Major refused to step into the ring with Blair over Tube privatisation, referring him to Sir George Young's imminent statement. His only jab at Blair was to compare his attitude to privatisation with that of North Korean President Kim Il Sung.
When Major refused to answer a narrow question, Blair tried a broader one, and then a broader one still. The narrow ones were pertinent, but Blair might have concentrated on just one to better effect.
THEMES OF THE DAY
Defence of Sir Edward Heath by Labour MPs (Barry Sheerman, Huddersfield; Dale Campbell-Savours, Workington)
Privatisation of London Underground (Sir Michael Shersby, C, Uxbridge)
Tory splits on Scottish devolution (John Home Robertson, Lab, East Lothian)
Cloning Dolly the sheep (Chris Davies, LD, Littleborough and Saddleworth)
Earlier yesterday, the Chancellor had pledged to use some profits from the Tube sell off to reduce the public sector debt. Blair highlighted the contradiction between this and Transport Secretary Sir George Young's pledge that any proceeds would be invested in transport. Major hid behind the imminent Commons statement on the issue and declined to answer. Blair went on to broaden the attack: "what happens if the proceeds do not cover the investment requirement?" With a little more justification, Major again told him to wait for the Statement.
GOOD DAY.. ...BAD DAY
Chris Davies reminded the House of life beyond the next election, asking what discussions were planned with other nations to ensure adequate controls on cloning.
John Butcher (C, Coventry SW) askd a question that backfired: "I can't understand the logic that seems to say that Britain is winning, but it's time for a change. Does that mean you want to be losers?" he asked Major.
THE QUIP OF THE DAY
Home Robertson on Tory splits on the constitution: "Can he remember when his two predecessors [Baroness Thatcher and Sir Edward Heath] last agreed with each other about anything, and how has he got himself into the position where he appears to disagree with both of them? And is he absolutely sure that Britain's fossilised constitution is the securest ground to choose for Major's last stand?"
THE UNANSWERED QUESTION
Sheerman referred to Conservative criticism of Sir Edward Heath's recent comments on Government policy: "Does he agree with me that such attempts to vilify the Father of the House actually do great damage to the democratic process?" Major replied that Sir Edward had "had a long and distinguished career, and we both admire him and are fond of him".
THE CREEP OF THE DAY
The plethora of questions on plans to privatise London Underground would not have been complete without an endorsement of previous privatisation's from a Tory back bencher. Shersby obliged: "Would my Rt Hon friend agree that the privatisation of British Rail has been a great success? It was so successful that it has confounded its critics."Reuse content