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US 'homemaker' Martha Stewart is banned from entering Britain

The American lifestyle guru Martha Stewart has joined the radical Islamic preacher Yusuf al-Qaradawi and US rap star Snoop Dogg on the list of high-profile figures to be denied entry to the UK by the Home Office.

Ms Stewart, 66, who turned her home catering business into a multi-million pound media empire and is regarded in the US as the leading authority on "homemaking", was due to fly to Britain for a business trip next week but is thought to have been refused entry because she has a criminal record.

In 2004 she was sentenced to five months in prison after being found guilty of lying to investigators during an investigation into whether she and her stockbroker had been involved in insider trading. The UK Border and Immigration Agency released a statement saying the Government "continuesto oppose" entry to the UK for those who have been found guilty of "serious criminal offences abroad".

Lying to government agencies is a federal crime in the United States and could easily be considered a serious enough crime in Britain to warrant exclusion from the country.

Ms Stewart had been due to speak at the Royal Academy during her trip as well as hold meetings with a number of businesses.

Ms Stewart was planning to meet executives from the Wedgwood china company in Stoke-on-Trent. The company has a product line which bears her name.

Andrew Stanistreet, communications executive at Wedgwood, confirmed that their meeting had been postponed.

"I can't really shed much more on the situation but it is true that Martha was intending to visit Wedgwood as part of a business trip she was making and, at the moment, we are unsure whether she will be allowed access into the UK," he said. He added: "It's very disappointing and we hope it will be resolved soon."

Andrew Neil, the former Sunday Times editor, who had been due to have dinner with Ms Stewart in London next week, also confirmed he had been told the celebrity homemaker had been denied an entry visa. "I've seen a letter to her saying she is not being allowed in," he said.

The celebrity was also hoping to film episodes of her television programme, The Martha Stewart Show, in Britain.

A spokesperson for Ms Stewart, who has visited Britain on numerous occasions, said her client hoped to resolve the issue soon.