Tony Blair banned from staying at British embassies on pvt missions
London, Jan 3: Tony Blair and other former prime ministers have been banned from staying for free at taxpayers expense at British embassies and using diplomats to help carry out their private commercial work, a media report has said.
The Foreign Office said that it wanted to prevent the "inappropriate use" of government staff and resources and avoid the perception abroad that such figures were representing the UK Government, the Telegraph reported.
It has directed UK ambassadors not to help ex-ministers with their private business work. Instead, ex-ministers will only be able to make use of embassies and staff if they are working on official business, the report said.
The move comes in the backdrop of a report by the paper that Blair –who has made millions of pounds since standing down as prime minister in 2007 –stayed rent-free in British embassies in France and the US at the taxpayers expense.
The paper had previously reported how Blair was given the run of the British ambassador's official residence in Manila on a trip during which he was paid almost 400,000 pounds for two speeches.
He also stayed at the UK embassy in Tripoli when meeting Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi on private business.
"Under the new guidance there will be a general ban on embassies arranging meetings for former ministers or putting them up in official residences," the paper said.
Citing a source, it said that ministers wanted to stop ex-ministers using state property overseas "for their own financial gain".
Government sources confirmed that "a number of former prime ministers/ministers have been using missions to host or assist in arranging visits abroad that are associated with their private commercial interests, rather than HMG visits. This has included asking ambassadors to set up meetings", the paper said.
"It is not the job of British diplomats to help former ministers with their own private financial interests by arranging meetings and programmes with foreign governments," the paper quoted a Foreign Office source as saying.
"Ministers have tightened up the guidance to overseas posts, to make it clear that this is not acceptable," it said.
"It isn’'t right that taxpayers should foot the bill for former prime ministers staying in ambassadors’ residences when they are visiting on private business," the paper quoted a Whitehall source as saying.
A spokesman for Blair, who ceased to be an MP in 2007, said of his travels around the world: "As with other former prime ministers, Blair has been invited to stay at embassies, though for the majority of visits he would stay in a hotel."