Prescott pressed on links to Cyprus

JOHN PRESCOTT was under pressure to explain his links with North London's Greek Cypriots last night after one of his aides lobbied for a Greek Cypriot businessman.

New revelations about the Deputy Prime Minister's own involvement came as the row intensified over Alan Meale's support for Tony Kleanthous, chairman of Barnet Football Club. Mr Kleanthous wants to build a new stadium for his club and Mr Prescott must make a decision on the subject in the next few months.

Opposition spokesmen were preparing to raise the matter in Parliament, claiming Mr Meale, who was promoted in July to a ministerial job, broke the rules when he wrote letters on Mr Kleanthous' behalf. At the time he was Parliamentary Private Secretary to Mr Prescott.

Another environment minister, Michael Meacher, entered the fray yesterday when he said that Mr Meale had been asked if he wanted to wipe the letters from the public record rather than have them passed on to a planning inquiry.

Mr Meale's officials said his letters to Dick Caborn, the planning minister, were representations on behalf of a constituent in Mansfield. Mansfield Town football club would be adversely affected if Barnet did not get its new stadium, they said. They added that Mr Meale was asked by officials if he wanted his letters to go forward to the planning inspector. If he had refused, they would not have been put on the record.

But the minister and his boss have made no secret of their friendships with members of the community from which Mr Kleanthous comes.

The Greek Cypriot Brotherhood, a community organisation based in North London, gave Labour a major donation at the last general election.

Mr Prescott has visited Barnet twice in the past year for Greek Cypriot functions, once to open a shop and once to open a bank. Mr Meale went with him on the latter occasion, along with a number of other Labour MPs. Several MPs list expenses-paid trips to Cyprus in the Register of Members' Interests. Mr Meale is among them, though Mr Prescott paid for his stay in Cyprus this September.

The shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Transport and the Regions, Gillian Shephard, said Mr Prescott should make a statement about Labour's links with the Greek Cypriot community.

"He needs to make clear what sort of visits are being made to Cyprus by members of his department, and this includes Alan Meale. He needs also to make it absolutely clear ... why he should choose to go to Barnet twice to relatively low profile occasions," she said.

Mrs Shephard wrote to Tony Blair yesterday protesting at claims that Mr Meale's action fell into "an area of greyness" in the rules.

Mr Prescott and Tony Blair both defended the government yesterday without giving Mr Meale their full backing. Mr Prescott told a news conference on climate change that he had little to add to a statement on Sunday. "I think we made it absolutely clear in our statement that nothing improper had happened ... and I am very happy about that," he said.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said Tony Blair was "perfectly satisfied" with the way John Prescott's department had handled the issue.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower