Prescott credit card was cloned: Ex-Hull MP slams attempt to 'blacken his name'
FORMER Hull MP John Prescott has been cleared of misusing a public credit card after officials revealed it had been cloned.
An investigation was launched after a number of unusual payments were discovered on a credit card used by Mr Prescott's office while he was Deputy Prime Minister.
They included a £400 bill at Mr Chu's Chinese restaurant at St Andrew's Quay, in Hull, and almost £2,000 of food from the sandwich chain Pret A Manger.
There was also a £456 bill paid during a visit to a Sydney casino during a trip to Australia by Lord Prescott, ahead of moves to relax the UK's gambling laws.
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But an investigation by Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell has now concluded all but seven of the payments made on the credit card were legitimate.
The exceptions involved transactions from a cloned credit card.
The former East Hull MP said he was pleased he had been cleared of any wrong-doing, but was still angry over what he claimed had been a politically orchestrated attack on his character.
He said: "To go round implying I was using this credit card to gamble in a casino is just not on.
"We were very careful to make sure the only money being spent during that visit was on a meal for the department officials present.
"What annoys me the most is that they have released details of all my department's transactions under £500, so you get everyone putting two and two together and coming up with five.
"I have asked every Government department through Freedom Of Information requests to release information on every transaction under £500 over the past financial year and each department has replied saying the same thing – it's not possible because the cost of the work involving in getting that information would exceed the limit set for such requests.
"So how come the details about my department's spending were released?
"It seems to be one rule for me and one rule for everyone else.
"It also suggests this was a concerted political attempt to blacken my name, which was done at the taxpayers' expense.
"If that is the case, you would have to ask whether that was a legitimate use of public money."
The original details also included a bill for £58.90 spent at the Crooked Billet pub in east Hull.
At the time, Lord Prescott said he had never set foot in the pub, a claim later backed by landlord Andy Chadwick.
It's thought the transaction could have been made by one of Lord Prescott's security team during a visit to the city.
The veteran politician subsequently visited the pub to apologise for not popping in, despite living less than half a mile away.
Mr Prescott said: "I felt a bit bad saying I had never been in considering I drive past it all the time. I felt like I was giving the place a bit of stick."
In a letter, Sir Gus said: "The transactions were made some time ago and much of the documentation supporting them is no longer available.
"However, from the information available the expenditure appears to have ben legitimately incurred by the department, with the exception of seven transactions amounting to some £2,000 from cloned credit cards.
"This money has been recovered."
Sir Gus also confirmed that Lord Prescott did not personally hold any type of Government credit card while he was Deputy Prime Minister.
Mr Prescott had been publicly criticised by Conservative ministers Eric Pickles and Grant Shapps after details were released of the credit card bills dating between March 2004 and April 2006.