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Tuesday, October 13, 1998 Published at 21:11 GMT 22:11 UK

UK Politics

Peers tense over tights

Lord Irvine in his traditional robes

Peers may be given a chance to debate whether the Lord Chancellor should modernise his traditional outfit.

Lord Irvine of Lairg, who has established a reputation as a moderniser, plans to stop wearing the historic breeches, silk tights and buckled shoes of his position.

His critics say changing the outfit would affect the dignity of the office.

The idea of a Lords debate was mooted following a tense two-hour meeting of the Lords Procedure Committee in which Lord Irvine explained why he wanted to end the centuries-old tradition except for important ceremonial occasions.

Lord Irvine is happy to continue to wear the traditional wig and gown.

And he would wear the full regalia for the State Opening of Parliament and other ceremonial occasions. But for normal government business, he would like to wear his business suit while on the government frontbench.

The Lord Chancellor refused to answer reporters' questions after the meeting. But sources said there was dismay among traditionalists on the Committee.

One source said Lord Irvine, who sat alongside Lords Leader Baroness Jay during the meeting, was left in no doubt that many peers needed to be persuaded of the merit of his plans.

The meeting was at times "not well-tempered and it was decided that it was a matter for the whole House", the source said.

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