Moments of agreement: All the party leaders paid tribute to Richard Palmer, the latest British fatality from Iraq. They also welcomed the Speaker, Michael Martin, back from an angioplasty operation.
NHS in debt crisis: The NHS was the subject of David Cameron’s first four questions. He cited Sir Derek Wanless’ acknowledgement that he had not expected so much recent NHS spending to be swallowed by staff pay. A report yesterday suggested that GPs could earn up to £250,000. Tony Blair asked if David Cameron wanted to cut the pay of NHS staff? Tony Blair did his usual thing and quoted a long list of statistics of alleged NHS improvements in the Tory leader’s own constituency. Come to my constituency, David Cameron pleaded, and visit the hospital for the mentally ill that is earmarked for closure. He also invited the Prime Minister to help find an NHS dentist. He’s more likely to see Lord Lucan riding Shergar, he joked.
Manufacturing job losses: Mr Cameron’s second set of questions focused on the closure of the Peugeot factory at Ryton. The issue was not raised by Labour MPs from the Coventry area. Did the Prime Minister agree, he asked, that the best use of government money was in training for new jobs rather than futile efforts to save the lost jobs? Mr Cameron also said that the highest burden of taxation in British history was part of the reason why manufacturing output had fallen under Labour. Tony Blair replied that the British economy was fundamentally healthy with the highest rates of employment in the G7.
Iran: Both Ming Campbell and Michael Meacher asked Tony Blair to rule out military action against Iran. Tony Blair said that noone was talking about invading Iran but at a time when the President of Iran was threatening to wipe Israel off the face of the map, this was not a time to show any weakness.
Unanswered question of the day: A Plaid MP, Elfyn Llwyd, asked Tony Blair why his fundraiser-in-chief Lord Levy had asked a donor to lend £1.5m rather than give £1.5m. Tony Blair said something irrelevant about people wanting to give to Labour being a good thing.