Politics: Call for Irvine's job to go

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The Independent Online
TONY BLAIR yesterday slapped down a Labour backbench call for Lord Irvine of Lairg's post of Lord Chancellor to be abolished, and replaced by a Commons-based Secretary of State for Justice.

A Commons motion, sponsored by Robert Marshall-Andrews QC, and signed by 50 Labour MPs, prompted a Commons question to the Prime Minister during question time yesterday, when David Amess, Conservative MP for Southend West, said the MPs had lost confidence in Lord Irvine.

He said the MPs were not only demanding an end to Lord Irvine's extravagance - spending pounds 650,000 refurbishing his Lords apartments - but they wanted his job to be abolished, too.

The Prime Minister said there was no question of that. "No, I won't do that," he said, "because the manifesto commitment of the Labour Party in respect of reform both of criminal justice and legal aid is clear, and we are carrying them out under the excellent services of the Lord Chancellor."

Mr Marshall-Andrews, MP for Medway, said the motion was in no sense an attack of Lord Irvine, but rather an expression of concern over his constitutional role.

He said there was "a sense of unease that this is a very powerful public figure who is not elected. One can very quickly remedy that as part of the reform. It is, frankly, an anachronistic post".

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