5. James Duddridge (Rochford and Southend, East) (Con): What discussions he has had with the Department for Communities and Local Government in relation to casino bids? 6193]
The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. John Prescott): None.
James Duddridge: How can the Deputy Prime Minister not have had any discussions, given that Office of the Deputy Prime Minister civil servants, attending a Thames Gateway meeting in February, stated that Ministers would appreciate some joined-up thinking and would like a single bid for the Thames Gateway? Are those the same ODPM officials who received briefings from the Deputy Prime Minister following his meeting with the dome’s owner?
The Deputy Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman has made accusations in the press and in the Chamber about the feeling in his constituency about whether we interfered with its application for a casino. The former Tory mayor said that we had: the present Tory mayor has made it clear that that was not true—
James Duddridge: It wasn’t the mayor.
The Deputy Prime Minister: I shall quote what the Tory leader of Southend says— [ Interruption. ]
Mr. Speaker: Order. The hon. Member for Rochford and Southend, East (James Duddridge) cannot shout after he has asked his question. He may not be happy with the answer, but he should not shout.
The Deputy Prime Minister: The Tory leader in Southend said:
“There wasn’t any pressure put on us”.
I accept that man’s statement and that is exactly what happened. I know that the hon. Gentleman takes a keen interest in casino policy himself. I understand that his constituency party in Rochford and Southend, East receives funding from a company that wants to build a £15 million casino and hotel complex in Southend.
James Duddridge: That’s a lie.
The Deputy Prime Minister: It sounds to me as if the hon. Gentleman is a busted flush—[Hon. Members: “Withdraw.”]
Mr. Speaker: Order. It is difficult for me to be fair if I cannot hear what is going on. I shall take advice on what has just been said and make a ruling —[ Interruption. ] Order. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Steve McCabe) should be quiet. I understand that he is a Whip and I do not want Whips shouting from the Back Benches. The Deputy Prime Minister has made an allegation, but allegations have come from both sides of the House. The best thing to do is to ask questions and hear the answers without any allegations being made. That includes replies, which should not incorporate any allegations.
Duddridge came back later to say
James Duddridge (Rochford and Southend, East) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. During questions to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister this morning, I asked a question about casinos. In his reply, the Deputy Prime Minister accused me of receiving money from casinos via my Conservative association. That is wholly and totally untrue; it is a very concerning accusation that has no substance. What advice can you give about how I can place it on record that the accusation is untrue? Does Mr. Speaker have the power to call the right hon. Gentleman back to the House of Commons to set the record straight?
Mr. Deputy Speaker: I think that accusations of any kind, from any side of the House, should be thought through very carefully before they are made. They should not be made as often as they are, but the hon. Gentleman has succeeded in putting the matter on the record.
So who is lying here? . The local Tory councillors I have spoken to say they know nothing about any money from a Casino compnay.