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Prime Minister’s Questions- 2 June 2010

The first Prime Minister’s questions of the new ‘Con Dem’ government and I was picked out to ask question number seven on the order paper. The full exchanges can be seen by clicking here http://bit.ly/d3wxW6 My question is at around 18 minutes 50 seconds.

After the solemn early exchanges on the subject of the Israeli attack on the aid convoy and the terrible tragedy in Cumbria, the fiirst clashes were on the subject of Tory plans to allow rape defendants (uniquely) anonymity. Three times Harriet Harman pressed the Prime Minister to justify his position which would give men accused of rape a unique status in criminal justive terms, yet the PM insisted that this was his way of preventing the disgracefully low level of convictions on rape.

Rape is a notoriously difficult charge to make stick, particularly because of the often private nature of the offence, and often it is only when rape cases are publicised that other women come forward to report their own rapes. In a predominantly assured performance this exchange saw the Prime Minister at his least comfortable.

I felt he was also unconvincing on his defence of prioritising marriage, as he seemed to be claiming that married couples would stay together for £3.20 a week, which is not borne out by any discussions I have had with couples who are facing the terrible strain of relationship break up.

After the initial questions taking quite a long time to get through, the next few passed quickly and suddenly I heard the Speaker say: “Toby Perkins”, and I was on my feet. My question was; “Does the Prime Minister share the concerns of two school teachers from Chesterfield who I met this weekend, that children from more deprived communities will disproportionatly suffer from his cuts to 10,000 university places?”

In reply the PM welcomed me to the house graciously and namechecked Tony Benn, and then replied about his pupil premium which may or may not deliver for poorer children but has nothing to do with the cuts to 10,000 University places from this year’s budget.

He did also say that the remaining number going was still higher than the previous year under Labour (in other words his cut was to Labour’s planned expansion, not to the amount Labour had achieved last year).

Nonetheless my feeling is that to promise that he could find £6Bm worth of savings in waste prior to the election and then to offer cuts to university places and Future Jobs Fund neither of which could be described as waste is disingenous at best.

There was a bit of first day at school feel to it and it was nothing like as much of a bearpit as I anticipate it will become in the future, and so it was a pretty gentle introduction to PMQ’s for me, but one that I enjoyed, and I will certainly remember the response that I have had and see how the reality of this policy is felt by constituents in Chesterfield as we get to University clearing time this summer.

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I am Toby Perkins, Labour's Member of Parliament for Chesterfield. If you would like to get in touch with me, my office is open and can be reached by phone on 01246 386 286. I also hold regular surgeries in Chesterfield and Staveley so that constituents can meet me and I can take up their concerns. If you would like to make an appointment then please do contact my office. Thank you for visiting.

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