Peter Hoskin

PMQs live blog | 13 October 2010

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VERDICT: Well, who would have thought it? In his first PMQs performance, Ed Miliband not only put in a solid showing – but he got the better of David Cameron. I certainly don't agree with the Labour leader's central argument: that it is unfair to restrict child benefit. But he put his point across in measured, reasonable tones – and Cameron seemed flustered by comparison, as he wagged on about the size of the deficit. Make no mistake, the argument and the public's sympathies will unwind themselves over the course of the entire Parliament. They will not be resolved in one session of PMQs. But in presentational terms, MiliE will have the more flattering clips on the news later – which is more than he could have expected going into today. An early boost for Iain Martin's DUEMA campaign

1231: And that's it. My quick verdict shortly.

1230: Cameron says that it's important to have "pay transparency" at the upper end of public sector wages - and, "as a result, there's downwards pressure." He calls this a "transparency revolution":  a neater phrase than "post-bureaucratic age".

1229:
Dodgy question from Kevin Brennan, who links the pledge to form a coalition with Nick Clegg's pre-election pledge to operate against rising tuition fees.

1228: PMQs is rather winding down now. Cameron's just fielded a question on planning laws.

1226:
One of the leifmotifs of the spending review enters the House: cuts to research and science. Cameron reponds that it is, "very difficult to make everybody immune from the cuts forced on us by the incompetence of the last government."

1225: Woah, Cameron confirms that he will keep the Winter Fuel Allowance. An interesting line in the sand, that - as it goes against the coalition's arguments on child benefit.

1223:
Take that, Vince. Cameron says that "a graduate tax is a complete disaster".

1221: Cameron says it's imporant that the parents of Linda Norgrove get all information they can about their daughter's death.

1220: The PM re-emaphsises the coalition's commitment to reforming Royal Mail.

1219: Cameron says that Britain deserves the football World Cup, and that he will continue to work to make progress in Northern Ireland.

1217:
Cameron saves his strongest attack for last, saying that "Labour have suddenly discovered the middle classes ... it's transparent political positioning." He the rattles off a list of taxes and other measure that the previous government imposed on the middle classes. The PM finishes: "it's not red, it's Brown".

1216: Miliband is becoming more combative. He says that the coalition has "no defence of this policy". Canned laughter from the Labour benches as Miliband says that the Tories must have wished the BBC blackout went ahead on their conference.

1215: Cameron coming across as relatively flustered, although his point is strong enough: what would Labour do to reduce the deficit?

1214: Ed Miliband: "I don't think his changes are fair and reasonable - does he?"

1213: Cameron says that the coalition has to take tough decisions because of the public finances they inherited from Labour.

1211: Miliband claims that he's on the side of the "squeezed middle" - deputy headmasters and the like. He then quotes a pre-election Cameron saying that he wouldn't touch child benefit. This is one of Labour's favourite attacks - but it succeeds or fails on whether the public appreciate that coalition means compromise.

1210:
Cameron says that it's unfair for taxpayers to have to pay for Miliband's child benefit.

1209: A neat retort from Miliband: "I may be new to this game, but I think I ask the question". He presses forward with the anomaly that couples earning £80,000 could get child benefit, while a single earner on £44,000 would not.

1208: Cameron stresses that fifteen percent of earners are higher rate taxpayers. He finishes: why do you think it's ok for them to get handouts?

1207:
Miliband's putting in his "reasonable opposition" shift. He stresses that the Opposition will support some of the coalition's benefit reforms - but will find it difficult to do so over child benefit. His question: how many people will it affect?

1206: An thoughtful first question from Miliband, who asks for an update on Cameron's phonecall with Barack Obama about the death of Linda Norgrove. Cameron says that, "the picture is still unclear".

1205: Here's Ed, wearing his signature mauve tie. Big cheers from the Labour benches. He starts by matching Cameron's condolences for the fallen.

1203: A cheeky first question which observes that Labour MP's choice for leader is "neither on the front bench or in the House". What does this say about AV? Cameron quips that there will be less union involvement in general elections.

1201:
Cameron begins by paying tribute to our fallen troops in Afghanistan. He adds that, after a restructuring, we are now "protecting 1/3 of the Helmand population". There are also condolences for Linda Norgrove's family, and kind words for the Chilean miners.

Stay tuned for live coverage, from 1200, of the first Cam vs Mili bout in PMQs.