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Last Updated: Friday, 22 June 2007, 13:27 GMT 14:27 UK
Falconer gets morris dance troupe
Morris dancers
Morris dancing is practised by Lord Falconer's civil servants
A team of morris dancing civil servants from the new Ministry of Justice have been given permission to call themselves the Lord Chancellor's Folk.

The Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, gave the go-ahead after considering a two page report prepared by an official in his private office.

A spokesman denied claims he had wasted time on the issue when he faced a crisis over prison overcrowding.

But he said Lord Falconer would be too busy to attend their first "gig".

In the two page submission, leaked to The Times newspaper, a member of Lord Falconer's private office briefs him on the history of morris dancing.

The document says the newly-formed Ministry of Justice group dance in the Bampton Style and in the Cotswolds' Tradition, which involves the "use of handkerchiefs and sticks".

'Stiff upper lip'

Given the team's connection with the Lord Chancellor's department, it says "they would like to name themselves after your office".

"As far as we can tell no such request has been received by a previous Lord Chancellor. There do not appear to be any legal/statutory constraints on you in granting this request. The decision is therefore one for your personal judgement," the document says.

It adds: "Morris dancing is currently one of the Icons of England on the Department of Culture, Media and Sport site, alongside a cup of tea, a stiff upper lip and a bowler hat."

The group originally wanted to be called the Lord Chancellor's Men but a spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said they had changed their name after a woman joined.

The Times quotes unnamed civil servants from other departments expressing astonishment that time had been spent on the request, with one accusing Lord Falconer's department of "morris dancing while Rome burns".

'Personal interests'

But a Ministry of Justice spokesman denied time had been wasted on the issue and said staff members were entitled to a hobby.

"Everyone says government ministers and civil servants are out of touch.

"But we come from a variety of backgrounds. We are no different from anyone else in terms of our personal interests."

He said Lord Falconer "would be unlikely to be able to see them dance" at a fete in Hackney next month, as he would be concentrating on more important issues.

The Ministry of Justice has recently been under fire after Lord Falconer announcing 25,000 prisoners could be released early on licence to ease prison overcrowding in England and Wales.

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