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Miliband taunts Lib Dems over tuition fees pledge at PMQs as Cameron retorts: "We know what he's against... what on earth is he for?"

By Jonathan Isaby

Picture 32 The exchanges between the Opposition Leader and Prime Minister began on a consensual basis, talking about the recent action against the terrorist threat, with Cmaeron updating the House on what has been done. Miliband emphasised the need to tackle the roots of terrorism, with which Cameron agreed, saying that he wanted to ensure it is a priority for the Yemeni government.  Economic development is a longer term issue, he said, with development aid going to Yemen.

Miliband then opted to try and embarrass the Lib Dem members of the Coalition, by asking - on the issue of trust - whether Cameron expected government members who gave cast iron guarantees against backing a rise in tuition fees to vote that way when it came before the House. The Prime Minister said that all government members have taken "courageous and difficult decisions" to deal with something we all want strong, well funded universities with, greater independence in a way that ensures the poorest can reach them. The proposals will achieve that and they spring from the review set up by the Labour Government. "It's a pity that opportunism has overtaken principle," he lamented.

Miliband came back, asking whether he would understand the anger of constituents of leading Lib Dems (whose constituencies he named) over broken promises. "Along goes the Milibandwagon," he retorted. On trust, he should remember what he wrote in Labour's manifesto and listen to the words of the former DTI Secretary on the issue. The Browne Review is essentially right.

Picture 33 The Labour leader then went for a relatively easy hit on Cameron, by citing the story in this morning's papers about his personal photographer being put on the government payroll. "The good news is that he does a nice line in airbusing and you can picture the cabinet photo:  'we're all in this together, just a little bit more to the right, Nick'... Is it really a wise judgement when he is telling everyone to tighten their belts?"

Cameron responds by asking "Is this what his opposition leadership has been reduced to?" He says that the last Labour Government spent half a billion pounds on communications and that this Government is cutting that by two thirds - and will be spending a bit less on replacing mobile phones in Downing Street too. Why doesn't he engage on the issues like a new system to fund higher education?

Miliband finishes by saying that Cameron can't even defend his own decision and that this is already a government of broken promises on tuition fees, VAT and child benefit - "that's what they mean by Broken Britain... he is destroying trust in politics". Cameron replies by lamenting that Miliband comes here each week with a succession of lame soundbites rather than engaging in discussion about the future of the country. "We know what he's against - but people are beginning to wonder what on earth is he for?"

In other questions, Labour backbencher Julie Hilling repeated the question about the photographer, to which Cameron told her to think of a good question rather than reading the whips' handout. He resisted Labour MP Lindsay Roy's invitation to admit his biggest mistake as PM, saying he would leave it to others to judge his many mistakes, whilst agreeing with Lib Dem Greg Mulholland that this would be a "pro-pub government"

Finally, Tory MP Gary Johson asked about giving prisoners the right to vote, to which Cameron said it makes him "physically ill"  contemplating giving the vote to anyone in prison, but that the situation left by the Labour Government could potentially cost the Government £160 million, and that has meant having to to come forward with proposals. He agreed that Steve McCabe made "an excellent point" in raising the likelihood of prisoners being able to vote for police commissioners in future.


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