As it happened: PM's questions and EU benefit plans

Key Points

  • David Cameron faced criticism during his weekly Commons question session from Ed Miliband for changing tack on regulating payday lenders
  • Foreign Office Minister David Lidington said it was "a matter of grave concern" that Spain had searched some post sent by Gibraltar's governor
  • Home Secretary Theresa May accused Labour of "staggering hypocrisy" over its stance on immigrants' access to benefits
  1.  
    1345:

    That brings to an end our live coverage of events in Parliament. You can continue to follow Jo Swinson's Post Office statement and other developments in the Commons on BBC Democracy Live.

     
  2.  
    1342:

    The immigration statement comes to an end. Business Minister Jo Swinson is now updating MPs on plans to modernise the Post Office network.

     
  3.  
    1341:

    Tory MP Nick de Bois says Brussels' reaction to the UK's plans shows how "remote" their institutions are from their populations. Mrs May agrees, saying the Commission is "beginning to realise it is on the wrong side of the argument".

     
  4.  
    1339:

    Mrs May warns people against making "exaggerated" claims about the number of migrants likely to come from Bulgaria and Romania, urging people to be "measured" in their comments.

     
  5.  
    1339:

    Labour MPs are more concerned about minimum wage enforcement - new measures will not be in place by 1 January reveals Mrs May - and recruitment of workers in Bulgaria and Romania by agencies.

     
  6.  
    1337:

    Tory MPs are queuing up to ask why the government does not extend transitional controls. Mrs May is holding the government line and suggesting EU-wide rule changes could happen in future.

     
  7.  
    1336:

    So - the new habitual residence test will be in place on 1 January. As will plans to remove migrants with no reason to be here. As for those that won't be in place, you will just have to work that out, Home Secretary Theresa May tells MPs.

     
  8.  
    1334:

    Labour's Sadiq Khan tells BBC Radio 4's The World at One the party broadly supports the government's proposals and urges other moves - such as stopping employers from only advertising jobs overseas. A subject Theresa May has just been talking about in the Commons. (see 1331 entry)

     
  9.  
    1334:

    Tory MP Peter Bone gets in a plug for his private member's bill on extending transitional controls. Mrs May says she will be in the Commons on Friday for a different reason - to support James Wharton's private member's bill on an EU referendum.

     
  10.  
    1331:

    Responding to a question from a Labour MP, Theresa May says the government is taking action to prevent recruitment agencies in Bulgaria and Romania recruiting workers for the UK.

     
  11.  
    1330:

    Mrs May says minimum wage enforcement will be stepped up.

     
  12.  
    1329:

    In the Commons Lib Dem deputy leader Simon Hughes sounds a note of caution about community cohesion. Mrs May sets out steps being taken to help local authorities.

     
  13.  
    1329:

    Criticism of the government's benefit plans by EU commissioners is "rather unhelpful", defence secretary Philip Hammond tells BBC Radio 4's The World at One. He says the measures will help reassure British people and send a "clear signal" to migrants from other countries who intend to live off the state.

     
  14.  
    1327:

    Eurosceptic Labour MP Ian Davidson attacks New Labour's mistakes on immigration. How is that different from Labour, shoots back Theresa May.

     
  15.  
    1327:

    The Bulgarian Ambassador, Konstantin Dimitrov, tells BBC Radio 4's The World at One that some people in the UK want to "scapegoat a tiny nation" but he does not include ministers in that category - saying he believes they will honour the UK's EU obligations.

     
  16.  
    1326:

    "This country is full", says Kettering Tory MP Philip Hollobone, so why doesn't the UK close its doors until it can leave the EU? Mrs May sets out the government's position again.

     
  17.  
    1325:

    Home Secretary Theresa May explains why the government has not produced an official estimate of how many Romanians and Bulgarians will come to the UK in January. There are too many variables, she says.

     
  18.  
    1323:

    In the Commons, Jack Straw's admission that Labour made a "spectacular mistake" by opening the door to migrants from new EU countries like Poland is being mentioned a lot by Tory MPs. Mrs May also highlights comments by Lord Mandelson and David Blunkett, and says Labour should officially apologise for its actions.

     
  19.  
    1323:

    Tory MP Nigel Mills tells BBC Radio 4's The World at One there is a "large body" of opinion in Parliament which supports extending work controls on Bulgaria and Romanian beyond 2014.

     
  20.  
    1322:

    Lib Dem MEP Sir Graham Watson tells the BBC that the government is at risk of "demonising" Bulgarian and Romanian migrants through the proposed measures. The rules must be applied equally to all EU nationals, he tells BBC Radio 4's The World at One.

     
  21.  
    1322:

    Home Secretary Theresa May says the government is working with the Romanian police to try to maintain community cohesion in the UK.

     
  22.  
    1319:

    Lib Dem MP Julian Huppert says the vast majority of EU migrants contribute to the economy. Mrs May says no one knows if that's true, because the previous Labour government failed to collect any figures on it.

     
  23.  
    1318:

    The BBC's Ross Hawkins says that of the 5.5 million people who claimed out-of-work benefits this February, 120,000 were nationals of other EU countries.

     
  24.  
    1317:

    Why doesn't Mrs May just defy the EU and extend the ban on some Bulgarian and Romanian workers to 2019, asks Tory MP Charles Walker. Mrs May says the government has to act within the law.

     
  25.  
    1316:

    Labour MP Gisela Stewart, a German immigrant, says she finds the tone of Mrs May's speech "nauseating".

     
  26.  
    1315:

    Home Secretary Theresa May says transitional controls - banning certain workers from taking jobs in other EU nations - could be more flexible in future.

     
  27.  
    1313:

    Home Secretary Theresa May says the PM wants to see a renegotiation of EU treaties to prevent the abuse of the free movement of workers within the EU. She says other countries want to work with the UK on this.

     
  28.  
    1312:

    Labour home affairs committee chairman Keith Vaz asks if new steps to stop benefit abuse are just aimed at Romanians and Bulgarians - he says the real issue is cutting down on the "pull factors" that make people want to come to the UK.

     
  29.  
    1310:

    Home Secretary Theresa May suggests there is evidence Labour might want to increase immigration levels again if they return to power.

     
  30.  
    1310:

    Labour deliberately used immigration to keep down wages, says Theresa May, as she reads out a charge sheet of Labour's alleged failures. The coalition will not make the same mistakes, she tells MPs.

     
  31.  
    1307:

    Theresa May brandishes a copy of today's Daily Mail, which includes an article by the former British Ambassador in Poland, as she lays into Labour's record on immigration and its decision not to impose transitional controls on migrants from Eastern Europe.

     
  32.  
    1304:

    Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper says Labour's proposals for similar action eight months ago had not been accepted by the government. Although she welcomed the change of mind she said the delay meant many of the changes would not be in place in time for the change for the ending of work restrictions for Bulgarians and Romanians.

     
  33.  
    1259:

    The home secretary sets out preparations being made with police and local authorities to cope with more new arrivals from the Eastern Europe.

     
  34.  
    1258:

    Theresa May sets out plans to remove EU nationals who are "rough sleeping" or who cannot demonstrate a reason to be in the UK.

     
  35.  
    1258:

    Theresa May begins her statement by bashing Labour's record on the issue and sets out steps the government is taking to limit access to benefits for new arrivals. This will apply to all EU nationals and those that have already worked here, she tells MPs.

     
  36.  
    1257:

    On Daily Politics Bulgarian ambassador Konstantin Dimitrov says his country is "very worried" about the prospect of a brain drain. He argues for a contributory principle in the benefits system, "but there should not be discrimination against people from specific countries", he says. Finally, he accuses unnamed politicians and media organisations of "whipping up" a "defamatory campaign" against Bulgarian immigrants.

     
  37.  
    1255:

    Home Secretary Theresa May is giving a statement on the ending of some work controls for Bulgarians and Romanians on 1 January 2014.

     
  38.  
    1255:

    On to immigration in the House of Commons now.

     
  39.  
    1254:

    The Bulgarian ambassador says "we are not crystal-ball gazers" but adds that Bulgarian officials see no reason why immigration should increase sharply next year when their compatriots already have "relatively easy access" to the Labour market.

     
  40.  
    1253:

    The UK will not "see a floodgate opening" of new migrants from Bulgaria and Romania when restrictions on its Labour market are lifted on 1 January 2014, Bulgarian ambassador Konstantin Dimitrov tells the Daily Politics.

     
  41.  
    1246:

    David Lidington says mistakes sometimes get made and it was up to Spain to demonstrate it would not happen again.

     
  42.  
    1245:

    Former Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell casts doubt on the Spanish explanation, saying it sounded "rather easy".

     
  43.  
    1244:

    Foreign Office Minister David Lidington says the Spanish explanation was that the diplomatic bag opening was an error at a "junior operation level" at the crossing between Gibraltar and Spain. A senior official put a stop to it, he adds.

     
  44.  
    1242:

    A 75% increase in energy profits is embarrassing for energy firms, the Conservatives' Esther McVey says on the Daily Politics. The energy market desperately needs new suppliers to drive competition and lower prices, she argues.

     
  45.  
    1242:

    Labour MP John Spellar, a shadow foreign office minister, welcomes the explanation of the bag incident from the Spanish government but calls on the minister to say what the explanation said. Was it a case of local Spanish officials not following rules or an intentional provocation, he asks.

     
  46.  
    1240:

    Nigel Evans, who asked the urgent question in the Commons, says Spain must be made to know their actions are "intolerable". What action will the UK take to ensure Spain gets the message "hands off the rock," asks the MP.

     
  47.  
    1238:

    There is now a cross-party consensus on the need to tighten up access to benefits, BBC political editor Nick Robinson tells the Daily Politics. But the EU's justice commissioner has said that freedom of movement is "non-negotiable", he reports.

     
  48.  
    1238:

    Spain has offered an explanation of the diplomatic bag incident and said it will not happen again. There have been constructive discussions with the Spanish about "ad hoc" talks about Gibraltar, says David Liddington.

     
  49.  
    1237:

    Diane Abbott's intervention on ticket offices could be the opening salvo in a future campaign to be London Mayor, suggests BBC presenter Andrew Neil (an old comrade of the Labour MP from the This Week sofa).

     
  50.  
    1236:

    Foreign Office Minister David Lidington says the UK government requested an urgent investigation from the Spanish government into the unauthorised opening of a diplomatic bag.

     
  51.  
    1234:

    That's it from PMQs. The chamber empties out as MPs prepare to debate an urgent question on Gibraltar. You can watch the live feed of that debate on this page.

     
  52.  
    1232:

    Labour's Gerry Sutcliffe asks why it is so difficult for customers to switch mobile phone providers. David Cameron agrees that it should be easier.

     
  53.  
    1231:

    Labour's Diane Abbott manages to catch Mr Speaker's eye (she tweeted earlier that she was hoping to get a question in today). She asks whether it is wise to close ticket offices on the London underground network. David Cameron accuses unions of pushing up ticket prices.

     
  54.  
    1230:

    Immigration finally gets a mention. Conservative MP Chris Kelly asks whether the government has learned from the failures of the last Labour government. Labour's policy had been "baffling" and a "shameful dereliction of duty", David Cameron replies.

     
  55.  
    Tim Wigmore, Telegraph

    tweets A particularly soporific #pmqs this week. Milibands zigzagging isn't very effective

     
  56.  
    1228:

    Mr Ollerenshaw says poor recover rates from pancreatic cancer have not changed for the last 30 years. The government has a duty to ensure that funding for cancer care is distributed fairly, David Cameron agrees.

     
  57.  
    1227:

    "Eric Oll-eren-shaw" cries Speaker Bercow, stretching the Conservative MP's name impressively. Mr Ollerenshaw asks a questions about pancreatic cancer, which he says is not being taken seriously enough.

     
  58.  
    1226:

    Sir Nick Harvey, a former Lib Dem defence minister, asks whether rural schools can expect fairer funding in future. The education secretary is looking into it, David Cameron replies.

     
  59.  
    1225:

    "I believe that road tolls can play an important part in funding new road capacity," David Cameron declares, in response to a question on road pricing. That will not go down well with the motoring lobby, but will may burnish his green credentials slightly.

     
  60.  
    Tim Reid, BBC News

    tweets SNP's Pete Wishart said PM needed to find "guts" and stop being a "pathetic fearty" and debate with the First Minister #whitepaper

     
  61.  
    1223:

    Tory MP Bob Stewart asks about a diplomatic incident involving a package sent by Gibraltar's governor and reportedly searched by the Spanish authorities. It was a very serious incident, the PM replies, but: "We're reassured that this will not happen again."

     
  62.  
    1222:

    The big story of the day is the plan to crack down on EU migrants' rights to benefits, but it has yet to be mentioned. Will someone bring the subject up before the session ends?

     
  63.  
    1222:

    Former Labour minister Hazel Blears is the second MP to raise dementia. Communities should be "more dementia friendly", David Cameron replies: people should volunteer to help neighbours with dementia, he says.

     
  64.  
    Mark Wallace, Conservative Home

    tweets Steam coming out of @PeteWishart's ears there - it's almost like the SNP's big day crashed and burned. #PMQs

     
  65.  
    1219:

    Back to Scottish independence, the SNP's Pete Wishart urges David Cameron to "stop being a pathetic and debate the issues". He needs to find some "guts", Mr Wishart declares furiously. The PM says this task is better left to the head of the "Better Together" campaign.

     
  66.  
    Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian

    tweets Osborne has disconcerting habit of mouthing along with Cam's answers - almost as if he'd helped write them #PMQs

     
  67.  
    1218:

    Labour MP Andy McDonald asks about the removal of what he calls the "bedroom tax" for council house tenants claiming housing benefit. "We've exempted disabled people who need an extra room," David Cameron says, to loud derision from the Labour benches.

     
  68.  
    James Kirkup, Daily Telegraph

    tweets Wouldn't it be nice if DC + EdM both just admitted they can't really be bothered this week and finished #pmqs early?

     
  69.  
    1215:

    The SNP blueprint for independence offered "no answer on the currency, no answer on the issue of EU membership", David Cameron protests. Separation would cost Scottish voters £1,000 each, he claims.

     
  70.  
    John Rentoul, Independent on Sunday

    tweets Is "hashtag greencrap" a parliamentary term? EdM quotes @ZacGoldsmith at #PMQs Bercow should have drawn the line at "hashtag"

     
  71.  
    1213:

    Conservative MP for Bedford Richard Fuller asks about dementia. The government will double research funding over the lifetime of this Parliament, Mr Cameron says.

     
  72.  
    1212:

    Asked about the Movember campaign, David Cameron praises colleagues "suddenly resembling banditos", since growing a moustache is not something he's capable of himself, he reveals.

     
  73.  
    1211:

    "He can't ask about the economy, because it's growing," David Cameron replies, in a familiar refrain. The opposition leader is "desperate for bad news" to suit his political aims despite the detrimental effect on the UK, he adds.

     
  74.  
    Tim Shipman, Daily Mail

    tweets Miliband now quotes Zac Goldsmith against Cameron. But he isn't really a Conservative at all

     
  75.  
    1210:

    Ed Miliband wonders whether the PM really believes that environmental measures are "green crap".

     
  76.  
    1209:

    Labour still has nothing but more public debt to offer the electorate, David Cameron replies.

     
  77.  
    1208:

    Why is it acceptable for people to pay exorbitant prices to fund exorbitant profits for energy companies, Ed Miliband continues.

     
  78.  
    1208:

    "Every excess death is a tragedy," David Cameron says, but claims that they are much reduced since Ed Miliband's time as energy secretary.

     
  79.  
    Paul Waugh, politics home

    tweets "Engels instead" That Robbie Williams ref was truly one of Cam's worst ever gags at #PMQs. Worthy of a WaughRoomMemo headline

     
  80.  
    1207:

    There were 31,000 deaths as a result of the cold winter last year, Ed Miliband says. "How are things going to be better this winter?" he asks the PM.

     
  81.  
    Isabel Oakeshott, Sunday Times

    tweets Massive groans from press gallery at crap pre-scripted Cameron joke #pmqs

     
  82.  
    1205:

    David Cameron says he was listening carefully to Ed Miliband's recent appearance on Radio 4's Desert Island Discs, in which he selected Robbie Williams' Angels, and protested that it wasn't "Das Kapital over the breakfast table" during his upbringing. The Labour leader may not be the biggest fan of Marx, the PM conceded, but he's "loving Engels instead".

     
  83.  
    1203:

    Ed Miliband's initial line of attack is on payday lending. Why has the PM changed his policy on price caps, he asks.

     
  84.  
    1203:
    Michael Fabricant

    Tory MP Michael Fabricant is planning to raise awareness for prostate cancer at PMQs today (pic from Twitter).

     
  85.  
    1201:

    David Cameron is on his feet. Here we go.

     
  86.  
    1159:

    Labour will need to study the detail on David Cameron's immigration proposals before deciding whether or not to support them, frontbencher Owen Smith tells the Daily Politics.

     
  87.  
    Dianne Abbott, Labour MP

    tweets In the Chamber for #pmqs, catching the last few minutes of Northern Ireland Questions. Hoping to be called by Mr Speaker.

     
  88.  
    1157:

    David Cameron is in his seat in the Commons, going through some papers as ministers answer Northern Ireland questions.

     
  89.  
    1156:

    Conservative MP and Employment Minister Esther McVey says that some of the changes on immigration will be in place by January 2014, when restrictions on Bulgaria and Romania's access to the UK labour market will end. The government is working hard to attain a consensus among EU nations on some of the other proposals, such as repatriation homeless migrants, she tells the Daily Politics.

     
  90.  
    1152:

    UKIP's head of policy, Tim Aker, tells the BBC's Daily Politics programme that David Cameron's move on immigration would be a "very tiny step in the right direction". But he urges the Conservatives to go further.

     
  91.  
    1148:

    After those urgent questions, we're also expecting a statement on modernising post offices from Business Minister Jo Swinson. This is not thought to have been prompted by today's news that Royal Mail profits are up sharply.

     
  92.  
    1146:

    Ministers will face two urgent questions after David Cameron's stint at the despatch box. The first is on diplomatic relations with Spain, and follows UK protests to the Spanish authorities about the alleged interception of a package posted by Gibraltar's governor. The second is on Bulgaria and Romania, which are set to enjoy equal access to UK labour markets as the rest of the EU from January.

     
  93.  
    1145:

    Mr Cameron has set out a series of measures that he hopes will make it harder for new arrivals in the UK to claim benefits. It is tricky territory for Ed Miliband after Jack Straw and other former Labour ministers admitted they got it wrong over the last wave of East European migration. The Labour leader may opt instead to continue pushing the PM on the cost of living.

     
  94.  
    1139:

    Good morning and welcome to our live coverage of the weekly Commons clash between Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour leader Ed Miliband. Will Mr Miliband seek to pick holes in the Conservatives' immigration strategy? Will the two men present a united front in opposition to the SNP's plans to bring independence to Scotland?

     

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