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Last Updated:  Friday, 14 March, 2003, 14:55 GMT
Blair's ministerial gifts revealed
Jacques Chirac
Chirac: One fountain pen down
Prime Minister Tony Blair has spent 500 buying a fountain pen from the taxpayer which had been given to him by French President Jacques Chirac.

As the two leaders continue to square up over a second United Nations resolution over Iraq, Downing Street confirmed that the official gift was one of a number Mr Blair has chosen to keep during his premiership.

The pen is part of an extensive list of gifts given to Mr Blair and other ministers by foreign governments, companies and others.

The release of the list follows controversy after Downing Street initially rejected a recommendation from the Parliamentary Ombudsman that items should be disclosed to the public.

But the list only includes items considered to be worth more than 140, meaning that small gifts given to ministers will remain unknown.

Ministerial code

The list reveals that most of the items are held by government departments and includes works of art, watches, wine and jewellery.

Blair: Downing St resisted publication
Where they wish to keep a gift personally, the ministerial code of conduct allows them to buy it off the taxpayer if they make up the difference in its value over the first 140.

According to the list, gifts given to the prime minister include three guitars - one of them from rock star Bryan Adams.

There is also a dagger from the Sultan of Oman, a nativity scene from Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and a selection of mementoes of a G8 summit, including a dressing gown.

Mr Blair chose to pay for a 275 camera, a wooden screen from Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf, a painting from China, two tennis rackets from a sports firm and a ring from an anonymous admirer.

He donated three hampers, given to him last Christmas, to charity.

Ministerial gifts

At least one item, an Arab sword given to a Scottish Office minister, is to be displayed in a museum.

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon was given a silver eagle by the Government of Albania and a pen by US defence technology firm General Dynamics.

Other gifts given to ministers include a tie, two walking sticks, an Argentinian cigar box and a Bahraini coffee pot.

The Muslim Council of Britain presented Home Secretary David Blunkett with a painting while his ministers were also given a rug from the government of Afghanistan.

Lord Chancellor Lord Irvine was given a porcelain tea set, a Chinese painting, a card holder and a collection of prints from various foreign governments. A junior in his department was given an engraved trowel from a building firm.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, a former ship's steward, was presented with a model ship along with a camera, two brooches, a necklace and cufflinks by a number of firms in September last year, at the time of the TUC conference in Blackpool.

Several departments have declared receiving no gifts over the 140 mark. The register will appear annually and has come after the Guardian newspaper made a complaint to the Parliamentary Ombudsman over Downing Street's refusal to reveal the list.




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