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Wednesday, 22 May, 2002, 16:39 GMT 17:39 UK
Prescott blasts Bali 'press prattle'
Bali
Bali is a diver's paradise
Globetrotting John Prescott angrily insisted that it was never his intention to attend a mini-summit in the paradise island of Bali - a trip which has been heavily criticised for its luxuriousness and cost.

The deputy prime minister reacted with anger when his Tory shadow questioned why he had decided not to make the journey to the plush Nusa Dua resort later this month.


Is it because you are a little bit embarrassed about reports of the level of luxury that would be enjoyed by those who are attending?

Tim Collins

Mr Prescott said as he was no longer Environment Secretary it was not his place to attend the meeting, which is a warm up for this summer's Earth Summit in Johannesburg.

He claimed shadow cabinet minister Tim Collins was relying heavily on a story in the "much discredited" British media.

Mr Prescott has faced a barrage of criticism over reports that he was to lead a delegation of about 30 civil servants to Bali that could cost the taxpayer 250,000.

Personal questions

The furious Commons exchanges were sparked when Mr Collins referred to recent reports that the deputy prime minister was suffering from diabetes.

He said he commiserated with Mr Prescott over the condition, but said that as his Cabinet Office had insisted his health had nothing to do with him not attending the summit, could he explain why he had decided not to go.

Mr Collins added: "Is it because you are a little bit embarrassed about reports of the level of luxury that would be enjoyed by those who are attending?"


It never ever was my intention to be part of that delegation or indeed to be attending Bali-Hi or Bali-Low

John Prescott

Mr Prescott retorted: "You are developing a reputation for asking personal questions that have no relevance whatsoever to the point before us.

"You rely on a British press that is much discredited about the way it handles stories."

The deputy prime minister claimed a European Union report had claimed that the British press was trusted by 20% of Britons, which was more than double that of the rest of the EU.

"It is an indication how press prattle tends to dominate an awful lot of matters of substance in this place and outside."

South African influence

Mr Prescott said that since the former Tory administration had led the first delegation to the World Summit in Rio in 1992, negotiations were carried out by the environment secretary.

"I ended my responsibilities for that when the General Election came and I moved from the Department of Environment," he said.

"That is right why it is now led by the present secretary of state for the environment."

John Prescott at Deep Sea World
John Prescott diving at Deep Sea World

He added: "It never ever was my intention to be part of that delegation or indeed to be attending Bali-Hi or Bali-Low at any occasion whatsoever."

Earlier this week the Cabinet Office said Mr Prescott had decided his services were not required at the summit, following talks with South African President Thabo Mbeki.

Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett will now take the lead role with officials from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

A spokesman for the Cabinet Office told BBC News Online: "Mr Prescott has decided not to go to the part of the conference in Bali which was taking place at the end of this month."

Mr Prescott has previously come under attack for snorkelling in the Maldives in 1999 during a trip to highlight the destruction of coral reefs in the Indian Ocean.

See also:

21 May 02 | UK Politics
05 May 02 | Scotland
15 Mar 99 | UK Politics
20 May 02 | UK Politics
19 May 02 | UK Politics
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