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Mr. Grieve: Yes, I have. The hon. Gentleman makes a perfectly valid point: if the Law Lords were to leave the House of Lords and move into a supreme court, some accommodation would be freed up. I have to say that it is minimal in comparison with the costs of setting up the new supreme court elsewhere. I suppose that the key issue, on which I am sure that he will agree, would be whether it would enable Millbank to be given up, or something of that sort. I have a question mark over that, because I need only compare what is available at Millbank with the amount of space that the Law Lords take up to make me think that that is improbable. The Minister may be able to help us in the course of today's debate. I see him smiling, and I think that the answer
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is that it is improbable. I wait with interest to hear how Millbank can be squeezed into the pint pot that is available down at the other end of this building.

Another fact to consider is that this building has a long and historic association with the dispensing of justice, which has nothing to do with the Law Lords being Members of the House of Lords. There have been courts in this building or on this site for almost 1,000 years. Justice was dispensed at Westminster under the Saxon kings—certainly by the time that William Rufus had built Westminster Hall in the 1090s—and that practice continued until the 1860s. There really is a long association, and it is sensible to preserve that if possible.

1 pm

I suspect that the real reason for getting the Law Lords out of the building is to assert the separation of powers. I do not believe in the separation of powers—I believe in judicial independence—but, if I concede to the Minister for the purposes of this debate that we should have a supreme court, I am puzzled as to why it cannot be in the same building as that in which Parliament sits, while maintaining its separateness. The United States Supreme Court managed to sit in the Congress building, almost directly underneath one of the meeting chambers—one can still go there—for a very long time without anybody asserting that it interfered with the separation of powers. When the facilities proved insufficient, it moved to a large, very fine building opposite. If we wanted to put up such a grand building to give sufficient authority to a supreme court, the thick end of £1 billion would probably just about cover it.

Simon Hughes: But we have available a much cheaper option—a building owned on behalf of the public that could provide the benefits of a court that was somewhere else but nearby, and independent and perceived to be independent, but without the costs, other than those of internal refurbishment.

Mr. Grieve: I entirely disagree. To begin with, there will be knock-on costs because the courts that currently sit in Middlesex guildhall will have to be found alternative accommodation. They are very busy Crown courts, and have been ever since they were set up. My fundamental point is that although Middlesex guildhall is a lovely building, there is no comparison, in terms of status, between it and this building. The only similarity lies in its Gothic revival historicity. That is not necessarily a bad thing. Nevertheless, it would be clear to anyone entering it that the Law Lords are occupying an old shire hall—albeit rather tastefully designed—of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. That is not adequate for a supreme court. I would much prefer to leave the Law Lords down at the other end of the Corridor. Anybody who sees the unusually informal way in which they operate there would be completely comfortable with the idea of their continuing to do so. We are going to waste money on something that will be unnecessary even if a supreme court is set up.

Amendment No. 328 and the long list of consequential amendments that flow from it would radically alter the Bill. They return to a lengthy debate
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in the other place about whether we need a supreme court at all and whether it would be possible to preserve the existing structure of the Law Lords. The Law Lords themselves appear to be fairly evenly divided. Given the pressure for this move that the Government have exercised in the public sphere, it is remarkable that they have not succeeded in securing more than 50 per cent. support for it from the Law Lords. The truth is that the Law Lords function very well, as the Government repeatedly acknowledge, and that the Government's desire to get rid of the Appellate Committee is a piece of theoretical mumbo-jumbo that is completely unnecessary in practical terms.

We are told that a separation of powers is required to send out this great signal that the judiciary is free of the Executive and Parliament. However, I worry much more about the signs of frequent interference in the independence of the judiciary by the previous Home Secretary than about where they sit and whether they are Members of the House of Lords. Judges have to exercise self-restraint in everything they do, to the extent of their private conversations at dinner parties, because in an age of mass publicity something that they have said, or has been said about them, could be seen to undermine the impartiality with which they discharge their office. They have succeeded in doing that, year in, year out—it has been impossible to find examples of where they have not. Where there has been any statement by a Law Lord or any other judge that might interfere with their ability to deal with a case, the general rule has been that they have not sat on it. The one exception is that of Lord Hoffman's involvement in the Pinochet case. However, the exception proves the rule, and that might equally well have applied had there been a supreme court. The fact that they are Law Lords makes no difference at all.

The Government seem to think that Law Lords are put into a peculiarly delicate position because they should not be able to listen to, participate in and vote on debates in the House of Lords. There is nothing wrong with that. Indeed, in terms of voting they are extremely circumspect, virtually to the point of self-denying ordinance. Convention absolutely underpins the quality of our administration in this country. One of the things that worries me most about this Government is their absolute hatred of convention. They showed long ago that they could not be trusted to respect any convention in the book whatsoever. We had enough difficulty in persuading them to observe the convention of taking this Bill on the Floor of the House.

The Government want to create a whole series of mechanistic structures that are designed to ensure the Law Lords' apparent independence but will not make a blind bit of difference to the way in which the public perceive their work. I believe that we will lose out in two ways. First, their participation in the legislature is rather a good thing. The opportunity for them to express, as they always do in a very careful and moderated way, any doubt or anxiety that they have about a piece of legislation that might, for instance, undermine the rule of law, sends a powerful signal to the Government that they should think very carefully about what they are doing. That is an intensely useful structure in a parliamentary democracy.

Secondly, the Law Lords have an opportunity to be receptive to what other people are saying. I do not want to suggest that judges are isolated, because they are not.
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The majority of the judiciary, outside of the Law Lords, operate in a world where they come into frequent contact with large numbers of people. For instance, the lives of those in the High Court are centred around the law courts in the Strand, which gives them a continuing connection with members of their own profession that they tend to find very useful. However, the Law Lords, by virtue of being here, have never had that contact in the same way. My impression, from conversations, is that they value working in a building with other people whose sole focus is not the law. They value the opportunities that that provides for gaining understanding from, for example, attending meetings about issues of public concern. That gives them an important focus, which helps them in their judicial work.

Yet all that will be blown away, first by getting rid of their status as Law Lords and secondly, by moving them out of the building. Some of the ethos could probably be preserved by creating the supreme court but leaving its members in the building to enjoy its facilities. Again, that would be cheap but we would lose something by removing their right to sit and debate. There is a way round that. I agree that we need an appointments mechanism for the supreme court. The majority of the amendments that the Opposition tabled try to preserve the structure while enabling the Law Lords to remain in the House of Lords.

The second issue that we need to consider is the position in respect of Law Lords being made life peers. New clause 7 is a probing amendment on that. At what stage would that happen? Would they be made life peers when they cease to sit as members of the supreme court? Could they be made life peers while they are sitting? Could the president, but not the other members, be made a life peer? We need some clarification from the Government about those matters.

As I understand it, it is not intended that the Lord Chief Justice should cease to be a peer but perhaps the Government intend that to happen. That must follow if we are moving towards a total separation of powers. I hope that we can engage with that in debate. [Interruption.] I hear the Under-Secretary saying, "suspended". That highlights the Government's approach: one can be a life peer but one cannot sit while serving as a judge. That is bizarre. What if someone who has been a life peer is appointed as a judge? That person will have engaged in public debate, yet is viewed as suitable to act as a judge. That underlines why the Government's attempt to produce clarity creates nothing but a silly mess.

I wish that the Government would reconsider their obsession with the separation of powers, which, as I have often said, derives from poor old Montesquieu's failure to understand how the English judiciary worked in the 18th century. The discovery that the judiciary was not an arm of the Executive amazed him with delight when he came to England. However, he built that up into the separation of powers, which is different from judicial independence.

I have outlined the reasons for the amendments and I hope that we will have an opportunity to consider the two issues carefully. I want to emphasise again that they are distinct. The issue of where the court should sit would apply if there were a supreme court. One could continue with the Law Lords and move them into
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another building—there is no reason why one could not do that. Amendment No. 350 therefore concentrates on location. I am anxious about the possibility that we may wait a long time before the sunrise clause comes into operation, unless the Government have made a clear decision about the Middlesex guildhall. The Under-Secretary will help us with that.

The wider issue is the Government's monumental waste of public money, in which they specialise. The first example of that is the dome. It is interesting to note that the Lord Chancellor was associated with that, although he treated it as a rather difficult client for whom he had no personal responsibility. The second example is the Scottish Parliament building, which was started before the powers had been transferred to Edinburgh. I suspect that we are moving towards more major Government expenditure to achieve a result that could be obtained by continuing to spend overheads of £168,000 per annum. I do not understand where good government lies in that and I look forward to the Under-Secretary's response.

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