David Blackburn

PMQs Liveblog | 14 July 2010

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Stay tuned for live coverage from 12:00

12:00: Cameron pays tribute to the 7 soldiers killed in Afghanistan during the last week and promises an inquiry into yesterday's tragedy and assures the house that British efforts will not falter.

12:02: Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop criticises the rise in VAT saying it will affect small businesses. Cameron counters by saying he's cut red tape.

12:04: Harman opens by asking for Cameron to describe the efforts to contain violence in Belfast. He does, saying how the police response has been measured. Both agree that it is a matter for devolution.

12:06: Harman attacks the government's decision to end NHS targets, notably the cancer guarantee.

Woah. Cameron adds to his Northern Ireland statement, condemning the violence on the grounds that the devolved police force is represented by all members of the community.

He then defends his health policy on the grounds that cancer survival rates are not as good as they should be and that spending on treatment is more important than bureaucracy. It's a strong answer and Cameron finishes with the political coup that the Tories will spend more on health and Labour will cut.  

Bercow intervenes, saying it is not the Prime Minister's place to ask questions.

12:10: Harman asks more questions on this line, finishing with the powerful, and I think unanswerable point that the government's health white paper is nothing more than a re-organisation that offers speculative savings. Cameron responds by saying he's abolishing bureaucracy.

Both have made powerful points, but there's more heat than light in those exchanges.

12:14: Bob Russell, one of the defeated Lib Dem VAT rebels, asks if the government will protect voluntary sector organisations from the VAT hike. Cameron says that they will be empowered by reform and involvement in running public services, but can offer no privilged protection.

12:16: An absurd plant from the government backbench about an 18 part psycho drama on the beeb about New Labour. Bercow deals with it well: the PM's repsonse would be fascinating but it's not a matter of government policy.

12:18: Angus Robertson of the SNP wants assurances that military installations and related industry on the Clyde will be completely protected. Cameron's response is feisty. He can give no such assurances, and he adds, with a twinkle, that he thought the SNP's policy was to abolish the British Navy.

12:21: Interesting question from Tory backbencher Stephen Hammond, pointing out that despite Ed Balls' promises and bluster he oversaw a growing shortage of primary school places. Cameron says that this is a national problem that will be addressed. Balls hates it.

12:26: Nadeem Zahari, the flamboyant Tory newcomer raises the point about housing benefit in multi-million pound houses. Cameron vows to tackle it.

VERDICT: A quiet PMQs, dominated by a lot of backbench questions following a similar theme: can you protect my constituents from cuts. The opposition are in complete denial about the public finances, a point that Cameron very adeptly. It was ironic then that Cameron defended protecting NHS spending. There was little to choose between Cameron and Harman.