No regrets and no apologies from Irvine
Wednesday 04 March 1998
Declaring that he had no reason to apologise for the cost of the lavish restorations, the Lord Chancellor said future generations would be "grateful" for the quality of the work done on his grace-and-favour accommodation in the Palace of Westminster.
The Lord Chancellor could not go down to B&Q or Homebase for his wallpaper, he made clear to MPs on the cross-party committee on public administration.
"We are talking about quality materials which are capable of lasting for 60 or 70 years. We are not talking about something down in a DIY store which may collapse after a year or two," he said. "While I understand that pounds 650,000 appears to be a large sum of money I believe it is a noble cause and future generations will be grateful."
MPs were startled at the boldness of a man who, in a few ponderous legal sentences, had transformed himself from a national hate-figure, plundering the public art galleries for his walls, into a self-declared defender of the national heritage.
There was a point during his evidence when the Lord Chancellor appeared to be so impressed by his own replies, that he paused as if expecting applause from the MPs.
Instead, he was relentlessly pursued for two hours by a pack of Tory MPs. He dismissed the row over the refurbishment as a "remarkable storm in a teacup although I entirely accept that pounds 650,000 is a substantial sum of money".
Challenged by Tory MP Andrew Tyrie (Chichester) if he would echo the famous "je ne regrette rien" words of former Conservative Chancellor Norman Lamont.
Lord Irvine replied: "I certainly do not think that any apologies are due.
"On the contrary, I tend to side with those commentators who have said, `three cheers for this being done in Parliament and three cheers for the House committees that decided to do it'."
Living up to his image as one of the most imperious Lord Chancellor's of recent years, Lord Irvine swept aside suggestions that he was looking for a personal spin doctor because he had made such a hash of his own self-publicity since taking office.
The extent of any damage to his authority as Britain's senior law officer will be put to the test today when he unveils a fresh consultation document on proposals for reforming legal aid.
The Lord Chancellor dismissed the row about the cost of his interior decorating as a "storm in a teacup". But it has proved impossible to go ahead with plans for depriving some of the poorest people in the country of legal aid, while at the same time as spending more than half a million pounds on soft furnishings.
He will announce that he is substantially watering down the plans announced four months ago to scrap legal aid for all civil claims. It will be abolished for accident victims, who will be expected to sue with lawyers acting on a no-win, no-fee basis. Legal aid for medical negligence cases will be restricted to lawyers who are specialists in the subject.
Life & Style blogs
Who is Teresa Fidalgo? Debunking the fake ghost story that's got Instagram spooked
Penis size study: what's 'normal' anyway?
What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
International Space Station’s huge size shown in spacewalk image
Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'
- 1 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 2 Ed Miliband less influential than One Direction's Louis Tomlinson in official Doncaster power list
- 3 Japanese island overrun with cats after population explodes
- 4 Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
- 5 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
£16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Teleradiology s...
£19000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Telera...
£14600 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established in 2003 the company...
£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing, Google certi...