Select Committee on Constitution Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 300 - 303)

WEDNESDAY 21 FEBRUARY 2007

RT HON SIR IGOR JUDGE, MR MIKE WICKSTEED AND MR PETER FARR

  Q300  Chairman: But what about the people sitting at the next table?

  Sir Igor Judge: There is a difference, is there not? There is the legitimate interest of legal correspondents in the way things are going, and we have a part to play in that—there was one newspaper which had four articles or references to comments by four of my colleagues. My own view about that—and it is personal—is that that is wrong and I feel very strongly that that is wrong. I do feel very, very much that we have to bear in mind—I keep saying it—that you legislate and we then apply the law that you provide us with.

  Q301  Chairman: When you say it is your personal view, would that be the view of the Judicial Communications Office?

  Mr Wicksteed: Absolutely, yes.

  Q302  Lord Lyell of Markyate: We are all on a learning curve here. Suddenly judges have got the Judicial Communications Office to a degree which they have not had in the past; ministers, particularly the Lord Chancellor—although no longer technically head of the judiciary—still have a role to defend the judiciary and their independence in Parliament, and I think we are making progress in seeing it working properly, but there is a bit further to go. Would you agree?

  Sir Igor Judge: There is always progress to be made—always—and, yes, this is very new. I meant what I said earlier: to me a year is a very short time indeed for very major constitutional changes to bed down and, if I may say so, I would regard it as rather reckless to draw final conclusions on the basis of one year. We should look at it now and see where steering should come, see whether we are apparently going down an inappropriate route, and then stand back and look at it again a year on. Forming a final view about this until four or five years have passed might very well be mistaken and, again, one needs to remember that in the political world there will be a General Election before the next five years are up. There may—I am not advocating this of course—there may be a change of Government and that may affect the way in which the new arrangements work. I agree with you that there is some way to go—we might think there is a long way to go—and we certainly have not reached the stage where I could confidently say to you I think everything is absolutely perfect; of course it is not and it never will be.

  Q303  Chairman: Thank you very much indeed; it has been extremely interesting to have you and your colleagues here. I realise it is not easy; we are taking a small and tender plant while it is still putting down roots, heaving it up and trying to look at how it is growing. Our hope of course is that Parliament can be part of the solution here rather than part of the problem, so it is good to see you here. Thank you very much for your evidence.

  Mr Wicksteed: Thank you for the opportunity.



 
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