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Shadow transport spokesman John Redwood
"We need an opportunity in the House of Commons to have it all out."
 real 28k

Mark Seddon
"Why isn't John Prescott making more of it?"
 real 28k

Sunday, 5 December, 1999, 10:41 GMT
Tories prepare to savage Prescott
John Prescott: In India on a six day visit

Shadow transport spokesman John Redwood has claimed the Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has lost the confidence of his own party.

The Conservatives have tabled an opposition day debate on transport next week to attack Mr Prescott's policies.

The deputy prime minister, who has responsibility for the environment, transport and the regions, is currently in India on a six-day official visit but he is expected to return in time for the debate.

John Redwood: Leading the attack for the Tories
Mr Redwood has stated that he is determined to force the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, to back Mr Prescott or sack him.

The Conservatives are considering using the debate to table a motion calling for a cut in Mr Prescott's salary.

The device, a traditional means of moving a no-confidence motion in a minister in Parliament, would have virtually no chance of success with Labour's large Commons majority.

Mr Redwood told the BBC the deputy prime minister had lost the confidence of a lot of his own MPs and it also seemed he had lost the confidence of Mr Blair.

Mr Redwood said: "We think we need an opportunity in the House of Commons to have it all out and to ask some of the questions he has refused to answer, when is he going to have more money to sort out the Tube, when is he going to provide new train and services we require if there is going to be any sense in his strategy at all, when is he going to stop hitting the motorist as hard as he has been doing."

'Shape up or ship out'

Later Conservative leader William Hague called on Mr Prescott to cut short his trip and return for the debate, saying the deputy prime minister was "simply not up to the job" of being transport secretary.

He said: "John Prescott only occupies this job because of the internal politics of the Labour Party.

"Sometimes his performance has been almost comical. This week it became beyond a joke.

"It is time for the Prime Minister to put the country before his party. John Prescott must shape up or ship out."

Standing up for his cabinet colleague, Home Secretary Jack Straw attacked the Tories' record on transport.

He said: "The public know that John Prescott is a big figure with long-term solutions for one of the biggest problems we face - a problem all the bigger for the disastrous policies pursued by Redwood and co in the last government."

The sell-off of the air traffic control system has come in for criticism
Mr Prescott has suffered a series of setbacks including, most recently, the announcement Railtrack would not be allowed to take over responsibility for upgrading parts of London Underground system.

Leftwing member of Labour's ruling National Executive Committee Mark Seddon said although Mr Prescott had been weakened by the attacks, the deputy prime minister may have become "a convenient whipping boy".

He said: "It's two years into the government, he's been hoping to get this transport bill through and he seems to have been repeatedly frustrated.

"He had this unwieldy department and all the rest of it, I can't help wondering if some of the more unpopular policies, such as PFI and privatisation, are coming from the Treasury.

"Of course. the point is why isn't John Prescott making more of it and having a bigger battle but that's something else. He must have some of blame for the things that have gone wrong but not all of it."

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See also:
02 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Prescott's future in doubt
01 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Transport Bill gets moving
01 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Prescott defends tube 'U-turn'
30 Nov 99 |  UK
Rail summit moves forward on safety
01 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Railtrack move hits mayor campaign
01 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Labour MPs promise air traffic opposition

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