UK Politics

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

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Media captionJeremy Corbyn says having a free pass is "not much use if there was not a bus".

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

Theresa May opened by paying tribute to Private Reece Miller who died while on operations in Estonia. He served the country with great distinction, she added.

The PM went on to praise the dedication and hard work of NHS staff on its 70th birthday and in the final bit of her preamble she congratulated the England football team on their World Cup win on Tuesday night.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn echoed the tributes to Pte Miller and the football team. On the NHS he said it should be properly funded and he added thanks for the work of the firefighters tackling the Saddleworth Moor fire.

Turning to his questions, he attacked the PM over bus services:

Mrs May responded by highlighting the extra funding being put into the NHS, before saying that people's working habits had been changing which had led to less use of buses around the country. She added that Mr Corbyn should ask local councils what they were doing about bus services.

Mr Corbyn claimed 500 bus routes per year had been cut and asked if the prime minister thought "bus services are a public responsibility or just something you leave to the market".

The prime minister picked up on Mr Corbyn's mention of lower-paid people being hit hardest when bus services were cut or fares increased. She said that the government was helping those people in a variety of ways, such as increasing the minimum wage.

You wait ages for a bus question and a whole host came along at once - Mr Corbyn, sticking with his theme, said there were 26m fewer bus journeys across the north of England and the Midlands and he asked the PM if she thought deregulation of the buses had been a success or a failure.

The PM did not answer that question directly, instead noting that bus use in London had gone down since Labour's mayor was elected, and then, to cheers from her MPs, said the Conservative Mayor for the West Midlands had extended free bus travel to students and apprentices.

"It will be a Labour government that saves the bus industry and a Labour government that gives free fares to under-26-year-olds," said Mr Corbyn, who also said private bus firms had made £3.3bn of profit since 2010. He asked why the government didn't give local authorities more powers over bus operators.

Mrs May hit back saying she would take "no lessons" from Labour on devolution of powers to councils. And she ended with a now-almost-traditional listing of things the government had achieved - such as record employment as it builds a "Britain fit for the future".

What else came up?

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Media captionIan Blackford claims Conservatives are "systematically shielding their donations from public scrutiny"

The SNP's Ian Blackford began by congratulating England on their World Cup victory - his party's calling of votes during the match last night annoyed some - before raising the issue of Vote Leave "being expected to be found guilty of breaking electoral law".

Mrs May said she would not comment on a leaked report that the government had not yet seen. She said the government would consider it when it received it. (you can read the BBC story on it here)

She then said all donations to the Scottish Conservatives were accepted and declared in accordance with the law after Mr Blackford accused the party of "systematically shielding donations from public scrutiny".

Referring to reports on the Ferret website, he alleged the Scottish Conservatives had received £319,000 from the Scottish Unionist Association Trust and said there was no information about who manages the trust, who its donors are or its assets.

He urged the prime minister to reveal what checks had taken place before the money was accepted and for an investigation. Mrs May said the Scottish Conservatives worked with the Electoral Commission to make sure donations are accepted and declared properly. (you can read more about this issue here)

Labour MP Stephen Pound had a light hearted build-up to asking the PM if she would pay more tax to help fund the NHS:

Labour's Roberta Blackman-Woods brought up the forthcoming trip to the UK for President Donald Trump.

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Media captionMay: Best way to deal with Trump is to "sit down and talk to him".

There was more transport focus from Conservative MP Sir Oliver Heald:

Conservative MP Robert Halfon brought up the subject of bouncy castle safety:

The Verdicts

Here is what the BBC's Andrew Neil and Laura Kuenssberg said:

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

Conservatives in general and the government in particular have found a week of cabinet splits and ministerial crossfire over Brexit pretty hard to take. So did Jeremy Corbyn miss an opportunity to rub salt into open wounds, by talking about buses, not Brexit?

The Westminster bubble always prefers to hear about its own concerns, but it is flat out wrong to be dismissive of the problems on the buses - and maybe the choice of question reflected his experience of trying to penetrate the PM's carefully phrased formulae on customs unions and immigration.

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Media captionTheresa May: "As we leave the UK...as we leave the EU"

But if Mr Corbyn didn't delve into Brexit, Brexiteers Owen Paterson and Sir Edward Leigh did attempt to drill down. Mr Patterson delivered a humorous-sounding question referencing President Macron's plan to hold performance reviews of his cabinet. But don't mistake the menace behind the genial grin. He was targeting "soft Brexit" cabinet ministers like the chancellor and the business secretary, to be sure, but he was also nailing the PM to her own election promises, and signalling that he wanted no retreat from them.

Sir Edward followed up by seeking reassurance on key Brexiteer concerns about securing control of immigration, and allowing the UK to strike independent trade deals, unrestricted by the EU's single market rules. The PM assured him her red lines remained in place. It sounds reassuring, but were the questioners reassured? And I was also struck by the giggles produced by her assertion that she led a strong cabinet team - the opposition doesn't even bother to jeer such claims any more.

The SNP Leader Ian Blackford had a predictably rough ride after his party forced divisions last night to keep MPs voting while the England-Colombia game was on. But he zeroed in on questions about political funding. Does this mark the opening of a parliamentary second front, attacking Brexit by attacking the legitimacy of the referendum verdict? One telling point is the way the noise level dropped as his question unfolded, and then redoubled as he continued. Maybe the hecklers recognised a threat.

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Media captionLabour MP: Has McVey offered resignation?

Then, the Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey was added to the list of under-fire Cabinet ministers when Labour's Marsha De Cordova raised the blistering rebuke she'd suffered from the Comptroller and Auditor General, the government's Wastefinder-General for misleading the House of Commons over the contents of his National Audit Office's report on the roll-out of the new super-benefit, Universal Credit.

First, Marsha De Cordova skilfully avoided the procedural bear traps around accusations of this kind, when a false word could quite easily have resulted in the Speaker intervening, And then the PM responded by announcing that Esther McVey would apologise after question time - when she endured a brief noisy few minutes "correcting the record". Following her statement, the Labour Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, Frank Field, said he had applied for an urgent question, to be asked tomorrow, on the issue.

So, to summarise, the PM navigated through some dangerous waters on Brexit, but the exchanges with her backbenchers had a rather rote and ritual feel.

And the questions provided a reminder that Brexit is not the only issue; Sir Oliver Heald's hardline call for action on the crisis on the railways demonstrates the heat Tory MPs are taking from commuters, the implementation of Universal Credit touches millions of voters and Jeremy Corbyn's bus questions highlighted another public service problem. The PM was, as ever, well prepared and went on the attack where she could. But the overall impression was of problems crowding in from all quarters while the government wrestles with Brexit.

PMQs extra

Here's the Esther McVey apology that followed the prime ministerial session

And here is Penny Mordaunt becoming the first minister to use sign language in Parliament: