Peter Hoskin

PMQs live blog | 8 July 2009

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Brown's away at the G8, so it's a Harman-Hague-Cable match at PMQs today. Stay tuned for live coverage from 1200.

1202: Here we go.  Harman leads with condolences for the servicemen killed in Afghanistan over the past week.  She adds condolences to those killed in the fire in Camberwell.  The first question comes from Malcolm Wicks: would Harman agree that "we need to develop a robust social policy" which deals with the costs of an ageing population.  Harman: "We'll bring forward a Green Paper which makes sure there is choice in the provision of services ... and affordability."

1205: Stephen Dorrell stick to the same issue, asking why the Government hasn't achieved much on "long-term care."  Harman refers to the new Green Paper again, and reels off a list of New Labour measures.  She's cutting a determined figure at the mo'.

1208: And here's Hague.  He also leads with condolences, before his first question: is "everything possible" being done to protect and equip our troops in Afghanistan?

1209: Harman: "We have increased armoured vehicles, helicopters ... but we want to do more."

1210: Hague cheekily asks Harman to clarify Brown's "0 percent rise" comment of last week.

1211: Harman responds from the Brown copybook: "We're investing now ... you'd cut now" yada, yada, yada.  She brings up Osborne's admission about how much time he spends on economics, saying that "It's remarkable he manages to spend 40 percent of his time thinking about doing nothing."

1212: Good follow up by Hague: "Maybe she could spend 100 percent of the next minute answering the question."

1213: Hague keeps pushing the issue, and Harman is straight-batting with more about "bringing forward investment" and how the Tories "wouldn't invest now".

Effective attack from Hague, saying that Harman's claim that the government "aren't cutting capital spending" is exactly the kind of thing which "drags this house into disrepute" - he throws in the decline from £44bn to £22bn in capital spending.  This is all about the honesty/dishonest dividing line.

1216: Aw, here's one of the Government's new key lines.  Harman says that the goverment's measures have saved "500,00 jobs now," which will actually help the public finances.  Thing is, that can't exactly be proved.

1217: Harman: "We have paid down debt." The House laughs.

1219: Vince Cable's turn now.  He kicks with gag about an "Italian translation" of Harman's proposals on "gender equality" for the benefit of Silvio Berlusconi.  His first question is about high-end pay and bonuses in the public sector.

1221: Harman says that the Government is pushing for "restraint" over pay.

1222: In response to Cable's second question, about pay in state-owned banks, Harman says the Government are "clear" that "recklessness" shouldn't be rewarded.

1223: Backbench questions now.

1224: Harman: "When we see how [the Youth Parliament] conduct their proceedings, we may even learn something."

Harman brings up the "20,000 affordable homes" that were pushed in Brown's quasi-manifesto, Building Britain's Future. What she doesn't say is that downgraded previous government targets on affordable housing.

1226: Commenting on why the Afghanistan mission is important, Harman says that we don't want a "crucible for terror" in the AfPak border zone.  She adds that millions of Afghan children are enjoying a better education than they would have had previously.

1227: Harman won't be drawn on whether the government will postpone the 2p rise in fuel duty: "We've got to make sure that we help those who struggle to afford fuel." Expect this to become a more and more important issue over the next few months.

1228: Harman says the Government are pushing for "justice" for Equitable Life policyholders.

1230: Richard Ottaway asks whether the government still "holds to the view" that unemployment will be lower when they leave office than when they entered it.  Harman: "do nothing Tories" etc.

1233: And that's it.

VERDICT: An unenlightening affair. Hague tried to push the spending issue again, while Harman more or less sucessfully stuck to her lines from No.10.  No damage done to either side.