PRIME MINISTER'S QUESTIONS

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Indy Politics
THE LEADERS TACKLE BLAIR

William

Hague

Hague asked for Blair's assurance that the decommissioning of terrorist weapons would run in parallel with negotiations with Sinn Fein, and that progress would be made only on the basis of consensus. He waited 15 minutes before asking three more questions on the planned Welsh assembly. He said Blair was offering control of law and order to the Welsh but had no intention of providing it. Blair countered that some control via Welsh local authorities was on offer.

Verdict: Draw

Paddy

Ashdown

Ashdown asked Blair to comment on the importance of rapid progress in the Northern Ireland peace process. Blair said that the decommissioning impasse must be broken so that talks about the substance of a lasting political settlement could begin.

Verdict: Draw

THE BACKBENCH ISSUES

THEMES OF THE DAY

The Nationwide Building Society vote (Sally Keeble, Lab. Northampton N)

The "constitutional mystery tour" of Welsh devolution (Desmond Swayne, Con. New Forest W)

Sale of BAe Hawk jets to Indonesia (Richard Allan, LD. Sheffield Hallam)

UN reform, and US arrears (Mike Gapes, Lab. Ilford S)

GOOD DAY... ...BAD DAY

Paddy Ashdown

As well being able to ask two resonant questions, Ashdown was able to fit in a short counterblast to the Conservatives who were mocking him. "I thought he did rather well on that," said Blair.

Desmond Swayne

Blair was cutting: "I haven't actually come across the Honourable Gentleman before, but I gather from my Honourable Friends that virtually everything is a mystery to him."

THE QUIP OF THE DAY

MPs have been considering the implications of the inclusion of some Liberal Democrats on a cabinet committee. When the SNP Vice-President Andrew Welsh (Angus) stood up to ask Blair a question, Dennis Skinner (Lab. Bolsover) teased: "Play your cards right..."

THE UNANSWERED QUESTION

Tony Benn asked Blair whether the Liberal Democrats who joined the Cabinet Committee would be obliged to sign the Official Secrets Act, and whether they would receive information that was disclosed neither to the House of Commons nor to other Liberal Democrats.

THE CREEP OF THE DAY

Andrew Reed (Lab. Loughborough) read his question, against Commons rules. Tory taunts worsened when he congratulated Blair for fulfilling promises on devolution, referring to the English regions "including that best-known and well-loved East Midlands region."

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