Prime Minister's Questions: David Cameron v Ed Miliband
- 9 January 2013
- From the section UK Politics
David Cameron has defended the decision to cap benefit rises at 1% a year, calling it "fair and right".
He said the coalition was acting "in the national interest", in a turbulent Prime Minister's Questions session.
But Labour leader Ed Miliband said the change was "hitting women three times as hard" as men and accused the government of "dividing the nation".
The PM also promised an "unvarnished" review of the coalition's performance in its audit due out later.
The government will set out what it sees as its success and failures in meeting the pledges made in the agreement which led to its formation in 2010.
Mr Miliband told MPs he did not have "high hopes" for the document. But the prime minister dismissed this, mocking his opponent's questions by asking: "Is this really the best he can do? He's had a week in the Canary Islands with nothing else to think about."
On the three-year cap of 1% on working-age benefits, Mr Cameron accused Labour, which opposed the move, as being "on the wrong side of the argument". He accused Labour of failing to back cuts worth £83bn to the welfare budget and "giving in" to the deficit.
But Mr Miliband replied: "The only people on the wrong side of the argument are him [Mr Cameron] and his chancellor, who are trying to divide the country."
Benefits have historically risen in line with inflation and, without any change, would have been due to go up by 2.2% in April.
The government says that, with public sector pay rises capped at 1%, a similar limit should apply to working-age benefits such as jobseeker's allowance, employment and support allowance and income support as well as elements of working tax credits and child tax credit.
BBC political editor Nick Robinson said Labour and the government were showing signs of "nervousness" over the welfare issue during Prime Minister's Questions, and were attempting to "grapple with this debate" to ensure public support for their policies.
In response to a question from the Father of the House, Sir Peter Tapsell, Mr Cameron told MPs that "all issues" surrounding plans to change the law of succession to the Throne had been agreed with Buckingham Palace.
The prime minister also promised to put the issue of corporate tax avoidance "at the heart" of the G8 meeting to be held later this year.
Asked about his attitude to hunting, Mr Cameron, referring to Labour MPs, said the "only red pests" he now pursued were "in this House".
To laughter, Tory MP Philip Davies asked whether the prime minister was closer to his Lib Dem deputy Nick Clegg or the former Conservative Party chairman, Lord Tebbit, one of his critics.
Mr Cameron replied: "I am closer to all Conservatives than I am to anyone in any other political party."