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

This Bill and the debate in relation to it gives Parliament the opportunity to determine whether the changes should take place. I submit that the right course to take is to accept that change should occur. It is welcome change and, rather than seeking to cling to the historical aspects of the argument, we should see what is best to get the protections that I believe we all want.

Returning to the heart of the debate, the only grounds on which the amendments in this group can be supported is either that the office of Lord Chancellor is not abolished, or, if it is, that the name is retained. I believe that neither of those propositions, in the light of the acceptance of the new architecture, is sustainable. It is not right, and it does not protect either the citizen or the interests of justice, that we continue with the current arrangements.

I believe that we agree about more than we perhaps think. We know what we want the office holder to do. We do not achieve that by refusing to face up to the difference between the job of the Lord Chancellor, as I have described it, and the widely supported functions of the new Secretary of State. I invite the movers of Amendments Nos. 1 and 7 to consider very carefully, in the light of what I have said, whether the best protection for the public and for justice, is to withdraw the amendment and accept the changes that have occurred.