I won't quit, says defiant Prescott

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A defiant John Prescott today declared that he had no intention of standing down as Deputy Prime Minister.

Mr Prescott said that he was "very sorry" about the damage done to the Government by the disclosures earlier this year of his affair with his diary secretary, Tracey Temple.

But he strongly defended his contacts with the American billionaire Philip Anschutz, who is involved in plans to build a super casino at the Millennium Dome, and denied any suggestion of improper influence.

And he said that he would not bow to pressure from the Tories and the media to quit over the issue.

"I will get on with doing my job and I am not leaving it, I am getting on with it," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

He acknowledged however that the publicity he had attracted since the disclosure of his affair with Ms Temple had not helped the Government.

"I am very sorry for what has happened. I do believe in a way it's not been good for my party or Government. Of course I am conscious of that," he said.

"All my life has been that, I have never had another job, I had never had a penny off anyone else, all I've done is this job, but when I get involved, as I have been, in these incidents I am extremely sorry."

Ministers arriving at 10 Downing Street for Cabinet this morning maintained a stony silence as reporters asked them if Mr Prescott continued to enjoy their support.

The Deputy Prime Minister himself arrived early at No 10, entering by a back door to chair a committee meeting before Cabinet.

Mr Prescott left Downing Street about 20 minutes after Cabinet started.

He said nothing to waiting reporters as he got into his Ministerial car and was driven away.

The apparently calm DPM made no response as reporters asked him if he had put pressure on the Culture Department over plans for a casino at the Dome.

Mr Prescott confirmed on the Today programme that he had met Mr Anschutz - who acquired the lease for the Dome in 2002 - seven times over a three-year period, including a two-night stay at his Colorado ranch.

However, he insisted that he had "separated" himself from any planning decisions made by his department in relation to the site, which were handled by his junior ministers, Chris Leslie and Lord Rooker.

"I had no influence over planning decisions in these matters," he said.

He flatly denied that he had brought pressure to bear to ensure that the Dome was the only bidder for a regional casino licence from the Thames Gateway area.

"I wasn't involved in any way. Categorically I can say that. In no way did I express an opinion, as I hear it is being reported in the papers, that I was supporting some link for the tender," he said.

"Absolute rubbish. Not involved. Very clear about it."

He said that after Mr Anschutz had acquired the Dome lease, he had agreed to meet every six months so that he could be updated on progress at the site.

He praised the tycoon for taking on the Dome and turning a "poisonous bit of land" into a "jewel of London".

"If a man asks to see me, if he comes offering that, I will see him every three months," he said.

He stressed that he had not discussed the Dome when he and three officials stayed at Mr Anschutz's ranch last year as the issue had been dealt with at their earlier meetings.

He said he had accepted the invitation, during a working visit to the US to discuss agriculture and international trade, in order to see a working ranch for himself.

"That is why I took that opportunity, probably not only to look at a working cattle ranch but to visit one. I am curious about it. I saw the cowboy films over my young years, I was interested to have a look at it," he said.

"Here was a chance not just to sit in a hotel, go by the pool and do nothing, but learn a little bit more about some international kind of problems."

It is understood that Mr Prescott left the hour-long Cabinet meeting early in order to travel to his constituency of Hull, where later today he is due attend the opening of a centre in memory of the anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce.

Throughout the interview on the Today programme, Mr Prescott denied that he had been involved in decisions concerning the casino licence.

"I was never involved in any such action. People better bring the evidence," he said.

"If you say to me, were there some civil servants down the line exercising some judgment about this in a view of the circumstances, I was not involved in it, didn't even know about it until I read in the Press, totally reject any idea I expressed any pressure whatsoever.

"The suggestion at the end of the day was my meeting with Mr Anschutz was somehow giving him preference for a bid. It was not, I did not get involved and there is no evidence to that fact at all."

Mr Prescott hit out at the Press coverage he had been receiving in recent weeks.

"I know there is a media storm against me. They don't like me and, to be honest, I don't like them," he said.

He refused, however, to be drawn on the rumours circulating on the internet of other extramarital affairs.

"You are talking about a lot of people here who have, in fact, denied these stories. Names have been mentioned, some of them are in the process of perhaps suing about it. I am not going to get involved in that. I have made my statement about making the mistake. I am leaving it at that," he said.

He appealed to be allowed to get on with his job as Deputy Prime Minister and not be deflected by other matters.

"I have made my mistake, I have made my denials. It doesn't make any difference, of course, to what the Press say, but I will keep on saying 'I'll get on with my job'. People must judge me on what I do on the job. I know that's controversial," he said.