Friday, 4 June 2010

First PMQ's

Wednesday saw David Cameron's first PMQ's, it was a subdued affair due in part to the horrific events unfolding in Cumbria and also due to the first day of school atmosphere in the Commons with so many new MP's getting the feel for this tradition. Harriet Harman was asking the questions on the opposition benches and she did very well, asking questions based around two key policy areas; marriage tax allowances and rape. There was an amusing exchange on the subject of cutting the married man's tax allowance; a policy that Cameron claims will reinforce his commitment to promoting marriage and keeping families together. Harman pointed out that this measure will cost the Treasury half a billion pounds per annum whereas the difference in pocket is likely to be only £3 per week - is this likely to keep a family together? I think not. Nick Clegg, who is against this policy and has won the Liberal Democrats an abstention in this vote, looks decided squeamish and rather like an embarrassed teenager on holiday with his middle aged, and rather uncool dad.
The exchange of questions relating to the proposal to change anonymity laws for rape defendants was really interesting and some commentators observed that David Cameron has perhaps diluted this proposal somewhat. It had been thought that the coalition was attempting to retain anonymity until the point of verdict in any trial, the PM seemed to indicate that it is more likely that this will be until the accused is charged.  A change from the current law which can release a name at the arrest stage. It would appear that this issue will be subject to some debate and hopefully a consensus will be reached across all parties. A key concern is that there is evidence that many victims do not come forward until the identify of a rapist is released and the fear is that any changes could be a step back in time.
The rest of PMQ's was largely uneventful with several questions from new MP's relating to issues such as NHS spending, RDA's, building new schools programmes and the Human Rights Act. We didn't learn anything of substance from the answers to these questions, but the Prime Minister was polite, honest and spoke broadly of aims and intentions.

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