PMQs as-it-happened

Read every twist and turn of this week's PMQs with politics.co.uk's live blog.

By Ian Dunt

11:32 – Morning all. If you presume that it'll all be 'economy, economy, economy' today then you'll probably be proved right. Labour is also talking up a private letter George Osborne sent to banks giving them the nudge-nudge-wink-wink that he wouldn't support any financial transaction tax even at an international level – quite the distinction to his public pronouncements. Unfortunately, the opposition is hardly radical on the matter itself so that might not offer a tempting avenue for Miliband. As for the Labour leader's performance, he's had two weeks of 'good but should have done better' with everything from ministerial resignations to mass backbench revolts to use as ammunition. This week provides relative scarcity, because 0.5% growth is now considered a marvel to behold. Let's see if he can do some damage. The usual warnings apply: the blog will likely contain spelling errors and typos aplenty until we clean it up after the session. Alex Stevenson will be bringing us a sketch once everything's done and dusted.

11:45 – Francis Maude (Con, Mr Smithers) is currently wrapping up Cabinet Office questions. Next to him, Oliver Letwin looks so oblivious to the casual standards of human behaviour that he's liable to start throwing away ministerial papers on the floor of the Commons. Gerry Sutcliffe (Lab, messy face) makes some valid points on trade unions and is met with customary disdain.

11:50 – James Gray (Con, possible blood drinker) asks a point so tedious he appears to bore of it half way through. Letwin is chuntering along, like some aimless train. Julie Elliott (Lab, demented hair) has one of those oversized poppies which, like men with big sports cars, should make you question her patriotism. Ken Clarke just arrived and appears mostly awake. Letwin is talking about social impact bonds, another of those phrases which should be stabbed until it dies. Five minutes until kick off. Let's hope the time flies.

11:55 – Well the lobby has just run off for PMQs, like some erroneous, self-important tribe. I have a cup of spectacularly undrinkable Commons coffee. We're good to go. Nick Clegg is glaring at something, his face getting harder by the day as it evolves to deflect hatred and vitriol. Should be kicking off any moment now.

12:02 – And off we go. Marcus Jones (Con, amphibian) asks about the talks on pension reform. Cameron says Danny Alexander will make a statement later.

12:03 – Ken Clarke slipping already. Can't see the eyes. Cameron says there should be no strikes. Miliband gets up. Roars. Does the PM believe growth of half a per cent counts as success of his economic plan? Miliband asks. Cameron says yesterday's figure was "better than many people expected". He's laughed at by Labour. Cameron pushes on. It's noticeable that Labour can't even welcome it, he says. "First he blamed the Labour government, then…" Miliband starts. Huge roars from the Tories. "The truth is when things go wrong it's never anything to do with him." Harriet Harman looks like she's about to be sick. Miliband wants to know how many businesses the business growth fund has invested in.

12:06 – Cameron attacks Labour, as usual. Nothing you haven't heard before. He explains the fund Miliband mentioned. He quite specifically doesn't answer the question. "He's no idea," Ed Balls shouts. "When he blusters like that he's either too embarrassed to answer or doesn't know the answer," Miliband says. The Labour leader announces that there have been two investments by the fund. He says it's a pattern of "fanfare announcement and radio silence". Good line. What's Cameron going to do? "These are the banks he completely failed to regulate year after year," Cameron barks. Weak response.

12:08 – Cameron says investment is up. "A totally hopeless answer," Miliband says. While businesses are struggling, directors pay is rising by 49% over the last year. "What is he going to do about it?" Cameron says the government introduced the bank levy, increased non-dom fees, acted on Swiss bank accounts. Cameron says the Archbishop of Canterbury speaks for the whole country when he said the highly paid don't show signs of responsibility. Interesting. What did Labour do over 13 years? Cameron asks. Miliband says at least they imposed a 50p rate of income tax. He tells Tory backbenchers to calm down – "follow the prime minister's advice". 

12:11 – Miliband and Cameron are battling to show which of them is more left-wing. "He says we're all in it together but he lets the top one per cent get away with it while the other 99% see their incomes squeezed and lose their jobs" Miliband says. Surprising he used the Occupy Wall Street one per cent mantra. Cameron attacks Labour for using a tax exile for their election campaign. Quite a resonant moment there – the leader of the opposition using a radical protest slogan in PMQs. 

12:13 – Strong ending there from Miliband, whose run-of-the-will questions up until that point had little effect. Cameron's response saw a flicker of genuine anger in him, the kind that only emerges when he feels he's losing. It was actually his best moment, but otherwise he was unremarkable too. Final score: Miliband 2 Cameron 2.

12:16 – What with Miliband and Cameron trying to prove how tough they are on director pay, Cameron praising a Rowan William article which argues for a financial transaction tax and Miliband using the one per cent line, was that the most left-wing PMQs in recent memory? Quite possibly. Anyway, back to the business at hand.

12:17 – Alistair Darling (Lab, you know him) wants more detail on the euro-deal. He wants the G20 to show the same urgency it showed two years ago. Cameron treats him with respect. That's the first mention of the eurocrisis, by the way. "It's become even more urgent to put meat on the bones of these plans," Cameron says.

12:20 – Cameron turns down a request to support a ban on smoking inside of cars, despite backing the smoking ban. Allan Whitehead (Lab, don't get in a fight with him) scoffs at Cameron's pledge to make it the greenest government ever. Cameron defends his record, with little enthusiasm. Jonathan Evans (Con, dribbling away) wants Cameron to praise one of his local schools in a terminally tedious question which is cut off by Bercow. Katy Clark (Lab, rabbit in the headlights) wants a tightening in the law on dangerous dogs. Cameron says previous legislation hasn't always worked and will take a personal interest. Simon Hughes (Lib Dem, increasingly desperate) wants a personal assurance that the PM is committed to power over pay going from the boardroom to the shareholders. Cameron gives it. He says non-execs on boards shouldn't just be "the usual rotating lists of men patting each other's back". He adds: "I want more women in boardrooms." Downing Street really is worried about the female vote, Cameron never stops trying to prove himself on it.

12:26 – In a sign of Labour's childlike approach to politics, they heckled Simon Hughes while he asked a question which actually followed on from their leader's attack on the PM. Spectacular folly, but barely worth mentioning. Jessica Lee (Con, wearing something unspeakable) angles for a job with a question on Cameron's adoption initiative. The PM gives his verdict on our 'national shame'. Ken Clarke is visibly awake. A question on the defence reviews sees Cameron attack Labour for "opportunism". 

12:30 – Cameron attacks Ed Balls. "The shadow chancellor is wrong even when he's sitting down. He also talks utter rubbish when he's standing up, but I digress." He then urges Balls to "learn some manners". Bercow says some members are getting so excited "they might burst". Caroline Lucas (Green, cogent) asks Cameron to back a Robin Hood tax. Groans from the Tory benches. Cameron says "we must be careful we don't allow other countries to use a campaign for this tax as an excuse to get off their aid commitments". No mention of that Osborne letter, although he issues the usual defence that it would have to be implemented multilaterally. 

12:32 – Sir Peter Tapsell gets up to ask a questions. He mentions the "increasingly maniacal gesticulations of the shadow chancellor". Very good. Mercifully short question this time, saying it's interesting we have such low interest rates. Cameron receives the question gratefully. "It's time to take a primer," he tells Labour, but not before mentioning Ball's 'salute' – the flat line sign he makes with his hand in reference to the economy. Jesus, Balls really got it this week didn't he?

12:37 – Alexander is up to deliver his statement on the public sector pensions talks. He sounds somewhere between a rudimentary robot and a sixth former reluctantly reading out his essay. OK, that's it for this week. Sketch and news report coming up. Not a bad week, all told. Some fun little sections in there. No information, of course, but surely you're not naive enough to expect any of that, are you? If so, we'll have to get you one of Cameron's primers. See you next week.