MP rounds on the Lord Chancellor

LORD Irvine, the Lord Chancellor who famously likened himself to one of his predecessors Cardinal Wolsey, was accused in the Commons yesterday of extravagance worthy of the puffed up 16th political cleric.

LORD Irvine, the Lord Chancellor who famously likened himself to one of his predecessors Cardinal Wolsey, was accused in the Commons yesterday of extravagance worthy of the puffed up 16th political cleric.

A sixfold increase in the amount spent on external consultants by the Lord Chancellor's Department was condemned by Bury St Edmunds Tory David Ruffley as worthy of Wolsey.

Mr Ruffley said the LCD's annual bill for external consultants and advisers has soared from £400,000 a year to £2,500,000 under Labour.

"A sixfold increase of which Cardinal Wolsey himself would be proud," he observed at Commons question time.

Mr Ruffley went on: "Given that this department had lost control of its running costs, would you now care to apologise to the British taxpayer?"

Rosie Winterton, the junior minister who speaks on behalf of Lord Irvine in the Commons, said the use of these consultants involved less than half a per cent of the LCD's overall budget.

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"They are only used when we do not have the relevant expertise of skills in the House and where it provides value for money," she added.

A 2001 National Audit Office report on the use of external consultants across Government departments found the LCD's management of them was "pretty good.".

Ms Winterton added: "On top of that we also have an internal audit review to make sure that all the recommendations of the NAO report are carried out and implemented effectively."

Thomas Wolsey, Lord Chancellor in the reign of Henry VIII, was widely hated for his extravagant lifestyle and lavish displays of wealth and power.

Born in Ipswich in 1471, he was created Lord Chancellor in 1515 to become Henry's chief minister and was created a cardinal in 1517.

He fell out with the king over Henry's matrimonial problems with Catherine of Aragon, failed in his bid to become pope, and retired in disgrace to York. Summoned to London to face trial for treason, he died on the way at Leicester Abbey in 1530.

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