"It was an oversight. The Lord Chancellor will be reimbursing the cost," said a spokesman for his office. "It's the sort of thing that can happen in a busy office."
The Lord Chancellor used his Department's letter heading for an invitation to a cocktail reception at the Garrick on 24 March for Andrew Patrick, the managing director of the Fine Arts Society, to support his application to rejoin the club.
His spokesman said Lord Irvine had intended to use House of Lords paper but a mistake had been made in his private office. Using the letterhead of the Houses of Parliament for a private party would be frowned on in the Commons, which forbids MPs using its stationery for private use, but, the spokesman said: "The Lords are a lot more relaxed."
The cost of the stationery was estimated at less than pounds 5 but Opposition MPs accused the Lord Chancellor of displaying arrogance of office. "The Lord Chancellor has demonstrated a certain degree of haughtiness," said Edward Garnier MP, a lawyer and Tory spokesman on legal affairs.