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Sunday, March 8, 1998 Published at 16:18 GMT

UK: Politics

Prescott angry at allegations
image: [ Prescott: trust established with guidance of parliamentary commissioner ]
Prescott: trust established with guidance of parliamentary commissioner

The Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, has denied that either he or his son had acted improperly following allegations in Sunday newspapers.

John Prescott answers his critics on BBC Radio 4's The World This Weekend (4'35")
He told the BBC that he had behaved "quite properly" despite failing to declare a 27,750 donation from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust in 1996.

Conservatives demanded Mr Prescott's suspension from the House of Commons over the claims made in The Sunday Times.

The Deputy Prime Minister said he acted within the rules at the time. He said he had registered the first installment of the money and then put it into a trust.

In a heated denial, Mr Prescott became even angrier as he was pressed about further allegations that his son had sought to profit by buying up council houses cheaply.

He said he was certain nothing underhand had occurred but had asked his office to conduct an audit of the deals to be certain.

"That investigation will take place immediately," he said.

"It does annoy me, after 28 years in politics, that you can get these stories thrown up by the press and going for my son because his name happens to be Prescott when none of them even suggests anything improper has been done at all."

The BBC's political correspondent Nick Jones reports (1'04")
The allegations centre on 20 council homes bought by North Hull Housing Action Trust for 5,000 each. They are estimated to have a re-sale value of 30,000.

The Sunday newspaper said these houses could be transferred to Wyke Property Services of which the Deputy Prime Minister's son, John, is a director.

Mr Prescott said the houses were sold cheaply to the housing trust because they were run down. The council had rejected an opportunity to buy them, he said.

"I knew nothing about it whatsoever. In fact, my son doesn't even live at my house. He drops in to see his mother of course ..."

The Conservatives are attempting to keep up the pressure on the Deputy Prime Minister.

Shadow cabinet member Iain Duncan Smith pointed out that Labour MP Bob Wareing was suspended last year for failing to declare a business interest in the Commons Register of Members' Interest.

He told Radio 4's The World this Weekend: "It's a question of how it squares with the rules.

"The rules are that it should have been registered. It wasn't registered.

"John Prescott can't brush it under the carpet. He has to explain what the money's for and why it wasn't registered."

But the Deputy Prime Minister refused to accept he either acted wrongly or made a mistake.

"There was never any possibility of there being a secret about this matter," he said.

"I took the advice that basically, now there was a trust fund into which all monies were paid to finance the office and this commission, that this was the proper way of dealing with it.

"I acted quite properly in this matter."

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