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Orders of the Day

Constitutional Reform Bill [Lords]

[2nd Allotted Day]

Considered in Committee.

[Sir Alan Haselhurst in the Chair.]

[Relevant Documents: First Report from the Constitutional Affairs Committee, Session 2003–04, HC 48-I and 48-II, on Judicial appointments and a Supreme Court (court of final appeal), and the Government's response thereto, Cm 6150; and the Third Report, Session 2004–05, HC 275-I and 275-II, on the Constitutional Reform Bill [Lords]: the Government's proposals.]

Clause 20

The Supreme Court

12.41 pm

Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con): I beg to move amendment No. 350, page 9, line 15, at end insert

'situated in the Palace of Westminster'.

The Chairman of Ways and Means: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: Amendment No. 328, in clause 23, page 10, line 16, leave out from 'appointment' to end of line 20 and insert

'as a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary'.

Amendment No. 329, page 10, line 26, leave out subsection (4).

Amendment No. 341, in schedule 7, page 156, line 7, leave out

and insert

Amendment No. 342, page 156, line 8, leave out

'Deputy President of the Supreme Court'

and insert

'second senior Lord of Appeal in Ordinary'.

Amendment No. 343, page 156, line 13, leave out from beginning to end of line 43 on page 158.

Amendment No. 344, page 159, line 24, leave out from first 'the' to end of line 31 and insert

'senior Lord of Appeal in Ordinary'.

Amendment No. 345, page 159, line 33, leave out paragraph 8.

Amendment No. 346, page 160, leave out lines 6 to 19.

Amendment No. 347, page 161, leave out lines 1 to 33.

Amendment No. 330, in clause 25, page 11, line 17, leave out from beginning to 'will' in line 18 and insert

'The Commission must ensure that among them the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary'.

Amendment No. 331, in clause 27, page 12, line 36, leave out

'judges of the court would between'

and insert

'Lords of Appeal in Ordinary would among'.

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Amendment No. 333, in clause 54, page 24, line 20, leave out subsections (3) and (4).

New clause 6—Appointment of Lords of Appeal in Ordinary—

'(1)   Section 6 of the Appellate Jurisdiction Act 1876 (39 & 40 Vict. c. 59) (appointment of Lords of Appeal in Ordinary by Her Majesty) is amended as follows.

(2)   After 'unless', insert—

"(1)   he has been recommended for appointment in accordance with section 23 of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 (selection of Lords of Appeal in Ordinary); and


Amendment No. 334, in clause 62, page 27, line 9, leave out 'Supreme Court judge' and insert

'Lord of Appeal in Ordinary'.

Amendment No. 335, page 27, line 20, leave out 'Supreme Court judge' and insert

'Lord of Appeal in Ordinary'.

Amendment No. 336, page 27, line 31, leave out 'Supreme Court judge' and insert

'Lord of Appeal in Ordinary'.

Amendment No. 337, page 28, line 5, leave out 'Supreme Court judge' and insert

'Lord of Appeal in Ordinary'.

Amendment No. 365, page 28, line 5, leave out

'judge of the Supreme Court'

and insert

'Lord of Appeal in Ordinary'.

Amendment No. 338,page 28, line 7, leave out 'to the Court' and insert

'as a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary'.

Amendment No. 368, in schedule 15, page 225, line 12, leave out from beginning to end of line 43 on page 226.

Amendment No. 340, in clause 120, page 52, line 25, leave out subsections (4) and (5).

Amendment No. 369, in title, line 2, leave out from second 'to' to 'to' in line 4 and insert

'make provision in relation to the appointment of Lords of Appeal in Ordinary'.

Mr. Grieve: This is a long list of amendments. They have been grouped correctly, although they deal with two separate issues. Amendment No. 350 deals with the issue of where, if there is to be supreme court, it will sit. Other amendments represent an attempt by the official Opposition to rewrite part of the Bill to retain the Law Lords while, at the same time, ensuring that there is an adequate independent commission for their appointment, as provided for in the legislation.

Amendment No. 350 would insert in clause 20, page 9, line 15 a requirement to situate the supreme court in the Palace of Westminster. Prior to the Bill's introduction, there was a great deal of discussion about the fact that a supreme court was needed, allegedly in part because the facilities in the other place were insufficient for the Law Lords. However, during the course of that debate, a strange situation arose. The Law Lords who are keenest to establish a supreme court, because they believe that there should be a separation from the House of Lords, are least enamoured of the
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Government's proposals to rehouse them in another location. The Government have a problem, as a sunrise clause in the Bill expressly provides that the supreme court will not come into being until suitable premises have been identified to house it. On Second Reading, the Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Leslie), said with apparent certainty, although without making an official announcement, that the Government intended to house the new supreme court, which essentially takes over the role of the Law Lords with only a small amendment to their powers, on the other side of Parliament square in Middlesex guildhall, which is currently used as a Crown court. That building has been described by Lord Bingham, the senior Law Lord, as wholly unsuitable for the use of the new supreme court.

That should come as no surprise. When we consider the way in which the Law Lords operate, it is clear that theirs is a highly informal, Committee-based system of legal reasoning, which prides itself on the simplicity of the manner in which business is conducted. Complex rules of procedure are not necessary, nor is hierarchy. The Law Lords discharge their responsibilities as a corporate body. They can decide who will sit on an individual panel to deal with cases, and they do it in a Committee Room atmosphere, to which the public have access. Moreover, they can shift Committee Rooms in the other place if there is a need to accommodate more of the public to listen to the arguments. As was also pointed out in the course of debate in the other place, the nature of the argument that takes place in front of the Law Lords tends to be of quite an academic, if not esoteric, description, and is unlikely most of the time to have huge appeal to members of the general public. It is not the sort place where one will watch people being cross-examined on evidence.

12.45 pm

In those circumstances, it is unbelievable that it has, apparently, been pre-ordained that the Law Lords are to be moved into an old civic institution, a building that I know very well because I have practised there as a barrister on many occasions. The building is suitable as a county hall for local government administration, albeit of a rather old-fashioned kind, and suitable as a Crown court setting, but I find it astonishing that the Government should conclude that the building is suitable to house the Law Lords in the discharge of their new responsibilities, if they are to be set up as a supreme court.

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