Jack Straw is chairing the Cabinet meeting today while Deputy Leader John Prescott remains ill in hospital with pneumonia.

Yesterday the 69-year-old politician was moved to a high-dependency unit at University College Hospital, although his office insist that this is not because his condition is deteriorating but to allow closer monitoring.

In a statement, Mr Prescott’s spokesman said: “The Deputy Prime Minister’s Office has confirmed that the Deputy Prime Minister is suffering from pneumonia.

“He has been moved to a high-dependency unit, not because of a deterioration in his condition but so that his condition can be monitored more closely.”

He was taken ill on a journey between his Hull constituency and London.

There was some speculation that Gordon Brown, as the Prime Minister in-waiting would chair the Cabinet meeting today, as Tony Blair is attending the G8 summit in Germany.

But instead Jack Straw, Leader of the House of Commons, will take charge.

Downing Street have sent get-well wishes to Mr Prescott, who was well enough to talk to his wife on the phone this morning.

There was mild amusement in January when Mr Prescott revealed his exposure to gay men while working on a cruise ship in the 1950s.

Mr Prescott is suffering from pneumonia, an illness of the lungs and respiratory system which mostly affects people over 70 and is fatal in 5 per cent of cases.

He was speaking about his experiences as a crew member of the RMS Rangitata in 1957.

With his trademark clarity, Mr Prescott reminisced that, “the thing that struck me most was that when I joined it they didn’t sail out the North, they sailed out the South and there were a lot of gay guys on board and I was quite amazed at this.

“And I remember saying, spending three months on a voyage and there were ten gay guys in a room and I said, ‘I’m not staying in a room like this.’ Anyway I went in another room,” reports The Daily Mail.

The North/South comment seems to mean that the gay crew came from Southern England.

Last year the DPM spoke up for gay rights while standing in at Prime Minister’s Questions for Tony Blair.

Asked by the DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson about the Sexual Orientation Regulations’ effect on religious people in Northern Ireland, Mr Prescott could not have been more eloquent in his defence of equality.

“I am not a religious man, but I always understood that religion was about tolerance. There is not much tolerance being shown in what the hon. Gentleman has said.

“It is a pity that we do not show more tolerance to different cultures and different religions. We would be a lot better off for it.”

Earlier this year it was announced that London’s Millennium Dome, owned by homophobic billionaire Philip Anschutz, will not play host to the UK’s first super-casino.

In July 2006, a scandal engulfed Mr Prescott over his undeclared stay on Mr Anschutz’s Colorado ranch.

Mr Anschutz has donated large sums of money to Colorado for Family Values, an organisation with explicitly homophobic views.

He is also a major patron of the Republican Party and funded “Amendment 2,” a voter initiated ballot to overturn gay rights in the state of Colorado.

He is also a major donor for the Institute for American Values, who campaign against single parent families.