Friday, July 21, 2006

Prescott v Duddridge

There was a nasty clash in parliament on Wednesday between John Prescott and James Duddridge, Tory MP for Rochford and Southend East. Duddridge is a new MP (the successor to Teddy Taylor) and not known for being particularly aggressive towards Labour. However this exchange over Southend Council's attempts to get a casino, as reported in Hansard, ends with a lot of shouting...

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.


Martin said...

Are any of the donors listed on the Electoral Commission website a casino company?

* Trygon Limited
* Stockvale Limited
* Southend United Football Club
* Astimwood Properties Limited
* United & Cecil Club
* Brian T Kelly

Paul Walter said...

* Trygon Limited - aviation
* ICC - see below
* Stockvale Limited - local radio
* Southend United Football Club
* Astimwood Properties Limited - property inc SOuthend Travelodge
* United & Cecil Club - Tory dining club
* Brian T Kelly - ?

ICC - it depends what ICC stands for. There are loads of things which have the abbreviation of ICC including the International Cricket Council, International Criminal Court etc etc.
One of the things which ICC does stand for InterContinental Casinos - their web site is here:

I would not dream of suggesting any connection but perhaps there is some way of knowing what the "ICC" in the Conservative accounts actually stands for.

James said...

The ICC in question could not be Intercontinental Casinos because that would count as a company donation. ICC is listed as an unincorporated association. Unless an unincorporated association chooses to be open, it is almost impossible to learn anything about them as they are not legal entities.

Allowing unincorporated associations to donate to parties is a major loophole in current party finance laws and one that the Tories, more than anyone else, have leapt through.

If Duddridge chooses to accept donations from mysterious bodies, he can hardly get upset when people start casting aspertions.

Chris Black said...

I'm extremely impressed by the detective work!

According to the our local paper tonight, Duddridge says the money comes from Astimwood, who one the building that used to be Keddies Department Store. At one stage they planned a casino there, but by the time they donated the money in 2005, they had changed their minds...

Praguetory said...

The Speaker was typically incompetent in this exchange.

PoliticalHack said...

A little detective work shows that ICC is located at the address used by Cllr Brian Kelly.

Praguetory said...

Politicalhack - I like you but you are a scary person.

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