Tories continue to press for Prescott probe

Conservatives continue to press Tony Blair to investigate John Prescott's behaviour
Conservatives continue to press Tony Blair to investigate John Prescott's behaviour

Parliament may be finishing this evening but there has been no let up in the pressure on John Prescott, as the Conservatives continue to press for an inquiry into his behaviour.

As MPs prepare to return to their constituencies for the summer recess, shadow culture minister Hugo Swire has written to Tony Blair today asking for him to start an investigation into whether the deputy prime minister broke the ministerial code.

And earlier today, Conservative MP David Amess led a team of his constituents to Whitehall to protest against the fact that Mr Prescott is going to be in charge of the UK when the prime minister goes away this summer.

Mr Swire's letter was prompted by the admission by culture secretary Tessa Jowell this morning that she had met Mr Prescott to discuss casino policy in the context of how it would affect regeneration in the areas granted gambling licences.

He insisted this called into question the deputy prime minister's claims to have nothing to do with casino policy, and reopened concerns about his meetings with the man hoping to build Britain's first super-casino, Philip Anschutz, whose firm owns the dome.

Yesterday, the independent Casino Advisory Panel revealed that the dome, in Greenwich in east London, was the frontrunner to host the country's only regional casino. An assessment of criteria so far gave it 67 points, one ahead of second-placed Glasgow.

"Mr Prescott has always hidden behind claims that he wasn't involved in casino policy. Yet Tessa Jowell today admitted to the culture, media and sport select committee that he was holding meetings with her to discuss casinos and regeneration," Mr Swire said.

"This clearly shows that Mr Prescott had a role in casino policy, and surely calls in to question the decision to accept gifts from the American billionaire Mr Anschutz."

A spokeswoman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) insisted Ms Jowell's one meeting with Mr Prescott about casinos was "in the context of the government publishing a policy on casinos and regeneration" in December 2004.

But Mr Swire warned: "I have been waiting 20 days for Mr Prescott to answer my letter asking how many times he met Tessa Jowell to discuss casinos, and now we know why."

He said Mr Prescott was clearly "heavily involved" in government policy that directly affected Mr Anschutz's bid and said Mr Blair must respond by launching an investigation into any possible conflict of interest.

Following a parliamentary committee report into Mr Prescott's stay at Mr Anschutz's Colorado ranch last summer, which said he should have known the question of a conflict of interest might be raised, Downing Street said it considered the matter closed.


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