By Matthew Barrett
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The Queen's Speech this morning meant there was no PMQs today, but, being a Wednesday, Members felt the need to turn the Loyal Address that follows the Speech into something resembling a slightly relaxed version of the usual weekly questioning session.
The session started off with Nadhim Zahawi giving the traditional Address, which was well delivered and funny, and will be covered more fully in due course. David Cameron's speech following the announcement of the Government's legislation for the forthcoming session, however, was the main business for the House. He started off by heralding some of the Government's achievements – getting the deficit down, and so on, but also the amount spent on overseas aid – something which some Labour MPs had complained had not been legislated for in the Queen's Speech itself.
Cameron also made a joke about the fact Nadhim Zahawi opened the session, by saying that when the Chief Whip suggest Zahawi, Cameron thought he had said: "I've asked Nadine to do it."
The Prime Minister went on to defend the Government's plan to extend surveillance measures to the internet. He compared the situation to not extending surveillance to mobile phones, and limiting intelligence gathering to landline phones. On the topic of security, Cameron also said the Government may press for more sanctions against the Iranian regime. He added that the Falkland Islands are, and will remain, British.
When Caroline Lucas, Brighton's Green MP, said climate change is a threat to national security, Cameron pointed out that the Queen's Speech included legislation to create a Green Investment Bank, which will have £3bn funding.
On domestic issues, Cameron complained that Labour's alternative plans are not credible, because they are not properly costed. Cameron set out how the Government is ensuring the public finances are being managed efficiently, saying the prospective Public Sector Pensions Bill will save billions. The Prime Minister also revisited his familar statistics about Britain's interest rates being better than European rivals'. The Queen's Speech sets out a legislative plan to help "the do-ers, the strivers, those who work hard and play by the rules", he said.
Jesse Norman, the Member for Hereford and South Herefordshire, pointed out that there is no consensus on Lords reform – which roughly tallies with the wording in the Conservative manifesto – i.e., that a Conservative government would have sought a "consensus" on reform. Norman also asked if there would be a referendum on the subject. The Prime Minister replied that, whilst Lords reform is not the Government's main priority, it is possible for a Government to do more than one thing at a time.
Expanding on the referendum issue, when pressed on the question by Labour's Jack Straw, who authored the original plans to transform the Lords radically under the last government, Cameron said he is not generally in favour of referendums.
After taking some more questions from Labour backbenchers – the usual PMQs fare from which nobody learns anything, Cameron concluded by saying Britain needs to be more competitive, but this Government is working towards that end by dealing with the deficit, unlike Labour, backing working people, unlike Labour, who won't back the benefits cap, and rebuilding Britain, which, he said, this Queen's Speech does.