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Wednesday, March 4, 1998 Published at 01:57 GMT


Irvine's attempt to paper over cracks
image: [ DIY stores have invited Lord Irvine to come and have look round ]
DIY stores have invited Lord Irvine to come and have look round

If the Lord Chancellor goes to a DIY store one day, he is in for a big surprise.

That was the message from Britain's wallpaper sellers after Lord Irvine said their products could collapse after a year.

[ image: Lord Irvine's paper costs £400 a roll]
Lord Irvine's paper costs £400 a roll
They pointed out the Lord Chancellor appeared to have little familiarity with their stores.

During his appearance before the Commons Public Administration Committee on Tuesday, one of its members made a joke of Lord Irvine's remark that ordinary wallpaper would only last a year or two

Liberal Democrat MP Mike Hancock said: "Well, I feel the first question I ought to ask you is if you care to give us all some advice on what to avoid at B&Q?"

Lord Irvine turned to his adviser, who repeated the question, before brushing the comment aside.

[ image: Lord Irvine: knows what B&Q is]
Lord Irvine: knows what B&Q is
A spokesman for the Lord Chancellor said he had not heard the remark properly.

"He did not hear the question clearly the first time, but he knew what it [B&Q] was."

The owner of B&Q, Kingfisher, reacted with good humour to the negative publicity.

"Everybody will just laugh and think it was an unwise thing to say," a spokeswoman said.

She said the company was not at all worried the Lord Chancellor's comments could affect business.

"If Lord Irvine came down to a B&Q store he might be quite surprised.

"The old perception of DIY stores as cheap and cheerful is quite wrong and outdated."

Kingfisher, which donated £5,000 to the Labour Party, denied its wallpaper was any less durable than expensive hand-printed paper.

"I have spoken to a supplier and he said wallpaper we sell will last as long as beautiful hand-flocked paper," the spokeswoman said.

[ image: A shopper at B&Q]
A shopper at B&Q
"We admit it is a different product but saying something like that is so wrong. Our wallpaper will last just as long.

"The type of wallpaper we sell lasts on average six or seven years but that is not because it is falling down but because fashions change and people want a change."

Shoppers in a B&Q store in west London backed the company.

"It is quite outrageous because I think if he came to places like this he would find a lot of choice and you wouldn't have to spend so much money," said one customer.

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