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Today's PMQs was barely even a warm-up for the main event

By Jonathan Isaby

With George Osborne's Budget statement having just started, PMQs today was always going to be at best a warm-up for the main event of the day, and it was barely that. There were no killer punches on either side, with Ed Miliband opting to divide his quota of six questions into two batches - one on events in Libya and one specific query on benefit reform.

Picture 8 Miliband's first two question simply invited David Cameron to update the House on progress in Libya and on the contribution of Arab states. The Prime Minister explained that the No Fly Zone is in place, with 11 nations contributing more than 150 aircraft. They were having an early and good effect in terms of Gaddafi's forces retreating from Benghazi, he said, but concerns remain, not least because his 2nd ceasefire was no more meaningful than the first.

Cameron reported that the Arab league had met yesterday, reinforcing its support for UN Resolution 1973 and the No Fly Zone. Qatar has now deployed Mirage and support aircraft, with Kuwait and Jordan due to make logistical contributions. He said he hoped more would be forthcoming, but clear support was there both from Arab governments and from the Arab people.

Miliband's final question of that trio was to ask for clarification over the targeting of Gaddafi, emphasising the need to stick to the terms of the UN Resolution. Cameron replied that action must be in line with the Resolution, which allows all necessary measures to enforce the No Fly Zone and to take action to protect civilian life. However, he added that he didn't propose to give a running commentary on targets and would say no more on the issue.

Picture 9 The Labour leader's second batch of questions saw him ask why the Government is removing the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance from care home residents. "We're not," replied the Prime Minister. But clause 83 of the Welfare Reform Bill proposes precisely that, claimed Miliband. The review of it is wrapped up into the new personal independence payment, said Cameron, saying that issues relating to it have been raised across the Commons and the Government is responding - and that Miliband can take part in the review, should he wish.

It's not a review, it's a clause in his bill, insisted Miliband. Why not complete the review now and say he is dumping the policy? Cameron said we hear little now from Miliband about his support for the gateway reforms he said he wanted to support, and in any case, Miliband should be congratulating the Government for listening to those from across the House.

In other questions:

  • David Cameron said that selling the gold reserves was one of many appalling decisions made by the last Government on the advice of Balls and Miliband in the Treasury - in answer to an "ingenious" question from Tory MP Karl McCartney comparing Gaddafi's holding on to gold with Labour's decision to sell it.
  • Croydon Central Conservative MP Gavin Barwell suggested that the Government might want to save some money by moving some offices and civil servants from central London to Croydon. Cameron said money had already been saved by moving some offices out of London, but he was sure there was more that could be done (one backbencher shouted that IPSA could be moved there).
  • Another week and another quote from shadow health secretary, John Healey, was read out by David Cameron - this time his recent interview in the Morning Star saying that the last Government was poor at negotiating PFI deals.
  • Lib Dem Jo Swinson asked about the consequences for UK nuclear power of the recent events in Japan. Cameron said that whilst we would learn any lessons that need to be learned, Britain is not in an earthquake or tsunami zone and does not have any of the same types of nuclear power stations.


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