Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Judiciary: Independence

Oral Answers to Questions — Justice – in the House of Commons on 8th October 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

An independent judiciary is the cornerstone of our constitution and our democracy, and we are rightly proud of our world-class judiciary. As Lord Chancellor, I have sworn an oath to defend its independence. I take that extremely seriously and will continue to defend its independence vigorously.

Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Scotland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Armed Forces), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Defence)

I am encouraged to hear that answer. That is why—thank God—we are not a totalitarian state. I have a rather scary bit of advice for the Lord Chancellor: could he share his thoughts with No. 10 and perhaps Mr Dominic Cummings?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

I think that everybody—whichever part of Government or our country they might come from—will probably be aware of my public pronouncements about this matter. I will keep saying it again and again and again, as long as it is necessary to do so.

Photo of Bob Neill Bob Neill Chair, Justice Committee

Consistent with the Lord Chancellor’s speech at the opening of legal year, will he confirm that there is no place for political involvement in the appointment of judges and no question but that the rulings of the courts must be observed by all?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

I am more than happy to confirm all those points, made so ably by the Chair of the Justice Committee.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

Will the Secretary of State today put it on record not only that he believes in the independence of a robust judiciary, but that his Government will obey the law, and not crash us out of the European Union against the law?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

I can confirm that this Government, like their predecessors and, I hope, successors, will continue to respect and obey the law, and respect the rule of law.

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Conservative, New Forest West

Might my right hon. and learned Friend honour his oath by restoring the proper role of his office in the other place?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

My right hon. Friend tempts me along the path of debate about the constitution, and in particular the Constitutional Reform Act 2005. While I am always keen to engage in academic constitutional debate, we have many other fish to fry at the moment.

Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice and Home Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I thank the Lord Chancellor for speaking out in favour of the independence of the judiciary.

Lord Hope of Craighead, a former Deputy President of the Supreme Court and Lord President of the Court of Session, has pointed out that

The Supreme Court justices were careful to explain in their judgment” on the Prorogation case

“that they were not pronouncing on political questions. The issues with which they were dealing…were issues of law.”

Will the Lord Chancellor explain that to those in his party demanding a politicised appointment process for the judiciary?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

I am grateful to the hon. and learned Lady. I treat the remarks of the noble Lord Hope with extreme gravity, bearing in mind his experience and knowledge. It always bears repeating that the judiciary do not have political motivations, and that case was no exception. Frankly, I think the matter needs no further debate. If we ended up with an American-style approval system, we would all be the poorer for it.

Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice and Home Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

Yesterday a Scottish court recorded the Prime Minister’s unequivocal promise to comply with his statutory duties under the Benn Act. The judge, Lord Pentland, said:

“it would be destructive of one of the core principles of constitutional propriety and of the mutual trust that is the bedrock of the relationship between the court and the crown for the prime minister or the government to renege on what they have assured the court that the prime minister intends to do”.

Can the Lord Chancellor assure us that he will be impressing on the Prime Minister the grave consequences of ignoring that warning from a senior member of the Scottish judiciary?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

I read the transcript of what Lord Pentland said with great interest. Of course, that matter is subject to appeal, and it would be wrong of me to speak about it in detail, but those comments are noted.

Photo of Richard Burgon Richard Burgon Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice

We have seen the Justice Secretary forced to take to Twitter to defend the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law after recent briefings from No. 10 Downing Street. He may well have to do that again later today, after this morning’s headlines. The Attorney General has briefed the press that he will resign if the Government refuse to adhere to the law demanding an extension to rule out no deal. Will the Justice Secretary do the same?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

I hope that Members in this House and elsewhere feel that I have discharged my duties under my oath, and I will continue to do that. I will take whatever step I deem necessary to make sure that I am true to that oath, and to the rule of law.