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Wednesday, 22 May, 2002, 14:54 GMT 15:54 UK
Prime Minister's Questions
BBC News Online's Nick Assinder gives his instant view on the winners and losers as Tony Blair faces his weekly grilling in the House of Commons.

Liberal Democrat MP Paul Tyler asked the prime minister about comments reportedly made by the Sedgefield Labour Party's membership secretary.

Did Mr Blair agree, said the MP, with the claim that the Labour Party was now "a centralised mail order business".

"When it appears there is a glimmer of truth in what he says, the prime minister dumps on him."

Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith accuses the prime minister over his reaction to beleaguered Transport Secretary Stephen Byers' unauthorised unveiling of a euro referendum "timetable".

  • Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith accused the government of undermining headteachers in their efforts to tackle violent and drug abusing pupils for his first broadside.

    He then asked whether Transport Secretary Stephen Byers was right to suggest legislation for a euro referendum would go to Parliament this autumn.

  • "Conflicting signals" on the euro also formed the basis of Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy

  • Highlights from other MPs' questions included: concerns over mounting tensions between Pakistan and India; the "acute" shortage of housing in London; calls for new laws to allow parents to check on childminders; fears foot-and-mouth disease could be brought back from South Korea by World Cup fans; and worries over heroin abuse.
    Leyton and Wanstead MP Harry Cohen asked a long, rambling and often incomprehensible question about the highways agency.

    Thurrock MP Andrew Mackinlay launched into a question about Gibraltar which he'd clearly rehearsed earlier - it's just that he then lost his way and ended up waffling.

    They both get a yellow card.

    Devon North Liberal Democrat Nick Harvey asked about foot-and-mouth disease, of which there has been an outbreak in South Korea.

    He appeared to catch the prime minister out as he asked about the risk of football fans returning from the World Cup in Asia and bringing the disease back to UK shores.

    You could almost hear the sound of Tony Blair's teeth grinding at the mention of his transport secretary.

    They were queuing up to stick the boot into the hapless minister and, by association, his great protector.

    First, Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy wanted the prime minister to clear up the confusion over the government's timing of a referendum on the euro, thrown into confusion by Stephen Byers' famous lunch.

    Then Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith asked if the transport minister - who Mr Blair appeared to have forgotten having put in charge of referendums - had told the truth about it or not?

    Finally Tory backbenchers Patrick McLaughlin and Peter Bottomley did everything they could within the Commons rule book to call Mr Byers a liar.

    It was all very embarrassing for Tony Blair who waffled on about the five tests, ducked questions about Mr Byers and resorted to calling the Tories "pathetic".

    A resounding victory for the Byers' baiters - not a new sport, but one that is gaining followers by the day.


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  •  WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    The BBC's Guto Harri on Prime Minister's Questions
    "Iain Duncan Smith today decided, instead on banging on about policy, to have a bit of fun"

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    See also:

    15 May 02 | UK Politics
    15 May 02 | UK
    14 May 02 | UK Politics

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