Conservative Diary

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At PMQs, David Cameron tells Ed Miliband that he can't attack the Government's spending plans if he hasn't got a plan of his own

By Jonathan Isaby

The House of Commons was in an excitable mood for today's PMQs ahead of the statement from George Osborne on the Comprehensive Spending Review, following immediately afterwards.

Picture 23 Unsurprisingly, Ed Miliband, in his second outing at PMQs as Opposition leader, went on the economy, first asking whether Ken Clarke was right to have raised the danger recently of a double dip recession. David Cameron said that, unlike Miliband, Clarke "has bottom" and that in any case, his remarks were referring to Europe as a whole.

Miliband insisted he was talking about the UK - Has Clarke "put his foot in it, has he put his Hush Puppy in it?" but the Prime Minister countered that MIliband should read the whole quote Clarke gave and that Miliband should "have another go".

The Labour leader asked if the CSR would be a failure if unemployment were to rise next year, to which Cameron replied that the Governemnt's approach is to take the British economy out of the danger zone where Labour left it. There was a choice was to accept what Labour set out - which was not credible, according to all experts - or totake bold action to get Britain out of the danger zone - that's what we've done and that's what today is all about.

MIliband then spotted Osborne (whom he mistakenly referred to as shadow chancellor) talking to Cameron, to which Cameron said that in this Government the PM and Chancellor speak to each other. Responding to Miliband again, he noted that the OBR forecasts are that unemployment will fall and employment will rise next year. Two parties have come together in the national interest to sort out the mess left by the other.

MIliband asked if unemployment were to rise, would the Government revise its tax and spending plans? Cameron said we all agree that we live in a dangerous world economy, but repeated that we taking the economy out of the danger zone to protect Britain's long term interests, unlike Labour.

Picture 24 Miliband concluded his questions by accusing Cameron of taking the "biggest gamble of a generation with people's livelihoods". Cameron replied by giving Miliband "one simple piece of advice" he learned as Leader of the Opposition: "If you haven't got a plan, you can't attack a plan. He hasn't got a plan, so he hasn't got anything to say."

In other questions, a number of the Tory "backbench awkward squad" caught the Speaker's eye:

Tory backbencher Peter Bone called it "obscene" that UK contributions to the EU are rising, a theme also taken up by Philip Davies, who said it was "unacceptable" that the Government had rubber stamped the increase in the UK contribution to the EU Budget, whilst David Nuttall expressed outrage at the EU expanidng it bureaucracy as we are cutting ours.

In response, Cameron said that Labour gave away £8 billion of the UK rebate in return for nothing and that he will not accept further increases to it. He also said that he reckoned he had a new ally in these matters in the new Dutch Prime Minister and the argument had to be made that future increases would be unacceptable. "The key is the next financial perspective", he said, we need to ensure Europe starts to live within its means.

Meanwhile, Chris Chope asked why the PM agreed that First Past The Post was fairer than AV, to which Cameron said he had always supported FPTP and the constituency link and pointed out that in some cases AV would lead to even more disproportionate outcomes. He thanked Tory backbenchers for allowing the bill to go through "so we can have the arguments in the country" rather than wrecking the Bill.


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