PMQs: Miliband attacks on health and banking, but Conservatives launch benefits cap counter-attack
By Matthew Barrett
Follow Matthew on Twitter.
Yesterday's statement from the Prime Minister on his European Council summit allowed a number of backbench Conservative MPs and the Labour frontbench to question the Government's European policy. This meant today's PMQs was unlikely to be dominated by Europe.
It was a lively affair. Labour hit hard on NHS questions, but Tory backbenchers were marshalled to hit back even harder on the benefits cap, a popular policy Labour do not support. Ed Miliband started his questions by asking whether the Prime Minister would bring forward legislation to make banks more transparent. Mr Cameron insisted the British banking system was already the most transparent. Mr Miliband condemned Mr Cameron's lack of "leadership" on the issue.
Ed Miliband, as with last week, split his questions and used the second set to ask why the Prime Minister had "so comprehensively lost the medical profession's trust". Mr Cameron diverted and noted Mr Miliband didn't want to talk about the Government's proposed £26,000 benefits cap. Mr Cameron then got back on-topic, extolled the virtues of the proposed health reforms. He pointed out that waiting times are down, mixed-sex wards scrapped, etc. "Every time he talks about the NHS, he just shows how out of touch he is", replied Mr Miliband. He then claimed 98% of GPs oppose the reforms, and added a long list of medical assocations who oppose the Health Bill. Labour MPs chanted "against the bill" after each organisation's name was read out.
A couple of notes on backbench questions:
- David Davis asked why the Indian military had awarded the contract for fighter jets to a French company. Davis urged the Prime Minister to intervene and attempt to convince the Indian government to award the contract to a British company, BAE. The Prime Minister said he was disappointed by the decision, and would do all he could to change the Indian government's decision.
- Several Tory backbenchers (including Marcus Jones, David Nuttall, Alok Sharma, Priti Patel, Nadhim Zahawi) gave the Prime Minister the opportunity to bash Labour for not supporting the £26,000 benefits cap. On one occasion, Mr Cameron decided to quote Labour's absent Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Liam Byrne, saying "Where is Baldemort? Oh, he's not at home today!".