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 Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Constitutional Affairs) 4:00 pm, 1st February 2005

Sir Patrick Cormack said that he regretted decisions that we took earlier in Committee and postulated the hypothetical scenario in asking what would happen if the other place were to reintroduce clause 2 on the requirement for the Lord Chancellor to be a Member of the House of Lords and, if it were to do so, whether we would have to reverse these consequential changes. He will not be surprised to hear me say that, as with most hypothetical scenarios, that is entirely hypothetical and it would be premature for me to suppose that that will be the consequence of the other place's deliberations on our amendments, which we made with good grounds and a strong majority opinion in the House. I hope that the other House would respect the view of the elected Chamber on that matter, so it is not unreasonable that we have introduced these consequential Government amendments, which could allow someone other than the Lord Chancellor, if the post holder sits in the Commons, to move motions for the removal of judges in the other place.

Mr. Cash asked a wider question that seemed to suggest that we were broadening the debate from simply discussing these Government amendments. The definition of good behaviour in clause 105 is not technically touched on by these Government amendments, but I am happy—if it is in order, Mrs. Heal—to answer his points since it appears that we may be having a substantive debate at this stage. He asked about the definition of good behaviour, good conduct and so forth. I am sure that he has more historical knowledge about the origin of many of those phrases. I gather that, around the time of the Glorious Revolution of 1688, there was a change from judges holding their offices at the king's pleasure to them doing so during good behaviour. I do not think that the phrase "good behaviour" is defined elsewhere in statute, but it is commonly understood. For example, the last judge who was removed for misbehaviour was apparently a circuit judge who was convicted of smuggling, although I am not sure when that happened. A clear breach of the judicial oath would fall under that category, but decisions must be based on each specific case.