By Matthew Barrett
Follow Matthew on Twitter
As expected, Ed Miliband focused his questions on today's unemployment figures – which showed unemployment rose by 80,000. Mr Miliband asked if the Prime Minister still thought the economy was "out of the danger zone". Cameron extolled the virtues of extra apprentices and university places, and the biggest back to work scheme since the 1930s.
Miliband called the Prime Minister's mentioning the work programme "spin". Cameron said we shouldn't forget half a million more private sector jobs, but stressed there "is not one ounce of complacency" in the government about growth in the economy, and then listed "cuts in corporation tax, freezing council tax, cuts in petrol duty, introducing the regional growth fund", and enterprise zones around the country as pro-growth measures the government has introduced. Cameron finished by saying jobs would be added "every week and every month".
Miliband moved on to unemployment amongst women. Cameron responded with a regulation attack on the previous Labour government, and the fact Miliband was a member of said government. Cameron then said free childcare and tax credits for the poorest were measures to help women's unemployment. Cameron also pointed out the Greek debt crisis shows increasing debt during a debt crisis – as Miliband would wish to do – is unwise. Miliband said the private sector-led recovery isn't happening. Cameron read out a quick extract of Miliband's speech to the TUC Congress yesterday – in which Miliband said spending couldn't grow an economy back to a healthy position.
Miliband, in answering, decided to throw in a sexual innuendo about George Osborne, following recent allegations in the media. Miliband said "the Chancellor has lashed himself to the mast, not for the first time perhaps". The House erupted. Ed Balls looked embarrassed. Harriet Harman grimaced. It wasn't pretty.
Some notes on backbench questions:
- Firstly, Cameron said the new planning framework would give local people more of a say than the current system, rather than less.
- Secondly, Cameron was asked (by the SNP's Angus MacNeil) about whether Scotland should keep the North Sea oil revenue. Cameron started his answer with "Well, if you ask a stupid question, you'll get a stupid answer". Cameron re-affirmed his desire to keep England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland united.
- Thirdly, veteran Commons-pleaser Sir Peter Tapsell asked a very long question (which took us on a tour of several centuries), that amounted to asking whether the top bankers in Britain should be prosecuted – as has happened in the United States. Cameron's answer was that wrong-doing should indeed be punished.
- Fourthly, Cameron answered, in response to Elmet and Rothwell's MP, Alec Shelbrooke, that visiting George Osborne is "nothing like going to the dentist, and there's no need for any anaesthetic" – a tribute to Alistair Darling's description of working with Gordon Brown.
- Fifthly, Cameron hinted at a breakthrough in the Bombardier train contract issue. He said "the Department for Transport is looking into the possibility of upgrading an existing fleet" of Bombardier trains from diesel to electric. Cameron emphasised that the regulations that stopped Bombardier getting a successful contract were introduced by the last government.
- Sixthly, in answer to Lib Dem MP Malcolm Bruce, Cameron laid the ground for scrapping the 50p tax by saying "let's look" at whether or not it raises money.
- Finally, a second question about the planning framework was asked, this time from Zac Goldsmith. Goldsmith urged Cameron to meet with the National Trust and other groups to ensure the new planning framework is fair, and not simply a license for building over countryside.