PMQs as-it-happened

Follow every twist and turn of prime minister's questions with politics.co.uk's live blog.

By Ian Dunt

10:53 – Everyone's got their own baggage. David Cameron and Ed Miliband meet at PMQs today, both men plagued by their more extreme followers. Miliband has distanced himself furiously from Unite chief Len McCluskey's call for the Olympics to be disrupted, but expect Cameron to make as much noise about it as he can anyway. If we get through the whole session without the words 'union paymasters' being used I'll eat an item of my clothing. Suggestions for which item in the comments section, if you must. Cameron has his own difficulties with backbenchers. Bill  Cash has managed to trigger a three hour debate on the EU fiscal treaty for right after PMQs. I say it's an EU fiscal treaty – it isn't obviously. It's a non-EU fiscal treaty which involves nearly all the EU and its buildings, institutions and enforcement mechanisms. Which is kind of Cash's point. Of course, it's perfectly possible – likely even – that we ignore all that and simply talk about NHS reform. The usual caveats apply: There will be typos aplenty and I'll generally sacrifice accuracy for flow. Kick off is at 12:00. See you then.

11:59 – Everyone's in. We're ready to go.

12:00 – And we're off. We start with Andy Slaughter (Lab, banky). He accuses Cameron of misleading the public on his pre-election tax credits pledge. He responds with a dig at Ken Livingstone's tax status (using havens, apparently).

12:03 – Miliband is up. He leads, surprisingly on Leveson. He asks if the PM agrees that Aker's allegations about corruption in the press and police are very serious and have no place in modern Britain. Cameron says it's hard to think of any circumstances in which these bribes would be OK.

12:05 – Miliband says Michael  Gove was wrong to criticise the inquiry last week and wants the PM to say so. Cameron insists the education secretary fully supports the inquiry.

12:06 – Miliband: "I hope the education secretary will have heard the prime minister's words." Good little attack there from Miliband. He now quotes another medical experts damning his NHS reforms. "Why does the PM believe that with every week that goes by there are yet more damning indictments of his NHS bill." Cameron goes back to Leveson, to grumbles from the Labour benches. Cam wants to defend Gove, he says we need to be careful the press is not made toothless. "That's what he was trying to say," Cameron says of Gove. Mixed jeers and cheers in the Commons.

12:07 – Cameron quotes Miliband saying the NHS needs to reform and says Labour is wrong to prevent him spending money on it. Miliband reminds him of his question, but lets it go. The Tory spring conference in 2010 hosted a GP in charge of commissioning, says Miliband. Now this guy is against the NHS reforms. Chants of 'no' from the Tory benches,. Miliband attacks them. he says Cameron's even lost the GPs who are supposed to be in charge of his reforms. Cameron is counter-quoting from Lord Hutton, who said competition can make the NHS "more equitable". Interesting. This is miles away from Clegg's interventions. 

12:10  – Miliband says 99% of GPs are implementing the changes because "he's imposed it on them". He says the GP accused the government "of interpreting our commitment to our patients as support for the bill". Miliband says he's struggling to keep track of those coming out against the bill. Can the PM give the House a list of significant health organisations supporting the bill. Cameron gets up and avoids the question. "he specifically said…" He's drown out by Labour screams of 'answer the question'. Cameron is trying to say how many members of royal colleges oppose the bills – two per cent in some cases. He wins cheers by saying its enough union votes to elect a leader of the Labour party. Tories love that. "They're well trained today, but their support for this bill is digging their grave at the next election," Miliband says.

12:13 – Miliband counters well. "It's all very well the deputy PM smirking. I still don't know whether he supports or opposes it." Clegg smiles and mouths 'support'. "Oh, he supports it!" Miliband laughs. He lists the medical colleges opposing the bill. Cameron starts barking out the groups supporting the bill. Labour laugh violently at him. The list is not impressive, but Cameron does what he can. "Three weeks of NHS questions but not a question of substance. We all know its leap year so maybe just for once I get to ask the question. We all know what he's against, but isn't it time he told us what he's for?"

12:15 – For the second week in a row, I think that was a draw: Miliband: 3 Cameron: 3. Cameron delivered a confident performance in a very difficult situation. But Miliband's recovery in the face of unanimous Tory abuse was impressive. He was never capable of that before. This time, he saved himself. He is making serious strides.

12:17 – Richard Graham (Con, typical) brings up the Unite demand for strikes during the Olympics. Cameron loves it and bangs on about it being the single biggest donor to Labour. No mention of 'union paymasters' yet. He wants it condemned utterly and money returned. Well, they did already condemn it. I can guarantee they won't be paying back the money. Luciana Berger (Lab, reportedly attractive) asks a planted question about the coalition breaking answers. Cameron's answer is just as uninteresting.

12:19 – A Tory MP asks about "the curse of Clegg" suggesting immigration could be affected. Lots of handbag noise. The attacks on the Lib Dems from Tory benches get more numerous by the day. Nick Raynsford (Lab, reads stories by the fire) asks about Emma Harrison of A4E. The PM carefully reads from a sheet saying he was not aware of the allegations when he hired her. He says she was given a CBE by the last government. Sarah Wollaston (Tory, the thinking man's Louise Mensche) wants the PM to praise the journalists who struggled to get out of Syria.

12:22 – Peter Aldous (Con, perpetually just out of bed) wants to know what's being done to support traders and businesses. Cameron bangs on about rate relief and red tape. You know the score. He even brings up Mary Portas' impotent plan. Nigel Dodds (DUP, reliably himself) says the happiness index found the happiest people live in Northern Ireland. But the escalating price of diesel is ruining it for them apparently. he wants to do away with the august fuel tax rise. Cameron says he's delighted people are so happy over there. "Their representatives in this House don't always give that impression," he adds. Much laughter, including, it must be said, from myself.

12:25 – Mike Freer (Tory, vigorous) again brings up the Ken Livingstone tax story and attaches it to the Barclay's move by treasury. "Red Ken has been caught red handed," Cameron tries. That one, not so much. Julie Hilling (Labour, her eyes!) attacks Cameron on tax credits and says it makes a mockery of Cameron's promise to help families. He accuses her of union backing and she absolutely loses it, pointing frantically at the PM and screaming.

12:26 – Stephen Metcalfe asked something but I lost the will to live.

12:27 – Enjoyable as the Ken bits were, it's interesting that Cameron is willing to talk about what could be an ongoing investigation so freely. He was less keen when it was Andy Coulson. Jeffrey Donaldson (DUP, they're having a good day) wants more action against European human rights rulings, after it's emerged the coalition is proposing some recommendations for reform.

12:28 – Cameron wants companies to "stand up to the Trotskyites of the Right to Work campaign". Some quite insane rhetoric on that issue. Gregg McClymont (Lab, hugely Scottish) asks why Cameron won't stand up for British industry. David Morris (Con, eager) says one of his constituents has died, allegedly because of bad management at an NHS trust. he gets so worked up he has to pause half way through. Cameron says the health secretary is looking into it and meeting local MPs. George Osborne is playing the 'death mask' game with Ed Balls. "You're wearing your death mask." "No, you're wearing your death mask."

12:31 – Amber Rudd (Con, relaxed dress) says that on a leap day, when men will nervously hope their girlfriends will (won't??) propose, will he back the welfare system keeping families together…blah blah blah. Cameron says he wondered quite where she was going with that. He answers predictably. Sir Gerald Kaufman (Lab, elderly statesman) asks a rare question backing an immigrant. He says an elderly Pakistani woman was denied the right to come see her granddaughters wedding. He goes on too long, Bercow hurries him up. "I'm sure he's bringing it to an end," Bercow says. "I am, I'm bringing it to an end." Theresa May whispers something to Cameron. Sir Gerald says that if she said she can appeal, there's no time before the wedding.

12:35 – Peter Bone (Con, unspeakable mediocrity) tries again to find out what happens if Cameron dies suddenly (he's scared Clegg will take over). Cameron replies: "I have no plans to be incapacitated." Helen Goodman (Lab, tea and dalmatians) wants to make sure Cameron won't pre-empt the Leveson inquiry by fitting reform into the defamation bill. Cameron assures her he won't. Bob Blackman (Tory, through and through) brings up the benefit cap again, in a manner which surely was not planted. "Today is the day the welfare bill becomes an act and for the first time we will have a proper cap on welfare." And that's it.

12:37 – Julie Hilling is first up. She says she is not sponsored by Unite and wants the record corrected. He reads that her constituency party received the money from Unite in 2010 and so did she, in the register of members interests. "If in any way I've got that wrong I'll come back to the House at the earliest opportunity," he says sarcastically. Cameron pretty much ruined her there. Bercow says "I'm most grateful to the honourable lady," too many laughs for him to continue. As he tries to continues talking he's interpreted. "I don't need any help from a junior government whip – he wouldn't know where to start." Much mirth. "He says he's a senior government whip," Bercow adds. Even more mirth. For the record, Bercow says Hilling's point was not a point of order. 

12:40 – That whip, by the way, was Michael Fabricant.

12:42 – Must say that last bit was the most enjoyable by far. Bercow gets a lot of stick, but I found his asides pretty enjoyable. Anyway, back to the matter at hand. The phrase 'union paymasters' was not used, despite MPs beating their way around every possible alternative to it. I will now retire to consider which item of my clothing I will consume. See you next week.