David Blackburn

PMQs Live blog | 30 June 2010

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11:50: Stay tuned for live coverage from 12:00

12:02: Labour MP Kevin Brennan attacks Ken Clarke's criminal justice prison reform: cuts or tackling re-offending. Cameron return fire by citing the need for a new approach to tackling re-offended.

12: 03: Here's Harman with Larry Elliott's scoop on the Budget. Cameron responds by citing the OBR's transparency. The figures, Cameron argues, show unemployment falling year-on-year thanks to the two-year public sector pay freeze, and 2.5million new jobs in the private sector. Cameron says that 70,000 public sector jobs would have been lost under Labour's plan, in tune with Alistair Darling's prediction that public sector employment would 'inevitably fall'.

12:05: Harman re-asks the question: why hasn't he published the Treasury forecasts which suggest that 1.3 million people will be out of a job thanks to the Budget. Cameron doesn't answer the question - he reiterates his OBR answer.

12:08: Harman asks about the increasing dole bill. Cameron responds that Harman simply doesn't understand the facts: the OBR say unemployment will fall.

This rather uninstructive point, counter-point is interrupted by Cameron's coup de grace: Harman's two-story peace pods, which cost the taxpayer several million quid. 'They went from peaceniks to peace-pods and bankrupted the country in the process'. Advantage Cameron but Labour still aren't finished.

12:12: A Labour backbencher asks Cameron the same question again. At last Cameron's answer is clear for all to hear: the indepedent OBR says that public sector employment will decline, all recognise that this is inevitable, but it will be more than covered by the large rise in private sector employment.' Very good from Cameron and highlight's Labour's conceit that the economy is determined exclusively by the public sector; at the same time, Cameron's position is open to all sorts of unforseens and no small measure of chance.

12:15: Labour veteran George Howarth opposes prison reform from an authoritarian perspective. This approach is understandable but slightly flawed tactically, it automatically surrenders the 'progressive' ground to the coalition.

12:19: Caroline Lucas wonders when British troops will withdraw from Afghanistan. Cameron is firm in defending the current failed strategy, he calls for future reconciliation with the Taliban and refuses to name that date. No mention of hoping for a 2015 exit, though.

12:21: Labour MP Kate Green questions the sense in cutting 4,000 staff members from the Job Centre Plus with unemployment set to rise. Cameron calls for a proper debate from Labour benches on cuts. Fair comment: Labour's collective reticence is staggering. He also reiterates that unemployment will not rise, I hope he's right, least of all because he's holding himself hostage to fortune with this strident line. 

12:25: Tory Robin Walker on the importance of increasing funding for hospices. Cameron echoes the sentiment, and uses the opportunity to praise Walker's father, Lord Walker, the former Cabinet minister who died last week.

12:26: Aha... excellent question from Labour's backbenches: does the Prime Minister agree with the Justice Secretary or the leader of the Scottish Tories on prison reform. Cameron defends prison, but calls for reform. Awkwardly amusing.

12:27: Cameron confirms that he will not fulfil Simon Heffer's desire that Dfid be abolished.

12:29: Michael Meacher calls for protection for public sector workers 'the victims of the recession'. Cameron hopes that Labour might identify where their £50bn cuts will fall. 

12:33: All over, my verdict is to follow. Meanwhile upspake 'the sanctimonius dwarf', who admonished the government for leaking statements to the press. Theresa May apologised that her attempt to move from a written to an oral statement meant that a written submission fell into the hands of the press. Bercow is right: the government must introduce policy in statements to the House, not to the press.

VERDICT: Labour over-egged Larry Elliott's scoop - it merely re-inforces the fact that they have not been honest about where the axe would fall if they were in government, and it suggests that to them the economy is measured by the public sector. Meacher's claim that the 'public sector are the victims of this recession' is preposterous: all have lost.

Cameron can rebuff ths line of attack by referring to the OBR's claim that 2.5 million private sector jobs will have been created by 2015. However, that prediction depends on growth and not necessarily Osborne's Budget. If unemployment stands at 3 million in 2015 it will not be enough to retort: 'Labour would have to had cut as well'. Today, however, it is enough, just. Cameron won.