PM accused of 'breaking promises'

David Cameron was lambasted for overseeing a "total mess" on sentencing and the NHS today after another apparent climbdown on a key policy.





Labour leader Ed Miliband said the Prime Minister seemed to have "torn up" controversial plans for halving jail time for serious criminals in the face of a major backlash.



He also dismissed concessions over the coalition's health service shake-up that were announced yesterday, insisting Mr Cameron was "completely shameless and will say anything".



But the Premier retorted that Mr Miliband was merely "jumping on bandwagons" and displaying "weak leadership". And he backed Justice Secretary Ken Clarke, who personally championed the sentencing reforms, saying he was doing a "superb job".



The clashes came during a bad-tempered Prime Minister's Questions session in the Commons, which saw the Speaker call for language to be toned down.



Mr Cameron is believed to have ordered Mr Clarke to think again at a one-on-one meeting yesterday to discuss the plans, which are currently out for consultation.



The Prime Minister is now expected to set out the Government's final policy in a major speech on law and order later this month.



The U-turn has been greeted with delight by the Tory right - but it will leave Mr Clarke having to find up to £130 million of savings elsewhere at his department.



The Treasury has insisted there is no chance of reopening negotiations over the Ministry of Justice budget.



Raising the issue in the Commons, Mr Miliband said: "He knows and the whole country knows he is in a total mess on his sentencing policy, just like on all his other crime policies."



But Mr Cameron insisted: "What we want is tough sentences for serious offenders.



"We produced a consultation paper that had widespread support for many of the proposals that it made and in the coming weeks we will be publishing our legislation."



The Labour leader pointed out that it was the second time in two days that Mr Cameron had stepped in to execute a policy climbdown, after he announced significant changes to NHS reforms.



Mr Miliband accused the Prime Minister of breaking pledges, including that he would not introduce a "top down reorganisation" of the health service.



"I'll tell him why he made promises that he then broke. Because he is completely shameless and he will say anything," Mr Miliband said. "However much he says he loves the NHS, however many times he says it, the truth is he has got the wrong values.



"He wanted to put a free market free for all at the centre of our service.



"Any changes made now are not because he wants to make them, but because he has been found out."



Mr Cameron attempted to turn the tables on Labour by saying it had not promised to increase NHS spending in real terms.



"The reason we are able to improve the NHS is not only are we committed to reform, we are committed to more funding. The Labour Party is in favour of cutting the funding to the NHS," he said.



"What we have heard today is just a series of bandwagons... What we are seeing today is simply empty opposition and weak leadership."



As the exchanges become more heated, Mr Cameron was rebuked by Speaker John Bercow after suggesting that his counterpart had misled MPs.



"Median waiting times are down," Mr Cameron said. "That's what's happening in the NHS, that is something he misled the House of Commons about a fortnight ago."



Mr Bercow intervened: "I think the Prime Minister will be a follower of parliamentary protocol and will not suggest that the Leader of the Opposition misled the House, and I am sure that he will withdraw that remark."



Mr Cameron said: "I meant of course he gave an interesting use of facts in terms of waiting times, which are down in the NHS."



But a visibly angry Mr Miliband responded: "I think the whole House would notice he did not withdraw that."



Tory backbenchers, who have been openly hostile to Mr Clarke's proposals for increasing maximum sentence discounts from a third to 50%, were quick to seize on his discomfort.



Philip Hollobone asked the premier why, when magistrates had to retire aged 70, the justice secretary was still in his post at nearly 71.



As Mr Clarke shifted in his seat nearby, Mr Cameron replied: "He is doing a superb job and there is plenty more fuel in the tank."



Another critic, Shipley MP Philip Davies, said the Justice Secretary had been wrecking the Tories' reputation as tough on crime.



"I hope that the Prime Minister has seen that this was doing massive damage to the government, to the Conservative brand," he told Sky News' Boulton & Co programme.



"Ken Clarke was in danger of single handedly ruining the Conservative Party's reputation as the party of law and order."



Treasury minister Justine Greening said the spending settlement for the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) would not be reopened to cover the estimated £130 million cost of dropping the 50% discount proposal.



"We won't be opening up the spending review settlement that the Ministry of Justice got, but over the coming four years there will be many, many policies within the MoJ remit," she told BBC Radio 4's World At One.



"There are bound to be things that come in and go out of what they plan to spend their resources on. The MoJ has a wide-ranging budget to cover the remit it is responsible for."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Canteen Assistants Required

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's Frozen...

Recruitment Genius: Facilities & Operational Administrator

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting position has risen ...

Ashdown Group: Sales Support - Buckinghamshire - £25,000

£20000 - £25000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Internal Sales Executive ...

Recruitment Genius: Field Smart Meter Engineer - Gas and Electric - Dual Fuel

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises in the installa...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum