Location location location: question time home truths

If I had a pound for every time Cheryl Gillan's house sale was mentioned during Welsh questions in the Commons I could probably afford to buy a home blighted by high-speed rail.

Mrs Gillan's decision to sell her constituency home - her husband has mobility problems - left her an open target for Labour MPs.

Viewers watching question time on am.pm could have been forgiven they were watching another daytime property show.

Kerry McCarthy, a Bristol MP, was first, using a question on First Great Western to make a jibe at Mrs Gillan's expense.

Caerphilly MP Wayne David wondered if the secretary of state would take the opportunity to buy a home in Wales.

The Wales Office junior minister, David Jones, told him her living arrangements were a matter for her.

Mrs Gillan's Labour shadow, Peter Hain, wanted to known why the revised HS2 route didn't include a spur to Heathrow, which, he said, would have been a vital link for Wales.

"Why does the new high speed rail plan not follow the original route via a Heathrow hub, allowing south Wales travellers a direct access to the airport and a direct connection the network?"

Mrs Gillan: "As you know that was the previous Labour government's bid but matters concerning high speed rail, HS2, and Wales are handled by the parliamentary Under secretary of state (David Jones) in my department as youwell know. I will arrange for him to write to you."

Mr Hain was not impressed: "I find that reply absolutely incredible. You are secretary of state for Wales and you have a duty, the whole of the Wales Office has a duty, to advance the interests of Wales.

"Isn't it the truth that on HS2 you have failed to make the funding case for Wales and we lost a great opportunity? Isn't the truth you have spent the past 18 months demanding expensive funding concessions for your Buckinghamshire constituency rather than advancing Wales' funding interests?

"Isn't it the case you have been more concerned with stopping trains and building tunnels and selling houses in your constituency than supporting growth and jobs to benefit Wales?"

Mrs Gillan: "I am surprised at you. In all the years you were secretary of state for Wales you did not achieve electrification of one single inch, whereas we in the Wales Office have announced the electrification of the line to Cardiff, it is still open to Swansea, that is unfinished business.

"As you well know we are now working on the electrification of the valleys line. I hope I will have your support for that as well."

Question time was dominated by jobs - both the newly-released unemployment figures and the threat to jobs at the clothing retailer Peacocks.

Mrs Gillan did let slip that she had shopped at Peacocks - although her endorsement may not be enough to save the chain.