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  1. David Cameron and Ed Miliband clashed in the final PMQs of this Parliament
  2. The prime minister ruled out a Conservative government raising VAT
  3. Ed Balls ruled out an increase in National Insurance contributions if Labour wins power
  4. A last-minute bid to change the way the Speaker of the House of Commons is elected is to be debated by MPs on Thursday
  5. MPs criticised the government for failing to devote adequate time to debating EU issues
  6. There are 43 days until the general election

Live Reporting

By Nick Eardley and Tim Fenton

All times stated are UK

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More on the three urgent questions

House of Commons


Under the revised schedule, Labour MP Peter Hain will first ask a Home Office minister about the public inquiry into undercover policing and whether it will examine files held between 1990 and 2001. After this, Labour's Diana Johnson will ask a Department of Health minister about the Penrose Inquiry. Finally, Sir Gerald Kaufman has been given permission to ask William Hague, the Commons Leader, about the change to today's business announced yesterday evening.

Wednesday recap

  • David Cameron made a surprise pledge not to raise VAT in the final
    PMQs of this Parliament. Ed Miliband said no one would believe the prime minister's promise. Labour later pledged not to raise National Insurance
  • MPs debated the bill which implements the changes announced in the Budget. The bill was backed by a majority of 81 and goes forward to become law
  • Plans to change the way MPs vote for a
    Speaker were announced. The government wants to make secret any vote to challenge an incumbent Speaker. Some see the move as an attempt to oust or, at least, weaken John Bercow. MPs will debate the proposal tomorrow
  • A former undercover police officer told BBC News that Scotland Yard
    kept intelligence files on MPs during the 1990s. Labour's Peter Hain, one of the MPs concerned, said it raised fundamental questions about parliamentary sovereignty

That's it from Politics Live for tonight. We'll be back at 06:00 GMT tomorrow.

VAT pledge

BBC Newsnight

BBC Two, 22:30


Here's a bit more from that exchange between business minister Matthew Hancock and Newsnight's Emily Maitlis about when the former found out his party was going to rule out a VAT rise.

Emily Maitlis: When did you first hear about the VAT decision?

Matthew Hancock: I heard about it earlier this week and there was a decision that we were going to rule it out.

Emily Maitlis: On Monday or Tuesday?

Matthew Hancock: One or the other, it all blends into one sometimes.

Emily Maitlis: So you knew before the chancellor because he was asked it five times yesterday and didn't have a straight answer to it?

Matthew Hancock: Well the chancellor was in front of the treasury select committee, it was obviously a decision not to announce a new policy in that forum but instead to announce it at PMQs.

'Shabby move'

William Hague has been accused of a "shabby"

move to make it easier for Tory MPs to oust John Bercow as the Commons Speaker after the election. Tory MP Julian Lewis, one of Mr Bercow's closest allies, accused Commons Leader Mr Hague of carrying out a "squalid manoeuvre".

The Commons Leader, who is standing down at the general election, was behaving in an "underhand and shabby way", the New Forest East MP said. Mr Lewis added: "I'm actually very sad about it because I would never have thought that somebody of the stature of William Hague - a former party leader, now Leader of the House of Commons - would make his last political act in the House of Commons to be the petty, partisan wielding of a knife aimed between the shoulder blades of the Speaker of the House of Commons. It is desperately sad and unworthy, whatever anybody thinks about the nature of the present incumbent of the chair."

Sun Politics


tweets: YouGov/Sun poll tonight - Labour lead by one: CON 34%, LAB 35%, LD 8%, UKIP 12%, GRN 6%

Speaker row

Robin Brant

Political Correspondent, BBC News

Current Speaker John Bercow is - technically - one of them, but many Tory MPs have never liked him.

They resent his personal style and some believe he is far from impartial in the way he conducts business in the Commons.

Attempts by some to force a vote on his resumption as Speaker in 2010 came to nothing. There have been the occasional measured jibes at him from the prime minister.

Other Tories reportedly went much further and formed a group whose members had all been reprimanded by him. But the Speaker is a reformer who believes passionately that the people who elect the members, and pay the bills, should come first.

The last act of the coalition looks like being an attempt to unseat him. And they are very serious about it.

One Tory MP fighting an important marginal seat had been cleared by his party to be away from Parliament but he is now staying for the vote, such is the importance of it.

Laura Kuenssberg, Newsnight's chief correspondent


tweets: All in all today's events suggest that neither of main parties are going to enjoy talking about their plans for tax and spend in next 6 wks


tweets: They'll tell us again and again how seriously they take economy, We will do our best to get answers, apols in advance if they don't have 'em

Pledges safe?

BBC Newsnight

BBC Two, 22:30

Are today's pledges safe from coalition negotiations? Chris Leslie says yes - he doesn't want to be in a coalition that will raise VAT.

National Insurance pledge

BBC Newsnight

BBC Two, 22:30


Chris Leslie, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, suggests on Newsnight that Labour decided a year ago it wasn't going to raise national insurance. But Newsnight host Emily Maitlis says Ed Miliband didn't seem to know during PMQs earlier today.

When did Tories decide on VAT?

BBC Newsnight

BBC Two, 22:30


Matthew Hancock, the Tory business minister, says he knew the party was going to rule out a rise in VAT "earlier in the week". He tells Newsnight he knew the prime minister was going to make the announcement at PMQs today, too. He says the exchange today was PMQs "at its best".

PMQs analysis

BBC Newsnight

BBC Two, 22:30

Newsnight is looking at the impact of today's PMQs - and the policy that came from the exchanges, with the Tories ruling out a VAT rise and Labour later ruling out a rise in National Insurance if elected. You can watch the package on the live coverage tab above.

Tory candidate chosen

Welsh Assembly Member Antoinette Sandbach has been selected to be the Conservative candidate for Eddisbury in Cheshire. The vacancy arose after current MP Stephen O'Brien took a senior role at the UN. Eddisbury is considered a safe Tory seat.

Mark D'Arcy, BBC political correspondent


tweets: Lab saying won't have troops to block Spkr election rule change, but won't recognise change achieved by trickery. Phew!


tweets: Vote made possible after LibDem dep leader of house Tom Brake turned on Bercow when he slapped down Danny Alexander yellow budget last week

Tomorrow's Telegraph front page


Foreign Office


tweets: .@PHammondMP is speaking at @CityofLondon #Easterbanquet on foreign policy achievements over the past 5 years


tweets: .@PHammondMP: we have restored, reenergised & reinvigorated our diplomacy & have promoted many advantages of doing business with the #UK

Tomorrow's Guardian front page

Guardian front page

Tax consequences

The Guardian

The Guardian has been taking a look at the promises made by the Conservatives (not to raise VAT) and Labour (not to raise National Insurance) today. The newspaper, in an editorial piece, writes that the consequences could be "enduring and pernicious". The paper adds: "With spines this feeble, the obvious danger is that the next chancellor could be all out of taxing options by polling day". More


Why was Cameron heckled by pensioners?

The Daily Telegraph

David Cameron

As we wrote yesterday, David Cameron had an awkward time at an Age UK event yesterday after he was heckled by some of the attendees. The organisation's director has suggested some of the reasons why on the Telegraph website today. Caroline Abrahams writes: "Despite recent advances, 1.6 million older people are still living in poverty. There is also considerable regret that today's pensioners will not benefit from the new state pension, because only people who reach their state pension age from 2016 on will be eligible. There is a lot of discussion among older people about the new flexibilities for them to use their (private) pension savings. " You can read her full piece


Sajid Javid, culture secretary


tweets: Got home & daughters distraught @zaynmalik left 1D. I'm an admirer too. Would have been a difficult decision. Wish him & 1D all the best

Who is the bigger toff?

The Spectator

On the Spectator site, Ross Clark has been writing about a poll which suggests the British public consider Ed Miliband more a toff than Prime Minister David Cameron. He argues that this maybe isn't so surprising, saying Mr Miliband has " just shown himself to be the friend of wealthy idlers, by hinting that the brunt of tax rises in a Labour government would fall instead on those who work for a living." More


Speaker story

John Bercow


our story about a bid to change the Speaker election rules. The proposals could mean a secret ballot will decide whether there should be a contested election for the post.

Patrick O'Flynn, UKIP MEP


tweets: John Bercow has got some things right and some wrong but IMO he's been a good and able Speaker. Very petty of Cam to try and force him out.

Mark D'Arcy, BBC parliamentary correspondent


tweets: Speaker election rule change done under resolution giving Govt total control of Commons agenda for final days of Parlm't - well planned coup

Mark D'Arcy, BBC parliamentary correspondent


tweets: I wonder if Chair of Cmns Procedure Ctee (& big #Bercow supporter) Charles Walker was consulted about rule change re Speaker elections?

Five years ago...

Today was David Cameron's last PMQs of his first term as prime minister. It remains to be seen if he is back in the position again after the election.

We've been having a look through the BBC archives and have found our analysis of Mr Cameron's first PMQs after he became prime minister.

Mike Sergeant, our political correspondent,

wrote: "David Cameron seemed to want to present himself as a less overtly political prime minister than Gordon Brown.

"When he first become opposition leader, he said he would end 'Punch and Judy' politics in the Commons. That didn't last. But, Mr Cameron still likes to present himself as the serious, grown-up leader acting in the 'national interest' at all times."

And an interesting piece of trivia. The first question that day was asked by Douglas Carswell - who later became the first Tory MP to defect to UKIP. He

wrote on Twitter tonight that he is still waiting for answer.

Paul Waugh, editor


tweets: Lib Dems confirm they have a free vote tmrw on Bercow secret ballot motion. Clegg will be in constituency. Maybe nos cd be tight

Jonathan Reynolds, Labour MP


tweets: I will be returning to Westminster tomorrow to vote against this shameful, grubby behaviour by the Conservative Party #Bercow

Speaker motion

House of Commons


Here's the Commons motion on challenges to a Speaker which MPs will debate tomorrow morning:

That this House notes the recommendation of the Procedure Committee in its Fifth Report of Session 2010-12, 2010 Elections for positions in the House, that the House should be invited to decide between a secret ballot or open division where the question at the start of a new Parliament that a former Speaker take the Chair is challenged, and accordingly makes the following change to Standing Orders, with effect from the beginning of the new Parliament:

Standing Order 1A (Re-election of former Speaker)

Line 11, at end insert -

"(1A) If that question is contested, it shall be determined by secret ballot, to take place on the same day under arrangements made by the Member presiding, who shall announce the result of the ballot to the House as soon as is practicable."

James Chapman, Daily Mail


tweets: Tories and Libs agree 'Dump Bercow' plot: MPs will vote tomorrow on changing rules to allow secret ballot to eject Speaker #dumpbercow

Speaker row

House of Commons


John Bercow

Here's what Labour's Angela Eagle has to say on the Speaker election proposals: "This is a grubby, last-minute plot in the dying hours of the Parliament to try and changes the procedures of the House.

"The Tories are trying to play politics with the speakership because they know they will not win a majority at the next election."

The current Commons Speaker John Bercow has proved a divisive figure among MPs.

Steve Richards, Independent


tweets: John Bercow only told at 5.30 of a vote tomorrow on a secret ballot to elect post election Speaker. Underhand but Bercow will be re-elected.

Kevin Maguire, Daily Mirror


tweets: Labour MPs tonight put on 3-line whip tomorrow to fight Dump Bercow plot by Cons via secret Speaker election in May instead of open as now

Speaker's election

House of Commons


More from the Commons on the way the speaker is elected. Tomorrow morning, MPs will debate a last minute proposal to change the rules. At present, a challenge to a sitting Speaker requires MPs to vote by passing through the lobbies, making it clear who does or does not back the incumbent. Under this proposal, a secret ballot would be held to decide whether or not there should be a contested election for Speaker. Labour have complained that there has been no consultation on the change, and that they were informed about it only late this evening.

Day one of the lobbying register

One of the coalition's first pledges, the long-awaited register of lobbyists,

launched earlier today. It will require some lobbyists to register meetings with ministers and senior civil servants. Critics say it'll exclude many of those already working as lobbyists. It
looks like 11 companies have signed up on the first day.

VAT rise ruled out

House of Commons


Perhaps the most interesting moment from today's PMQs was when David Cameron ruled out the Tories raising VAT after the election. It came after George Osborne had declined to do so the day before. You can watch the exchange


Alex Massie, political commentator


tweets: So: if Tories offer the SNP what they say they want the Nats will say No. And if Labour offer them nothing they will say OK. Interesting.

Laura Kuenssberg, Newsnight's chief correspondent


tweets: Interesting last minute parly shenanigans tonight in attempt to stitch up John Bercow as 2010-15 session comes to an end


tweets: Debate tmrw morning to change rules for speaker election to a secret ballot if Bercow is challenged for the job in the new Parliament

Iain Martin, political journalist


tweets: Wondering if the Tory attempt to do in Speaker Bercow tomorrow might go wrong. Are they sure they have the numbers? Like the Syria vote...