UK Politics

Prime Minister's Questions: The key bits and the verdict

Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May Image copyright HoC

Theresa May went head-to-head with Jeremy Corbyn in the House of Commons. Here's what happened.

It was a noisy, boisterous session, which had the Speaker in full headmaster mode even before Mr Corbyn had got to his feet - it was the first of several interventions from John Bercow.

Mr Corbyn decided to focus on Brexit - and managed to raise a smile from the PM with his first question on David Davis's "Mad Max" speech, in which the Brexit secretary reassured the country life outside the EU would not be like a scene from a lawless Aussie dystopia.

"Doesn't the PM feel he (Mr Davis) could set the bar just a little bit higher?," asked Mr Corbyn. The PM was clearly amused by the Labour leader's joke - a rare thing indeed - but her reply was pure government boilerplate, complete with a swipe at Labour's shifting position on Brexit.

Mr Corbyn ploughed on with his attack on the government's apparent divisions over Brexit and tore into the PM over the protection of workers' rights and the environment. He claimed that the 62 Brexiteer Tories who sent her a letter setting what they wanted from Brexit were in favour of weakening protections. Mrs May insisted she wanted to protect and enhance workers' rights.

Mr Corbyn had a go at Boris Johnson, for neglecting to mention Northern Ireland in his "road to Brexit" speech.

He told Mrs May the government was all "waffle and empty rhetoric" on Brexit, adding - in a scripted quip - "this government isn't on the road to Brexit, Mr Speaker, it's on the road to nowhere".

Mrs May hit back with her own gag - the joke writers have been working over time this week - about the allegations over Mr Corbyn's contacts with a Czech spy in the 1980s.

"Normally he stands up and asks me to sign a blank cheque, I know he likes Czechs but really that is terribly depressing," said the PM, to a few groans and some laughter from MPs.

The Labour leader - who has dismissed the claims as "smears" and James Bond fantasies - feigned a yawn.

What else came up?

The SNP's leader at Westminster Iain Blackford asked what discussions the government was having with the UN about the "relentless" bombing in the Syrian rebel enclave of the Eastern Ghouta.

He got an unusually detailed response from Mrs May, who said the UK government was "appalled" by the escalation of airstrikes in the region.

She said the UK calls on Syria and its backers to "cease this campaign of violence" and allow humanitarian access.

Conservative Chris Green brought up blue passports - and the fact that two of the three firms bidding to make the new, post-Brexit travel documents are French.

The Bolton West MP urged the PM to ensure the British bidder, which happens to be based in his constituency, wins the contract.

Theresa May pledged a "fair and open competition" to design the new passports, which the government announced late last year.

Labour's Angela Smith raised the case of her constituent Claire Throssell, whose two sons were killed in an arson attack committed by their father. She wanted to know when the promised Domestic Violence Bill is going to be published and if it will be as "comprehensive as promised".

Theresa May expressed her sympathy to Claire Throssell and said the Home Office was carrying out a consultation on the Bill.

The Verdicts

Here's what the BBC's Andrew Neil and Laura Kuenssberg made of it:

Here is BBC's Parliamentary Correspondent Mark's D'Arcy's take:

Well, well… a big, if not very informative Brexit exchange between the two main protagonists at PMQs. Jeremy Corbyn mined a rich seam of quotes from ministers, producing laughs from his backbenchers, but nothing new from the prime minister.

The interest in all this is less what was said and more whether it signals an evolution in Labour's Brexit strategy. The questions reflected Labour's long-standing rhetoric about a "jobs-first Brexit." But the time is coming when they will have to take a position on, for example, UK membership of "a customs union," after Brexit.

So were these questions an attempt to start reaching out to Europhile Tory backbenchers who might rebel on forthcoming amendments to the Trade Bill? Perhaps the divisions among Tory MPs have finally proved an irresistible target.

Elsewhere the PM has being trying to find positive notes to strike - and she was prepared to engage in a positive way with questions from Labour's Chris Bryant on rehabilitation for spinal injuries and the Conservative Sir Mike Penning on the safety of medical treatments.

The session also saw a series of long and vehement rebukes to noisy MPs from Mr Speaker - and a couple of direct slap-downs to SNP MPs.

This is one of the most Speaker-intensive PMQs for quite a while, and it looks as if, in the wake of the various concerns about bullying in Westminster, John Bercow has decided to launch a bit of a clampdown,

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