Redecoration? It was not my idea, says Lord Irvine

THE Lord Chancellor yesterday insisted he had no responsibility for the pounds 650,000 restoration of his grace and favour residence in the House of Lords.

In an attempt to restore some of the shine to his reputation as England's most senior law officer, and end the controversy, he issued a statement saying responsibility rested with three committees for the choice of wallpaper, furniture and fittings, which include a new lavatory. It made clear he had not been responsible for the decision to use wallpaper costing pounds 59,211, beds at pounds 8,000 each, or Pugin-style furniture to fill the apartment.

The move, which Downing Street had also hoped would stop the damage, did nothing to stop the flow of questions from Lord Irvine's Tory tormenters and the press in a campaign which the Government fears is verging on a vendetta. The Tories said the statement raised more questions than it answered.

The statement said the decision to refurbish his apartment had been taken by the Lords committees for works and finance chaired by Lord Boston of Faversham, 67, a Labour peer and former minister, and approved by the House of Lords Offices Committee and the whole House of Lords.

"The decision to refurbish the Residence was made by the relevant House authorities and not by the Lord Chancellor," said Lord Irvine, who also denied earlier suggestions that the restoration had been inherited from the previous Tory government.

An aide said: "Once the decision was made to refurbish the Residence, it had to be done to House of Lords standards. That is Pugin. It has to be done to that quality." However, one Whitehall source said Lady Irvine may well have been consulted by her husband on which wallpaper to have.