Corbyn 'does things differently' in first PMQs as Labour leader

Jeremy Corbyn asked David Cameron questions from members of the public as he promised to "do it in a slightly different way" in his first Prime Minister's Questions today.

The new Labour leader was greeted with cheers as he rose from his seat, before which he thanked the supporters who had elected him in an "enormous democratic exercise".

He said many of those he had spoken to in recent months thought PMQs "too theatrical" and said above all they "wanted their voice heard" - prompting his new approach.

Mr Corbyn - a backbencher for 30 years until now - then received a warm welcome from the PM, who congratulated him on a "resounding" victory in the leadership contest.

"I know we will have many strong disagreements, I'm sure, between us in these exchanges, but when we can work together in the national interest we should do so, and I wish him well in his job," he said.

Things then turned from pleasantries to debate, with Mr Cameron fielding six questions of the 40,000 Mr Corbyn said he had received from the public via email.

Two-and-a-half thousand of those related to the "housing crisis", Mr Corbyn said, bringing him on to his first question.

Question 1: 'Marie' asks what the government intends to do about the "chronic lack of affordable housing, and the extortionate rents charged by some private sector landlords in this country?"

Answer: The Prime Minister agreed that the country needed more affordable housing, and said the coalition government had delivered 260,000 affordable units in the last parliament. He added that the coalition had also "built more council houses" than in the previous 13 years of Labour government.

"I recognise much more needs to be done," he added - saying the government needed to continue reforms of the planning system, encourage developers to launch more first-time buyer schemes and continue programmes such as the government's Help to Buy.

However, in an apparent attack on Mr Corbyn's anti-austerity stance, the PM added: "But I'd say to the honourable gentleman: we won't get Britain building unless we keep our economy going."

Mr Cameron did not address the part of the question about renting costs.

Question 2: 'Stephen', who works for a housing association, asked whether the government should reconsider laws forcing them to cut rents - claiming this will lead to worse conditions, worse maintenance, job losses and problems for those living in such properties.

Answer: Mr Cameron said people at housing associations were doing a "good job", but argued that there had previously been a "merry-go-round" where rents went up, forcing housing benefit and in turn taxes to go up to cover those costs.

He said it was right to cut social tenants' rents, and said it was "vital... that we reform housing associations and make sure they are more efficient".

"Frankly, they are a part of the public sector that hasn't been through efficiencies, haven't improved their performance, and I think it's about time that they did."

Question 3: 'Paul' asks why the government is cutting tax credits for families. "We need this money to survive, so our children don't suffer", he says.

Answer: Mr Cameron says the cuts to tax credits, paired with the new National Living Wage will make working sure work "genuinely pays".

He says a family with someone on the minimum wage will be £2,400 better off as a result of the government's welfare changes. He says in-work poverty rose rapidly during the Labour government, even as in-work benefits increased.

Question 4: 'Claire' asks how changing the thresholds for the entitlement to working tax credits will help working families?

Answer: Mr Cameron says the country must "live within its means" and was left an "unaffordable welfare system".

He says he wants to move the economy from low pay, high taxes and high welfare bills to the opposite on all three counts.

Question 5: 'Gail' asks whether it is acceptable that mental health services are "on their knees" at present?

Answer: The PM says mental health services do need to improve, and says both sides of the house can unite to help deliver that.

He also called on Labour to back a plan for £8 billion more NHS funding - part of which would go to mental health services.

However, he said any Labour plan for "unlimited spending" would "wreck the economy" and in turn damage efforts to improve the NHS.

Question 6: 'Angela', a mental health professional, says some with mental health crises are unable to receive proper care due to a shortage of emergency beds. What does the government plan to do to address the issue?

Answer: "We need to do more as a country to tackle mental health," the Prime Minister says.

He says the NHS needs more money but also calls for a change to NHS working methods and public attitudes to mental health.

He repeats that none of that will be possible without a "strong economy".