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The BBC's John Pienaar reports
"Tomorrow he will announce Lord Macdonald's new role and higher profile"
 real 28k

Sunday, 12 December, 1999, 18:55 GMT
Government backs Prescott on transport

john prescott Mr Prescott has faced a harrowing few weeks

Embattled Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott is to scale down his role on transport policy, but the government has denied the move is in response to recent criticisms.

It comes after several difficult weeks for Mr Prescott, culminating in last week's House of Commons debate about his role.

Mr Prescott will announce on Monday that transport minister Lord Macdonald will take over a greater role in overseeing the brief, a spokesman said.

He explained that Mr Prescott - who heads the "super-ministry" which encompasses the transport as well as environment and regional issues - felt able to delegate more responsibility to the "reliable and competent" Lord Macdonald.

Lord Macdonald said the move did not represent any great change, adding that his role would be to "draw together" transport policies.

He told BBC Radio 4's World This Weekend programme: "The deputy prime minister is outlining tomorrow a 10-year vision of how we'll invest to keep Britain moving and what he'll be asking me to do is draw together this 10-year plan."

Lord Macdonald: Taking over day-to-day responsibility for transport
The change will see Mr Prescott retaining overall control of his ministry.

Mr Prescott is said to trust his transport minister, with whom he was reportedly in close contact when Lord Macdonald was editor of ITV's World In Action.

"Here is a guy who will get on with it," Mr Prescott told The Sunday Times.

"Gus will be dealing with transport. I will switch to the coming areas - the urban and rural white papers, housing and planning."

The announcement will, however, fuel opposition claims that it is proof that Prime Minister Tony Blair is unhappy with Mr Prescott's performance on transport issues.

And in attempt to head off such claims, Mr Prescott will combine the handover to Lord Macdonald by saying public spending on transport will rise over coming years.

He will announce that some of the money will go towards road building programmes.


Other plans include a new generation of monorails and tram systems in city centres.

Mr Prescott has dismissed suggestions that he is to set to fill a new post of Labour Party chairman.

Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Michael Moore said Mr Prescott's reduced transport role was "a tacit admission that the Government has failed to tackle Britain's transport problems".

He said: "The fear now is that the House of Commons will not be able to question the Government properly on transport policy when there are so many improvements still to make."

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See also:
08 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Prescott comes out fighting
08 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Analysis: Prescott's problems
04 Aug 98 |  UK Politics
Curriculum vitae: Gus Macdonald
29 Jul 99 |  UK Politics
From red Clydeside to red buses
08 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Prescott's future in doubt
05 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Prescott: I will not quit
12 Jul 99 |  UK Politics
The 'decent' face of old Labour

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