Blair concentrated on the subject of the national debt and the economy. He employed his old method of a repeated straight question followed by a short speech. The repeated question caught Major slightly on the hop, but the speech was standard fare.
Yesterday's exchanges on the national debt consisted of statistic- swapping and mutual condemnation. Major played the game in time-honoured fashion: "the Rt Hon Gentleman should acknowledge just for once . . . the success of the British nation instead of forever trying to do it damage".
THEMES OF THE DAY
The effects of the Social Chapter (Marion Roe, C, Broxbourne; Mark Lennox- Boyd, C, Morecambe and Lunesdale; Harry Greenway, C, Ealing N)
Local NHS (Lynne Jones, Lab, Birmingham Selly Oak: John Cummings,
Passports for ethnic minority residents in Hong Kong (Nirj Deva, C, Brent
ford and Isleworth)
Nurses and public-sector pay (Paddy Ashdown)
Blair began simply by asking Major to confirm that he had "doubled the
national debt" since he came to power. Major was so keen to begin counter- accusations that he began his answer : "II can also confirm..." implicitly
assenting to what Blair had said. Blair did not pick up on this, insisting on a straight answer and then going on to condemn levels of government
GOOD DAY... ...BAD DAY
Ashdown, more quick-footed than Blair, picked up another of Major's admissions: "I was interested to hear him admit... that the [Hong Kong] ethnic minorities...were going to be left potentially stateless, since he specifically denied that in a question I put to him along those lines some three months ago".
The Conservative theme yesterday was the European Social Chapter, but Greenway's question about the "rise of nearly half a million in German unemployment" ended in an incomprehensible roar.
THE QUIP OF THE DAY
In reply to Walter Sweeney's (C, Vale of Glamorgan) invitation to visit his exceedingly marginal constituency, Major said it would take him until 1 May next year to visit all the prosperous areas of the UK. This was a teasing hint of Major's preferred election date; 1 May this year.
THE UNANSWERED QUESTION
Marion Roe asked Major if he had any advice for business invited to spend pounds 7,500 on a dinner with Blair. Major pointed out that Blair was talking to a colleague, and speculated that he was trying to persuade her to attend.
THE CREEP OF THE DAY
Walter Sweeney: "Would my Rt Hon friend find time between now and the first of May to visit the Vale of Glamorgan, a particularly interesting constituency . . ." asked Sweeney to cheers and groans from the rest of the chamber.Reuse content