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Cameron at PMQs: Commission on a British Bill of Rights to be set up "imminently"

by Paul Goodman

The most striking feature of last week's PMQs was the number of hostile questions to David Cameron from the Conservative benches.  It was all completely different this week.

Not least when Philip Davies, raising today's Times (£) story about sex offenders being given a right to appeal over register inclusion, called for the Human Rights Act to go and suggested withdrawal from the ECHR.  The Prime Minister said that he was "appalled" by the Supreme Court ruling, and added that the commission to look at a British Bill of Rights was to be set up "imminently".  At the least, he wants to suggest to his backbenches that he's determined to tackle the vagaries of the courts; at the most, last week's Commons vote has convinced the Government that it can't just carry on as usual.

From the blue side for the rest of it -

  • Mark Lancaster asked whether the Prime Minister would look into help for people suffering from MLD.
  • Nicholas Soames asked whether the Prime Minister would get deregulation moving.  (This looked to me like a pre-arranged hit at Vince Cable, who's been accused this week of being over-compliant with EU regulation.)
  • Jonathan Evans, the former MEP, also complained about EU regulation.
  • Julian Smith asked about super-fast broadband in his consituency.
  • Bernard Jenkin had a dignified tilt at Labour over its lack of enthusiasm for the Big Society.
  • Charlie Elphicke asked a biting question about Labour blocking the IMF's assessment of Britain's structural deficit while in government.
  • Andrew Bridgen attacked a local Labour council, as did Jason McCartney.
  • Gavin Williamson attacked Labour's legacy of dependency.
It may have been the Conservative back benches rallying round; there may have been a Whips' operation; most likely, it was just the luck of the draw - but, at any rate, the Prime Minister got any easier ride from his own side this week.  He also took probing questions from two Liberal Democrats, Duncan Hames (on disability allowances) and Julian Huppert (on control orders).  I wrote earlier today about how the Liberal Democrat backbenches are more rebellious than they sometimes appear to be, and the Prime Minister handled them carefully.

What's that you say?  Miliband?  How could I forget.  He asked two sets of questions, one on today's unemployment figures and another on the Government's forestry proposals.  Cameron said he wasn't happy with the latter (which Caroline Spelman won't thank him for), and went into detail about the former.  Miliband claimed that the Government's schemes would offer fewer places than Labour's did; Cameron replied that the Coalition was establishing the biggest scheme since the 1930s.  You choose who you believe.  So: all in all, some government movement both on rights and forests.

John Rentoul writes that the Prime Minister was  "assured, nimble and notably Eurosceptic" today.  Can't think of a reason to disagree.  By the way, the Commons was extremely quiet during the session.  Far less of all that "I want to hear the Honourable Member for Chuffnell Poges" stuff from Mr Speaker.  Thank goodness.

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