"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

PMQs: Summary + Videos

Cameron led with tributes to Ranger David Dalzell of the 1st Btn Royal Irish Regiment and CSM Colin Beckett, 3rd Btn Parachute Regiment who lost their lives in Afghanistan this week.
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Everyone seemed more awake at this week's session and there were a few more sparks.  A rapidly-ageing and baggy-eyed  Squeaker Bercow (too much pillow talk?) intervened three times to inform the "excessively rowdy" House that "the public does not like it."  I think he's wrong - I think we prefer sparky and productive confrontation between the two leaders to the lazy consensus we've seen so often since May last year.

Miliband led by asking for an update on the Big Society.   He referred to "billions" of funding being cut with particular reference to SureStart, the Daycare Trust and libraries.  The Local Government Association was quoted in support.  He was more assertive than usual, if slightly patronising at one point, and raised a laugh as he responded to Cameron and also took a side-swipe at Brown to say, "He shouldn't get so angry, it will cloud his judgement - and he's not the first Prime Minister I've said that to."

Cameron spoke of the "Big Society Bank" (I presume this is the new name for his 'Green Bank') which will put £200m into the voluntary sector.  He also quoted figures showing that SureStart's budget is increasing.  He told Miliband he should "stop sniping and jumping on every bandwagon".  Ed Balls came in for what's going to be a weekly kicking.  He was quoted as saying, "I don't think the UK had a structural deficit at all."  This was swiftly followed by a quote from the IFS stating that "on the eve of the crisis Britain had the largest structural deficit in the developed world".

Let's get one thing clear, all this talk of cuts in funding to charities and the voluntary sector is based on a faulty premise: any 'charity' which receives government funding isn't a charity.  It's nothing but a taxpayer-subsidised lobby group.  It's also worth reiterating that the cuts are no such thing either - spending is increasing, not being cut; it's just not increasing by as large an amount as it would have done under Labour plans.

Cameron seemed to answer most of the questions with a fair amount of detail this week but I counted at least two that he avoided, one being the question on the re-branding of ASBOs which he side-stepped completely.  He replied at length to the question of privatising woodland and forests.

Did your MP speak?
Roger Williams, Lib Dem, Brecon & Radnorshire;  Nick de Bois, Con, Enfield North;  Ghisela Stuart, Lab, Birmingham & Edgbaston;  Christopher Chope, Con, Christchurch; Jessica Morden, Lab, Newport East;   Julian Lewis, Con, New Forest East;  John Woodcock, Lab Co-op, Barrow & Furness; James Clappison, Con, Hertsmere;  David Simpson, DUP, Upper Bann;  David Nuttall, Con, Bury North;  David Cairns, Lab, Inverclyde;  David Rutley, Con, Macclesfield;  Mike Weir, SNP, Angus;  Richard Graham, Con, Gloucester;   Angela Smith, Lab, Penistone & Stockbridge;  John Baron, Con, Basildon & Billericay;  Jim Cunningham, Lab, Coventry South;  Ian Swales, LibDem, Redcar;   Valerie Vaz, Lab, Walsall South;  Eric Ollerenshaw, Con, Lancaster & Fleetwood;  Ian Austin, Lab, Dudley North;  Priti Patel, Con, Witham.

Matters raised:
Foreign students at university/immigration;   funding for Headley Court in light of number of injured troops returning from Afghanistan;  NHS midwifery services;  a free, unwhipped, vote for the AV referendum debate;  closure of Passport Offices in Newport & Liverpool;   Two closed question from Lewis and Woodcock regarding the policy on Trident & the effect of the LibDems on the coalition; Lord Carlile's comments about Britain being a 'safe haven for terrorists';  resurgent terrorism in N.Ireland;  closure of Bury Hospital;  the re-branding of ASBOs and reduction in police numbers;  deficit denial by Labour;  reduction in transport services in Angus;  investing in sport;  the selling off of England's woodlands;  fresh thinking on Afghanistan - talk & fight at the same time;  cutting of pensions & benefits to Armed Forces/ Military Covenant;  knife crime & punishment;  NHS plans;  M6 (Heysham)/investing in major capital schemes, particularly in the North;  Bank regulation and taxation/Tory Party funding;  ECHR ruling on votes for prisoners.

Videos to follow.

UPDATE:  Sorry, there's nothing at all yet ( 20.45) - I really must get my own equipment.

Verbatim report from Hansard







H/t: LiarPoliticians for the videos

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