PMQs live: Sunak mocked over Tory defector in final Starmer face-off before local elections (2024)

Key points
  • PMQs is under way - watch and follow live here
  • Starmer: Defection shows Sunak has 'utterly failed'
  • Analysis: Pivotal pitch for Sunak ahead of potentially bruising night
  • Johnson tells voters to 'forget about the government'
  • First illegal migrants bound for Rwanda detained
  • Scottish government to face Holyrood vote of no confidence today
  • Contest for new first minister explained|Why Yousaf resigned
  • Local elections:All you need to know about this week's votes
  • Live reporting by Charlotte Chelsom-Pill and Ollie Cooper

12:37:03

Analysis: Gaza a tense issue for both parties

By Gurpreet Narwan, political correspondent

With Israel determined to launch an offensive in Rafah, Gaza's southernmost city, the prime minister was pushed on the UK's position on a plan that has raised global alarm.

Against the backdrop of increasingly tense protests and counterprotests on US campuses, Mr Sunak was pushed on levels of humanitarian aid going into Gaza and the UK's ongoing arms exports to Israel.

The prime minister held firm, pointing out that Israel has "a right to defend itself" and talked up UK efforts to get aid into Gaza.

It's a tense issue for Labour too, and the party could pay the price at the ballot box tomorrow, especially in constituencies with large Muslim populations.

12:34:51

'Our coast has taken a battering', PM told, as he is asked about funding for protecting coastal communities

"Our coast has taken a battering," the PM is now being told as he is asked about funding for infrastructure to protect coastal communities.

Mr Sunak says almost a billion pounds of levelling up funding has been allocated to the east of England, including £75m for "coastal places".

He says he will secure a meeting between the Conservative MP for Waveney - Peter Aldous - and the relevant minister to discuss how his region can be further supported.

12:33:08

PM quizzed on 'gutter politics' groups

SNP MP Deidre Brock asks the prime minister about "shady" groups behind what she describes as "gutter politics".

She raises a Greenpeace report which alleges 36 "supposed grassroots campaign groups" which were "actually administered by Conservative staff and activists".

The groups acted as "global forums for vile racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobic attacks on Sadiq Khan", she says.

"Can the prime minister shed some light on the shady groups spreading abuse, their funding, their links to his party and whether he is aware of similar operations existing elsewhere in the UK?"

The prime minister stands and says he is unaware of the reports.

He is unapologetic however, for any Conservatives pointing out the "record" of other parties, he adds.

12:26:50

Will Sunak find 'moral backbone' to ban arms sales to Israel?

Next to speak is Caroline Lucas, who brings up a potential Israeli invasion of the southern Gazan city of Rafah.

More than a million displaced Palestinians are sheltering in the city, which Israel claims is the last bastion of Hamas.

Charities, governments and humanitarian organisations on the ground have warned an attack would lead to thousands more Palestinians killed and injured.

"All the signs are that Netanyahu is about to defy the international community," Ms Lucas says.

"If that attack begins, will that be the moment when the prime minister finds the moral backbone to ban arms exports to Israel?

"And if not, how much more suffering has to happen before he acts to prevent further UK complicity and crimes against humanity?"

The UK provides a small amount of arms to Israel.

The prime minister responds: "I've been crystal clear, we want to see humanitarian law respected and adhered to by all parties.

"Too many civilians have been killed and we do want to see Israel take greater care to avoid harming civilians.

"I've made these points repeatedly to Prime Minister Netanyahu specifically about the impacts of any military incursion into Rafah, and we continue to say to the Israelis at all levels that we want to see more aid going in and... a hostage deal so we can move towards a sustainable ceasefire."

12:24:10

Is PM giving 'active consideration' to the deployment of UK forces in the Middle East?

The SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn asks the PM whether he is giving "active consideration to the deployment of UK forces in the Middle East?"

He asks the PM to answer "yes or no", saying the public needs "clarity".

Mr Sunak replies that he can't get into any operational planning details.

But he says "we are absolutely committed to supporting international efforts to get more humanitarian aid into Gaza ... by land, sea and air".

Mr Flynn follows up by asking whether all members will be given a vote before he makes a decision on any deployment of UK forces.

"I'm not going to apologise for our armed forces playing a leading role in supporting international effort to get more aid in," Mr Sunak says.

"And indeed we are sending Royal Navy support ship RFA Cardigan Bay to the region to support that effort."

He adds that the fastest way to end the Israel-Hamas conflict is to ensure there is a "hostage deal that gets hostages out, aid in and for there to be a sustainable pause in the fighting".

He says it is clear there is now a "workable offer on the table" and asks Mr Flynn to join him in urging all parties, including Hamas, to accept the deal.

12:20:30

Analysis: Starmer revels - then attacks

By Gurpreet Narwan, political correspondent

Sir Keir Starmer began the session by revelling in the defection of Dan Poulter, who moved from the Tory benches to the Labour side last weekend.

The Labour leader said it was symbolic of the wider exodus of Tory voters to Labour.

He then made a series of attacks about unfunded tax cuts and pushed the prime minister on whether he would raid pensioners to shore up the public finances.

The Labour leader was unrelenting, repeatedly trying to undermine the government's offer to pensioners.

It was a considered choice. Pensioners are a core voting base for the Conservatives.

Labour had a clear message for them: "Vote Tory, risk your pension."

12:19:57

Fiery exchange over pensions

Next up is pensions - a divisive issue that allows the political rivals a bit of back-and-forth.

Sir Keir Starmer goes after Rishi Sunak over the "£46bn black hole" his pledge to scrap national insurance would leave (see previous post).

Labour said previously that "Rishi Sunak's unfunded £46bn spending commitment is a threat to the state pension, which could delay retirement for nearly four million over 60s".

Sir Keir puts that to Mr Sunak.

The prime minister comes back: "It's thanks to the triple lock that we've increased pensions by £3,700 since 2010 and they will rise in each and every year of the next parliament.

"It's Labour that always hits pensioners hard."

Sir Keir has a pithy reply:"Vote Tory, risk your pension."

Mr Sunak jumps on the change of topic, making a pitch to voters in the local elections.

"Tomorrow voters will have a choice, and it will be a choice.

"It will be a choice between mayors like Andy Street and Ben Houchen, who are delivering, [against] mayors like Sadiq Khan, who just simply virtue signal."

12:16:01

Has Sunak found the money for 'completely unfunded NI cut?'

Turning to policy, Sir Keir asks Mr Sunak whether he has found the money for his "completelyunfunded £46bn promise to scrap national insurance".

Mr Sunak jokes he knows economics is not the Labour leader's "strong point" and says "it's crystal clear" that there is "one party that is going to deliver tax cuts for working Britain, and it's the Conservative Party".

Sir Keir swipes, saying his opponent's answer was a "long, rambling non-answer to the question".

"He acts as if answering straightforward questions is beneath him," the Labour leader says.

12:11:47

Starmer: Defection shows Sunak has 'utterly failed'

Sir Keir Starmer steps up to question the prime minister.

He tackles some housekeeping first, echoing the prime minister's opening remarks by sharing his sympathies with the victims of attacks in northeast London and Sheffield yesterday and this morning.

Turning to politics, the Labour leader takes the opportunity to welcome his newest MP, Dr Dan Poulter, who defected from the Tories last week. Sir Keir is buoyant, grinning as he boasts about his party's recruit.

Sir Keir asks Mr Sunak whether the defection means he has "utterly failed".

A reminder, Dr Poulter defected over what he branded NHS "choas", saying he had come "to the conclusion that, once again, the only cure is a Labour government".

Rising to laughter, Mr Sunak brushes off Sir Keir's comments, nodding to tomorrow's local elections: "This week people everywhere should vote Conservative."

12:08:04

Important we 'tackle the scourge of teenage vaping', PM says

It's an easy start for the prime minister, as he is first asked whether he agrees that vaping companies should be banned from advertising on sports kits.

Rishi Sunak says the decisions about sponsorship rest with individual teams, but that he does agree.

"It is important we do everything we can to tackle the scourge of teenage vaping," he says.

PMQs live: Sunak mocked over Tory defector in final Starmer face-off before local elections (2024)

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