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     Prescott defends deputy PM role  <<back  next>>

John Prescott is now chairing four more cabinet sub-committees than before the reshuffle, it has been announced.

Number 10 confirmed on Wednesday that the deputy prime minister now chairs nine sub-committees rather than the previous five.

Chairmanship of the constitutional affairs sub-committee and the electoral policy sub-committee has been transferred to Commons leader Jack Straw.

But Prescott will now chair sub-committees on domestic affairs, aging policy, public health, housing and planning, local and regional government, local government strategy and performance, inspection, animal rights activists and on the Post Office network.

He will also stand in for the prime minister on seven other committees including anti-social behaviour, energy and the environment, and schools policy.

A statement from Tony Blair also made clear that there was "no cost to public funds" from the deputy prime minister's use of the Dorneywood residence.

Appearing in the Commons on Wednesday for the first time since he was stripped of departmental responsibilities, Prescott defended his new portfolio.

The cabinet reshuffle earlier this month saw Prescott lose his department - which oversaw housing and local government policy - following the revelations over his affair with a civil service secretary.

But there has been anger that Prescott kept his title, salary and perks including grace and favour properties, car and driver.

Shadow constitutional affairs secretary Oliver Heald suggested that Prescott's main role was as "a sort of marriage guidance councillor between Number 10 and Number 11".

But Prescott said that a key part of his job was chairing the cabinet committees.

"The prime minister has given me an important job to do and I am getting on with it," he added.

17 May 2006

 Last updated: 17/05/2006 15:23:00

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