Constitutional Reform Bill [HL]

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:30 pm on 13th July 2004.

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Photo of Lord Brennan Lord Brennan Labour 2:30 pm, 13th July 2004

I thank the noble and learned Lord for reminding me of that fact, but I should like to concentrate, before I return to answer that point, on the question of what the Lord Chief Justice is to do.

The new role appears to be little understood. It is assumed that the Lord Chancellor is the only person who can represent the judiciary. The Bill says different. The Lord Chief Justice, as well as the Minister for Constitutional Affairs, will represent the judges and their independence. He will do so with Ministers and Parliament and if necessary do so by public debate, if he feels that that independence is under threat. He will not be trammelled by political constraint where a Lord Chancellor would be.

My next point will enable me to deal with the point raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd. The role of the Lord Chief Justice fits in with and is fortified by the constitutional guarantee in Clause 1 of the continued independence of the judiciary. That involves all Ministers involved in justice and every Minister, whether in justice or not, is forbidden from interfering with judicial decision making. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, reminded me of what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, said. What he said was that it may be the Lord Chancellor, or it may not. He did not say that it has to be the Lord Chancellor. Prudence on his part would surely lead him not to overstate at this stage the new role that the Bill gives to him. The role of the Lord Chief Justice and the constitutional guarantee work together.