Tradition: Irvine to swap his ceremonial robes for 'comfortable' attire

THE LORD Chancellor, Lord Irvine of Lairg, succeeded yesterday in his wish to abandon his 17th-century ceremonial costume of tights, breeches, buckled shoes and wig in favour of more comfortable clothes.

In a modest move towards the modernisation of the Lords, peers decided by 145 to 115 in a free vote to allow him to wear plain black trousers and shoes except on ceremonial occasions.

Lord Irvine said that he faced 13 or 14 hours at a time wearing the traditional costume during the second reading and report stages of Bills. "The wig weighs an absolute ton. It is very uncomfortable," he said.

However, speaking during a lively debate, Earl Ferrers, former Conservative deputy leader of the Lords, dismissed it as "another example of the Government salami-slicing away at tradition" and a "retrograde step".

"The office of Lord Chancellor is one of the highest in the land, and the ceremonial which goes with that office and the uniform that attaches to that office is very important. In my view any attempt to dress down is wrong, nor do I think it is incumbent on whoever happens to be the holder at any time of this prestigious office to say, 'I don't really like this uniform'."

He said one could imagine Guardsmen suggesting they do away with their "silly old bearskins" because they were out of date. Uniforms were a "symbol of what has gone before and on which the present is built", he added.

Referring to the controversial pounds 60,000 refurbishment of Lord Irvine's official apartments at Westminster, Lord Ferrers said: "It would seem curious, for one who is so punctilious that his apartment correctly reflects history, that the same critical analysis should not apply to the Lord Chancellor's dress as well."

Defending the Lord Chancellor's request, Lord Strabolgi, a Labour peer, said times had moved on and reminded peers that Lords used to wear frock coats and top hats at the beginning of the century.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill, a Liberal Democrat peer, said the Lord Chancellor's dress made a "mockery" of the significance of his office. "As a barrister of 35 years' standing, I wish that the Lord Chancellor will liberate me and my colleagues from the outmoded, uncomfortable, unhygienic and unhealthy wigs we presently have to wear," he added.

Peers also approved for the Lord Chancellor to be able to speak from the Government front bench in his role as a minister without his wig and gown as he already does on committee stages of government Bills. He will continue to sit on the Woolsack for question time or the formal stages of Bills.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before