Blair faces constant shelling from Conservative trenches

Inside Parliament

Tony Blair can take heart from yesterday's Commons Question Time if the threat he represents to the Conservatives' hold on power is measured in the vehemence of backbench attacks upon him.

Of the five Tories ostensibly putting a question to John Major, four took a swipe at the Labour leader.

Bernard Jenkin, MP for Colchester North, at least tried to hit two targets - Mr Blair and the European Union. He wanted an assurance that the Prime Minister would be "bidding for a net retrieval of power" from Europe at next year's Inter- Governmental Conference.

"Is not our resolve in this matter increasingly a defining issue between Government and Opposition?" asked Mr Jenkin. "Our determination to secure the powers of the nation state contrasts utterly with Mr Blair, who has nothing but a soundbite and a submissive smile, and for whom the idea of the nation state is Europe."

In a cautious reply to the slightly pompous young Euro-sceptic, Mr Major made no mention of retrieving power but promised to block any attempt to extend community competence into foreign policy, defence and home affairs.

John Marshall, MP for Hendon South, was next, declaring that at 6pm on Monday night as the House was rejecting a Labour amendment [to help single mothers] that "would have cost the taxpayer pounds 250m", Mr Blair was "addressing an audience of City fat cats promising to renounce the high tax and spend policies which have characterised every Labour government since the war."

Mr Marshall was temporarily thrown by Labour delight over his dip into their lexicon for "City fat cats" but clung to this theme. "This is the fifth time Mr Blair has admitted he has been wrong - he has been wrong on the common market, wrong on defence, wrong on industrial relations reform, wrong on privatisation. Five wrongs do not make a right leader for this country."

Neville Trotter, Tory MP for Tynemouth, said Mr Blair was shortly to take the Labour roadshow to North Tyneside and wondered if the entertainment would include his views on the investigation into "corruption and organised crime in the North Tyneside Labour Party". Mr Major, however, appeared to have no brief on this.

Robert Hughes, who resigned his junior ministerial post earlier this year after admitting an affair, began the long haul back to favour by returning to Mr Blair's Monday night Mais lecture at the City University - Mr Marshall's "fat cats".

The "import" of the speech was that income taxes would rise under Labour if rates were set by an international average, Mr Hughes, MP for Harrow West, maintained. Most OECD countries had higher taxes than Britain. "Instead of saying it directly, as usual Mr Blair tries to disguise it behind words."

"It is certainly clear there was a certain lack of transparency in what the Labour leader said," Mr Major said.

Much the same could be said of his own reply to Tony Blair over the Nolan committee recommendations on standards in public life. The Prime Minister said he hoped the committee, now under discussion between the parties, would be able to deliver an interim report before the summer recess, but expressed no view on MPs' declaring their earnings.

Mr Blair said he welcomed Mr Major's assurance that the committee would "look at how, not whether, it implements the Nolan recommendations. Can I take it that includes the specific recommendation that the amount paid to consultancies will be included?"

Mr Major left the question unanswered. Recommendations affecting MPs and Commons procedures would be for the House to decide, he reiterated.

"I have said repeatedly that I favour greater transparency and I accept the broad principles of the Nolan committee. But we do need to examine how that will work and what its implications will be for Parliament.

"That needs to be done. I hope it can be done on an all-party basis. I believe that would be in the interests of the House, so that the whole country can see that the House is seeking to live up to the highest standards ..."

Mr Major had rather less to say to Tony Banks (Labour Newham NW), who offered him a chance to respond to Baroness Thatcher's latest snipe at his record. In her book, she likened her successor to an "incompetent trainspotter", Mr Banks said. "That was a disgraceful attack...would the Prime Minister take this opportunity to damn Mrs Thatcher and all her policies that have got him and his Government into the appalling mess they are in?"

No, he would not. "It is less of a surprise to hear that Mr Banks might be an admirer of mine than a shock and a disappointment," snapped Mr Major.

MPs went on to give a Second Reading to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Bill, forced on Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, after law lords ruled he had acted unlawfully by not seeking Parliament's approval before introducing a tariff-based scheme. A Labour amendment condemning the Bill for cutting cash available to compensate victims of crime was rejected by 274 votes to 229.

Jack Straw, Labour's home affairs spokesman, said there would be a cut in compensation of more than pounds 700m, or 40 per cent, over five years, but Mr Howard insisted the scheme provided the "right balance between the needs of victims and the interests of taxpayers".

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower