Politics: Irvine's pounds 70,000 PR

Britain's most powerful lawyer, Lord Irvine of Lairg, is to appoint a senior communications adviser to his department at a likely salary of around pounds 70,000.

The Cabinet minister, who recently sparked criticism when he jokingly compared himself to Henry VIII's influential Lord Chancellor, Cardinal Wolsey, wants a high-level press adviser to reflect his enhanced role in the Blair government.

He is to appoint a director of communications at civil service grade three ranking - the most senior ever, it was confirmed yesterday.

A spokesman for the Lord Chancellor's department said Lord Irvine had taken his decision in the light of the Mountfield Report into the Government Information and Communication Service, published at the end of last year.

"Most government departments are taking a look at their information divisions," the spokesman said.

"The Lord Chancellor has increased responsibilities and so there may well be a restructuring of the communications branch of his department. As is quite obvious, the Lord Chancellor has far greater responsibilities in the constitutional reform work and the Cabinet committees he is involved in than his predecessor had."

The new appointment could command a salary of pounds 70,000 and would be several civil service grades above the existing press chief, Sheila Thompson.

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