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Wednesday, March 11, 1998 Published at 18:53 GMT

UK: Politics

Auditors probe Prescott son's house deals
image: [ Hull City Council:  Labour councillor Terry Geraghty called for inquiry into deals ]
Hull City Council: Labour councillor Terry Geraghty called for inquiry into deals

Government officials have arrived in Hull to investigate a housing deal involving the son of the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott.

Ian Pannell reports from Hull for BBC Radio 4's PM programme (3' 42")
Mr Prescott, who says he and his family are victims of a vendetta, sent in the officials after allegations that some council houses were sold too cheaply.

[ image: Whitehall auditor Mike Haslip arrives in Hull]
Whitehall auditor Mike Haslip arrives in Hull
But a BBC correspondent in Hull says it is clear that when Mike Haslip, the head of the Whitehall audit team, leaves Hull there will be as many questions as ever hanging over the local Labour party.

Two men questioned - one arrested

On Wednesday a man alleged to have been employed to smear John Prescott was freed by police after being arrested for a suspected burglary.

BBC Political Editor Robin Oakley says Mr Prescott's reputation will not be permanently damaged (0'26")
Humberside police said the 42-year-old local man was arrested on Tuesday night in connection with the alleged theft of documents from an office in Hull.

At 4am on Wednesday, after being questioned by detectives, he was bailed to return to a police station at a later date.

[ image: Mr Prescott says he is the victim of a vendetta]
Mr Prescott says he is the victim of a vendetta
A 31-year-old Hull man, who was not arrested, was also interviewed by detectives at a Hull police station but left several hours later after questioning.

Alleged burglary

The two men, who had claimed to be researchers, had gone to the Queen's Gardens police station in the city last night - "seeking sanctuary" from the media, according to senior officers.

Shadow Environment Secretary Norman Fowler says he is concerned how local government is run (0'22")
Humberside police spokesman Inspector Steve Love said at the time: "A 42-year-old local man is in custody on suspicion of an alleged burglary offence.

"The alleged burglary did not concern John Prescott directly in that he was not the victim. It is alleged to have taken place at an office in Hull where documents were allegedly stolen."

'Researcher' posed as employee

One man contacted The Times newspaper last October using a pseudonym to offer information about Mr Prescott's son, Jonathan, the newspaper reports.

[ image: Derelict Hull council houses were bought by a company of which John Prescott's son is a director]
Derelict Hull council houses were bought by a company of which John Prescott's son is a director
Both men, who refused to confirm their names to The Times, claimed to have been commissioned by Labour councillors opposed to Mr Prescott. They went "freelance" to sell their so-called revelations.

One of the researchers admitted to the newspaper that he had been trying to prove that Jonathan Prescott had been profiting from people's misery by buying a series of repossessed properties.

In a bid to prove his claims, the researcher posed as an employee of Jonathan Prescott's Wyke Property Services to uncover city council files showing details on the rates of 17 properties owned by a business partner of the Deputy Prime Minister's son.

Members of the local Labour Party met on Tuesday night to express their support for the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Prescott's constituency agent said.

The agent, Harry Woodford, said: "There was a meeting which unanimously moved a vote of confidence in John Prescott.

"I was enormously pleased to see that decision arrived at. There are no problems, no problems at all."


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