Irvine pleads artistic licence

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MARCELLE d'Argy Smith, the former editor of Cosmopolitan, was last night told to leave a charity event at the Lord Chancellor's grace and favour apartment after taking photographs of Lord Irvine's pounds 59,000 wallpaper.

Ms d'Argy Smith, editor of Woman's Journal, was taken to the Palace of Westminster security and required to sign a form agreeing not to publish the photographs before being allowed to leave with her film.

A spokeswoman for the charity said: "Everyone knew that that was not part of the deal and that no one was allowed to take photographs. We could have raised thousands for charity if we had been allowed to do it."

Ms d'Argy Smith was one of the guests given a the first chance to see the controversial pounds 650,000 refurbishment of the Lord Chancellor's apartments at a pounds 35-a-head fund-raising party by Womankind Worldwide hosted by Lord Irvine.

The Lord Chancellor told his guests 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.

Welcoming about 100 guests 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."

It was being held to celebrate women's achievements in the legal profession. Those invited included 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 also launched the charity's Civil Literacy for Women campaign to educate women about their legal rights.