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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 July 2006, 13:42 GMT 14:42 UK
Prescott anger at corruption jibe
Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott
Mr Prescott says all gifts will be registered
John Prescott has said he "totally rejects" claims of corruption over his friendship with a US tycoon bidding to open a super-casino at London's Dome.

During rowdy Commons exchanges, Mr Prescott faced a barrage of questions about his links with Philip Anschutz.

He repeatedly denied having any influence over the process of deciding where the UK's first and only super-casino will be sited.

And he rejected "wild charges" he was guilty of corruption.

Conservative MP Greg Hands said: "Surely by giving such privileged access to one of the bidders, he has seriously compromised the whole bidding process for Britain's only regional casino?"

Jobs

But Mr Prescott accused him of "reading too many press cuttings".

He added: "Let us be clear, as I have been, that I was not associated in any way with the planning of the Dome or the sale of the Dome and the decisions were taken in the department by other ministers which I informed this House about.

"As for meeting Mr Anschutz... I did promise at the beginning when I met him to see if he was a carrying out the obligations of the development of the Dome, which meant 10,000 new homes, 24,000 jobs, 5bn in private investment."

Mr Prescott, who said he has only ever made one official visit to a casino, in New South Wales, Australia, repeatedly denied the meeting Mr Anschutz was evidence of corruption.

"I think members have to make a serious judgement when it comes to accusations of corruption.

"There is none here and I think those charges should not be thrown around lightly in this house, although it's easily done in the press," said Mr Prescott.

Resignation call

Asked by ex-journalist Michael Gove if he had broken anti-corruption laws by accepting gifts from Mr Anschutz, Mr Prescott said: "These are typical wild charges the right honourable gentleman used to make when he wrote his articles for The Times.

"I do not believe any acts of corruption have taken place and if he has got any evidence he should provide it, instead of just making the allegations here."

Mr Prescott also rejected a call from shadow foreign secretary William Hague, who urged him to resign from a job "that is neither comfortable for him or acceptable to the country".

Prescott's allegation

Several Labour MPs backed Mr Prescott, saying they rejected the claims made about him.

David Winnick, deputy chairman of the home affairs committee, said Mr Prescott "done nothing corrupt or dishonest" and hailed the contribution he had made to the Labour Party.

Mr Prescott and Opposition members were reprimanded by Commons Speaker Michael Martin for trading accusations across the chamber.

In a highly unusual move, Mr Martin took advice from a clerk on what had been said - as he could not hear above the shouting.

Mr Prescott had accused the constituency party of Southend MP James Duddridge of accepting money from a company that wanted to build a casino in Southend and said he was a "busted flush".

MP's denial

Mr Dudderidge later complained about Mr Prescott's jibe in a point of order.

"This is wholly and totally untrue and I think this is a very concerning accusation without substance," said the Conservative MP.

He asked if Mr Prescott could be called back to the Commons to withdraw the claim.

Deputy Speaker Michael Lord said MPs on all sides should think carefully before making any accusations. He said Mr Dudderidge had put his denial on the record by raising the point of order.

The debate came as The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards submitted his report to MPs about Mr Prescott's visit to Mr Anschutz's ranch in July last year as part of a nine-day trip to America.

The committee will now consider the report and decide when to publish it.

Cowboy gift

Mr Prescott's stay had not been recorded in the MPs' register of interests, apparently on the advice of departmental civil servants, but was subsequently added after details became known.

A decision on the location of the first super-casino, allowed under the Gambling Act passed last year, is expected at the end of the year.

The Millennium Dome, which Mr Anschutz owns, is among the sites shortlisted for the casino.

It has also been reported that Mr Prescott received the gift of a cowboy outfit from the Texan billionaire.

Spokesmen for the deputy prime minister have denied any wrongdoing and said all gifts had been, or would be, properly registered.




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