PMQs LIVE Christmas means Christmas Theresa May vows to PROTECT Christian holidays

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The Prime Minister, a vicar’s daughter who has spoken about her faith this week, declared: “Our Christian heritage is something we can all be proud of”. 

Tory MP Fiona Bruce said Christians are becoming “fearful” of discussing or mentioning their faith around Christmas. 

Earlier this week Mrs May said she is guided by her religion.

Responding to Mrs Bruce, the PM said religion is an “important issue which matters to both her and me”.

The Prime Minister said: “We’re now into the season of advent and we have a very strong tradition of religious tolerance in this country.

“Our Christian heritage is something we can all be proud of.”

Today”s PMQ”s comes as ministers faced fresh accusations they have no strategy for  after a long-lens camera in Downing Street caught the handwritten note carried by a senior Conservative Party aide. 

Caroline Lucas, Green MP, was quick to seize on the memo which suggested ministers think it is unlikely Britain will be allowed to stay in the single market when it leaves the EU if it wants to control freedom of movement. 

The scribbled A4 page read: “What”s the model? .”

Talk returned to Brexit with Conservative MP Claire Perry attempting to coin a new phrase. 

Miss Perry said she wants a “a smart and smooth Brexit – or as I like to call it, Smexit!”

She added employment rights should be protected. 

The PM replied: “I recognise employment and types of employment are changing”.

Ms Lucas immediately stuck the knife in saying: “Britain deserves better than relying on leaked documents to know the Government”s plans” and quizzed the Prime Minister on her plans. How on earth can she expect MPs to vote to trigger Article 50 when she refuses to give any clarity?”

Refusing to rise to the bait, Mrs May said: “I have answered this question many times and I can assure the Hon Lady, she asks specifically about the issue of the single market and trading…we are ambitious in getting the best possible deal for trading with and operating within the single European market.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn started his questions following up on last week”s Autumn Statement. 

Mr Corbyn said: “The Autumn Statement revealed the abject failure of this Government’s economic strategy.

“Growth was revised down, wage growth was revised down; business investment was revised down, borrowing and debt revised up yet again. Surely now the PM accepts her predecessor’s long-term economic plan was in fact a failure?”

Mrs May hit back: “I”ll give the Right Hon Gentleman some facts – the IMF says this will be the fastest-growing advanced economy in the world this year, unemployment is down…we have companies like Nissan, Jaguar, Honda, ARM, Google, Facebook, Apple, investing in the UK, securing jobs in the UK – that”s what a good economic plan does.”

More on the budget, with Mr Corbyn asking for the latest pledge on the living wage. 

“If the Prime Minister really believes the economy is doing well, why is her Government forcing through £2billion of cuts in in-work support?”

The Prime Minister says: “We are seeing fewer families in absolute poverty. It is only possible to do these things by having a strong economy.”

A steely Mrs May lays into Labour”s track record on tackling poverty.

She said: “He starts his question by talking about home ownership…housebuilding starts fell by 45 per cent under Labour in 12 years, they have increased by over 2/3 since the Conservatives were in government.

“Yes, we are making changes to the welfare system. He and I have a fundamental difference of opinion…The Universal Credit System is there to ensure work will always pay for people.

“I believe in a welfare system that does help people into work…he believes in a welfare system where people are able to live on benefits.”

Mr Corbyn says children are going to school hungry because their parents cannot afford to feed them. 

He adds: “Mr Hammond did not mention the NHS or social care in the Autumn Statement. Why was there not one penny more for social care in the Autumn Statement?” 

Mrs May insists: “Social care funding is going up under this Government” to huge cheers and applause from the Tory benches. 

With Mr Corbyn”s questions wrapped up, Conservative MP Seema Kennedy was setting up a commission to look into loneliness alongside late Labour MP Jo Cox. 

The Prime Minister praised Mrs Cox”s family for their actions during the murder trial and recent verdict. 

She said: “The whole House would want to join me in commending Jo”s family for the very dignified way in which they dealt with matters.

“We”ve over the years I think failed to understand the impact loneliness had on psychological health as well as physical health.”

The leaked Brexit memo was the latest embarrassment for the Prime Minister after it emerged she was slapped down during talks with Angela Merkel over reciprocal rights for expats. 

Mrs May was seeking assurance for the  living in the bloc after Brexit. 

But the German Chancellor dashed any hopes of a quick deal by refusing to discuss the issue, once again backing the EU’s stance that there shall be “no negotiations without notification”. 

Tory MP Michael Tomlinson called for Mrs May to discuss reciprocal rights for EU migrants during next month’s EU summit. 

Labour ministers hoped  would come out fighting after 

Mr Corbyn asked the Prime Minister about her desire to deny treatment to patients who do not present a passport upon arriving at a British hospital.

But Mrs May shouted down the Labour leader, saying: “People are coming to the UK and accessing our health services and not paying for it.

“We need to make sure those who come to use it pay for it.

“We need to deal with health tourism.”

Mr Corbyn came under fire this week for his

The Labour leader praised the communist for being a “champion of social justice”. 

NHS funding, pensions and the lack of social care commitments in last week’s Autumn Statement are expected to be discussed. 

Caroline Lucas from the Green Party has the first question.

More to follow…