'18 months to abolish role of Lord Chancellor'

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The Independent Online

Abolishing the role of Lord Chancellor would take 18 months, Peter Hain, the Leader of the Commons, said yesterday as he fired a parting shot at Lord Irvine, who retired from the post last week.

In a rowdy Opposition-led debate on Tony Blair's reshuffle, Mr Hain said he looked forward to Iain Duncan Smith campaigning at the next general election on "that great issue of the 21st century - bring back the Lord Chancellor - wig, breeches, train-bearer, wallpaper and outdated role." Lord Irvine attracted controversy after his official residence was redecorated at a cost of £650,000 with wallpaper costing £300 a roll.

A Tory motion calling for the Government to halt the changes until there was proper consultation on them was defeated by 327 votes to 183 after a four-hour debate.

Mr Hain was speaking after Mr Blair declined to go head-to-head with Mr Duncan Smith to answer claims that his ministerial shake-up was a shambles.Eric Forth, the Shadow Leader of the Commons said Mr Blair had been "guilty of breathless arrogance and supreme incompetence".

The Prime Minister will defend his decisions in a Commons statement today.