Prescott Had a Hand in Casino Decision

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott is being criticized anew by Tories following Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell's claim that she discussed casino policy with Prescott.

The Commons Standards Committee is still hot on Prescott on the issue of failing to declare the visit he paid to the ranch of super casino bidder Philip Anschutz.

Anschutz is the owner of the Millennium Dome, and is bidding to turn it into a super casino. The Dome recently placed number one in the ranking of the Casino Advisory Panel.

The letter from Jowell came in the hands of Conservative shadow secretary Hugo Swire, as prompted by Jowell's evidence to the Commons culture select committee.

Jowell claimed that while she does not remember any meetings with Prescott regarding the licensing of casinos, she did remember talking in general terms about the regeneration policy and the possible number of casinos.

A culture department spokesman said later on that Jowell has a discussion with Prescott December of 2004 "on the periphery" of another meeting, prior to the publication of a government policy statement on casinos.

The spokesman added that Jowell wanted to "ensure the government maximised the regeneration aspects of the new casinos," and that the conversations were "perfectly proper practice where policy issues cut across government departments".