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A lacklustre final PMQs of the decade

Jonathan Isaby's verdict:

William Hague both opted against going for the jugular on any issue or using humour as he often does so well at the despatch box, preferring for a series of questions on foreign affairs matters. Harman's responses were in the main pre-planned, tedious and uninformative. Overall a lacklustre affair which amounted to a no-score draw.

Picture 6 12.02 Harriet Harman opens by paying tribute to the latest casualties in Afghanistan.

12.03 Andrew Mackay raises the BA strike and seeks an assurance that Harman will influence the unions to call off the strike. Harman says she wants to see a strike not taking place.

12.05 Labour MP Judy Mallaber raises the issue of differing views on climate change within the ECR group in Brussels; Harman trumpets Brown's appearance in Brussels.

12.06 William Hague notes it's the earliest Christmas recess for 31 years and laments that we will not hear the Prime Minister's report on Copenhagen until after the recess. He wishes Brown well at the talks but asks whether they will be successful given what has been emanating from Copenhagen this morning.

Picture 7 12.08 Harman says that she wishes the talks well. Hague welcomes announcements on deforestation and wants an assurance that the the distribution of illegally harvested timber be an offence under UK law. Harman says the Government will deal with it and attacks climate change deniers on the Tory side.

12.09 Hague raises the arrest warrant for the Israeli foreign minister and asks how Britain can play a leading role in the Middle East peace process if Israeli politicians cannot visit Britain without fear from arrest.

12.11 Hague also asks if magistrates are applying the law correctly. Harman says that it will be looked into so that the situation is resolved.

12.12 Hague wants action to accelerate the EU sanctions against Iran - which he says could be "the biggest threat to peace in the world". Hague says that twice sanctions have been announced without being put into effect. He wants a statement early in the New Year as to what Britain, the EU and the UN are prepared to do on this.

12.13 Harman says the House will be kept updated - but berates Hague for not mentioning the fall in number of people claiming unemployment benefit announced today.

Picture 9 12.14 Vince Cable notes that the amount of tax revenue in the economy is the lowest since the days of Macmillan but that much is lost through evasion and wants to know what has happened to it. Harman comes up with a list of reasons for tax revenue falling - due to the global economic recession - but says steps have been taken against tax evasion. She makes a partisan attack on Tories with respect to parliamentarians being non-domiciled.

12.17 Cable notes that the Lib Dems have been pushing for the measures which David Cameron has now proposed but wants quick action on it. Speaker Bercow forces Harman to sit down when she tried pursuing an attack on Lord Ashcroft.

12.20 David Heathcoat-Amory notes that the golden rule on borrowing has been broken every year since 2001 and wonders if the law on fiscal responsibility will be a gimmick without any punishment for ministers who break it. Harman fails to answer his question.

12.21 The new Labour MP for Glasgow North East, Willie Bain, attacks Tory policy on inheritance tax. Harman says that his constituents wouldn't benefit from Tory policy because they don't live in Notting Hill.

12.23 Mark Francois raises the issue of homeless ex-service personnel and seeks more to be done to help those who have bravely served us. Harman seeks suggestions which she will pass on to the Defence Secretary.

12.27 Anne McIntosh asks if Harman has a favourite fairy tale - the Emepror's New Clothes perhaps? Harman replies that when it comes to fairy tales the country must avoid the Brothers Grim(m), in reference to David Cameron and George Osborne.

12.33 Nigel Evans says the administration is run by Tweedledee and Tweedledum (with the emphasis on the final syllable) and says that Christmas cheer would come with news of an early election. Harman says she doesn't think "that turkey is going to fly".

Jonathan Isaby


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