A distinctly non-sparkling performance from the Deputy Prime Minister, standing in for Major who was returning from the Indian sub-continent. Many of yesterday's questions were on health, and Heseltine appeared badly prepared.
John Prescott was on his way to Hong Kong, so his place was taken by Taylor, Shadow Leader of the House. Heseltine was open to attack on many fronts, but Taylor seemed determined to become less specific in her questioning as she went on.
Taylor's first question was on a survey about the NHS, to which Heseltine replied with standard-issue statistics and a rather familiar phrase about the health service being safe in Tory hands. He later went on to assert that beds could not be kept empty in readiness for emergency cases - an odd argument which it might have been worth Taylor's while to pursue. A second-rank contest, both in terms of competitors and arguments.
THEMES OF THE DAY
Recent child malnutrition survey (Nick Ainger, Lab, Pem broke)
Low morale among teachers (Ieuan Wyn Jones, Plaid, Ynys Mon)
Assisted public school places (Michael Fabricant, C, Mid- Staffordshire)
Labour local education authorities' records (Tony Marlow, C, Northampton)
GOOD DAY... ...BAD DAY
(Lab, Easington) came up with a specific health question (on a young constituent needing emergency treatment) to which Heseltine had shown he would be vulnerable. Heseltine lived down to expectations.
The Speaker allowed two anti-Labour questions from Conservative MPs which were not about Government policy (and were therefore inadmissable) before she noticed the trend and stopped the third.
THE QUIP OF THE DAY
Robert Dunn (C, Dartford) said: "Local government in Manchester, Liverpool, Lambeth and Islington is inefficient and incompetent . . . the party opposite could not even run a bath."
THE UNANSWERED QUESTION
Tony Marlow was the third Conservative in a row to begin to ask a question unrelated to Government policy. After being caught out, Mr Marlow had to write the question off as a bad job and ask something completely different.
THE CREEP OF THE DAY
Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (C, Lancaster) appeared in an electric blue outfit and further brightened a miserable Deputy Prime Minister's day by asking whether he thought Prescott was absent from the chamber because he was afraid of him.Reuse content