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Lord Renton: My Lords, I was not proposing to take any part in this debate but, having heard the speeches of the noble and learned Lordsboth of whom, of course, we greatly respectI take the liberty of suggesting to your Lordships that the separation of powers must not be too narrowly applied. Experience bears out that there are legislators who have benefited from exercising judicial functionsI am glad to see the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice agreeing by nodding his headand there are members of the judiciary who, given the realism that legislative experience brings, will take a broader view. This will help them to reach better judgments if there is not too close a separation of powers.
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The separation of powers was introduced in Europe about 300 years ago. In some countries it has been applied very closely but in our country we have taken a more realistic view. We have undoubtedly benefited in your Lordships' House from the advantage of having the Law Lords with their great legal and judicial experience. They have been able to move amendments to and comment upon legislation that affects the whole of the people. If we lose the Law Lords we shall suffer by not having that advantage.
Lord Howie of Troon: My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the noble Viscount for giving way. I am the first non-lawyer to speak and the House will be glad to know that I do not intend to speak about any legal matter of any kind.
I rise only because last Thursday the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, referred to my view of the adequacy of the Middlesex Guildhall as a Supreme Court. He said that I was wrong. I differ from him, obviously. I was referring to the architectural merits of the building and I believe the noble and learned Lord was thinking more of the accommodation when he spoke last week. Later, the Law Lords' opinion of the Guildhall was referred to, and they seemed to be not over-enthusiastic about its distinction. The noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, to whom I have listened with admiration many times during his performances at the Dispatch Box, also seemed unenthusiastic about the Guildhall, although I do not think he mentioned it by name for some reason.
As we have been reminded, this is Third Reading, and I should like to come very briefly to the defence of the Guildhall as an architectural building. Its accommodation was defended by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor last week and again by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Nicholls, earlier. I shall leave that to one side, however, and speak entirely about the design of the building and its place in architecture.
Is it adequate? Is it sufficiently distinguished? If I were seeking an opinion on a legal matter, I would not turn to an architect. In the same way, if I were seeking an opinion on architectural merits, I would not turn at first to a lawyer. Although they are admirable in many ways, they have no qualifications along that line.
I have been to my bookshelves and taken out a couple of books which deal with the architectural merits of the building. Much as I would have liked to, I could not find Pevsner. However, I do have Edwardian Architecture by Alastair Service. He said about the building that,
"the Free Style of the Middlesex Guildhall of 190613 by James Gibson in Parliament Square, Westminster, is a brilliant fantasia of free Gothic striving to blend with the neighbouring Abbey and Parliament . . . [an] assured and convincing performance".
"the former Middlesex Guildhall (190613; J.S. Gibson), one of the very best public buildings of its date, and one of the last Gothic ones. The detail is a fanciful 15C French Gothic treated with Arts and Crafts verve, contrasting plain areas of wall with concentrated carving to the porch, parapet and central tower".
That is the kind of opinion about a building to which I listen carefully. It is quite clear to me that the building is sufficiently distinguished even for the Supreme Court. I sincerely hope that noble Lords and noble and learned Lords will stop kicking it about in the way they have been doing.
Viscount Bledisloe: My Lords, I wish to speak against this group of amendments. I refrained with care from speaking last week when it was plain that there was not going to be a vote. I shall be making some points that have not been made before and I hope that I will be forgiven for speaking in this Third Reading debate.
Personally, I consider the proposal for a Supreme Court unnecessary and an exercise in political correctness, but I do not regard the proposal as of major constitutional significance or as a threat to the judicial process. The quality and integrity of the judgments, given by the same people exercising the same jurisdiction, will not be affected by the fact that they are sitting in a different place under a new name.
We also now have a strong sunrise clause which ensures that the building can only be built or altered to a design of which the Lord Chancellor approves after consultation with the Lords of Appeal. So either the points made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead, will be satisfied, or he will be unable to approve the proposal. It comes into force only when that building is constructed according to that design. When, if ever, that will happen is a matter for speculation. In any event, it ensures that the court and the Law Lords will have suitable premises.
It is also undoubtedly correct that the implementation of Part 2 of the Bill will mean that this House will lose the valuable contribution made by individual Law Lords. But the sunrise clause will again have the effect of postponing that result until Part 2 can be brought into effect.
The other points that have been made very frequently by those who oppose the Supreme Court and who wish to delete it from the Bill relate to costs. But I was brought up on the principle that supply and cost are primarily a matter for the other place. If the other place is willing to give the Government the money they want to implement the Supreme Court, who are we to say no them?
In contrast to the proposal for the Supreme Court, I regard the retention of the Lord Chancellor as a Minister of status and independence as of major
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constitutional importance. Indeed, I believe that there are very few people who would dispute that, of the matters in the Bill, the question of the Lord Chancellor is of substantially greater importance than the matter of the Supreme Court.
We must therefore consider what effect it would have on the remainder of the Bill and, in particular, on the Lord Chancellor, if we throw the Supreme Court out lock, stock and barrel, as my noble and learned friend Lord Lloyd would wish us to do. It is our general beliefwhether it is right or not, I do not knowthat the Government will accept the retention of the Lord Chancellor in some modified form, provided that they get the remainder of their Bill. But if this House destroys the whole proposal for a Supreme Court, either the Bill will be abandoned, and will come back in the next Parliament in its original and unmodified form, or the other place will surely throw out all our amendments and, in particular, those on the Lord Chancellor.
It is thus my suggestion to your Lordships that a so-called "victory" on the Supreme Court issue would lead to the loss of everything we have gained on the "Lord Chancellor" front, as well as the loss of the concordat and the Judicial Appointments Commission, as the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice pointed out. It is for this reason that I strongly oppose these amendments.
I shall make one further point to my colleagues on these Benches. As I understand the matter, the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats are fairly solidly in favour of the Supreme Court. Therefore, the vote to delete the Supreme Court can be won only if there is a high turnout of Cross-Benchers voting in favour of the amendment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd. I ask them to consider whether this is an issue, and whether this is an apt moment in the political calendar for a large number of Cross-Benchers to unite with the Tories in defeating a major government proposal.
For those reasons, I am against these amendments. For the same reasons, I am also against the alternative proposal in the amendment in name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, to be moved, I believe, by the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland. I have a couple of added grounds for opposing that, but I shall keep those until the amendment is movedif it is.
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