PRIME MINISTER'S QUESTIONS

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Indy Politics
SCORING THE EXCHANGES

John Major

Tony Blair

Major pleaded ignorance of Blair's chosen topic, a Defence Select Committee report on Defence Medical Services. He said he hadn't yet read the report, but he "most certainly would". If Blair thought Major should have acted on the report already, he might have said so; if not, he might have asked about something else. Instead he pursued the same topic.

THEMES OF THE DAY

Gulf War Syndrome (Neil Gerrard, Lab, Walthamstow; Alex Salmond, SNP, Banff and Buchan; Paddy Ashdown and Blair)

Publication of school test results (David Congdon, C, Croydon)

The Army reserve (Tim Rathbone, C, Lewes)

The BSE crisis in Scotland (Andrew Welsh, SNP, Angus East)

Dead stowaways arriving in New Holland and Immingham (Michael Brown, C, Brigg and Cleethorpes)

BLAIR'S ATTACK

Did Major accept the Defence Select Committee's report in its criticisms of MoD medical provision? "Of course we will examine the report" said Major. Blair then asked Major, if he didn't like what he read, who would take responsibility? "I suggest the Rt Hon Gentleman waits until we have examined it, of course we will," said Major. Blair clearly thought Major should have read the report, and have answers, but he devoted his third question to a soundbite: "when does anyone in this Government ever take responsibility for anything?"

GOOD DAY.. ...BAD DAY

Paddy Ashdown set out clearly the argument against the Government case on organophosphate use in the Gulf War, causing Major initially to fumble and then to resort to angry bluster about scapegoats.

There was an unintentional dark comedy in Michael Brown's complaint about stowaways: "although they are illegal immigrants, they are arriving dead and something needs to be done about it."

THE QUIP OF THE DAY

In his anger at John Prescott's catcalls, Major resorted to an unparliamentary but evocative image: "There is a word for that; I believe it's hypocrisy, Madam Speaker . . and it seeps ... out of the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party."

THE UNANSWERED QUESTION

Gerrard on Gulf War Syndrome: "Doesn't this denial of responsibility prove that the Hon Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup's [Sir Edward Heath's] assessment of the Secretary of State for Defence [Michael Portillo] as `not honourable' was spot on?"

THE CREEP OF THE DAY

Congdon: "Does my Rt Hon Friend agree that the publication of examination results has led to significant increase in standards in secondary schools? . . . Can my Rt Hon Friend assure the House that the Government will do all it can to resist attempts by Unions and the party opposite to undermine these tests?"

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