Philip Hammond accepts £2,000 watch from Saudi sheikh, despite ban on donating expensive gifts

Mr Hammond argues he accepted the gift in his capacity as a constituency MP, meaning the ministerial rule did not apply

The Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond accepted a watch worth almost £2,000 from a Saudi sheikh despite a ban on ministers taking gifts worth more than £140.

Mr Hammond has argued he accepted the £1,950 watch in his capacity as a constituency MP, which meant the ministerial rule did not apply, The Sunday Times reported.

The watch was given to Mr Hammond by Sheikh Marei Mubarak Mahfouz bin Mahfouz after an event in the minister’s constituency of Runnymede and Weybridge this summer. Mr Hammond said the event, an unveiling of a statue of the Queen, was a “local commemoration” and he had sought official advice on how the gift should be registered. However the unveiling was part of the Magna Carta celebrations, which Mr Hammond had also been involved with as Foreign Secretary.

Last week the former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Ashdown said British foreign policy was being influenced by “the closeness between the Conservative Party and rich Arab Gulf individuals”.

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