Today’s PMQs may have ended on a familiar note – Speaker John Bercow telling a Labour MP to “calm down man! Take some soothing medicament” – but it certainly did begin in a rather unusual manner. Upon taking the House of Commons floor, Acting Leader Harriet Harman rose from the Labour front benches to a round of cheers from the Tory seats. Indeed, one or two Tory MPs could even be seen motioning the Acting Leader to their side of the House.
It is fair to say that it hasn’t, so far, been a good year for the Labour Party, and this week hasn’t exactly signalled that things are improving. As it turns out, the only thing that gives a party less direction than having Ed Miliband as its leader, is to have no leader at all. Add to that, that the only thing that’s worse than not having a leader, is having four distinctly different candidates vying for the top position, and an Acting Leader who appears to have forgotten what the role of the opposition is.
Now, let’s get to the point…
Today in short summary:
- Ms Harman appeared concerned about the Greek situation. She questioned whether or not Greece had been offered a sustainable deal. The Prime Minister agreed, but said that not being in the Euro means not being involved in the discussions concerning the deal – Britain cannot bail out a Euro country. He assured her, however, that as a “friend and ally”, the UK would support Greece in the event that humanitarian aid would be needed.
- Ms Harman cited the Institute for Fiscal Studies, whose latest calculations show that a higher minimum wage won’t compensate for the loss of tax credits. Those on minimum wage, she said, will be worse off than before. The Prime Minister replied with a list: long term unemployment is down; youth unemployment is down; the number of women in employment is record high; most new jobs are full time jobs; wages are up by 3.2%, and inflation is currently at zero. In short: the economy is working, we know what we’re doing.
- Angus Robertson of the SNP asked the Prime Minister about child tax credits ending after the second child. What would happen, for instance, if a woman was made pregnant by rape? Mr Cameron replied that sensitivity would be applied to exceptional cases, and that no-one is meant to be unjustly penalised by the new tax credit rules.
- Andrew Mitchell asked the Prime Minister if Britain would give up the use of military drones. The Prime Minister answered that use of military force must always be carefully considered, but that use of drones in extreme situations could not be ruled out.
- Bob Blackman, apropos the recent tube strike, asked the Prime Minister if unions should be allowed to use strikes as a negotiation tactics. Mr Cameron replied by saying that strikes should only be allowed as a final resort, and that the right to strike needs to be restricted.
Today was the final PMQs of the current session. The House returns in September.