PRIME MINISTER'S QUESTIONS

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The Independent Online
SCORING THE EXCHANGES

John

Major

Major responded straightforwardly to Blair's questions. He and Blair were so constructive that many MPs became bored and started chatting.

Tony

Blair

Blair did not secure the establishment of an independent food standards agency, but he made progress with his other demands.

THEMES OF THE DAY

Publication of primary school league tables (Charles Hendry, C, High Peak; Paddy Ashdown; Peter Butler, C, Milton Keynes NE)

The future for pensions (John Greenway, C, Ryedale)

Conservative "deal" with tobacco industry in 1992 (Joe Ashton, Lab, Bassetlaw)

VAT on domestic fuel (Joan Walley, Lab, Stoke on Trent N)

BLAIR'S ATTACK

Blair asked about letters from the Association of Meat Inspectors to the Meat Hygiene Service and Ministers, which had raised concerns about standards in abattoirs over nine months. Would Major make enquiries and would the Minister of Agriculture publish an account of the allegations, and the warnings that had been given to ministers? Major said the views of the General Secretary of the AMI, as expressed in the letters, contrasted with those of the Vice President, who had praised MHS. But he concluded: "Notwithstanding that . . . I will most certainly do so".

GOOD DAY... ...BAD DAY

Joe Ashton

Nicely put the Prime Minister on the spot over Conservative election poster sites being provided by tobacco companies.

Paddy Ashdown

Ashdown trumpeted primary school successes in Lib Dem councils' areas; Major pointed out that he would not have known of the success if the Tories had not published the tables.

THE QUIP OF THE DAY

Pre-election tension seems to be exorcising quips from the chamber. But Major's arrival is now greeted with shouts of "bye bye" from the opposition.

THE UNANSWERED QUESTION

Walley: "Does [Major] recall that five years ago yesterday the then Chancellor of the Exchequer made a promise in his Budget speech that he would not increase VAT on fuel? Aren't we entitled now to know why the government didn't go ahead with the promise?" Major replied by asking about the effects of Labour's proposed windfall tax.

THE CREEP OF THE DAY

Greenway : "Would my Rt Hon Friend join me in congratulating the Chartered Insurance Institute on its centenary year. . . Doesn't he agree that a partnership of insurance companies and the state is the best way of ensuring that future generations can meet their pension needs?"

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