The Law Lords
150. Both the Royal Commission and the White Paper,
with varying degrees of enthusiasm, recommended that the law lords
should remain in the second chamber for the time being at least.
The Royal Commission report, which recognised that it was less
than perfect to include this highest judicial function in the
Lords, decided that it was prudent to defer the question of whether
there should be a separate supreme court. They believed that another
royal commission or similar body could examine the issue in a
more appropriate context. Meanwhile, the Commission recommended
that the law lords should continue to sit in the second chamber.
151. The White Paper was very positive about the
value of the law lords' presence in the House, citing their specialist
expertise and long experience. The Government proposal is that
the law lords should remain in the chamber until they reach 75.
152. Against this, we were impressed by the very
different views expressed by the senior law lord, Lord Bingham,
who recently raised the issue of whether it was desirable that
the second chamber should address judicial functions at all. He
cited the Pinochet case which misled some into thinking that "the
issue had ceased to be a judicial and had become a political one".
He also complained that the operations of the Law Lords were hampered
by the cramped accommodation they were forced to use in the House.
He called for the creation of a supreme court with proper facilities.
153. We recognise that this will take time to plan
and to organise, and that there may be a need for a specific inquiry
of the kind envisaged by the Royal Commission. But to concentrate
minds, and to set a timescale for the exercise, we recommend
that the law lords should leave the second chamber at the next
general election but one. That should allow plenty of time
to think through the consequences for the legal system, and to
make the necessary provision for an independent, properly constituted
64 JUSTICE Annual Law Lecture 4 October 2001 Back