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Blair's deputy Prescott vows to stay

Written by: Staff

LONDON, July 6 (Reuters) British Prime Minister Tony Blair's deputy, John Prescott, said he will not quit despite growing pressure over his contacts with an American billionaire who hopes to open a casino in London.

''I am deputy prime minister and I am expecting to get a Christmas card from Tony Blair as such,'' he was reported as saying by the BBC late yesterday.

He rejected suggestions he could quit Blair's Cabinet while remaining deputy leader of the Labour Party as ''a load of crap'', the BBC Newsnight report said.

Prescott said he had stayed at a ranch owned by US oil and entertainment mogul Philip Anschutz, who wants to turn London's Millennium Dome into a casino.

The deputy prime minister said he had not discussed the Dome during any of their seven meetings.

Parliament's Standards Commissioner said he was launching a preliminary inquiry into the affair.

The latest revelations about Prescott follow months of allegations of sleaze and mismanagement in Blair's government.

Prescott also embarrassed his boss by having an affair with his secretary. Blair's spokesman said Prescott retained the prime minister's ''full confidence''.

The opposition Conservative Party has called on the government to make a full statement to parliament on Prescott's visits to the United States.

Conservative Shadow Secretary for Culture, Media and Sport Hugo Swire said Labour policy was ''being driven by big business, not the public interest''.


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