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Monday, February 23, 1998 Published at 16:23 GMT


Lord Irvine hits back at critics
image: [ The Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine, says he did not decide on the refurbishment of his apartment ]
The Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine, says he did not decide on the refurbishment of his apartment

The Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine, has hit back at critics of the controversial £650,000 refurbishment of his official residence and his decision to borrow works of art from public galleries.

The BBC's legal affairs correspondent Joshua Rozenberg analyses the statement (1'25")
In his first personal statement on the matter, Lord Irvine said that he did not decide to upgrade his apartments in the Palace of Westminster. He said the decision was made by the House of Lords.

He also said that artworks which will be displayed there would come from reserve collections. He added that the public would be able to view his rooms and the works of art.

He said the decision to refurbish his residence was made by several Lords committees and agreed by the full House.

"The quality of the refurbishment of the Lord Chancellor's residence is determined by the decisions of these committees and is to no higher a standard than would apply to any other part of the Palace of Westminster of comparable importance," he said.

Lord Irvine also said that the building was an important part of national heritage and deserved to be maintained in a historically authentic manner.

He pointed out that Lord Boston of Faversham, chairman of Lords committees, had said in July last year that a duty was owed to future generations to ensure that the building was maintained in such a way that they could appreciate it.

Lord Irvine also insisted that neither he nor his department had ever tried to say that the refurbishment was actually agreed before Labour came to power.

Art will be seen

On the recent controversy surrounding the loan of art for display in the apartments, Lord Irvine said all the pieces he was borrowing would come from reserve collections and were currently not on show.

He said they had been loaned on the express undertaking that they would be returned immediately if requested.

He added that there would be "substantial public access to view the residence and these works."

He said a number of charities had sought permission to use the residence for charitable fund-raising occasions.

"All these requests have been met and these charities will enjoy the use of the residence free of any charge," he said.

He also said the decisions to lend works of art were taken by the independent trustees of each of the following galleries:

  • The Royal Academy
  • The Imperial War Museum
  • The National Maritime Museum
  • The National Gallery of Scotland

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