PRIME MINISTER'S QUESTIONS

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Indy Politics
THE LEADERS TACKLE BLAIR

John

Major

This was the final Blair-Major Question Time clash. It featured Blair's favourite statistic on the NHS ("20,000 more managers, 50,000 fewer nurses"), and a plum Majorism ("The more the Rt Hon Gentleman goes off the point, the more he misses the point"). Major asked Blair whether free prescriptions for pensioners "as of right" were to be ruled out of the forthcoming review of NHS funding. Blair stuck to the principle that the review "should be open-ended".

Verdict: Draw

Paddy

Ashdown

Ashdown, like Blair, began his question with a tribute to Major. Ashdown asked Blair, if the Government were to be able to save pounds 500m on fees to private consultancies, could they allocate the money to health or education? Blair replied that the Government would probably not be able to make such savings.

Verdict: Ashdown wins

THE BACKBENCH ISSUES

THEMES OF THE DAY

Stonehenge (Robert Key, C. Salisbury)

Alliances of political opposites (Rhodri Morgan, Lab. Cardiff W)The Private Finance Initiative (Ian Pearson, Lab. Dudley S.)

The Oath of the House of Commons (John Marek, Lab. Wrexham)

Sequestration of criminals' funds (Michael Connarty, Lab, Falkirk E)

GOOD DAY... ...BAD DAY

Robert Key

(C. Salisbury) asked Blair whether Stonehenge could be closed for several months to allow for a full review of the site's facilities. Blair said this would not be possible, but Key gained the assurance that the Prime Minister was taking a personal interest.

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown

(C. Cotswold) said that in opposition, Blair had spent "three years answering questions" during Prime Minister's Question time. Clifton-Brown corrected himself, but critics might observe that the first version was uncomfortably close to the truth.

THE QUIP OF THE DAY

Morgan asked Blair whether the alliance between Ribbentrop and Molotov "or any other alliances of total political opposites" reminded him of events in the Conservative Party. Blair said they did - in Amsterdam recently, he had observed Chirac and Jospin working together; little did he guess that he would return to see a similar "cohabitation" at the top of the Conservative Party.

THE UNANSWERED QUESTION

John Major's question, whether the imposition of prescription charges for pensioners could be ruled out of the NHS spending review, was bound to remain unanswered by Blair, who is bound to say nothing, neither confirming nor denying issues under active review.

THE CREEP OF THE DAY

George Stevenson (Lab. Stoke-on-Trent S) asked about dilapidated school buildings, and the previous Government's "deliberate policy of chronic neglect" of education. Blair took the oppurtunity to expound on the "burden of social and economic failure" left to him by the Conservatives.

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