Statement--Royal Commission on House of Lords Reform

– in the House of Lords on 22nd June 2000.

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Photo of Lord Bingham of Cornhill Lord Bingham of Cornhill Crossbench

My Lords, with the leave of the House, before the reports from the Appellate Committees are considered, I should like to make a Statement on Recommendation 59 of the Royal Commission on the Reform of the House of Lords. That recommendation is that:

"The Lords of Appeal should set out in writing and publish a statement of the principles which they intend to observe when participating in debates and votes in the second chamber and when considering their eligibility to sit on related cases".

I should tell the House that my noble and learned friends have considered this recommendation and have agreed on the terms of a Statement to give effect to it. I will now read the Statement which has been agreed by all the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary: General Principles

"As full members of the House of Lords the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary have a right to participate in the business of the House. However, mindful of their judicial role they consider themselves bound by two general principles when deciding whether to participate in a particular matter, or to vote: first, the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary do not think it appropriate to engage in matters where there is a strong element of party political controversy; and secondly the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary bear in mind that they might render themselves ineligible to sit judicially if they were to express an opinion on a matter which might later be relevant to an appeal to the House.

"The Lords of Appeal in Ordinary will continue to be guided by these broad principles. They stress that it is impossible to frame rules which cover every eventuality. In the end it must be for the judgment of each individual Lord of Appeal to decide how to conduct himself in any particular situation. Eligibility

"In deciding who is eligible to sit on an appeal, the Lords of Appeal agree to be guided by the same principles as apply to all judges. These principles were restated by the Court of Appeal in the case of Locabail (UK) Ltd v. Bayfield Properties Ltd and others and four other actions [2000 1 All E.R. 65 (CA)]."

My Lords, that concludes the Statement. I recognise, of course, that this is a subject on which noble Lords may wish to express a view, but I hope that the House will agree that it would not be appropriate to enter into a debate now, at a judicial sitting. What I have done is to report to the House what the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary have agreed. If any noble Lord wishes to explore the matter further, then I am sure that a debate can be arranged through the usual channels. [The House then considered and agreed to the reports from the Appellate Committees in the Causes Wildtree Hotels Limited and others (Appellants) v. London Borough of Harrow (Respondents) and Regina v. Z (Respondent) (On Appeal from the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division)). The sitting was then suspended until three o'clock.]

The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.