Prescott vows homes bid was above board

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The Independent Online
JOHN PRESCOTT'S son spoke for the first time yesterday of the "nightmare" week he has spent since being accused of involvement in a controversial property deal.

As auditors prepared to hand over results of an investigation into the deal today, Johnathan Prescott junior told The Independent: "The whole thing was above board and the audit will prove it."

Mr Prescott, 34, broke his silence as one of the two self-styled "researchers" who have been touting information about his father denied being involved in a political dirty tricks campaign.

The Deputy Prime Minister ordered senior officials from the Department of the Environment to examine the sale of 25 houses from the North Hull Housing Action Trust to Wyke Developments Ltd, a company for which Mr Prescott junior works, for an average price of pounds 5,300 each.

Some have argued that the price was too low, but Mr Prescott junior said: "The deal was completely fair and completely normal. It was all above board.

"The past week has been an absolute nightmare, but I am sure the audit will show what really happened."

Mr Prescott referred to the actions of Ian Newton, 42, one of the "researchers" who was arrested and released on police bail in connection with a burglary at a city centre office in which some papers were stolen.

"People are beginning to see what sort of stuff has been going on," he said. "I won't go into details until after the auditor's report but I might have a lot to say afterwards."

Simon Cutting, Mr Prescott's employer, and a fellow director of Wyke Property Services Ltd, a holding company which will control the houses, said he had been given the option of selling on the houses immediately to first-time buyers - possibly at a profit - or of committing them for rental at up to pounds 50 a week for 10 years. He chose the latter, a move which will eventually result in a modest return.

"This is only happening because John is working for me and someone is out to get his father," he said. "Last summer, before we even got involved in this deal, someone was ringing estate agents and asking if they could get the same kind of `special rate' they gave to Simon Cutting and John Prescott.

"They were trying to suggest that we were in cahoots with the building society to organise repossessions. And they haven't given up on us yet."

The second researcher, Matthew Parkes, 31, who sought sanctuary from the media at a Hull police station on Tuesday night with Mr Newton, denied that disaffected Labour councillors had hired him to dig dirt on Mr Prescott senior.

He told the Yorkshire Post that he and Mr Newton had received only pounds 5 for photocopying and that money was not his motive.

"From my point of view we wanted to see whether there was anything in the sleaze allegations discussed on shopfloors in Hull," he said. "I certainly think there's enough here to warrant an inquiry."