Famous friends push up price of insurance

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The Independent Online
TONY BLAIR would like you to think he's the kind of guy who would drop in for a cup of tea, but you would be well advised to turn him away if one day he appears on your doorstep.

An insurance company has refused to insure people who have any contact with the famous because, they claim, the risks are too great.

Direct Line, one of the biggest and fastest growing companies in the country, refused insurance to Peter Kellner, the political analyst, because, they said, it was possible that Tony Blair might visit his house and have an accident.

Adrian Webb, the company's spokesman, said they asked everyone their occupation and the question of whether Mr Kellner knew anyone famous followed on from that.

"Suppose Tony Blair did come to your house, tripped over a piece of loose stair carpeting and ended up in hospital. We would be liable. The risk is too great," he said.

"Everyone's policy is calculated on the basis of risk, and certain occupations have a higher risk if the person is exposed to situations where they may expect to have a public figure in their home."

He added: "We do not cover theatrical agents, although that would apply more to car insurance," he said. "We would want to know if they gave lifts to famous people as there is always the risk of an accident."

Alan Saunders, spokesman for Creation Records, said people working in the music industry also tended to have very high insurance premiums.

"As soon as you tell them your occupation the price rockets," he said. "You might be transporting famous people in your car and their lives are worth a lot of money so the insurance costs a lot more.

"Insurance companies also tend to assume that you're a drug crazed alcoholic if you work in the music industry, which tends to push the cost up as well."

But Guardian Direct said they had no problems with insuring celebrities and never asked if the client knew anyone famous.

"We would never turn someone down just because they knew someone famous who might visit," said Ben Connor.

"You would be covered whether it was Tony Blair who fell down the stairs or the postman.

"We have a lot of famous people on our books and they probably entertain other famous people at home but we just don't ask. We also provide motor insurance for several sportsmen whose legs are very valuable for instance."

Mike Williams, chief executive of the British Insurance and Investment Brokers Association, said he had never heard the fame question before.

"More companies are asking `lifestyle' questions about how many televisions people own and whether they smoke, but asking about their friends is quite unique.

"What they are saying is that it will cost more to reimburse someone who is injured in your house if it is someone famous or wealthy. But are you going to ask all you friends how much money they have before you let them cross the doorstep?"