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Helicopters for Afghanistan dominates last PMQs before recess

Highlights, not verbatim:

12.21pm: Nick Clegg asked about why Brown had failed to cap city bonuses, have a proper debate on party funding and had blocked action to sack discredited MPs. Brown urges the Liberal Democrat leader to go away for the summer and come up with some ideas to help the economy.

12.19pm: Brown sits down after answering DC's last question.  50% of PMQs was taken up by Cameron-Brown exchanges.

12.15pm: David Cameron asks why only 30 UK helicopters are in Afghanistan when the British military has 200/250 [can't remember how many he said].  The Tory leader also urges the Prime Minister to publish the Gray report into helicopters in full. We are on our fourth Defence Secretary in as many years, we have two part-time procurement ministers and the Defence Secretary is one of the most junior in the Cabinet.  Brown says that he would have hoped that the Afghan mission could have been kept above party politics.

Picture 3 12.14pm: Speaker Bercow urges the Leader of the Opposition and Prime Minister to shorten their questions and answers as Cameron gets up to ask only his fourth question.

12.10pm: Cameron says that there may be 60% more helicopters but the increase has not been proportionate to the increase in troops. He quotes other military figures including Lord Guthrie's suggestion that more helicopters would have reduced the roadside death toll. He invites the Prime Minister to admit that the 2004 cut in the helicopter budget was a mistake. Brown says the Brigadier on the ground assures him that he has enough equipment. Defence spending is up, says Brown. The key challenge is to get more Afghan troops ready to shoulder the burden.  Merlin helicopters will be in theatre by the end of the year.

Picture 2 12.07pm: The Conservative leader turns to specific questions about the number of helicopters. Will the Prime Minister accept that there are insufficient helicopters?  Mr Brown replies by saying that more helicopters would not have stopped last week's tragic losses and he quotes a British officer on the ground who says that troops have "sufficient" numbers.

12.04pm David Cameron uses his first question to ask for a tighter definition of our mission in Afghanistan. Greater urgency and more visible progress is now needed, he says, if confidence in Britain and Afghanistan is to be maintained. Gordon Brown replies that the purpose of our mission is very clear: To stop terrorism coming to the streets of Britain.  It's not just a British-military led option but also about building up Afghanistan's own troops and providing reconstruction.


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