris, MP for Easington County Durham

    tweets: Nick Clegg wearing a red tie for #PMQs - is this significant ?


    Mr Miliband accuses the PM of "worthless" promises on jobs - then turns his fire on the coalition. It's good to see the deputy PM in his seat, he says - a big roar from the Labour benches, they'd been waiting for him to point it out. He goes on to read out a past New Year message from the deputy PM promising a "more collegiate approach" - what's going wrong, he asks.


    Mr Cameron says Mr Miliband should "not believe everything he reads in the papers" and with another David Miliband-related dig, says: "It's not like we're brothers or anything." The Tory benches love that.

    Sophy Ridge, Sky News Political Correspondent

    tweets: Tricky position for Nick Clegg during #pmqs - sitting voiceless beside the PM, knowing everyone is studying his body language

    PMQs Nick Clegg and David Cameron laugh after Ed Miliband welcomes the deputy PM's return to the chamber

    Mr Miliband asks the PM how he will "pick up the pieces" of the "bad deal" he got for Britain at the EU summit. The speaker interrupts to reprimand an MP who shouted at Mr Miliband "stop". The Labour leader says the PM should re-enter the negotiations at the EU - Mr Cameron fires back that he makes no apologies for standing up for Britain. He again presses Mr Miliband to say what he would have done - would he have signed the treaty? The Speaker steps in to end this line of questioning.

    Andrew Neil, BBC Presenter 'This Week' and 'Daily Politics'

    tweets: PM blocking out Clegg. Says they're not brothers #PMQs #bbcdp


    Mr Miliband suggests the PM thinks he is "born to rule" but is just "not any good at it" - Mr Cameron says that "soundbite" was recycled from a previous PMQs. He hits back with by saying Mr Miliband had promised success in Scotland and to fight "vested interests" but failed - he suggests all Labour MPs will be asking Santa for "a new leader for Christmas".


    The noise drops as a Conservative MP asks about local TV - there are smiles between Nick Clegg and Dominic Grieve on the front bench. Former Labour home secretary David Blunkett asks about citizenship taught to British children in schools - Mr Cameron has a conciliatory answer and says he respects what Mr Blunkett did on citizenship ceremonies for immigrants.


    Another Tory question - about whether children should be taught about financial responsibility - this is the subject of an e-petition on the government website. Labour MP Yvonne Fovargue asks about payday loans - she used to work for the Citizens Advice Bureau according to the PM - Mr Cameron says it's a difficult subject but the government is looking at it.

    Tim H from Accrington, Lancashire

    emails: The private sector would be able to take up the slack if it was not for overly high levels of taxation.


    The "broader question" of low-cost alcohol is being looked at, the PM says - in response to a letter in the newspapers this morning. Labour's Jenny Chapman attacks the government's economic plan as a "catastrophic failure".


    Tory Sheryll Murray quotes research suggesting soaring immigration was caused by the "open door policies of the last government" - the PM has indeed seen it and is more than happy to quote from it.

    The Sunday Times Online Newsroom

    tweets: HoC: SNP MPs positively bursting with joy as Cam mocked Ed's claim that Lab fightback would begin in Scotland. PM: "that went well". #pmqs


    Labour's John Robertson says the PM is taking money out of Scottish children's pockets and keeping it in bankers' pockets - the PM says he is just plain wrong on this.


    A Conservative question about tourism and making the most of the 2012 Games - the PM is in agreement.


    Labour's Rushanara Ali says Bangladesh is marking its 40th anniversary as an independent nation but says it is very vulnerable to climate change - she says it's more important than ever before to protect developing countries from the dangers. The PM says she's right to do so and says the UK is spending money helping Bangladesh with climate change issues.

    Adam Boulton, Political Editor of Sky News

    tweets: Clegg seems to have cheered up, chatting chummily behind DC's back with Hague and Hammond.


    Conservative backbencher Philip Hollobone asks about foreign nationals in British jails - will the PM make sure other EU states take their criminals back"?


    Former Labour Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth suggests the government is breaching the military covenant on pay for the forces - the PM says the government is extending the operational allowances and other benefits for serving personnel.


    The first congratulations on the EU veto comes from Tory MP Chris Kelly - Mr Cameron misses no opportunity to say Mr Miliband wants to "join the euro if he's prime minister for long enough" - "rubbish" comes the response from Labour's front bench.

    Paul Prendergast from Crawley,

    emails: Why not cut the MPs' pay and allowances and give the money to the real heroes, the soldiers


    Labour's Thomas Docherty asks why no Lib Dem MPs voted on the DUP motion last night congratulating the PM on his EU summit decision - Mr Cameron says he suspects many concluded Labour "wouldn't get their act together" and it wasn't worth voting. Conservative MP Richard Drax pays tribute to a Commons doorkeeper, Andy McKay, who is leaving after long service. He goes through the man's long military service. Mr Cameron thanks him for "his incredible service" and wonders what Commons staff think of "all the antics" politicians get up to.


    Youth unemployment is raised again - by Labour's Kevin Barron. He says the PM "ranted" earlier about what the government's doing for youth unemployment - then asks him to explain why it is increasing. Mr Cameron says youngsters are finding the job market very difficult - as jobs are being lost in the public sector and not growing fast enough in the private sector. Boosting the economy is key - and keeping interest rates low is important for that, he says.


    George Eustice MP - Mr Cameron's former press secretary - asks about banks' attitude to small businesses. The PM says banks must lend and must act "ethically" towards small businesses.

    John Rentoul, Independent on Sunday

    tweets: For once Speaker shd be congratulated for intervening in #PMQs, to pull Cam up for addressing Ed M as "you"


    Labour's Russell Brown again raises youth unemployment - Mr Cameron again says keeping interest rates low is key to the economy. Difficult decisions are needed but that is the most important thing, he says.


    Labour's John Cryer asks about a promised register of lobbyists - when is it going to happen, he asks? He offers the PM his own "ten-minute rule bill" on the issue. Mr Cameron says lobbying proposals will be introduced "in the next month".


    Lib Dem Adrian Sanders asks about diabetes and unnecessary deaths resulting from the condition - Mr Cameron says he's happy to look at the NHS frameworks as he suggests and stresses that public health issues - such as bad diets and childhood obesity - need to be looked at.

    Tony from Leeds

    emails: Cameron just refuses to answer any of the questions from Ed Milliband, he's like a really bad music hall act.


    It's 1233 and we're still going - the Speaker says he's in a "generous mood" so allows it to continue. Cue Labour's Anne McGuire's attack on cuts to benefits - Mr Cameron denies that the government are cutting benefits to disabled children and are uprating them in line with the high inflation figure. Last question from Tory Brian Binley about rail lines and concerns about High Speed 2.


    The PM says the West Coast mainline needs replacing and the government wants a high speed rail line which will help link up British cities. Not all Tory MPs like the plan. And with that the Speaker wraps up the session. We move onto a statement on Bovine TB by Caroline Spelman.

    Jo Swinson, Lib Dem MP for East Dunbartonshire

    tweets: PM confirms govt proposals on regulating lobbying will be published within the next month - good news #pmqs #fb


    MPs file out - Mrs Spelman stands up to set out "the next stage in the Bovine TB eradiction programme for England". She says the disease will cost the taxpayer \u00a31bn over ten years and is particularly bad in the south west.


    Mrs Spelman says \u00a320m will be invested over five years to develop an effective badger and cattle oral vaccine as quickly as possible. Ultimately the government wants to be able to vaccinate both but there are problems with the current "injectable" vaccine - not least trying to catch the badgers to administer it.


    In the meantime the disease is getting worse and the government has to act - the environment secretary says. It must be brought under control - and unless the badger disease is tackled, they will never be able to eradicate it in cattle. She proposes a "controlled reduction" in badgers as part of a "science-led" scheme. It will be piloted first in two areas next year.


    The pilots will evaluate the effects of "controlled shooting" of badgers, she says. There's no satisfactory alternative at the present time, she says.


    On the BBC's Daily Politics the shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint defends Ed Miliband's performance, saying it is his job to keep asking the questions for those people who are worried about their jobs.


    In the Commons - Bovine TB pilots must be carried out "safely, effectively and humanely" Caroline Spelman says - and must show an "overall decrease in the disease" in those areas where they take place.

    Terry Nottingham from Derby

    emails: Labour of doing a lot of shouting about youth unemployment, but, I have never heard one of the offer a solution, they just criticise and like to hear the sound of their own voice.


    Defra vet and scientific advice is that the policy will cut the levels of TB in badgers more quickly than vaccination - but there will still be a useful role for vaccination, particularly in the future, she says. More money will be made available for vaccinations, she says.


    The farming industry will be asked to shortlist areas for the pilot - Defra will pick the winning two and ask them to apply for a licence.


    The BBC's Political Editor Nick Robinson says PMQs is not the most important political event, but it is important for the morale of the Opposition and a bad PMQs is "very very corrosive before a holiday, they go away feeling low".


    A wider rollout could follow the pilots if they are successful - but a maximum of 10 licences would be carried out each year. Mrs Spelman says there are strong feelings on the issue but action is needed now to stop the situation gets worse. She says she wishes there was a "satisfactory alternative" at the moment.

    Paul Waugh, Editor of

    tweets: Lab bbenchers looked like they were chewing wasps. Good job EdM scheduled a by-election victory for tmrw #pmqsinsurancepolicy


    The environment secretary says she's listened to "all sides of the debate" and thinks the approach is the right one. Labour's Mary Craigh says her party had spent \u00a350m on randomised badger culling trials. She says the results of these suggested badger culling could not "meaningfully contribute" to the control of cattle TB in Britain.


    She says the government's approach is to get farmers to hire people to shoot badgers at night - which has never been scientifically investigated.

    Christine Marshall from Clitheroe, Lancashire

    emails: Caroline Flint needs to get real about Europe and the views of the average people. The UK is a massive net contributor to the EU budget - let Sarkozy and Merkel mess with us at their peril. David Cameron was right to use the Veto. Cheers to David Cameron.


    What about the costs? Farmers will have to pay \u00a31.4m per cull area, according to Defra figures, says Ms Craigh. She asks how they will access funds and how liability will be shared.


    Ms Craigh says the home secretary has warned Mrs Spelman not to proceeed with the culls and asks whether trained firearms police would have to police any protests - and whether the cull will be postponed until after the Olympics.


    She says the cost of bovine TB will continue to be borne by the taxpayer - and asks whether the cull will be "humane". Who's going to monitor the cull licences? Between 60,000 and 100,000 badgers will be killed over four years, she says.


    Will it work, Ms Craigh asks, or could it make things worse? How will the government ensure the safety of those carrying out the cull and disposing of infected bodies - and the police overseeing inevitable protests. She says Mrs Spelman has "turned her back on the scientific advice".


    BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson adds that things may not be all rosy for David Cameron and Nick Clegg next year: "The relationship between Cameron and Clegg is still pretty strong and they did agree on the negotiating postion - I know for a fact before that summit. But if Nick Clegg feels 'I have to be here otherwise I'll be destroyed', if his party feels more and more humiliated, that has dangers for a government." Nick Robinson recalls Geoffrey Howe, who Margaret Thatcher sidelined and who eventually sparked the events that brought her down.


    In the Commons: Mrs Spelman says lessons had been learned from Labour's badger cull - and says that farmers will bear the cost. Controlled shooting is commonly used to control deer, foxes, rabbits and others so she has "reasonable confidence" it can be effective and humane for badgers.


    Mrs Spelman says the costs have to be seen against the cost of uncontrolled expansion of TB - which she repeats could cost the taxpayer \u00a31bn over ten years.


    Mrs Spelman says badgers are protected - but not "endangered" - there are somewhere between 250,000 and 300,000 in Great Britain, she says. Labour should have exercised its judgement and acted when it had the chance - if it had done so the disease and its cost would not have "escalated" to the same extent.


    We are going to wind up our text commentary for the week now. You can still watch the Commons while the Bovine TB statement continues. The full session of PM's questions will be added to this page in the next hour or so. Hope you'll join us again for the next PM questions in January.


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