Select Committee on Justice First Special Report

Appendix: Government Response

Immediately prior to the Summer Recess your Committee produced its sixth report for the 2006-07 session, entitled The creation of the Ministry of Justice.

Your Committee reached three conclusions. First, that the creation of the Ministry of Justice amounted to an event of constitutional importance which 'should have been subject to proper consultation and informed debate both inside and outside Parliament'. Second, that the creation of the Ministry of Justice illustrated a failure of the Government 'to learn the crucial lessons from the way changes to the Lord Chancellor's office were announced and subsequently affected between 2003 and 2005'. And finally, that the circumstances surrounding 'the creation of the Ministry of Justice has led to a highly undesirable public conflict between the senior judiciary and the previous Lord Chancellor'.

With regard to the first two of these I would like to draw your attention to the Government's recent response to Recommendation 3 of the House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution's report, Relations between the executive, the judiciary and Parliament, copies of which have already been provided to your Committee. I certainly understand the sentiment behind your Committee's conclusion but suggest it was the major changes in the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, including the end of the role of the Lord Chancellor as head of the judiciary, which can rightly be said to have been of constitutional importance. The establishment of the Ministry of Justice was predominantly a machinery of government change.

On your third point, I understand that my predecessor as Lord Chancellor discussed the possibility of a Ministry of Justice with the Lord Chief Justice as soon as he judged appropriate. On 29 March 2007 the Lord Chief Justice ended a statement on the announcement of a Ministry of Justice by saying "the senior judges have already made it plain that structural safeguards must be put in place to protect the due and independent administration of justice. These concerns must be addressed. Provided that they are, there would be no objection in principle to the creation of a new Ministry with responsibility for both offender management and the court service." I agree with the Committee that public conflict between the judiciary and the executive is highly undesirable. I take my role as Lord Chancellor and the relationship with the judiciary very seriously indeed and I am working closely with them to resolve matters of concern to them.

I am grateful for the time and effort your Committee has put into its inquiry, and look forward to appearing before you again in the future.

Rt Hon Jack Straw MP

Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

16 November 2007

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