The prime minister has paid tribute to Jk Rowling after she was awarded an outstanding achievement prize at the 2008 Galaxy British Book awards.

Gordon Brown said he and his wife Sarah were "lucky enough" to call the Harry Potter author a friend and thanked her for her "quiet" charity work.

"She has joined a distinguished line of British authors whose work has got the whole country reading, and whose books will be read for many years to come by successive generations," he said in a video message.

"That alone is worthy of an award, because we all know reading is the gateway to learning and fulfilment for every generation."

Rowling, 42, thanked the awards body for recognising her career was not yet finished and joked: "I haven't been pensioned off just yet with a Lifetime Achievement Award."

She was one of several authors honoured at the annual awards, with Ian McEwan winning the book of the year prize for On Chesil Beach and also claiming the Reader's Digest author of the year prize.

Khaled Hosseini, author of controversial novel The Kite Runner claimed the 'best read' prize for A Thousand Splendid Suns.

And in one of the night's biggest surprises, Russell Brand took the biography of the year award, ahead of the likes of Richard Hammond, Clarissa Dickson-Wright and Alastair Campbell.

"If it's one of them votes where it was rigged, thanks for rigging it in my favour," he joked while accepting the award from US talkshow host Jay Leno.

10/04/2008 14:29:35