PRIME MINISTER'S QUESTIONS

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SCORING THE EXCHANGES

Tony Blair

John

Major

Blair dealt with the new half hour session without the large briefing folder wielded by Major and Thatcher. New information was provided on the Government approach to beef, land mines, and the Northern Ireland negotiations.

There were no surprises from Major. He raised the topic of the windfall tax which had been a favourite Conservative theme before the

election.

THEMES OF THE DAY

Government plans to tackle crime (Jean Corston, Lab. Bristol East)

Anti-drugs drive (Stephen Twigg, Lab. Enfield Southgate)

Lifting of the beef ban (John Swinney, SNP. North Tayside; Jim Wallace, LD. Orkney and Shetland)

Government talks with Sinn Fein (David Trimble, UUP. Upper Bann)

The excellent new format for PMQs (Maria Fyfe, Lab. Glasgow Maryhill)

Major implied that some privatised companies, notably BT, had received whispered reassurances from Labour that they would not be liable for the Windfall Tax. Blair replied that the scope of the tax was going to be decided for the budget, and that had always been the position. Major was not satisfied that some company bosses had not been given a reassuring "nod and a wink". He asked whether any rise in consumers' bills caused by the tax would be made good in the benefits system. Blair said price rises were not on the agenda.

GOOD DAY... ...BAD DAY

Paddy Ashdown

must have felt like the Leader of the Opposition. After a good election, the new format also allowed him to ask two questions, rather than simply sit shaking his head at the Prime Minister's answer.

Gordon Prentice

(Lab. Pendle) tried and failed to inject a little old-style confrontation asking Blair to condemn as a "shaming indictment" bus and rail company Stagecoach's service. "We'll leave that for others to judge," said Blair.

THE QUIP OF THE DAY

Peter Luff (C. Mid Worcestershire) demanded to know "how will the Prime Minister fund his programme for young people when the money from the Windfall Tax dries up?". "Have another one," shouted the main speaker for Very Old Labour, Dennis Skinner.

THE UNANSWERED QUESTION

James Gray (C. N Wiltshire) "Will the Prime Minister find time to visit those employers in my constituency of North Wiltshire who tell me that they will lay off workers the morning after he brings in the minimum wage?"

THE CREEP OF THE DAY

Of the many tributes paid to Blair during PMQs, the most fawning came from Stuart Bell (Lab. Middlesbrough). "Having introduced a Queen's Speech with 26 Bills, much to the delight of the public ... can the Prime Minister tell the House what he proposes for an encore?"

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