Constitutional Reform Bill [HL]

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:45 pm on 13th July 2004.

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Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs, Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor 5:45 pm, 13th July 2004

The organisation Justice raised these issues back in the 1970s. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice said in giving evidence to the Select Committee that the concordat,

"reflects an inevitable development brought about by gradual changes in the office of Lord Chancellor and his department over the past half century".

We may debate how this change should be achieved. We need to craft, very carefully, the role and standing of the new job to ensure that the proper balance exists. But let us no longer doubt that the change must be made. Some appear to have accepted that argument. I include the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, in that. But they suggest that there may be some benefit in calling the new office holder the Lord Chancellor. Again, I believe that the answer is no. He is not doing the same job. We should recognise that and not suggest that he is. We should also recognise that the job requires the rule of law element—to use shorthand—and the ministerial role. Both those roles must be balanced in the appointment that the Prime Minister makes at a particular time. Furthermore, we do not want there to be any confusion with the new role of the Lord Chief Justice.

Others argue that additional restrictions are required: that the office holder should be a lawyer or a judge, or take a special oath or be a Member of this House. We shall come to those amendments later. I can certainly see that on occasion it would be an attraction to a Prime Minister to have a senior lawyer in the post. I can see the attraction of the holder of this office being in this House. But the question is, should the Prime Minister be constrained to have a senior lawyer in the House of Lords?