PRIME MINISTER'S QUESTIONS

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SCORING THE EXCHANGES

Tony

Blair

7/10

Blair used simple variations on one theme: given that a critical report commissioned by the Meat Hygiene Service was important, shouldn't it have been widely distributed?

John

Major

2/10

Major argued that Blair did not understand how difficult the business of government was. The report had been distributed, Major said, on a "need to know" basis.

BLAIR'S ATTACK

Blair asked why the Meat Hygiene Service report was not published on 31 March 1996; and why did ministers not see it or act upon it? Major replied that he thought Blair had not read this "routine report, of which there are very many, circulated to people who had a need to know about it". "I have read it," Blair said. Should ministers not have had a chance to consider its recommendations on E. coli? Major said those who needed to take action had done so. Blair replied that the report's author himself had contradicted that assertion. Major ticked off Blair for exaggeration and irresponsibility.

THEMES OF THE DAY

Conservative plans for pensions (Simon Coombs, C, Swindon)

The British economy (Jacques Arnold, C, Gravesham)

Crisis in the NHS (Jim Callaghan, Lab, Heywood and Middleton)

Launch of the Europe '97 initiative (Edwina Currie, C, Derbyshire South)

GOOD DAY.. ...BAD DAY

Tam Dalyell (Lab, Linlithgow) ensured that the topic of the Lockerbie enquiry remained in the public eye. Major assured him that the case against the two Libyan suspects did not rest on questionable forensic evidence.

Jacques Arnold quoted Lord Barnett: "Our economy is doing rather well in comparison to the last eighteen years." To Labour, the words damned the Government with faint praise.

THE UNANSWERED QUESTION

Callaghan: "Is the Prime Minister aware of the crisis in the hospitals in the north area of Manchester, since four out of five hospitals have been closed down by this government? Is he aware that the North Manchester General Hospital have since Christmas accepted only accident and emergency cases, and that two weeks ago eight people rested on trolleys for 23 hours because there were no beds available for them either in that hospital or any other hospital in the region?"

THE QUIP OF THE DAY

Major's "The Hygiene Service is raising standards .... the Rt Hon Gentleman is raising scares" was the closest the House got to humour.

THE CREEP OF THE DAY

Michael Clark (C, Rochford) "My constituency has the highest level of home owners in the country, at a fraction under 90 per cent. And as we now have low inflation, low interest rates, what advice would my Rt Hon. Friend give as we approach a general election to people in my constituency and to home owners throughout the country?"

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