Irvine pleads artistic licence

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The Independent Online
THE LORD Chancellor said last night that it was better to have fine works of art on his walls than have them "languishing in cellars" when he threw open the doors of his grace-and-favour apartment in the Lords for the first time since its controversial pounds 650,000 refurbishment.

Welcoming around 100 guests from the Womankind Worldwide charity to the River Room, Lord Irvine said: "I'm not going to ask you what you think about it. Someone once said you have to suffer for your art - and it is not even my art! I hope you will agree with the trustees of the lending museums that it is better for these beautiful pictures and sculptures to be here - available for people to see - rather than languishing in cellars where no one can enjoy them."

The guests getting a preview before the work is finished and officially opened to media scrutiny next month were attending a pounds 35-a-head fundraising reception hosted by Lord Irvine for the charity. It was being held to celebrate women's achievements in the legal profession, and those invited include Cherie Booth QC, the Prime Minister's wife, who, as an assistant recorder in county courts, is on the first rung of the ladder to becoming a judge.

The charity helps women in Third World countries fight poverty and oppression and the event, which will be followed by other openings for invited groups, also launched the charity's Civil Literacy for Women campaign to educate women about their legal rights.

As Britain's senior law officer, Lord Irvine told his guests he would do all he could to give women lawyers a fair chance to become judges. He said women should be proud of what they had achieved in the legal profession "against the odds". But he added: "We must do more to break down the barriers women still face - barriers to joining the legal profession, and barriers to making progress within it ...My duty is to ensure we are not deprived of their talent by creating the conditions in which ambitious women can make their mark."