BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: UK Politics
Front Page 
World 
UK 
UK Politics 
Interviews 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 

Thursday, 5 April, 2001, 00:40 GMT 01:40 UK
Cabinet minister criticises Sophie
Earl and Countess of Wessex arriving at hotel in Doha, Qatar
Overseas trip: Earl and Countess of Wessex
A cabinet minister has suggested the Countess of Wessex was ill-advised in making her reported comments to a "bogus sheikh".

Trade secretary Stephen Byers praised the Royal Family for promoting British trade but said it should not confuse "the public and the private".

Buckingham Palace has hit back at reports that the countess insulted members of the Royal Family and senior politicians in a secretly taped conversation.

The controversy began when a newspaper reporter posed as a sheikh wishing to do business with the countess's PR firm.

Mr Byers was asked on the BBC's Question Time programme what he would do if, like the countess, he was approached by a sheikh bearing a glass of champagne.

'Important lesson'

He said the Royal Family had a "very important role to play in promoting British trade" but warned: "What we cannot do is to allow people to confuse the public with the private.

"That is the important lesson for politicians and for the Royal Family as well."

Pressed as to whether he thought the countess and her husband, Prince Edward, had confused the two in their minds, he replied: "I am making a general point and people will draw their own conclusions from this.

"Both for politicians and for members of the royal family it is important to make the distinction between public and private.

"So if a sheikh came to me with a glass of champagne, I would make my excuses and leave."

The earl and countess returned to the UK on Wednesday as the row over the reported comments continued.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
BBC RADIO NEWS
BBC ONE TV NEWS
WORLD NEWS SUMMARY
PROGRAMMES GUIDE
See also:

25 Oct 99 | UK
Edward: Leave Sophie alone
05 Jul 99 | UK
Sophie goes back to work
07 Mar 00 | UK
Sophie's snow fall
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more UK Politics stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK Politics stories