Blair drawn into controversy over apartment

Tony Blair was drawn into the controversy over the pounds 650,000 refurbishment of the Lord Chancellor's grace-and-favour apartment by Downing Street officials who said the Prime Minister may use the suite of rooms in the House of Lords for entertaining, writes Colin Brown.

Mr Blair has been under fire himself for some of the parties he has thrown at Downing Street since the election, but officials said last night the room for partying at Number 10 was too small. A spokesman said: "It's an idea we have been looking at for some time." And he stressed: "It pre-dates any press coverage of the refurbishment. There are restrictions in terms of Downing Street itself, although it is quite a large building the actual state rooms are quite small."

The Tories said Downing Street was trying to save face over the cost of the refurbishment and was making a belated attempt to justify the cost of the renovations.

Lord Irvine's apartments are being renovated at a cost to the taxpayer of pounds 650,000, including pounds 60,000 on wallpaper. There were even reports that he may be installing a Pugin thunderbox, or wooden lavatory.

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