PARLIAMENTARY Commissioner Sir Philip Mawer yesterday announced a full investigation into Deputy Premier Prescott’s relations with US tycoon Phillip Anschutz, focusing on his stay at Anschutz’s Colorado ranch in July 2005.
Prescott had said earlier that he would not give up his government office.
Mawer intends to report to MPs before Parliament begins its summer break on 25 July.
He is looking into complaints that Prescott did not log the hospitality in the MPs’ register of interests, something Prescott on Wednesday belatedly volunteered to do.
Meanwhile, new revelations surfaced of discussions between Prescott and Anschutz, suggesting the two men had been discussing plans to turn the Dome into a super casino since 2002.
Prescott spoke about this earlier on the BBC Today Programme, saying Anschutz had first approached him in 2002 and they had regular meetings ‘every six months’.
Prescott said: ‘He is a guy who comes along, buys the Dome, right, when everybody said it was a liability, now converting it into a very successful asset, was giving 10,000 new homes, 24,000 jobs, 400,000 commercial and retail space, five billion of private investment coming into the project, turning a poisonous bit of land into one of the best creates, er, recreates, er, of regeneration that we’ve seen, developing east London to its great advantage.
‘Now, if a man has to see me, I tell you what, John, if he comes offering that deal, I’ll see him every three months.’
Interviewer John Humphries responded: ‘It will be a very, very successful asset if the Dome gets the casino licence – let me just finish the question if I may, and the charge against you is that you had used your influence to help the Dome to get that licence.’
Prescott insisted that he ‘would never be having a decision on the casino in this case’.
Humphries added that documents ‘show your office knew that the granting of a casino licence at the Dome was “a central feature”, I’m quoting “and key plank of the company’s business strategy”.
‘And they also show that your officials pressed ministers in the Department for Culture, which is responsible for gambling policy obviously, to meet senior executives at Mr Anschutz’s company, AEG.’
Prescott replied: ‘Well, I’ve no doubt my officials might have been talking about that, and it was being dealt with at the early stages by Lord Rooker and then other ministers had responsibilities ’cos I’d separated myself from that, particularly I was meeting regularly Mr Anschutz, right, and I think that was quite proper to do.’
Humphries said: ‘But your officials weren’t separated from it and you’re the head of that department.’
Blair’s official spokesman said Prescott had explained his meetings with Anschutz and it was legitimate for the deputy prime minister to meet with investors in regeneration projects.