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Lord McNally: My Lords, I have only to list my noble friends Lord Holme, Lord Tordoff, Lord Goodhartour very own WillieLord Lester, Lord Phillips, Lord Carlile, and Lord Thomas, any one of whom could have given the Prime Minister better advice than was available to him last Thursday when he wandered into this disastrous minefield, this self-inflicted shambles.
We welcome the splitting of the triple role of the Lord Chancellor. Is this the end of the matter? Does the Home Secretary now have a permanent veto on the setting up of a department of justice? As regards the Scottish and Welsh responsibilities, does the Lord President agree that eventually this would be far better handled by a department of the nations and regionsanother good Liberal Democrat idea?
The whole package of reform is needed for direction, not least for the urgent reform of this House. I watched the Prime Minister's performance today, and instead of running rings around Mr Ian Duncan Smithwhich he did, and which is very easily donehe might have done better to take a leaf out of Lord Whitelaw's book. He would have said "sorry chaps; bit of a horlicks; learnt the lessons; will consult better in the futureand meanwhile, I have asked Jonathan Powell to get all the Liberal Democrat policy documents on constitutional reform, and I will read them".
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, even deja vu is not what it used to be. I always listen carefully to everything said to me by any member of the Liberal Democrat Party. I found interesting the catalogue of grace and honour that the noble Lord, Lord McNally, read out as those who might be useful advisers to the Prime Minister: the one missing name was the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby.
We do not really want any more knockabout about the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Wales, do we? If we do, I will be tempted to bring out some quotations that I prepared earlier. After the 1997 electionsnoble Lords on the Benches opposite will remember thatthe Tories were left with no Scottish and Welsh MPs, and Mr Hague, the then leader, abolished the separate Shadow Cabinet posts of Scottish and Welsh Secretaries. Later, the post was merged with the role of Leader of the Commons, and held by Sir George Young and then by Angela Browning: so can we stop having silly jokes about "part-time leader"? It is interesting and amusing the first 12 times, but not after that. I have another quotation:
Lord Waddington: My Lords, I could hardly believe my ears, but am I right that there was no plain reference in the Prime Minister's Statement today that last Thursday, without any consultation, he announced his intention to abolish the historic office of Lord Chancellor? Of course Prime Ministers are entitled to make decisions designed to improve the machinery of government, but does the noble and learned Lord really think it proper for a Prime Minister to claim the right to announce the abolition of a great office of state without any prior consultation whatsoever?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, what the Prime Minister said was that that was his proposal. The noble Lord, Lord Waddington, and I, and many other lawyers in the House, and those who are not lawyers, know perfectly well that the changes to the Lord Chancellorship, the setting-up of an independent supreme court, and the devolution of political power for the appointment of judges cannot be brought about without legislative change. As the Prime Minister repeated today, they cannot go through without going through both Houses of Parliament.
I invited your Lordships to look at substance, not surface. Let us attend to the principle of whether these two reforms in the legal context are good. In due time, although we may be waiting a long time, we will have the defined view of the Opposition about these changes. We have heard the defined view, plainly expressed, of the noble Lord, Lord McNally, on behalf of his party. We, as a separate and important House of Parliament, are entitled to know the Opposition view in principle, and the country is entitled to know it also.
Lord Lloyd of Berwick: My Lords, it is a very short question. In the Statement, if I heard it correctly, it is said that the Lords of Appeal will become a fully independent supreme court. I wonder whether the noble and learned Lord will say in what respect the current Law Lords of Appeal are not fully independent? If it is because the Lord Chancellor is entitled to sit as a Lord of Appeal, which in my
Of course, the sitting of the Lord Chancellor, which is anomalous in the view of many of us as a matter of principle, leads to the view that we have not an apparently independent supreme court. I entirely accept the thrust of what the noble and learned Lord said. There still remains the fact that judges who sit in the House of Lords judicially can vote on legislation in this Chamber and speak about legislation in this Chamber. Therefore, they are engaging themselves in political activity. I accept that a number of the noble and learned Lord's colleaguesthe noble and learned Lords, Lord Steyn, I think, and the Master of the Rollshave specifically said that they will not use their rights. However, it is better, I believe, to have a principled constitutional settlement on these matters.
Lord Naseby: My Lords, the Leader of the House suggested that this was all planned and thought about. Why was it not in the Queen's Speech? What emergency has transpired in the past week that ensures that we have to decide all these matters within the four weeks left to us for sitting, subject to progress of business, plus the two weeks in September? First, what is it that drives that degree of speed in ensuring that the Lord Chancellor's role is dramatically changed? Secondly, how long is the present Lord Chancellor to do the job of the current Lord Chancellor and of the new Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs?
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