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Lord Hunt of Wirral: I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Carlisle for raising an important debate on clause stand-part. I agree with the comments made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson. I join the Minister in paying tribute to the judges and to court staff for the tremendous work that they do.
However, the Minister widened the debate to cover the state of the civil justice system with her comments about the present situation. We shall be turning to financial matters and the question of court fees when we discuss Clause 87. I should like to flag up with the Minister concern that all is not well with civil justice in the United Kingdom at present. That is not just my view. On 1st December 2002, speaking on "Newsnight", the Master of the Rolls, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, said that the civil justice system was creaking at the seams and could well fall apart.
The Minister heard the speech at Second Reading of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, the Lord Chief Justice, who was previously Master of the Rolls and introduced the civil justice reforms. I am sure that we shall return to this issue, but I did not want this brief debate on the civil justice system to pass without reminding noble Lords of the words of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf. He said:
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, tempts me. But one of the wonderful things that I have learnt from being a Minister, speaking from the Dispatch Box, is to resist such temptation.
The noble and learned Lord said: We now move on to a rather different subject matter. This amendment, and the provision in the Bill itself which I seek to amend, is concerned with style. But not style in the sense in which we all refer to it in everyday language. In this context, style means the formal label which is attached to an office. Perhaps I may illustrate that best by looking at Section 4(2) of the Supreme Court Act 1981. This provides that the puisne judgesI trust that Hansard will spell that correctlyof the High Court shall be styled justices of the High Court.
I doubt whether any judge of the High Court has ever been concerned with the expression, "justices of the High Court", once he had read it in his patent of appointment. In his personal social capacity hein the case of male judgeswould be addressed, being a knight, as Sir John Whatever. In the case of lady judges, they would be addressed as Dame Mary Whatever. In their professional capacity, male judges would be known as Mr Justice X and lady judges known as Mrs Justice X. Neither has the slightest to do with the style as laid down in the statute. It is a matter of supreme unimportance in the High Court as to how judges are "styled".
As regards the question of the Court of Appeal, the current position is that there are three lady members. I looked at the entries in Who's Whomy copy is a little out of date so I have only two of the lady members' entries to read. One is Dame Brenda Hale; the other is Dame Mary Arden. The entry for Dame Brenda Hale reads:
But Amendment No. 85A casts doubt on the unisex character of a large number of historic titles. I am indebted to the President of the Family Division for the term "unisex"I had not thought of it. I thought of "titles which have no gender indication of themselves", but unisex puts it more neatly. I cannot possibly provide a complete list but I had a quick look in the Reader's Digest dictionary, which is an odd source but it yielded the following: the Lord Advocate, Lord of Appeal in Ordinary, Lord Chamberlain, Lord Chancellor, Lord Chief Justice, Lord Lieutenant, Lord Mayor, Lord of the Manor, Lord Privy Seal, Lord Provost and Lord Stewardthere must be others.
The view which I believe was taken at one time by parliamentary counsel was that no change was necessary because the Interpretation Act took care of it. But I do not think that that was an entirely satisfactory answer.
I can understand the ladies' feeling that they ought not to be dependent on the Interpretation Act. However, if the provision is altered, one must be careful as to how it is altered. My amendment seeks to substitute for the awful mouthful "Lord Justice of Appeal" or "Lady Justice of Appeal"it does not add "as the case may be," but it might have donethe simple remedy of striking out the word "Lord". One is then left with "Justice of Appeal", which is an appellation used in some Commonwealth countries.
It exactly describes what the judges are and it causes no problems or casts doubt on the unisex character of other officesmany of which have been held by women, none of whom have suggested a change. We have even had the Lord President of the Council in this House and I know of no suggestion that that should be changed. I suggest that if the ladies want a change, let them have a change. We are not tampering with what they would be known as socially or professionally. We are examining only the formal label.
Let us, for goodness sake, have "Justice of Appeal", which avoids all those problems and, so far as I can see, must meet whatever are the legitimate aspirations of these ladies. I have doubts as to whether the Minister will give me much help today, but if not perhaps she will explain to me in words of one syllable the advantage of having Lord Justices of Appeal or Lady Justices of Appeal as compared with Justices of Appeal. I commend the suggestion and hope against hope and without expectation that I shall receive some encouragement. I beg to move.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I am afraid that the 10-minute barrier may just be beaten, but we will have to see. I, too, support the noble and learned Lord's amendment. He spoke with great clarity. As he made clear, he is not talking about political correctness and he has put the whole debate in its right framework. We need accurate descriptions which do not offend the office-holder but do convey to the public what someone is doing. He has found the right solution with "Justice of Appeal".
My question relates to whether there is a problem in any event. The noble and learned Lord referred to the fact that there are three lady members of the Court of Appeal. Have the Government received representations from the judiciary, the Law Society or the Bar that they do not like the current statutory definitions. If so, I should be interested to hear of them. In this House, for example, I have not heard Members who are ladies objecting to being called a Peer. We are well aware that a Peeress is not a Peer but someone who is married to a Peer. There may well therefore be occasions when the feminine use is not an accurate description of the person who holds the post. I shall be interested to see how the Government reached their current state.
Finally, I noticed that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson, referred to other office-holders from his Reader's Digest list and to that of Lord Chancellor. I was interested in the fact that when the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor launched the Bill, the only conversation he had with the press about titles was with regard to that of Lord Chancellor. He put up the bubble for the cartoonists to use by saying that it would not offend him at all if there were soon to be a Lady Chancellor. Let us not pussyfoot around the matter: if by any remote chance the current Lord Chancellor were to retire before the next general electionand I make it clear to my political masters that I am talking only about the time prior to the next general electionthe only person who is in the running to be the first lady Lord Chancellor is in the Chamber now, and it certainly is not me.
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