Major gives short shrift to right-wing delegation: The Prime Minister's clinical rebuff of his critics was the talk of the Commons. Donald Macintyre reports

JOHN MAJOR yesterday executed a swift, clinical and humiliating rebuff of leading right-wing backbenchers by calling a meeting with them to a halt after just two minutes.

In an unexpectedly brutal show of authority which delighted party managers, Mr Major pre-empted widely-trailed demands from the 92 Group for the promotion of right-wingers by making it clear Cabinet reshuffles were a matter for himself alone.

He compounded the embarrassment of the delegation, led by Sir George Gardiner, by making it clear that given the advance leaks of the meeting it would be better if they met at another time and without prior announcement. No date had been fixed by last night.

Mr Major's decisive treatment of the delegation, word of which was spread rapidly through the Commons after details were given to the whips by Graham Bright, the Prime Minister's parliamentary private secretary, left a politically wounded Sir George facing a possible spring challenge to his chairmanship of the leading back-bench faction on the right of the party. Sir George lost his post on the executive of the 1922 Committee last November. The move came as Cabinet ministers started to clear the decks for a probable announcement tomorrow of pay awards for public servants covered by six review bodies.

Ministers are expected to sanction awards of up to a little over 3 per cent to 740,000 NHS medical staff, but health authorities and hospitals will be expected to fund rises from savings and efficiencies.

Sir George said yesterday in a prepared statement that all those present had 'agreed that in the light of unfounded press speculation our meeting should be deferred'.

However, Sir George - who said the delegation had sat in 'easy chairs' for the brief meeting in the Prime Minister's office - admitted that John Major had made it clear that reshuffles were the Prime Minister's prerogative. Both sides at the meeting agreed that Mr Major had told the group that his door was 'always open' but this was not the time for such a meeting.

A widely-trailed list of demands canvassed by leading members of the 92 Group had included spending cuts and a commitment never to rejoin the European Exchange Rate Mechanism.

But two prominent women on the steering comittee of the 92 Group, Dame Jill Knight and Marion Roe, refused to attend the meeting with Mr Major, apparently because of deep unease about its purpose. Neither would comment last night.

MPs on the left and centre of the party reacted gleefully to Mr Major's treatment of Sir George's delegation last night. Emma Nicholson, MP for Devon West and Torridge, said: 'They didn't even get a cup of tea. That shows the way (the Prime Minister) treats the 92 Group when they attempt to hold him to ransom.'

But MPs on the right of the party also reacted warmly to the rebuff. David Evans, a member of the 1922 executive and a member of the 92 Group, congratulated Mr Major on effectively telling the deputation to 'bugger off'. He said: 'We have seen another side of John Major today.' He said the group had been 'put in their place', adding: 'What right has Sir George to tell the Prime Minister who should or should not be in his Cabinet?'

Sir Jerry Wiggin, another prominent member of the 100-strong 92 Group, also expressed concern at the move by Sir George and predicted that the '92 will meet and see where we go from here'.

Lamont loyalty pledge, page 7

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
New Articles
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering