Prescott in public cash row over casino tour

John Prescott
John Prescott
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FORMER Deputy Prime Minister Lord Prescott has denied playing “Russian roulette with taxpayers’ cash” after it emerged his party used official Government charge cards in an Australian casino.

The ex-Hull MP’s denial came after Whitehall revealed details of spending on government procurement cards over recent years.

Lord Prescott’s party reportedly charged £456 to one card during a “fact-finding” visit to a casino in Australia in November 2004.

Lord Prescott and his team were shown round Star City, an entertainment and gambling complex overlooking Darling Harbour, by an Australian government officer to “get a feel for what an establishment of that size was like”.

The card was also used to pay for a £490 meal at Doyle’s seafood restaurant in nearby Watson’s Bay, and a £75 visit to an aquarium.

The trip was made when the Labour Government was considering relaxing casino laws and inviting bids from cities and seaside resorts for new “super-casinos”.

Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude said more stringent controls on use of the cards had resulted in £45m less being spent during the first year of the coalition Government, and that new limits on civil service bonuses have saved £15m since April.

Lord Prescott said he had never used one of the cards and was surprised by the level of spending by his staff. He said the expenditure was to cover food and drink costs.

But Housing Minister Grant Shapps said Labour had shown a “cavalier attitude to the public purse” akin to “Russian roulette”.

It also emerged last night that Lady Thatcher has claimed more than half a million pounds in state hand-outs since 2006 for carrying out “public duties” as an ex-Prime Minister such as letter-writing and appearances. Tony Blair has claimed £273,000 since 2007.