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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 June 2006, 13:28 GMT 14:28 UK
Prescott paid for Dorneywood pals
Ken Clarke provided the croquet set used by Mr Prescott
John Prescott has told MPs he paid for all personal visitors to his former grace-and-favour home, Dorneywood.

He said he could not name all those who had been to the Buckinghamshire estate because the visitors' book belonged to the Dorneywood Trust.

Liberal Democrat Norman Baker asked the deputy prime minister whether some of his guests had been "working class mates invited over for croquet".

Mr Prescott said the question confirmed the MP's reputation of being "boring".

'No public expenditure'

The exchange of words came during Commons questions to the deputy prime minister.

Mr Prescott gave up his grace-and-favour home earlier this month following weeks of controversy.

He had kept it initially after being stripped of his department in the wake of admitting to an affair.

Particularly where there are personal visitors, I am the one who pays the bill for them
John Prescott

Mr Baker said he was surprised Mr Prescott had not wanted to reveal who had visited him at Dorneywood.

But the deputy prime minister insisted the visitors' book was not public property and belonged to the trust itself.

"No public expenditure was involved in any of those who have been visitors at Dorneywood during my time," he said.

"Particularly where there are personal visitors, I am the one who pays the bill for them, properly so, and I don't think that's really accountable to this House."

In a swipe at Mr Baker, he added: "I think what you have done is confirm your reputation in this House as being famously boring."

Ascot absence?

But later the Lib Dem MP reminded the Commons of a parliamentary answer Mr Prescott had given on the subject of properties used by ministers in January, 2002.

In that response, the deputy prime minister had stated that there had been "some costs to the public purse in the government's use of Chequers, Dorneywood and Chevening".

In the Commons, Mr Prescott said the croquet set he was pictured using, which gave impetus to calls for his departure from Dorneywood, had been donated "by the ex-chancellor" Kenneth Clarke.

"He provided that - members of my department wished to play croquet and I think we enjoyed the game," he said.

In relation to claims they had played croquet during office hours, he pointed to empty spaces on Opposition benches, and said he wondered if any of them were currently at Ascot races.

'Politically dead'

As he was pressed further about his grace and favour accommodation, Mr Prescott insisted he would be staying in his apartment at Admiralty House, near Trafalgar Square, London, because "it goes with the job that I'm doing".

On the same theme, ex-Tory leader William Hague asked that if it was government policy to reallocate homes of the dead that have been left empty for a time, "isn't it now time to reallocate the homes of the politically dead, which means the whole of Admiralty House".

"Isn't it a bit rich for the taxpayer to have to pay to hold at bay the scramble in the Cabinet to take over your job?" he added.

Mr Prescott retorted: "I own one house and that's always been the case, and one car, not two cars. We just live with the image presented to us by the press."


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