Clause 105 — Removal from most senior judicial offices

Part of Orders of the Day — Constitutional Reform Bill [Lords] — [2nd Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 4:00 pm on 1st February 2005.

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Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Conservative, Stone 4:00 pm, 1st February 2005

I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend. He touches on an important point. As I said yesterday, with regard to clause 4 and devolution in Scotland, it is unequivocally the case—certainly according to the best constitutional authorities; Bradley and Ewing is a good example—that if we want to legislate in Westminster as the United Kingdom Parliament, irrespective of the passage of the Scotland Act 1998, as a matter of constitutional law, we have the right to do so. There is no doubt of that. The same applies in respect of Northern Ireland, perhaps even more so. I defer to Mr. Trimble on that point.

This is an important and serious matter, because judges, whatever their eminence and in whatever part of the United Kingdom we are talking about, are governed by the same criteria. The question of misconduct in respect of clause 105 is specifically related to Northern Ireland, but without prejudice to the fact that the United Kingdom Parliament has overriding jurisdiction. The tribunal with responsibility for considering removal, which we shall discuss later, has to go through a series of judgments, which include judgments made by persons of equal standing.

I need not elaborate further. I invite the Minister, if he would be good enough, to give us a proper definition of the words "during good behaviour" in this context. After all, if we are dealing with what the Prime Minister and the Lord Chancellor are likely to do and we then go through the motions of tribunals and the rest, it would be at least important to know that the words "good behaviour" are understood not merely in terms of criminal activity, corruption or whatever, but in relation to dealing with the fundamental question of who makes the final judicial decisions—the note on which I left the Minister last night in the final moments of our debate on the rule of law.