Inside Parliament: Canadian spy tale rejected as absurd: Major denies 'absurd' newspaper report - Victim support amendment defeated

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Indy Politics
Beset by allegations of sleaze, John Major gained respite yesterday with a suggestion that Baroness Thatcher had ordered GCHQ to pay Canada's intelligence service to spy on two of her Cabinet colleagues suspected of disloyalty.

The bizarre newspaper report was raised by John MacAllion, Labour MP for Dundee East, at Question Time. But Mr Major told him: 'The fact that in the middle of your question you could not even keep a straight face shows just how seriously everybody in the House really regards the absolute absurdity of that particular allegation.'

He said it showed the extent of 'the present frenzy of ludicrous rumours that are sweeping around'.

'I am glad that Mr McAllion illustrated the sheer absurdity of many of the things that are currently being said . . . I will give him one answer - it is claptrap.'

Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, secured a comfortable 27-vote majority - 291 votes to 264 - for a cheaper compensation scheme for victims of crime as more Lords' changes to the Criminal Justice Bill were reversed.

Peers will debate the Bill again on Tuesday. They will have to decide whether to bow to the Commons or confront it by insisting on their amendments. In June they voted to reject the tariff scheme and retain the existing Criminal Injuries Compensation Board.

The tariff scheme would be simpler and 60 per cent of cases would get the same amount or more, the Home Secretary said. The old system paid out pounds 165m last year, compared to pounds 400,000 in 1965.