Live: Prime Minister's Questions



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  1. 1734: It's time to wrap up our live coverage now. Thanks very much for all your contributions. They're already dismantling the stands and folding away the chairs at the Conservative conference, but the fallout from what we've heard over the last three weeks of party conferences is sure to continue. We'll be back next Wednesday with coverage of prime minister's questions when we'll get to see Ed Miliband and David Cameron square up over the despatch box for the first time. Hope you can join us then.
  2. 1727: The News of the World's David Wooding tells BBC Radio 4's PM that the prime minister seemed "anxious not to be too triumphalist" about being in power. George Parker, from the Financial Times, thinks that anxiety meant he "never really hit the rhetorical high notes that he has done in the past".
  3. 1725: Housing minister Grant Shapps thinks his boss made "a brilliant moral argument" to show just how irresponsible it was of Labour to run up the deficit. He says there may not have been quite enough time during the election campaign to properly explain the Big Society message, but people will definitely get it now, and will see that there's more on the horizon - some good news even - apart from just cuts.
  4. 1723: Brian Hanson, from Sheffield, writes: "A lot of what the prime minister has said makes sense, he's right the people of Britain do need to deal with the deficit in one whole sweep instead of half now, half later. By ridding ourselves of the deficit now we shall lay the foundations for a brighter future in Britain for everyone." Have Your Say
  5. 1720: Alum tweets: "@BBC_HaveYourSay How can anybody believe what he says, especially after they said that child benefit would be frozen until 2013." Read Alum's tweets
  6. 1715: Alison Garnham, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, says Mr Cameron was "right to focus on life chances" but nothing hampers children's more than poverty. "These children cannot afford to wait for help later or continue to bear the brunt of cuts," she says. "The prime minister and his government promised to end child poverty by 2020 - they need to act on that promise now." Ms Garnham adds that the child benefit cut was an "appalling assault on family security".
  7. 1711: Friends of the Earth's executive director Andy Atkins is disappointed with David Cameron. "With not a mention of climate change, this was not the speech we would have expected from the prime minister of the self-declared 'greenest government ever'," he says. "David Cameron won a real reputation in opposition for championing green issues - it would be a huge mistake to sideline them now he is in power."
  8. 1707: Samira Shackle has written a blog for the New Statesman. She says "the crowd at the Conservative party conference still seem unsure of their leader's message" and comments on David Cameron's "dogged" pursuit of the Big Society.
  9. 1704: What does the Big Society mean to Harry Beckough, the 97-year-old Conservative Party member hailed by the prime minister in his speech? "Not much", according to the man himself. In an interview with BBC 5Live's chief political correspondent John Pienaar, Mr Beckough said: "That's his own idea. This is an idea he must address himself. 'I believe in small government and big people'? it needs to be explained. I think his ideas are so good he can't get them all out in one go, and he needs to expand on them."
  10. 1656: David Cameron has repeated his "It takes two" mantra in an e-mail to Conservative activists and supporters. He tells them: "This is our message and this is our aim: not just to do our duty as a government, but to stir a spirit of national unity and resolve; to lift the national heart to the challenges we share."
  11. 1651: Justice Secretary Ken Clarke has seen a few political leaders come and go, and he seems pretty impressed with this one. "Tony Blair took two or three years to work out what his government was for. David's taken over in extraordinary circumstances, had to form a coalition in a huge national crisis, but it was all very coherent," he says. "He has an agenda and knows what he wants to do, and he inspired people."
  12. 1647: Paul Schroder, from Harlow, tweets: "@BBC_HaveYourSay I am fed up of Dave Cameron's Big Society, it's not changing or helping anything?" Read Paul Schroder's tweets
  13. 1642: Harry Phibbs, of the Daily Mail, says there is a risk in David Cameron's Big Society message: "So much of this government's success rests in getting out of the way and relying on us to take the opportunities created." But he says the optimism was "as strong as ever", adding: "He showed us the way to the sunlit uplands."
  14. 1638: Paul Davis, from Bristol, writes: "Inspired, responsible and believable - my faith in politics is restored by this speech and this comes from a lifelong Labour voter." Have Your Say
  15. 1636: Unison general secretary Dave Prentis accuses Mr Cameron of "turning his firepower on to public services to pay for the economic crisis". And he adds: "There has been no more flesh on the bones of the Big Society idea. It is still the big cop-out."
  16. 1633: Jonathan Futrell, from London, writes: "Clever how David Cameron - using a phrase from the First World War - has turned the banking crisis and the deficit (aka the credit crunch), created, lest we forget, by unregulated financial institutions (and not single parents or the unemployed) into a fight against scroungers, false benefit claimants and never-do-wells. Maybe he thinks Britain is a nation of saps who don't know reality from the X Factor. Maybe he's right?" Have Your Say
  17. 1630: David Frost, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, says businesses will welcome David Cameron's promise "to get behind wealth creators and entrepreneurs", but he now wants to hear "a clear, detailed plan for growth". He calls on the government to make 2011 "the year for growth in the UK".
  18. 1627: Zen Jock writes: "Cameron's speech is a measured, mature and rational response to the dire economic mess this country is in." Have Your Say
  19. 1624: First reaction from the opposition - and it's no surprise that Andy Burnham, former health secretary, is not impressed. "David Cameron is a good salesman, we know that, but he's tried to put the gloss on what's been a pretty shambolic week," he tells the BBC. He says there's "a large element of rewriting history here", accusing the PM of unfairly trying to place all the blame for the deficit on Labour's spending decisions.\r
  20. 1620: A bit more on that snippet David Cameron gave us about an international volunteering scheme. We understand that means-tested grants will be available to help pay for three-month stints of overseas voluntary work, mainly by 18 to 22-year-olds. Older people coming to the end of their careers will also be invited to undertake trips of up to two years to share their skills with others.
  21. 1614: Mick, from Halifax, writes: "Very good; stirring stuff." Have Your Say
  22. 1613: Education Secretary Michael Gove says the public understands the idea of the Big Society perfectly. He says he's been "blown away" by the enthusiasm he's seen from groups wanting to set up free schools - about 100 of them so far.
  23. 1611: "This speech was always going to be an agonising balancing act, poised between preparing the ground for painful spending cuts and describing the sunny uplands that are supposed to follow. My first impression is it just on the austere side," writes James Kirkup, of the Daily Telegraph. Andrew Sparrow, of the Guardian, seems to broadly agree: "It did not leave me feeling particularly uplifted, but it certainly sounded personal, and sincere," he says.
  24. 1600: Phil Collins, speechwriter and Times columnist, says David Cameron was positively "venomous" about the Labour Party and repeatedly pinned responsibility for the deficit on it. Matthew d'Ancona, from the Sunday Telegraph, says he was also very careful to speak of Labour as a whole - not any specific individuals - so that new faces like Ed Miliband aren't let off the hook.
  25. 1556: Star of the show Harry Beckough - a Conservative Party member for 81 years who was mentioned by the prime minister - tells the BBC he thinks David Cameron gave "a first-class speech". "He knows what he's up to, he stays pretty cool generally, and he's got a fixed determination," says Mr Beckough, but he adds that he hopes the PM will be "a bit stronger against the European Union".
  26. 1553: Conservative Party chairman Baroness Warsi says the speech was "a call to arms" and she thinks the public will respond. What stops them is bureaucracy and complacency, but the PM has promised to remove those barriers, she adds.
  27. 1550: Pauline Denton, from Rustington, West Sussex, writes: "David Cameron is to be congratulated to be brave enough to tackle the problem of state benefits, this should have been done years ago. I hope he has the courage to continue with this review and wipe the slate clear of all benefits and start again, giving them only to those who truly need them." Have Your Say
  28. 1548: A couple of back-of-the-envelope stats from BBC political correspondent Paul Rowley. He says David Cameron used the word "fairness" nine times and mentioned the "Big Society" - his election campaign theme - 10 times. The whole speech lasted just over an hour.
  29. 1546: BBC deputy political editor James Landale says: So David Cameron's main themes: your country needs you, it takes government and citizen together to grow the economy and build the Big Society, his government is not just about spending cuts. In other words, cutting the deficit and creating the Big Society are inextricably linked. But remarkably little anticipation of the scale of the cuts coming up on 20 October. And remarkably little soft soap about how lovely life might be over the rainbow.
  30. 1544: The BBC's Laura Kuenssberg says Mr Cameron was careful to pull together his two main arguments - the Big Society and cutting the UK's deficit. The former, he said, was the key to the latter.
  31. 1543: With a final call to work "together in the national interest" - the Tories' big slogan of the week - the PM finishes his speech. A standing ovation follows as does the coalition-appropriate song It Takes Two.
  32. 1540: "Your country needs you," Mr Cameron repeats. We'll balance the economy, we'll boost growth, but you need to start the businesses. We'll devolve power, but you need to take it. The British people are "not passengers, they're drivers," he declares.
  33. 1539: BBC deputy political editor James Landale says: Hurrah! At last a new policy. An international citizens' service.
  34. 1538: Some 100,000 people have volunteered to help at the London Olympics, the PM says, which proves the "incredible appetite out there for people to play their part". He announces an international programme for people to volunteer - likening it to the US Peace Corps.
  35. 1537: BBC deputy political editor James Landale says: Again, now on law and order, Mr Cameron is looking through the prism of his big society - making the police accountable to voters through elected commissioners. Nothing about how many police he is going to have to cut.
  36. 1535: "Some people say there are places where reform shouldn't go" - namely law and order - but Mr Cameron says he doesn't agree with that. Charities and private organisations can help cut reoffending, police officers should spend more time on the beat, people should be able to hold their local police forces to account.
  37. 1534: BBC deputy political editor James Landale says: A big riff from Mr Cameron on localism -"we are the radicals now". Again, another element of his big society ideas, transferring power from the state to the individual.
  38. 1533: Kevin Peel, from Manchester, tweets: "@BBC_HaveYourSay Committing to maintaining NHS spending is a smokescreen for a devastating 'restructuring' that no one wants. #CPC10" Read Kevin Peel's tweets
  39. 1530: Despite taking a dig at his, ahem, stature, Mr Cameron praises Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles, who he says is leading the effort to take power away from Whiteball and give it back to local people. "We're the radicals now", says the PM.
  40. 1529: BBC deputy political editor James Landale says: Lots of positive words about businessmen and entrepeneurs, the "doers and grafters who get the economy going". Very much answers the moans of business folk here who are fed up with anti-city, anti-fat cat rhetoric.
  41. 1528: A message to the banks: "Taxpayers bailed you out. It is now time to return the favour by lending to Britain's small businesses." There's a good round of applause for that one.
  42. 1527: BBC deputy political editor James Landale says: So no extra explanation or defence of this week's controversial child benefit cut. Just a brief mention that it shows how difficult cutting spending will be. And, so far at least, no mention of any compensating tax break for stay at home mums.
  43. 1526: It will be the "wealth creators" that get the UK growing again - and those aren't "dirty words", says the PM. He says he has great admiration for those who start their own businesses and wants to get behind them.
  44. 1525: Paul, from Wiltshire, writes: "The PM should make the most of Mr Clegg while he still has him. The Lib Dems will jump ship soon knowing that they will become too distant and irrelevant in the polls after more cuts are announced." Have Your Say
  45. 1524: BBC deputy political editor James Landale says: Here's the argument about cuts: they should be fair. Not in specifics like the child benefit cut anomalies, but fair in the round, so that "those with broader shoulders should bear a greater load", so that NHS funding is protected, so that poor kids get a pupil premium. The big question is whether this convinces voters feeling the pinch.
  46. 1523: Mr Cameron says he wants to change the definition of fairness - rather than measuring success by the size of the cheque given, he wants to judge it in terms of the life chances people get. That means helping them to find work, helping them to get a better education and helping them to start their own businesses.
  47. 1522: BBC deputy political editor James Landale says: Herewith David Cameron's strategy for the next general election: Labour messed up the public finances and "must never be allowed anywhere near the economy again".
  48. 1521: Here comes one of the big themes of the speech - fairness. Mr Cameron says the child benefit announcement this week shows it isn't going to be easy, but those with the broadest shoulders must bear the brunt.
  49. 1520: BBC deputy political editor James Landale says: Now Mr Cameron is getting to the meat: cuts. His argument? Labour is to blame for "catastrophic" public finances, delaying cuts would make things worse. But cut now, and "a few years down the line" you will have "more money in your pocket". Note the lack of detail.
  50. 1519: Mr Cameron says Labour's plan to halve the deficit over four years would mean debts would still be growing at the end of that period - and in fact, they would actually be getting worse because the interest payments would be getting bigger. "That is selfish and irresponsible" and proves Labour politicians "should never be allowed anywhere near our economy, ever again", the PM adds. That remark gets the most sustained round of applause so far.
  51. 1518: Sam, from Manchester, writes: "'Let's measure success by the chance we give.' Try telling that to the hundreds of thousands of people being forced to move homes because of benefit cuts. 'The chance we give' sounds about as empty as 'The Big Society': what is the grand-plan for dragging millions out of poverty whilst taking money from the impoverished? I'd love to hear." Have Your Say
  52. 1517: B Hastings writes: "I like David Cameron and I'd put more faith in him to sort out the mess this country is in than anyone else. Cuts were bound to happen and anyone earning over £44K shouldn't expect help from the government in child benefit or otherwise." Have Your Say
  53. 1516: BBC deputy political editor James Landale says: Mr Cameron is giving us more definitions of a big society: not cover for cuts, not government abdicating its role, but government helping build "a nation of doers and getters". Again the same implicit theme: his government is about more than cuts.
  54. 1515: "I wish there was another way. I wish there was an easier way, but I have to tell you, there is no other responsible way" to tackle the deficit than by acting swiftly now, the PM says. This year the UK will borrow more than it spends on the NHS and will spend £43bn on the interest alone, he tells the hall.
  55. 1513: BBC deputy political editor James Landale says: So Mr Cameron's message is clear. He wants us to believe that his government is about more than spending cuts. It is about creating a "Big Society" that finds "new ways of harnessing the common good", that provides "alternatives to the old-fashioned state". Examples? Nursing co-ops, resident street patrols and citizen universities.
  56. 1512: Mr Cameron is repeating the sort of words he spoke during the election campaign about the Big Society. He insists it is not "a cover for cuts", but is about creating "a nation of doers and go-getters", defined by what we contribute, not what we consume.
  57. 1511: BBC deputy political editor James Landale says: So, before a single word about cuts, Mr Cameron is yet again making an argument for his Big Society. His theme: citizenship is a relationship, not a transaction. His slogan: Your country needs you. The Daily Mail front page tomorrow will show a mock-up of Mr Cameron in Kitchener's famous wartime poster.
  58. 1510: "Your country needs you," says the PM, invoking the spirit of Lord Kitchener. He says we all need to be gripped with the "Big Society spirit", although some have taken it too far. A six-year-old girl called Neve sent him a pound coin - her tooth fairy money - to try to help with the deficit. "You're nearly there George," he tells his chancellor with a smile.
  59. 1508: Another example of verbal dexterity from the prime minister when he reels off a long list of Labour's failures. He says he feels better for getting it off his chest. But he says "the mess we're in is not just because of Labour" and everyone else "swallowed" what they said and forgot to play a role as active citizens.
  60. 1507: Rhys Park tweets: "@BBC_HaveYourSay A very well laid out speech from the PM, will he pledge more funding for our combat troops? No he is cutting their budget!" Read Rhys Park's tweets
  61. 1506: The PM talks about the "torture" of watching England lose 4-1 to Germany in the World Cup this summer beside German chancellor Angela Merkel. He says it brings to mind a new mantra: "Just don't mention the score".
  62. 1504: Mr Cameron gets very serious for a second, referring to the release of the Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi. With several bangs of his fist on the lectern, he says: "It was wrong. It undermined out standing in the world."
  63. 1503: BBC deputy political editor James Landale says: A very firm reconfirmation of the deadline for withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan in 2015.
  64. 1502: "Since becoming prime minister nothing has shocked me more than the catastrophic state of the defence budget," says Mr Cameron, and there will have to be "big changes" to better match UK commitments with the money available to fund them. But he insists he will take "no risks with British security" and will renew the nuclear deterrent.
  65. 1501: On to Afghanistan. Mr Cameron repeats the pledge to get UK combat troops out by 2015 and says the country "has gratitude beyond words" for the sacrifice all of them have given.
  66. 1500: Like a kind of political tongue twister, Mr Cameron fires off a long list of government achievements so far - I can't match his speed and repeat them. But suffice to say, he sums them up by saying: "Look what we've done in five months; imagine what we'll do in five years."
  67. 1459: BBC deputy political editor James Landale says: Mr Cameron has just read out a long list of coalition achievements. A very Brownite rhetorical technique. Shows Team Dave have no shame in stealing good ideas from their opponents.
  68. 1457: He says there will be clear divisions in the coalition when the issue of voting reform comes up next year. But he tells the party not to "try to wreck this bill", but instead to go out and "win the argument" about sticking with the status quo fair and square.
  69. 1456: Mr Cameron thanks Nick Clegg - whom he says his young daughter Nancy calls "Nick Legg". He says they didn't agree on anything - when he told Mr Clegg his real feelings on the European Parliament, the Lid Dem leader said "God, it's worse than I thought." But despite this, the PM says, they do share a lot of ideas and values, and the Lib Dems are now "proper partners".
  70. 1455: Mr Cameron thinks back to election night - he says that when he woke up on results day he knew exactly what to do. Take the lead and form a coalition. He says the alternative - a minority Tory government - would have "limped through Parliament".
  71. 1454: Rhys Park tweets: "@BBC_HaveYourSay Standing here as an unelected Prime Minister" Read Rhys Park's tweets
  72. 1453: Another special mention - this time for 97-year-old party member Harry Beckough - a Tory activist since the late 1920s. Mr Cameron says that without people like him the party wouldn't be in power now - the audience gives him a standing ovation.
  73. 1452: BBC deputy political editor James Landale says: David Cameron is retelling the story of 6 May and explaining why he chose to form a coalition with the Lib Dems. This is not yet another attempt to win over sceptical Tories. It is an attempt to develop an argument, that he acted in the national interest then and is acting in the national interest again now as he cuts spending.
  74. 1451: Mr Cameron gives a special birthday mention to Margaret Thatcher, who turns 85 next week and will celebrate in Downing Street. Cue big round of applause from delegates.
  75. 1450: Mr Cameron says the Conservatives were one likened to a dead parrot - "an ex-party" - but it turns out they were "only resting". They're back now and will work flat out to repay those who put them into power. Mr Cameron praises his predecessors - William Hague, Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Howard.
  76. 1448: BBC political editor Nick Robinson: "JFK famously declared 'ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country'. Stand by for a Cameron equivalent."Read Nick Robinson's blog
  77. 1447: David Cameron is now on the stage, complete with blue tie. There's no autocue, just a few notes. He begins by saving what an honour and privilege it is to be standing there as prime minister.
  78. 1445: BBC political editor Nick Robinson says George Osborne picked this fight over child benefit deliberately. "The chancellor hoped that by telling a hall full of Tories, I'm taking your money away', it would send a signal to the rest of the country, and would allow him to say later - when he has to hit the less well-off with cuts - 'Well, look, we've spread the pain,'" he says.
  79. 1444: Claire tweets: "@BBC_HaveYourSay The more the Tories claim CB cuts are fair, the more out of touch they sound and the closer to it being a 10p tax moment." Read Claire's tweets
  80. 1439: Here's the PM's warm-up man, William Hague. He waves the rest of the cabinet - minus the Lib Dems of course - on to the stage. They then watch a video looking back at the election campaign and the events that led to the forming of the coalition.
  81. 1436: The hall is virtually full now. Delegates are enjoying some upbeat pop rock, including Coldplay's Viva la Vida. Presumably, we're not meant to read too closely into the lyrics: "Revolutionaries wait, for my head on a silver plate. Just a puppet on a lonely string, oh who would ever want to be king?"
  82. 1424: BBC deputy political editor James Landale says: Several tasks for David Cameron this afternoon: steady his party after the messy child benefit cut announcement and brace the nation for further and bloodier cuts to come, all the while trying to persuade both groups of a better tomorrow.
  83. 1422: Employment minister Chris Grayling insists the child benefit plan "wasn't put together on Sunday night", but he won't say exactly when the decision was taken or when he found out about it.
  84. 1419: Richard Mallett, from Faversham, Kent, writes: "My wife and I have 5 kids between us, so will be hard hit by the various changes being made. BUT, David Cameron et al speak so much common sense that I have no issue with the changes they're making. I'll know that my loss is a gain for the UK, and that's what matters. I'm not thinking of the loss from my pocket now, but of our children's future. Cuts have to be made to protect that at all costs." Read your comments
  85. 1416: Victoria Starke, from Eye, Suffolk, writes: "David Cameron is doing his best (Rome wasn't built in day- patience), why don't people understand the destruction that Labour have caused again, if Labour get in again - God help us. As a business owner he is the best ray of light we could have, that is the only thing that is keeping me positive in business at the moment." Read your comments
  86. 1409: David Cameron and wife Samantha are now making their way to the conference hall. Samantha is sporting a black dress with an asymmetric floral pattern and skinny belt. Bang on trend.
  87. 1405: Education Secretary Michael Gove tells the BBC he believes the government will earn "a degree of respect" from making cuts "because what you have done is restore sanity to public finances". Nevertheless, he does admit: "Whenever you have governments that are responsible for public spending cuts, the initial reaction, understandably, is horror."
  88. 1402: The Daily Mail thinks "David Cameron will seize the mantle of Margaret Thatcher today" when he promises to help small business owners boost the economy. The Guardian says he'll "issue a tough message to the unemployed and the poor", saying "fairness means giving people what they deserve - and what people deserve depends on how they behave". Neil O'Brien, " of the Daily Telegraph,says that raises interesting questions about the family - do people deserve to be helped to have children?\r
  89. 1358: BBC's Laura Kuenssberg tweets: "Cameron's speech writing team have just arrived - so the PM can t be far behind" Read Laura Kuenssberg's tweets
  90. 1346: The BBC News Channel's chief political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg says that even if David Cameron pulls a blinder on the stage this afternoon, concern about child benefit isn't going to go away. She says ministers know they had to do it - to show "we're all in it together", the better off must be seen to take a hit - but that still hasn't prevented a bigger than expected backlash.
  91. 1339: Shadow Olympics minister Tessa Jowell has welcomed news that the UK School Games will go ahead. But she said: "Any commitment will ring pretty hollow if the Comprehensive Spending Review sees cuts in the widely acclaimed schools sports programmes, which will guarantee all children the opportunity to play five hours of sport per week, giving them the same opportunities to play sport that have long been provided in the independent sector."
  92. 1333: Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie told the conference this morning that Scotland is still "gripped by 70s socialism". She also argued there would be no defence jobs north of the border if the country was independent - a position attacked by the SNP. Leader Angus Robertson called her comments "pitiful" and said it was Tory cuts, not the prospect of independence, that put the defence sector at risk.
  93. 1317: Tilman Sanchez, from Southampton, writes: "A married couple tax allowance would make things even worse, as it would reward people without children, regardless of their income. My suggestion: increase the Child Tax Credit for low earning households and remove Child Benefit altogether." Read your comments
  94. 1310: Expect David Cameron, in his speech this afternoon, to say future cuts will be tough but in the national interest and everyone will have to pay their share, Nick Robinson tells the Daily Politics. The prime minister will begin a conversation with the country about fairness as it goes about cutting the deficit, he adds. Conservative Party chairman Baroness Warsi tells the same programme that the conference has been "extremely successful". It has been full of serious policy announcements and none of the "back-biting" of previous events, she says.
  95. 1305: Keith B, from Leicester, writes: "The Tories are hyping up the deficit just so that they can go on cutting, cutting and more cutting. The cuts will not affect MPs, will not affect the bosses of the banks, insurance companies or wealthy heads of industry... they will affect everyone else." Read your comments
  96. 1254: Andrew Jepson, from Fareham, writes: "How dare William Hague say "it's right and fair for higher rate taxpayers to make their contribution"? I do contribute, over £1550 a month. I have contributed all my adult life. I do not get any value for money." Read your comments
  97. 1250: Cabinet Office minister Mark Harper gets a round of applause when he says the Conservatives will campaign against changes to the Westminster electoral system in a referendum scheduled for next May. He says he is not worried that holding the referendum on the same day as devolved elections in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will produce a distorted result. He is confident turnout will be high and that the result will be "representative of the real wishes" of the public
  98. 1249: On plans to cap benefit payments to families Frances Medley, from Fareham, writes: "Both my parents lived in Westminster when they were growing up. They lived in council accommodation which was built behind the Houses of Parliament. After the war they moved to Hemel Hempstead. This again was a council house. The Conservatives have sold all the council housing which these people claiming benefits may have been able to occupy. They have in some way brought it upon themselves, although I agree that the system needs reviewing for all those claiming ridiculous amounts of benefit." Read your comments
  99. 1244: C. Conti, from London, writes: "I would just like to have my say on this issue of the child care "universal" benefit. I have heard/seen countless interviews with mothers who are in an uproar that their child care allowance will be cut. What about those of us who don't have children? We have been paying for others' child care for years. It is time people agree the deficit needs to be reduced and take whatever bitter pill there is to swallow without the "not in my backyard" mentality." Read your comments
  100. 1240: Joseph Campion, from Newark, writes: "Child benefit cuts are not fair, just, or reasonable for the majority of the families it effects. Unless they admit they got this wrong this could become this government's poll tax." Read your comments
  101. 1235: Times columnist Matthew Parris has the pleasure of hosting a short pre-lunch session on political and constitutional reform. Sir George Young, leader of the House of Commons, says changes have been introduced since May to make the Commons more "lively and effective". Increased powers for backbenchers to shape the agenda and more time to debate bills will make the Commons "more bulldog and less poodle", he argues.
  102. 1229: Northern Ireland is more stable than at any time in a generation, Mr Paterson says. But recent incidents, including the bomb attack in Londonderry yesterday, show there are dangerous armed groups who want to "drag Northern Ireland back to its bloody past". He insists they have almost no public backing and the government will not "let them succeed".
  103. 1225: Owen Paterson tells delegates that Northern Ireland cannot be immune from future spending cuts. The Northern Ireland secretary says individual budget decisions are the preserve of politicians at Stormont, but there is a role for the UK government to help create the conditions for increased investment and jobs. He says all parties ageee Northern Ireland is overdependent on the public sector and more efforts are needed to encourage private enterprise.
  104. 1219: Two leading journalists are none too impressed about how things have gone in Birmingham. Iain Martin, from the Wall Street Journal, tells the BBC's Daily Politics that George Osborne was "too clever by half" over the child benefit cuts and managed to "explode" any sense of a buoyant mood among delegates. George Parker, from the Financial Times, says the child benefit changes could become the Tories' 10p tax moment. But Immigration Minister Damian Green says the reforms are fair and this will be recognised by the public. On the conference in general, he claims the mood is upbeat, but realistic about the challenges facing the country.
  105. 1216: Clinton Krynie, from London, writes: "This really annoys me as a former Tory supporter. Why does our country spend so much on defence? Surely we should be focusing on problems at home before running off 'defending' countries who don't want us there." Read your comments
  106. 1207: Paul, from Nuneaton, writes on child benefit reform: "I'd say it's right to ask the wealthier households to contribute for sure. I earn just over the higher rate threshold and because of this you're effectively asking my wife to contribute; yet she's looking after our kids and earns nothing. That is clearly wrong." Read your comments
  107. 1205: Douglas, from Bournemouth, has some advice for David Cameron this afternoon: "I think he could overcome some anger about the child benefit disparity for couples who are both high earners but under the cuts threshold by stating that the administrative costs in determining household income would count against the savings made. He should make it clear wherever there is a perceived injustice that there's a reason it couldn't be dealt with." Read your comments
  108. 1200: On the conference floor, it is now time for a session on devolved government in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan begins by paying tribute to one of her predecessors, Lord Walker, who died earlier this year. She goes on to say that May's election result shows the Tories are "winning" in Wales. The party must ensure Labour is no longer the largest party in the Welsh Assembly after next year's elections, she adds.
  109. 1158: Mr Hunt says Labour neglected competitive sport in schools believing wrongly that it only rewarded winners. The coalition has begun to rectify that, he argues. Plans for a "schools Olympics" will be taken forward quickly and the challenge for the exciting initative is to ensure the momentum is maintained after 2012. He wraps up by calling for a spirit of optimism as the UK counts down to the "biggest sporting event in its history".
  110. 1140: Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt is now speaking. He reels off a list of what he says are "extraordinary" statistics about the scale of the Olympics. He says there will be more spectators than the populations of Belgium and Ireland combined as well as 40,000 journalists. He also gives a plug for England's 2018 Football World Cup bid. If it is successful, he tells football administrators FIFA that this "football crazy country will never let you down".
  111. 1130: Presenter of Daily Politics and This Week Andrew Neil has written a blog from Birmingham. He says George Osborne's promise to abolish child benefit for higher-band income tax payers "has dominated - indeed hijacked - the Birmingham conference".
  112. 1128: Olympic gold medallist James Cracknell says being an elite athlete and a top politician have a lot in common. The former rower says each trains hard for four years for just a few days of high-pressure performance. These critical moments determine whether individuals are remembered as a success or a total failure. David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband - take note.
  113. 1123: A session on the Olympics is under way. 2012 supremo Lord Coe says there is huge demand from communities across the UK to host legs of the torch relay. As the countdown to the Games continues, he says he truly believes the event will make people "proud of Britain". British Olympic Association chairman and former Tory MP Lord Moynihan says the games must leave a "genuine sporting legacy".
  114. 1109: Mr Hague says he will legislate later this year to put the formal principal of UK sovereignty on the statute book for the first time. This, he says, "will put the matter of sovereignty beyond speculation" and will make it explicitly clear that EU directives take effect in the UK only by the will of Parliament, which can be withdrawn at any time.
  115. 1101: We've "put the C back into the FCO" says Mr Hague, referring to his department's title, "because we take the Commonwealth seriously". He says in a few months he'll become the first UK foreign secretary to visit Australia in 20 years. No Labour foreign secretary ever went, he tells delegates, and neither did they make enough effort to form strong bilaterial relationships with new emerging economies like India.
  116. 1055: Mr Hague says the government is "energetically engaged" in trying to improve security in Yemen, where this morning militants fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a British embassy car. On Iran, he says the UK has "no quarrel with the Iranian people and no wish to be an enemy of Iran", but as long as its nuclear programme is continued in defiance of international opinion, we will continue to lead the way on sanctions.
  117. 1049: With a hearty cheer from the audience, Foreign Secretary William Hague takes to the stage and, in his singular intonation, thanks his ministerial team. After that, just as Liam Fox did, he praises UK troops fighting in Afghanistan. He also thanks the British people for their generosity in donating money to help those hit by flooding in Pakistan.
  118. 1043: Timothy Kirkhope MEP, leader of the Conservatives in the European Parliament, says his mission is "Euro-realism" - as opposed to either scepticism or enthusiasm. He says the Tories are leading the fight to cut bureaucracy in Europe and to bring about economic reform.
  119. 1040: The BBC's Brian Wheeler reports that Big Society Bingo is the favourite pastime for bored conference-goers in Birmingham - the challenge is to see how many time you can spot David Cameron's favourite buzz words in speeches and leaflets. It's been used to justify everything from a call to allow local Tory associations to choose their own candidates (thanks Lord Tebbit) to installing speed bumps that generate electricity for the national grid.
  120. 1037: Fiona Dodd, from Brighton, writes: "I wish the Tories would stop using the word "fair". Saying something is fair 100 times doesn't make it so. If that were the case, why not just repeat "the recession is over" 100 times, and hey presto - job done!" Read your comments
  121. 1032: David Blake, from London, writes: "Speaking as a Labour supporter I have to say he's making a pretty good stab at things. For a Tory. If cuts are made, and I would contest the speed and extent, then it's fair the better paid bear the brunt." Read your comments
  122. 1028: Mark Dowe tweets: "@BBC_HaveYourSay The real problem that remains, and will continue to be the case for the foreseeable future, is the new type of role being asked of NATO. It is continually trying to adapt to being more than just a protector." Read Mark Dowe's tweets
  123. 1024: He also says he will improve living conditions for several hundred service families by renovating or replacing outdated buildings. It's not much, he says, but it's a start. Never has a defence review been carried out in such "toxic" economic circumstances, so Mr Fox admits he simply can't do as much as he'd like.
  124. 1020: Mr Fox announces the creation of a 24-hour support line for veterans and the funding of 30 dedicated mental health nurses to help those struggling with the after-effects of conflict.
  125. 1014: Mr Fox restates the government's commitment to maintaining the UK's nuclear deterrent by replacing the Trident missile system.
  126. 1011: Mr Fox says mistakes have been made in Afghanistan, but the right strategy is now in place. What's needed now, he tells delegates, is for us to be patient and realistic - "our objective is to have a stable enough Afghanistan". Mr Fox says he knows it's "fashionable to be pessimistic about Afghanistan" but there is real progress being made.
  127. 1008: Lou asks: "Why is there any debate at all about Child Benefits for higher rate tax payers?? It's madness to keep paying it to people like me. The £20 paid each fortnight makes absolutely no difference compared to professional incomes - and I bet that most people in this category wouldn't even notice if the government stopped paying." Read your comments
  128. 1005: Defence Secretary Liam Fox is the first cabinet face on stage this morning. He starts by praising British troops - those killed in Afghanistan and those recovering in the UK from their injuries. He also pays tribute to the wives left behind. If we're looking for role models in our Big Society, we need look no further than them, he adds.
  129. 0959: Stuart writes: "In just six months this government has stated they intend to close down my office (civil servant) and now taken away my child benefit. 30 years loyal service thrown on the scrapheap. So much for the so called party of aspiration!" Read your comments
  130. 0955: John Whiting, from the Chartered Institute of Taxation, says the child benefit row highlights the complexity of the tax and welfare system. If you compensate married couples, you also need to think about single parents, he said, and some calculations - like tax credits - are assessed by household, while others - like income tax - are based on the individual. "The fairer you try and be the more complex you are", Mr Whiting told the BBC.
  131. 0951: Yonmei, from Scotland, tweets: "@BBC_HaveYourSay Will David Cameron listen to Maynard Keynes or Paul Krugman? We need increased public spending in a recession, not cuts." Read Yonmei's tweets
  132. 0948: Martin Blencowe, from Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, writes: "Tell Mr Hague that to make it 'fair' all they have to do is raise the tax rate for all the higher earners (my family falls into that) so they/we all pay a share and not just those with children." Read your comments
  133. 0945: On a different subject, our political editor also says he's learned that one of the two huge aircraft carriers commissioned by the Royal Navy is "up for grabs". This, he says, means ministers are now considering whether one should perhaps be scrapped, converted into something else or sold off. The total bill for the vessels is estimated at £3bn, but there are fears of job losses if the contracts are cancelled.
  134. 0935: The BBC's political editor Nick Robinson says David Cameron's speech today will restore the notion of the deserving poor - an idea popularised in Victorian-era politics. He will promise to protect the "sick, elderly and vulnerable", but also to go out on a limb for those who try to set up businesses and change their circumstances.
  135. 0929: The newspapers are still exercised about the child benefit cut, but some also have praise for another policy announcement, made by Ken Clarke, that prisoners will be required to work while behind bars. The Independent says it's hard to know what not to like about the idea. The Daily Telegraph thinks it's long overdue and that Mr Clarke "a powerful advocate for a more enlightened approach". But it warns "he must remember that his first duty is to protect the public".
  136. 0924: Claire, from Wisbech, writes: "I would like to have seen Mr Cameron go further with the issue of child benefit. Perhaps benefit should only be paid for the first 3 children, after that, if you can't afford to pay for them yourself, don't expect anyone else to!" Read your comments
  137. 0919: Political editor Nick Robinson examines David Cameron's proposed tax reforms for BBC Radio 4's Today programme. Nick Robinson reports that the details of the child benefit cut and married couple tax break were only decided "very, very late".
  138. 0912: We've got an early morning mystery to solve courtesy of Eric Pickles. At about 4am, the communities and local government secretary wrote on Twitter: "It was cool". What was? How cryptic? wonder what he's been up to.
  139. 0906: There will also be a session this morning about the devolved nations which will include speeches from Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan and Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson. The Scottish Secretary Michael Moore is, of course, a Lib Dem so he won't be there - instead it'll be Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie who will address conference.
  140. 0900: Good morning and welcome to the final instalment of live commentary from the Conservative conference. It's the day of David Cameron's big speech in which he'll defend the decision that has dominated this week - the removal of child benefit from higher-rate taxpayers. Before his address, we'll bring you coverage of William Hague and Liam Fox on foreign affairs and defence, and Jeremy Hunt on the 2012 Olympics.

Live video

Key points

  1. David Cameron gives his main conference speech, arguing that fairness is not about "the size of the cheque we give people", but "the chance we give" them in life
  2. He urged people to join in efforts to cut the deficit, saying: "Your country needs you."
  3. Live page reporter: Victoria King

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