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Ed Miliband challenges Cameron on the NHS, and Liberal Democrats stay loyal at PMQs

Matthew Barrett

An average PMQs for the Prime Minister. Notably, there were no particularly troublesome or rebellious questions from Liberal Democrat MPs. 

Philip Hollobone (Kettering) asked the first question, allowing Mr Cameron to pay tribute to David Cairns, calling him "an extremely kind and compassionate man". Mr Hollobone then asked whether the Government “will not budge” on the issue of prisoner voting, following an order by the European Court of Human Rights to allow it. Mr Cameron said that reform of the European Court of Human Rights is a priority.

Mr Miliband began his questions by asking “a year into his government, how would the Prime Minister rate his handling of the NHS?" Mr Cameron responded that the government has increased spending on the NHS and the number of doctors is growing very quickly. Mr Miliband pointed out that since it takes seven years to train a doctor, Labour is responsible for such success. Mr Miliband said Mr Cameron is not taking responsibility for his NHS policy.

Mr Miliband asked Mr Cameron whether the NHS "pause" it is a genuine listening exercise. Mr Cameron replied “of course it is a genuine listening exercise”. Mr Cameron quoted Shadow Health Secretary John Healey that "the general aims of the reforms are sound". Mr Cameron then said "Looking at this, it all reminds me of Labour 30 years ago: they had a leader with the ratings of Michael Foot, and he was being undermined by someone called Healey as well."

Mr Miliband said a rumoured PMQs "makeover" hadn't worked, and that “Flashman is back”. He then accused Mr Cameron of carrying on implementing the NHS reforms regardless of the “pause”. Mr Cameron responded “I can absolutely guarantee there will be significant and substantial change to the reforms because we want to get them right”.

Mr Cameron pointed out that Labour is cutting the NHS in Wales, and then referred to a letter to the Daily Telegraph in which GPs praised the proposed reforms. Mr Cameron was self-deprecatory about his “out of date” cultural references at previous PMQs, and then pointed out that Mr Miliband started his "fightback" in Scotland, and was badly defeated.

Mr Miliband said “the pause” is “nothing more than a sham”. Mr Cameron said “no change is not an option” and that reforms were started under Labour. Mr Cameron sat down to shouts of ”more, more!” from his backbenches, and Mr Miliband told them to “calm down, dear”. Mr Miliband said “you can’t trust the Tories on the NHS”. A flustered-looking Mr Cameron said “there is only one party you can trust on the NHS and that’s the one I lead” to many shouts and jeers. Mr Speaker told Michael Gove off for “shouting his head off”.

Backbench contributions included:

  • Sir Paul Beresford (Mole Valley) asked whether Mr Cameron would meet him to discuss the progress on the treatment and prevention of Variant CJD. Mr Cameron said he would.
  • Elfyn Llwyd (Plaid): asked about cyber-crime.
  • Bob Russell (Lib Dem, Colchester) condemned Labour's record in office and then asked what Mr Cameron is doing about multi-millionaires boosting their income. Mr Cameron said he is tackling tax loopholes.
  • Alan Johnson (Lab, Hull West) criticised the Prime Minister for not proscribing Hizb ut-Tahrir. Mr Cameron said that the government has “proscribed one or two groups”, and that Hizb ut-Tahrir was subject to a review.
  • Robert Halfon (Harlow) compared the government to Robin Hood: taxing banks to fund the Big Society. He then invited Labour members to join a government to that takes from the rich to pay for the poor.
  • Julian Sturdy asked a question about the American deficit reduction plan, giving Mr Cameron the opportunity to point out that Labour have been urging the Conservatives to adopt American style deficit reduction plans for years and now those plans are the same as Mr Cameron’s - “one of the planks of the Good Ship Balls has just completely been holed below the water line”
  • Sammy Wilson (DUP) pointed out “the UK’s contribution to the bailout for the Eurozone countries who find themselves in financial difficulties amounts to half the savings in the deficit plan” and asked the Prime Minister to assure the House that no further contributions will be made to the bailout of countries in difficulty. Mr Cameron said that the only money directly given to another country was to the Republic of Ireland.
  • Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury) allowed the Prime Minister to reaffirm that Scotland’s position in the United Kingdom is good for Scotland.
  • Ronnie Campbell (Lab, Blyth Valley) started off  by saying no-one wanted the AV referendum and then said “70% of the British people want a referendum on Europe, it’s in the Liberal manifesto, but that doesn’t mean much, half of, more than half of your backbenchers want a referendum as well. When are the people going to get their referendum?"  Mr Cameron said that the AV referendum was in the Labour manifesto and said that Campbell might want to “have a word with the author” (Ed Miliband).
  • Tom Brake (Lib Dem, Carshalton and Wallington) condemned Labour's record in office, and allowed Mr Cameron to do so too.
  • William McCrea (DUP) asked the Prime Minister to commit to a Military Covenant. Mr Cameron said he would give more support to military families.

An update on Nick Clegg's mood - he was in better humour this week:

CleggSmile

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