Peter Hoskin

PMQs live blog | 16 December 2009

PMQs live blog | 16 December 2009
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It's snowing in Westminster; Gordon Brown's off saving the world; and PMQs will see Harman facing off against Hague and Cable.  Stay tuned for live coverage from 1200.

1200: Have MPs gone on holiday already?  There are plenty of empty seats in the chamber...

1202: Here's Harman now.  Condolences for fallen soldiers, first, and then a status update on Brown in Copenhagen.  I imagine we'll hear more about the Danish summit today...

Harman says that she hopes a settlement is soon reached in BA negotiations.

1204: Plant 'o the Day: Labour MP Judy Mallber hints that the Tories' allegiances in Europe will impact their ability to tackle climate change.

1204: And the bigging up of Brown begins.  Harman says that he's at the "centre of events" - and contrasts him with the "shadow Foreign Secretary, so can't get his party's MPs to believe in climate change".  Hm - bit of a weird dig at Hague.

1205: Here's Hague now to fight back.

1206: Hague's first question is a slightly long-winded one about the climate change fund, asking whether it will be viable.  You can see what he's trying to achieve: undermining Brown's actions in Copenhagen.  But it doesn't quite hit home.

1208: Oh dear, this is unedifying stuff.  Harman has just flung the term "climate change deniers" in the Tories' direction.

1208: Hague asks if Britain can help further the Middle East peace process if Israeli politicians are threatened with arrest if they come to Britain.

1210: Harman: "My colleague David Miliband is working to..." etc, etc, etc.  This is low-key stuff so far.

1211: Another change of topic from Hague.  Now he's talking about Iran, "possibly the biggest threat to world peace in 2010."  What would the government do?  Again, Harman refer to her collegaues and waffles about the UN.

1212: Oh, there's the bombshell which Harman had prepared.  She says "today's the day that we've seen the number of benefit claimants fall ... I'd have though today would be the day the Tories got it wrong."  So the government's "green shoots strategy" is rearing its head again.  Will it connect with those people who are still feeling the effects of one of the worst recessions in British history?

1214: Cable now.  He leads off with a point about tax evasion.  Harman uses it as an opportunity to have a dig at the Tories.  She says that the government will bring forward legislation to make sure there can't be non-doms in Parliament.

1215: Harman: "no representation without taxation".

1217: Oh dear, Labour MPs will not be happy.  Harman was getitng into her stride over non-doms and had just started: "Has Lord Ashcroft....?"  But John Bercow cut her off, and said that she needn't continue with that line of questioning.  Good on him.  Although the Tories could still do to clear up the Ashcroft situation, PMQs is not the forum for it.

1220: Backbench questions.  Harman responds to the first with a lot of Brownite copy-book stuff about not reducing "investment" now.

1221: Another plant about an "inheritance tax cut for millionaires".  It's suddenly turned super-political, this PMQs.

Questions about MPs' pay and transport.  Labour MPs seem to be enjoying themselves.

1223: Mark Francois raises the issue of homeless ex-servicemen.

1224: Harman: "We are legislating to put knife crime on a level with guncrime."

1225: Harman has some party political praise for the government's Building Schools for the Future.  "We have not pulled the plug on investment in construction."

1226: Anne MacIntosh asks an odd question, meant to be funny: "What is [Harman's] favourite fairy tale?"  Harman responds by saying that we'd get the "Brothers Grimm" were the Tories elected.  Tragic.

1231: Harman does a good line in unspecific answers...

1231: Nigel Evans says the PM should call a general election.  Harman: "I don't think that turkey is going to fly."

1233: Harman on the government's "help for small businesses".

1234: And that's it.  Verdict coming up.

VERDICT: An odd PMQs, which will leave Harriet Harman happier than any of the other participants.  None of Hague's questions really connected, which left Harman able to bat them away with dull generalisations or Labour crowd-pleasing quips.  It all threatened to spill over into fireworks when the issue of non-doms came up, but John Bercow put a stop to Harman banging on about Lord Ashcroft.  All in all, today will have done nothing to deflate the upswing in Labour morale over recent weeks, but nor will it have them soaring into the Christmas break.  It didn't really amount to much.