Met probe Prescott corruption claims

John Prescott faces police probe after Lib Dem MP Norman Baker complained
John Prescott faces police probe after Lib Dem MP Norman Baker complained

John Prescott is "covered in sleaze" and must resign as deputy prime minister with as much good grace as he can still muster, Norman Baker has warned.

The Liberal Democrat MP was speaking after Scotland Yard announced it would be looking into his claim that the deputy prime minister broke anti-corruption laws in visiting the home of American billionaire Philip Anschutz in Colorado last summer.

Mr Anschutz owns the Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), which is hoping to turn the dome into the UK's first super-casino. The site in Greenwich, east London, was last week revealed to be at the top of the shortlisted venues.

"We have received an allegation of an offence under the Prevention of Corruption Acts 1906 and 1916, and we are considering its content," a police spokesman said.

The law states that ministers should not accept "hospitality or consideration received from a person or organisation which has obtained or is trying to obtain an official contract".

Mr Baker made the complaint to the police specifically about Mr Prescott's visit to Mr Anschutz's ranch, a visit which has already got him in hot water with the parliamentary watchdog because he failed to declare it immediately on the register of MPs' interests.

But as Mr Prescott prepares to take over from Tony Blair in running the country when the prime minister goes on holiday this Friday, Mr Baker insisted that the "litany" of scandals that has engulfed the deputy prime minister recently means he cannot stay in his post.

Citing the row over his use of the Dorneywood mansion and his failure to pay the right amount of council tax, Mr Baker told "I do not see how he can carry on - it's unedifying."

He added: "He's desperately trying to hold on so that he doesn't do damage to Tony Blair. But he is covered in sleaze and he's hanging on by his fingertips."

Mr Blair has given Mr Prescott his full confidence and refused to launch an inquiry into claims that his meeting with Mr Anschutz breached the ministerial code of conduct, despite the parliamentary watchdog's concern that it might have.

But Mr Baker said the issue was not going away, and rejected suggestions that in going to the police, he was simply trying to keep the row about Mr Prescott alive. "It's a real thing to me," he insisted.


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