PRIME MINISTER'S QUESTIONS

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Indy Politics
SCORING THE EXCHANGES

John

Major

3/10

Major pointed out Blair's irritating habit of using pre-prepared soundbites. Unfortunately he went on to drop a favourite soundbite of his, about Labour using the NHS as a political "football". Beyond the exchanges with Blair, however, he performed well.

Tony

Blair

3/10

Blair pointed out Major's irritating habit of answering a question with another question. However, if any question can be guaranteed to spark a round of non-answers and statistic-swapping at Question Time, it is one about the NHS, which he duly asked.

THEMES OF THE DAY

The effects of chemical weapons testing in England (Ken Livingstone, Lab, Brent East)

The importance of the defence industry for jobs, Phil Gallie (C, Ayr)

Pensioners' incomes and Dennis Skinner's 65th birthday (Tim Devlin, C, Stockton South)

Michael Portillo and the Royal Yacht (Alan Simpson, Lab, Nottingham South)

Blair asked whether Health Secretary Stephen Dorrell should not be concentrating on the "huge and manifest crisis" in the NHS, rather than devolution. Major replied that Robin Cook, when shadow Health Secretary, had at one point deviated from the Labour line on devolution.

GOOD DAY... ...BAD DAY

John Major improved later, teasing Skinner: "He's going to say he's isn't 65, and I'm fiddling the figures." Skinner was the only one not to laugh. "I hope he smiles before he's 66," Major added.

Dennis Skinner After scowling and bearing the unwanted bonhomie, replied with an attack on Major's financial record. Major said he was "becoming quite curmudgeonly in his old age".

THE QUIP OF THE DAY

With reference to the Royal Yacht affair, Alan Simpson pointed out that Sir Edward Heath had described the conduct of Portillo as "not honourable". He asked the Prime Minister to "admit that yet again he has been hoist by his own Portillo".

THE UNANSWERED QUESTION

Livingstone asked whether Major had seen the letter he recieved from the Defence Secretary, admitting there had been "biological warfare experiments conducted on the civilian populations in London and along the South Coast," and would Major set up an independent inquiry? Major said he had not seen the letter.

THE CREEP OF THE DAY

John Whittingdale (C, South Colchester and Maldon) asked Major to confirm that he did not intend to abolish grammar schools. If it were possible, he then asked Major an even less challenging question: "Does he not agree that if you want to know how Labour would behave in government, you only have to look at Labour in local government?"

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