Fergie's baubles slip through gap in policy

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We can exclusively reveal why the scatter-brained Duchess of York looked so relieved when the Federal Bureau of Investigation recovered her baubles. They were not insured. As it stands the accident-prone ambassador will be reduced to asking for an ex gratia payment from her insurers to pay for the damage done to the pounds 250,000 necklace. Because she is the daughter-in-law of the monarch this is certain to be forthcoming.

Unlike Windsor Castle (which belongs to the nation), the Royal personal effects are insured. But there are special conditions attached. One of the requirements is that the jewels be either worn by - or "under the personal supervision of'' - the insured whenever they are taken out of the safety deposit box.

''Clearly there is not going to be much personal supervision in the hold of a 747 ,'' one insider said.

The Royal insurance is written in the London market, spread over a number of syndicates because no one syndicate wants to carry all the risk (and who can blame them?). A fun-loving duchess would need to do business with one of the three managing agents that write special policies for "high net worth individuals''. The market leader is Hiscox, which declines to comment on clients. "Pass,'' said a director.

These special policies allow the insured much more flexibility than standard contracts. They also allow the insured to behave like a buffoon (if it is felt the client acted honestly). For breaking all the rules the Duchess will earn a stiff reprimand and an ex gratia payment for any loss suffered. "We look at the person rather than the policy,'' said one high net worth insurer.

"If they seem intelligent and likely to look after their property we would accept them as a good risk. Once we have accepted the business we do not normally reconsider.''

The Queen's accountant was also on his knees yesterday. Colin Sharman, senior partner of KPMG, was seen swabbing down the floors in Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Hackney - part of a 40-strong socially conscious team led by his secretary. "If a photographer turns up, you're dead,'' he hissed.

It comes as no surprise to learn that Rebecca Jenkins, managing director of the Lane Group, has won the Cosmopolitan/ American Express achievement award for Industry.

Lane Group is a Bristol-based haulage company and the judges were impressed by Ms Jenkins's ability to extract a doubled turnover from her 100 truck drivers since she took over at the company in 1989.

Mattel is forced to admit that there is now a world shortage of Barbie dolls. This year's Happy Holiday edition (dressed in white lace petticoat and sequin gown) has proven too much for the 100,000 sad souls who spend their lives collecting the dolls. They have been carrying the dolls from US stores in armfuls and Mattel concedes that it cannot keep up with demand.

For the record, the 1988 Happy Holiday edition is still the most prized, changing hands for $800 - 20 times the retail price.

Alistair Darling is put off the concept of wider share ownership for life after a frightful to-do during the annual ProShare dinner at the Dorchester. This was the first time that a Labour City spokesman had dined with this breed of capitalist and it was unfortunate that the cabaret act - an intimidating imitation of Shirley Bassey - should take a fancy to the silver-haired politician. Belting out the lyrics "Kiss me, Kiss me, Kiss me'' the singer slunk over to Mr Darling and began grinding her hips suggestively - much to the amusement of a smug Michael Heseltine at the next table who appeared grateful not to have to handle this particular hot potato.