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Lord Marlesford: My Lords, that is what I am doing. The Motion says that the Select Committee should be set up in the light of the Government's announcement, and I quote the carefully chosen words of the Lord President,

It does not talk of abolishing the office of Lord Chancellor. Therefore, the only relevance of having a committee on the Speakership of this House in that context is to consider whether the Lord Chancellor will be able to continue to perform the functions of Speaker.

The noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, made a good point when he said that we should consider the burden involved. I put down a Written Question to the Leader of the House to ask how many minutes in every hour that the Woolsack is occupied it is occupied by the Lord Chancellor. That seems to me quite relevant in trying to discover how much of a burden being Speaker is on the Lord Chancellor.

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Meanwhile, it is probably unnecessary to have an inquiry that goes any wider than the question of whether, while the office of Lord Chancellor exists, the Lord Chancellor will be able to continue to fulfil the functions of the Speaker. I suspect that the bigger and wider agenda is part of the general aim to disarm this House, just as the other place has been disarmed, and to have an end to the self-regulation of this House. I hope that that will not be part of the remit of the Select Committee.

Lord Ackner: My Lords—

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords—

Noble Lords: Ackner!

Lord Ackner: My Lords, my timid and deferential observations will be very short. I back the first amendment for the reasons given by the noble and gallant Lord the Convenor. With regard to the second amendment, which, from my point of view is much more important, the Government have apparently decided not to set up a ministry of justice.

In a Written Question filed three days ago, I asked which of the Lord Chancellor's functions relative to the administration of justice—especially criminal justice—will be transferred to the Home Office or to the new Department of Environmental Affairs.

Noble Lords: Constitutional Affairs.

Lord Ackner: Constitutional Affairs, my Lords. That is of considerable importance, because there is a strong feeling, which was voiced very quietly by the noble Lord, Lord Alexander, in an admirable article three days ago in The Times supplement on the law, that one of the purposes—if not the main purpose of this legislation—is excessively to increase the powers of the Home Secretary. That is why we wish to know which of the Lord Chancellor's powers of a judicial or judicial and administrative type the Government propose to invest in either of those two departments. The second amendment really focuses very wisely on that point.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I am most grateful to your Lordships, not least, for the generous remarks of the noble Lord, Lord King. I shall focus on the Motion, which I know your Lordships will have read carefully. It is not, to use the phrase of the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, my Motion. It was agreed in a meeting between the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, the Convenor, and myself. I have been as open to views on the form of the Motion as anyone could reasonably expect.

It was also agreed that, unusually and without setting any precedent, because of the nature of this particular committee—I repeat, without setting any precedent—it would be appropriate that Cross-Bench representation should be three rather than the usual two.

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That Motion having been agreed—although not by your Lordships, of course—I come to the two questions that arise distinctly from the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Elton. I am most grateful to him for giving me advance notice of them and for our private discussion about the troubles caused to him in putting down those amendments.

First, there is the question of the representation—if I may put it that way—of this House in the Cabinet. Your Lordships may not appreciate that, since the Government came into office in 1997, the Prime Minister has specifically invited the Chief Whip—formerly the noble Lord, Lord Carter, and now the noble Lord, Lord Grocott—to attend every Cabinet meeting. On every occasion, they are asked by the Prime Minister whether they would like to contribute anything about the workings of this House or the relationship of business management in both Houses. Therefore, at the moment, your Lordships have three Cabinet Ministers and the invariable attendance of the Chief Whip at every Cabinet. We have not had three Cabinet Ministers from the House of Lords since 1989. As the noble Lord, Lord Acton, indicated—with the benefit of information from the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale—Viscount Simon, who was Lord Chancellor for five years, was not a member of the Cabinet at all.

I know that noble Lords wished to raise this matter but I am reasonably confident that no noble Lord expects me to give any undertakings about which Cabinet Ministers should come from the Lords. I do not believe that any Prime Minister would feel able to give those undertakings. I am grateful for the assent that I see being expressed by the noble Lord, Lord King. I do not believe that the Prime Minister under whom he served, the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, would have looked happily on his being asked to give such an undertaking.

I believe that noble Lords recognise—this is very important—that this must properly and inevitably be a matter for the Prime Minister of the day. However—this is meant to be helpful—on its present terms of reference, the Select Committee is amply entitled to consider the matter. Noble Lords with views about that will make them known; a number of noble Lords already have done so, including the noble Lords, Lord Carrington, Lord Trefgarne and Lord Waddington, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew of Twysden. Any noble Lord can give oral evidence, written evidence or a combination of the two to the committee.

Incidentally, I should say that my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer and I have already made it plain that we are very willing and eager to give evidence if the committee would like to hear from us. The committee can attend to the point that lies behind the first amendment and it can express views on that. In due time, we shall obviously have a full debate on the committee's recommendations.

There is also the question of,

    "the present powers, duties and privileges of the Lord Chancellor".

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I absolutely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Alexander—I believe that we always have agreed on this—on the necessity for judicial independence. That is the purpose of the intended reforms. It is easy for me to say that. We must be judged in practice on the delivered outcome. I agree entirely with what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, said; that is, that judicial independence is not an additional option but a fundamental basis of the society in which we wish to conduct ourselves.

Noble Lords will know, because it has been said on a number of occasions, that consultation papers on judicial appointments and the question of the supreme court will be out quite soon: this month. The Lord Chancellor has already said—this may not have been picked up by all noble Lords—that he will publish a consultation document in September setting out the issues to be addressed in relation to the Lord Chancellor's roles that do not relate to the speakership, his functions as departmental Minister or his judicial capacity.

I can set out at least 11 categories. I shall be as brief as I can but I know that the noble Lord, Lord Elton, and other noble Lords are concerned about this matter. The 11 categories to be considered appeared to us to be: Speakership of the House of Lords; judicial appointments, conduct and discipline in England and Wales; judicial appointments, conduct and discipline in Northern Ireland; ministerial responsibilities in relation to courts and tribunals; legal and constitutional affairs in England and Wales; ministerial responsibilities in relation to courts and legal affairs in Northern Ireland; ministerial responsibilities in relation to the national archives—that is not perhaps something that immediately springs to mind when one considers the duties of the Lord Chancellor; ministerial responsibilities in relation to the Land Registry; and responsibilities in relation to the Great Seal. The next category relates to the comments of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth, to whom I was grateful, as always, for his measured contribution; it involves ecclesiastical patronage and other ecclesiastical functions—"boggle" and "mind" perhaps come to mind there. The other categories are: visitatorial jurisdiction—that is not an adjective that I had previously encountered; academic responsibilities and those and relating to royal peculiars; and, finally, non-judicial appointments, such as school governors.

Those are significant categories. I simply set them out to indicate that I have, I hope, responded as fully and promptly as I can to the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Elton, which, as I said, we discussed privately when he told me of his concerns. All of those matters—the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, was quite right—are within the remit of the committee on the present terms of reference. I do not believe that the noble Lord, Lord Elton, has done us a disservice. He raised the questions and I hope that I have been able

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to give the undertakings and reassurances that noble Lords reasonably wished. That being so, I invite the noble Lord not to press the amendments.

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