Major was disarmingly frank and to-the-point. "It is right to give the Prime Minister credit for such a clear reply," as Blair himself put it. Although Major made his conventional attempt to be rude to other questioners, his candour was refreshing.
If he wanted Major to offer a hostage to Eurosceptic fortune, then Blair got what he wanted. But if, as seems more likely, he wanted Major to equivocate, then his plans were thoroughly scuppered.
THEMES OF THE DAY
Labour's plans for GP fundholding (Peter Butler, C, NE Milton Keynes)
Direct taxation as a proportion of average incomes (Clive Betts, Lab, Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Council tax levels (John Marshall, C, Hendon S)
Taxation on the poor (Andrew McKinlay, Lab, Thurrock)
Not so much an attack - more a couple of issues Blair wanted clearing up. He asked Major to confirm that the refusal to rule out joining the single currency in the next Parliament remained unequivocally the position of the Government. "That remains unequivocally the position of the government," Major replied. Blair sat still for a couple of moments before rising to ask whether Major agreed with Michael Heseltine's pledge given on the radio several hours beforehand, that the position would not change. The reply: "My Right Hon Friend said that; that is our position". Blair had no third question.
GOOD DAY... ...BAD DAY
Clive Betts - Said Commons library figures showed that direct taxes paid by an average family have risen not just in real terms, but also in proportion to average earnings. Major replied that the figures were distorted by people moving up the tax bands, and that "they are pounds 1,100 better off next year than before the last election".
Cynog Dafis (PC, Ceredigion and Pembroke) who was shown the yellow card for applauding a public gallery protest against arms sales to Indonesia.
THE QUIP OF THE DAY
Edward O'Hara (Lab. Knowsley S) who asked if Major would confirm "that in order to qualify [for all the 25 Tory tax cuts] a taxpayer must have a small company, drive a vintage car, and be dead?"
THE UNANSWERED QUESTION
David Sumberg (C, Bury S) asked, as it was the Bury and Bolton Chamber of Commerce's Christmas lunch on Friday, would Major send them congratulations for their economic success over the past year, "and best wishes for a new year of greater prosperity under a new Conservative government". Major, to his credit, neglected to answer.
THE CREEP OF THE DAY
Dr Robert Spink (C, Castle Point) "On the day in which the Palace is graced with the presence of the forces' sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn, would my Right Hon Friend send a message of goodwill to everyone in the armed forces who will be serving over Christmas?"
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