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Mr. Grieve: In noting what the Government intend to do in respect of these amendments, it might be helpful if the Minister could also amplify the wording of proposed new section 12B on tenure of office. I accept that this is presumably derived from past example, but I am surprised that the only person who could move the motion for the presentation of an address to Her Majesty is the Prime Minister in the House of Commons or, under the old scheme, the Lord Chancellor in the House of Lords and, under the new scheme, his substitute.

Are we to understand therefore that no other Member of the House can table or move such a motion of their own volition, particularly in the other place? If that is the outcome, I am startled. I always understood that such questions were ones for Parliament to determine.
 
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Clearly, it may be appropriate for Ministers to trigger the process, but it is not designed to exclude the right of Members of Parliament to move such motions.

Mr. Leslie indicated assent.

Mr. Grieve: I see the Minister is nodding, so he will doubtless be able to provide me with complete reassurance, but I find the wording of proposed new subsection (3) slightly surprising in those circumstances because it appears to exclude that possibility even if that may not be its intention. I should be grateful to the Minister if he would deal with that.

As for the rest of the amendments, the Minister will be aware why we wish to preserve the office of Lord Chancellor, but I fully accept that such amendments are necessary, as that office will disappear at the end of the process. Doubtless, if the other place decides to reverse the amendments that the Government have tabled here, the Minister will have to reconsider the matter.

Mr. Leslie: The hon. Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack) said that he regretted decisions that we took earlier in Committee and postulated the hypothetical scenario in asking what would happen if the other place were to reintroduce clause 2 on the requirement for the Lord Chancellor to be a Member of the House of Lords and, if it were to do so, whether we would have to reverse these consequential changes. He will not be surprised to hear me say that, as with most hypothetical scenarios, that is entirely hypothetical and it would be premature for me to suppose that that will be the consequence of the other place's deliberations on our amendments, which we made with good grounds and a strong majority opinion in the House. I hope that the other House would respect the view of the elected Chamber on that matter, so it is not unreasonable that we have introduced these consequential Government amendments, which could allow someone other than the Lord Chancellor, if the post holder sits in the Commons, to move motions for the removal of judges in the other place.

The hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) asked a wider question that seemed to suggest that we were broadening the debate from simply discussing these Government amendments. The definition of good behaviour in clause 105 is not technically touched on by these Government amendments, but I am happy—if it is in order, Mrs. Heal—to answer his points since it appears that we may be having a substantive debate at this stage. He asked about the definition of good behaviour, good conduct and so forth. I am sure that he has more historical knowledge about the origin of many of those phrases. I gather that, around the time of the Glorious Revolution of 1688, there was a change from judges holding their offices at the king's pleasure to them doing so during good behaviour. I do not think that the phrase "good behaviour" is defined elsewhere in statute, but it is commonly understood. For example, the last judge who was removed for misbehaviour was apparently a circuit judge who was convicted of smuggling, although I am not sure when that happened. A clear breach of the judicial oath would fall under that category, but decisions must be based on each specific case.
 
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4.15 pm

Mr. Cash: I am sure that the Minister is not dodging the question, but he is not addressing it. I am well aware of the point about corruption and criminal activity, but the point that I am trying to get out of him—I am insisting on asking this time—is whether the expression "during good behaviour" covers deliberately deciding to adopt a source of interpretation that is inconsistent with the conventions of our constitutional arrangements in this Parliament and this country. Does he understand what I am saying? If he does not, he will have to come back to the matter.

Sir Patrick Cormack: The Minister had better write my hon. Friend a letter.

Mr. Leslie: It might have been appropriate to table an amendment on the matter, but I do not think that the inconsistency or contradiction that the hon. Member for Stone presupposes exists.

The hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) asked whether any Member could move a motion for the removal of judges, but I remind him that we are debating the amendments in the context of clause 105, which relates specifically to Northern Ireland. A feature of the settlement in Northern Ireland means that the measure will exclude Members from having the right to move an address in relation to judges in Northern Ireland, but we are not introducing such a provision for judges in England and Wales. It will still be open to any Member to move a motion regarding such judges in theory, but if a motion were moved on behalf of the Executive, that would clearly be the responsibility of specific Ministers in circumstances described elsewhere in the Bill.

Mr. Grieve: I am aware that we have set up different structures for Northern Ireland, some of which are dependent on devolution coming into operation. Parliament will continue to have direct responsibility for the Northern Irish judiciary in the interim, so I am worried to learn that it will not be possible for any Member of the House to move a motion because that will be completely at the Executive's discretion. That is a worrying state of affairs and the Government should rectify it.

Mr. Leslie: I am sure that the hon. Gentleman recognises that the wider features of the Northern Ireland settlement mean that arrangements for Northern Ireland are different from those for England and Wales and I am sure that we will discuss such matters when we consider other clauses. We have set out our proposals in clause 105, but the Government amendments do not necessarily impinge on the point that the hon. Gentleman raised.

Mr. Cash: I am sorry to be so persistent on this point. As my hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack) suggested, perhaps an exchange of letters would be the simplest way to deal with the problem. I refer the Minister, as a starting point, to page 372 of the important tome "Bradley & Ewing", which sets out the issues clearly. It says:

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I am especially interested in the words

because there is not a question simply of misconduct. These are weighty matters and, if I may say so, this is an example of the deep waters into which we are getting. The Bill is setting out in statute provisions that have been covered by profound constitutional arrangements that have developed over centuries. It does not follow that every single thing that has been done in the past was right, but the Bill is not being handled in the correct way.

Mr. Leslie: I understand the hon. Gentleman's point. As he has done in several debates, he brandishes his copy of "Bradley & Ewing" and keeps his finger at page 372—he is very attached to that weighty tome. Perhaps correspondence might be a good idea, although my understanding is that Parliament is sovereign in all matters on which it legislates. That principle should overcome some of his concerns.

We have departed somewhat from the Government amendments. I remain of the view that they are robust and valid and hope that the Committee will accept them.



Amendment agreed to.



Amendment made: No. 4, in clause 105, page 46, line 25, leave out from 'and' to end of line 26 and insert
'a person making such a motion in the House of Lords shall lay a copy of the report before that House before making the motion.'.—[Mr. Leslie.]

Question proposed, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.


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