"6 District Judges

– in the House of Lords at 6:43 pm on 7 December 2004.

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(1) Her Majesty may, on the recommendation of the Lord Chancellor, appoint district judges.

(2) The Lord Chief Justice, after consulting the Lord Chancellor—

(a) must assign each district judge to one or more districts;

(b) may change an assignment so as to assign the district judge to a different district or districts.

(3) A reference in any enactment or other instrument to the district judge for a district or of a county court is a reference to any district judge assigned to the district concerned.

(4) Every district judge is, by virtue of his office, capable of acting in any district whether or not assigned to it, but may do so only in accordance with arrangements made by or on behalf of the Lord Chief Justice.

(5) A district judge is to be paid such salary as may be determined by the Lord Chancellor with the concurrence of the Treasury.

(6) A salary payable under this section may be increased but not reduced by a determination or further determination under this section."

(2) That section as substituted applies to a district judge holding office by virtue of an appointment made before the commencement of sub-paragraph (1) as if he had been assigned to the district or districts for which he was appointed.

2 (1) For sections 100 and 101 of the Supreme Court Act 1981 (c. 54) substitute—

"100 DISTRICT JUDGES

(1) The Lord Chief Justice, after consulting the Lord Chancellor—

(a) may assign a district judge to one or more district registries;

(b) may change an assignment so as to assign the district judge to a different district registry or registries (or to no district registry).

(2) A reference in any enactment or other instrument to the district judge of a district registry is a reference to any district judge assigned to the registry concerned.

(3) Every district judge is, by virtue of his office, capable of acting in any district registry whether or not assigned to it, but may do so only in accordance with arrangements made by or on behalf of the Lord Chief Justice.

(4) Whilst a district judge is assigned to one or more district registries in accordance with subsection (1) he is a district judge of the High Court."

(2) That section as substituted applies to a district judge holding office by virtue of an appointment made before the commencement of sub-paragraph (1) as if he had been assigned to the district registry or registries for which he was appointed.

(3) In section 102 of that Act (deputy district judges) for subsection (4) substitute—

"(4) A person appointed to be a deputy district judge in a district registry has, while acting under this section, the same jurisdiction as a district judge assigned to that registry."

High Court Masters and Registrars

3 (1) Section 89 of the Supreme Court Act 1981 (c. 54) (masters and registrars) is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (1), for the words from "the Lord Chancellor" to the end substitute "Her Majesty."

(3) After that subsection insert—

"(1A) The maximum number of appointments under subsection (1) is such as may be determined from time to time by the Lord Chancellor with the concurrence of the Treasury."

(4) For subsection (3) substitute—

"(3) Her Majesty shall, on the recommendation of the Lord Chancellor, appoint a person to each office listed in the first column of the table in subsection (3C) ("a senior office").

(3A) A person may be appointed to a senior office only if—

(a) he holds the office in the corresponding entry in the second column of that table ("the qualifying office"), or

(b) he does not hold the qualifying office but could be appointed to it in compliance with section 88.

(3B) Where a person who is to be appointed to a senior office meets the condition in subsection (3A)(b) he shall, when appointed to the senior office, also be appointed to the qualifying office.

(3C) This is the table referred to in subsections (3) and (3A)—

Senior office Qualifying office
Senior Master of the Queen's Bench Division Master of the Queen's Bench Division
Chief Chancery Master Master of the Chancery Division
Chief Taxing Master Taxing master of the Supreme Court
Chief Bankruptcy Registrar Registrar in bankruptcy of the High Court
Senior District Judge of the Family Division Registrar of the Principal Registry of the Family Division"

(5) Before subsection (8) insert—

"(7A) A person appointed under subsection (1) is to be paid such salary, and a person appointed to a senior office is to be paid such additional salary, as may be determined by the Lord Chancellor with the concurrence of the Treasury.

(7B) A salary payable under or by virtue of this section—

(a) may in any case be increased, but

(b) may not, in the case of a salary payable in respect of an office listed in column 1 of Part 2 of Schedule 2 or of a senior office, be reduced,

by a determination or further determination under this section."

4 In section 93(2) of the Mental Health Act 1983 (c. 20) (Court of Protection) for "the Lord Chancellor" substitute "Her Majesty".

Senior District Judge (Chief Magistrate)

5 In section 23 of the Courts Act 2003 (c. 39) (Senior District Judge (Chief Magistrate))—

(a) for "The Lord Chancellor" substitute "Her Majesty";

(b) for "he" substitute "she".

6 In section 10A(2) of the Justices of the Peace Act 1997 (c. 25) (until the coming into force of the repeal of that Act by the Courts Act 2003) for "The Lord Chancellor" substitute "Her Majesty"."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 9 [Other judiciary-related functions and organisation of the courts]:

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

moved Amendment No. 21:

Leave out Clause 9 and insert the following new Clause—

"OTHER FUNCTIONS OF THE LORD CHANCELLOR AND ORGANISATION OF THE COURTS

Schedule (Other functions of the Lord Chancellor and organisation of the courts) provides for—

(a) the transfer of certain functions of the Lord Chancellor,

(b) the modification of other functions of the Lord Chancellor,

(c) the modification of enactments relating to those functions, and

(d) the modification of enactments relating to the organisation of the courts."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Photo of Baroness Ashton of Upholland Baroness Ashton of Upholland Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Constitutional Affairs)

moved Amendment No. 22:

After Clause 9, insert the following new clause—

"LORD CHANCELLOR'S OATH

(1) In the Promissory Oaths Act 1868 (c. 72) after section 6 insert—

"6A LORD CHANCELLOR'S OATH

(1) The oath set out in subsection (2) shall be tendered to and taken by the Lord Chancellor, after and in the same manner as the official oath, as soon as may be after his acceptance of office.

(2) The oath is—

"I, , do swear that in the office of Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain I will respect the rule of law, defend the independence of the judiciary and discharge my duty to ensure the provision of resources for the efficient and effective support of the courts for which I am responsible. So help me God."."

(2) The section inserted by subsection (1) does not apply in the case of acceptance of office before the coming into force of this section."

Photo of Baroness Ashton of Upholland Baroness Ashton of Upholland Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Constitutional Affairs)

My Lords, there has been significant interest from noble Lords in how best to give recognition to those aspects of the office of Lord Chancellor which would remain unique to the office, despite the proposed reforms, acting as constant principles for all future office holders. Responsibility to defend judicial independence, respect for the rule of law, and support of an efficient court system are duties that are distinct from those of any other Minister.

To provide for the above responsibilities in statute, in the form of an official Lord Chancellor's oath, would be a clear means of cementing their continuing importance in the face of reform of the office. I am greatly indebted to the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, for drawing attention to the importance of giving official recognition to the special duties of the Lord Chancellor, and for his former and current proposals for the form of the Lord Chancellor's oath. This initiative is supported by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, who has given his approval to the amendment of the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, and put forward a further proposal for the Lord Chancellor's oath.

I shall deal with government Amendment No. 22. It covers the three principle areas—the rule of law, judicial independence, and the running of the courts—which all sides appear to agree are key to the office of Lord Chancellor.

The oath is constructed in such a way as to ensure that it can be distinguished from: first, the official oath and the oath of allegiance; and secondly, the judicial oath. In recognising the importance of the principles of judicial independence, the rule of law and the maintenance of an effective court system, I believe that the proposed oath meets the requirements that have led to the call for such an oath. In essence, it fulfils the same purpose as the oaths proposed by the noble Lords, but avoids the problem of overlap with the official and judicial oaths.

I turn to the other formulations of the oath proposed by the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, in Amendments Nos. 33, 44 and 45. My main concern with these oaths is that they both borrow some phraseology from the judicial oath. We believe it is important that the new oath bears no resemblance to the judicial oath, which could risk ambiguity in the reformed status of the office of Lord Chancellor in relation to the judiciary.

The oath proposed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, also borrows language from the official oath. It seems to me that that is unnecessary and may give rise to confusion about the content of the various oaths. We should avoid overlap if at all possible.

On Amendment No. 33, I appreciate the recognition of the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, that the Bill should provide that the Lord Chancellor will no longer be required to take the judicial oath. That is already provided for in Schedule 14 to the Bill by omitting reference to the Lord Chancellor in the Schedule to the Promissory Oaths Act 1868.

The only distinction between the various oaths that I seek to highlight is that in our amendment we have consciously avoided a statutory duty to,

"uphold the administration of justice".

The reason is that such terminology could, perversely, be seen to contravene the principle of judicial independence. To administer justice is a judicial function. It is important, therefore, that "administration", in the sense of a business organisation, is not confused with the administering of justice in the judicial sense.

I note that the oath proposed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, in Amendment No. 45, omits this particular phrase, thereby avoiding the issue I have just mentioned. On the other hand, I do not think it is appropriate for the oath to make no mention of the Lord Chancellor's particular responsibilities in relation to the provision of effective support for the court system. If the purpose of the Lord Chancellor's oath is to set out the essential responsibilities of the office, this vital area of duty should not be overlooked.

I anticipate that the content of the oath I have proposed should help to alleviate the concerns of noble Lords who fear that the reforms to the office of the Lord Chancellor may diminish his authority in having regard to judicial independence and the rule of law. I beg to move.

Photo of Viscount Bledisloe Viscount Bledisloe Crossbench

My Lords, as the noble Baroness said, in Committee an amendment requiring the Lord Chancellor to take a special oath was tabled in my name. In my absence, it was very kindly and ably moved by the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham. Both he and I—the noble Lord is unable to be here today—are very grateful to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor for having taken on board the idea of a separate Lord Chancellor's oath and has provided for one.

There are three versions of the oath before your Lordships' House. As noble Lords would expect, the one drafted by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, is undoubtedly the best. If we were to have a choice, I would vote for that. I shall leave to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, whether the differences between the three oaths are matters which need to detain the House on a vote. If he chooses to divide the House on his version, I shall support it, but if he considers that we have the bulk of what we want in the amendment of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, I will happily bow to his decision.

Photo of Lord Howe of Aberavon Lord Howe of Aberavon Conservative

My Lords, I wondered at one point whether I should declare a long-deceased interest as the son of a Commissioner for Oaths. My father used to make 6s 8d from the occasions people swore oaths before him. I think that that is probably past history.

On the substance of the matter, I had hoped that by tabling the amendment one was contributing to the possibility of even more elegance in the form adopted by the Lord Chancellor. I do not feel very anxious to retain phrases like "faithfully" and "at all times" and end the oath with,

"in accordance with the laws and usages of this Realm".

They somehow hark back to a discreditable era, but they seem to me to give a sense of continuity which is desirable. I am certainly not going to press this linguistic point to a Division.

However, I hope that the Lord Chancellor may be prepared to have a powwow with the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, and myself if, on reflection, he feels that it would be possible to produce an even more elegant and apt oath than the one he has produced.

Photo of Baroness Ashton of Upholland Baroness Ashton of Upholland Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Constitutional Affairs)

My Lords, I am sure that my noble and learned friend would relish the prospect of a powwow and that it would contribute to the elegance of the oath.

I recognise the genuine consensus between us in what we seek to achieve. There are differences between us. First, the amendment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, does not refer to the role of the court system, which we think is important. I am sure that the noble and learned Lord will agree with that. Secondly, we do not underestimate that overlapping terminology can cause some difficulties. We have been anxious to avoid that, which is the principle reason for not wishing to use the other oaths.

I hope that noble Lords will agree to accept the government amendment with the condition that a powwow, should it be requested, will be freely and willingly given.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Photo of Lord Mackay of Clashfern Lord Mackay of Clashfern Conservative

moved Amendment No. 23:

After Clause 9, insert the following new clause—

"Committee on Administration of Justice and the Legal Professions

(1) There is to be a committee of members of both Houses of Parliament, to be known as the Committee on Administration of Justice and the Legal Professions ("the Committee"), to examine, review and report to Parliament upon—

(a) the discharge of the duties imposed by section 1;

(b) the exercise of the functions of Ministers of the Crown under any enactment so far as those functions concern the legal professions or the administration of justice (but not in relation to any particular set of legal, disciplinary or other proceedings);

(c) the exercise by the Judicial Appointments Commission, and any commission convened under section 20, of their functions under this Act (but not the merits of any particular decision about the selection of a person for office);

(d) consistently with the duty imposed by section 1(1), any other matter relating to the legal professions or the administration of justice which either House resolves to refer to the Committee or which the Committee thinks appropriate.

(2) The Committee is also to facilitate the exercise by the President of the Courts of England and Wales of his functions under section 2(2)(a) in relation to Parliament.

(3) The Committee is to consist of—

(a) five members of the House of Lords, nominated by the Speaker of that House; and

(b) five members of the House of Commons, nominated by the Speaker of that House, but is not to include a Minister of the Crown.

(4) The members of the Committee are to be appointed—

(a) on the coming into force of this section to serve for the duration of the present Parliament; and

(b) subsequently at the commencement of each Parliament to serve for the duration of that Parliament.

(5) A casual vacancy resulting from the death, resignation or incapacity of a member of the Committee is to be filled by nomination of a member by the Speaker of the relevant House.

(6) The Committee may—

(a) exercise its functions by any six of its members; and

(b) sit and transact business whether Parliament is sitting or not, and despite any casual vacancy in the membership of the Committee, but otherwise may regulate its own procedure."

Photo of Lord Mackay of Clashfern Lord Mackay of Clashfern Conservative

My Lords, the amendment is intended to deal with a particular situation. If the Bill is enacted, Lords of Appeal in Ordinary and senior judges, who, hitherto, have held Life Peerages in this House, will no longer have the opportunity to bring to the House concerns that they have about the administration of justice and matters affecting the appointment of judges or the legal profession. As has been pointed out, they often did that in the past with great effect and sometimes with considerable emphasis.

The Bar Council of England and Wales, on considering this change, and on the footing that it was going to become the law, felt that the concerns of the profession were capable of being attended to by a committee on the administration of justice and the legal professions, as set out in the detail of the amendment. The draft of the amendment was kindly provided to me by the Bar Council.

It seems to me that something along these lines is certainly appropriate. I should be very glad to know that at least the spirit of the amendment would be acceptable to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Maclennan of Rogart Lord Maclennan of Rogart Shadow Minister, Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs

My Lords, I support the amendment moved by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, at least in principle. It is a constitutional innovation to set in statute a provision to establish a Joint Committee of our two Houses. That may not be considered to be appropriate, but it is certainly appropriate to recognise that there should be as much transparency as possible in representations made to Parliament about the administration of justice and the legal professions. It is one of the underlying objectives of this legislation, through the separation of the legislative arm from the judicial arm, to ensure that there is complete openness about the concerns of the judiciary and those who are essential to the discharge of the legal system.

The drafting seems to me to be pretty good, as is perhaps not surprising when one acknowledges its provenance. However, being a constitutional innovation, it ought also to be considered in that context. There are a number of proposals of constitutional importance, such as that we should have such a committee to review treaties before they are ratified, which is a matter of high importance. We should not have to wait on the enactment of legislation to provide for such committees. However, in general, I indicate our support.

Photo of Lord Henley Lord Henley Conservative

My Lords, I offer the support of these Benches to my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern. Like the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, I accept that it would be a constitutional innovation to put the matter in statute, in a Bill. I certainly agree strongly with him that there ought to be a committee. Whether the committee should be exactly as suggested by my noble and learned friend, with five Members from this House nominated by the Speaker and five Members from another place nominated by the Speaker, and whether their tenure should be exactly as he suggests—for the length of one Parliament—or something else, is another matter, and one that it might be possible to consider later. For the moment, having offered our support, we would like to hear what the Government have to say about the matter and whether they can at least show some sympathy to the principle behind what my noble and learned friend has proposed, even if they cannot accept the full detail of the amendment and the prescriptive nature of setting up a committee of both Houses.

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

My Lords, I think that all of us would agree that proper communication and representation of views between the legislature and the judiciary is clearly very important. The Bill will greatly assist such communication by providing far greater clarity about the respective responsibilities of the Executive and the judiciary, which will facilitate relationships between the judiciary and the legislature.

The new committee that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, proposes would overlap greatly with existing committees. I do not dispute for one moment the great importance of there being a channel of communication between the judges and Select Committees of this House or another place, or a Joint Committee of both Houses. However, we all know that other committees already have responsibility for many of the functions that the amendment proposes for a new committee.

To give but one example, the responsibilities of the Minister as the head of the Department for Constitutional Affairs—including, of course, functions relating to the legal professions and the administration of justice—are already scrutinised by the Select Committee on Constitutional Affairs. That committee has several times invited senior members of the judiciary to appear before it. There has been no difficulty in senior members appearing before the committee, with both sides clearly respecting what is a sensible area of inquiry and what is not.

My main concern with the amendment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, is, therefore, not the principle of representation behind it—namely, that there should be a committee that connects with the judiciary—but the particular mechanism that the amendment adopts to provide for that. As the noble Lord, Lord Henley, said, a statutory committee would be a constitutional innovation. It would not allow us to build on existing arrangements. Flexibility for the arrangements to evolve over time would be lost. A statutory committee ties us to one very specific way of working. The Select Committee on the Bill recognised that when it stated that,

"the advantages of a statutory Committee were not obvious to the Committee".

It is very important for effective mechanisms for representation to be found, but it is equally important for the mechanism to be flexible enough for us to develop communication with the judiciary as we learn from our experiences. It is for Parliament to regulate its own proceedings, but not to bind future Parliaments through a statutory provision such as this. It is right that it is Parliament that determines with the judiciary how they can best represent their views. As I said, this is not an issue about the detail; it is an issue about the principle—we should have committees. Whether they should be the existing ones or new ones, Parliament should decide and amend as time goes on. It would not be right for the representation that we all want to occur under an amendment of that sort. I therefore invite the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, to withdraw the amendment.

While I am on my feet, it is worth saying that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, the Lord Chief Justice, has tabled a later amendment, Amendment No. 24, which proposes that the judges have the right to lay documents before Parliament. I will say a little about that when we reach it. That seems to me to be an innovation that we should consider. I do not say what is my view about it, but that might contribute to how the Lord Chief Justice represents his views to Parliament.

Photo of Lord Donaldson of Lymington Lord Donaldson of Lymington Crossbench

My Lords, I support both amendments, but only on the assumption which I see being made and which I think is very regrettable, that the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary, the Lord Chief Justice, of course, and possibly the Master of the Rolls should not have a right of direct access to this House. It would be in accordance with modern thought that they should not have a right to vote but, in my view, it is very important that they should have a right to advise.

My recollection is that the Writ of Summons issued not only to them but to all judges in England and Wales, down to High Court judges, requires them to drop everything—it has some rather better language—and come to the House at once in order to advise its Members. When I was sworn in and Lord Gardiner gave me the Writ of Summons, he said, "For goodness' sake, take no notice of it". But the idea of advising the House is of very long standing and if the Lord Chief Justice was to have no right of audience here, we should be deprived of speeches such as we have heard today, which would be a great loss. I asked him whether he intended to go on to the "Today" programme but he assured me that he had no immediate plans to do so.

Photo of Lord Mackay of Clashfern Lord Mackay of Clashfern Conservative

My Lords, I am grateful for the support of the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan of Rogart, and my noble friend Lord Henley on the principle behind my amendment and the approach taken by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. As I sought to do at the beginning, I make it absolutely clear that the amendment is on the assumption that the provisions that exclude the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary and the senior judges, who are by virtue of life peerages Members of this House, are carried. The amendment is intended to replace that. Obviously, if that does not happen, it is not intended to come into effect.

I understand perfectly the problem about flexibility and so on. All that I am concerned about is that what is being proposed by the Government is to withdraw the present method for the judges to make their representations. I should certainly like an undertaking that, in substitution for that if it is to go forward, something of this kind, although not necessarily this particular format—the presently existing committees, such as the Constitutional Affairs Committee, a Select Committee of this House or a combination of both—will be considered in substitution for the rights that the judges presently have as Members of this House to give their views. Those views have often been given considerable publicity because expressed in this House. It is important that under the new arrangements, if they are carried into effect, there should be effective means of communication, and that an undertaking to that effect should be given before we are asked to approve the other proposals.

In the mean time, I am happy to withdraw my amendment. I know that the next amendment, Amendment No. 24, deals substantially with the same matter and will reveal what I have to say in that connection. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Lord Woolf Lord Woolf Crossbench

moved Amendment No. 24:

After Clause 9, insert the following new clause—

"JUDGES' REPRESENTATIONS TO PARLIAMENT

If the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, the Lord President of the Court of Session in Scotland or the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland wishes to make a representation to Parliament on a matter of importance relating to the judiciary or otherwise to the administration of justice, he may make such a representation in writing. Such a representation shall be laid before either or both Houses, as the Judge making the representation shall specify."

Photo of Lord Woolf Lord Woolf Crossbench

My Lords, the amendment is tabled in my name and that of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Cullen of Whitekirk. Regrettably, he cannot be here because of his judicial duties.

The amendment is related to the previous one, but I emphasise that it is an addition not a substitute or alternative to it. The inspiration for the amendment was the fact that the nature of the office of Lord Chancellor will change. Because of that deficit, it was thought particularly important that it be possible to devise a procedure which allowed not only the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, who traditionally has been a Member of this House, but also the Lord President, who often is not a Member, at least for part of the period that he holds that very distinguished office, and the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland to put before the House material thought to be of such serious significance to the administration of justice that this House and the other place should be aware of it.

Obviously, having had the privilege of addressing noble Lords directly, I know that that has singular advantages. What is proposed in the amendment would not have that advantage. However, having explored all the possible alternatives, I must confess that, even after consulting the most experienced advisers, I have not been able to find a method of presenting a way in which it is possible for the holder of my office and the other two offices to which I referred to address this House directly. The advantage of Amendment No. 24 is that it would allow all three heads of the judiciary in the three jurisdictions immediately to place before one or both Houses of Parliament something of real significance to the judiciary or the administration of justice. That would be an immense advantage. It is why I have tabled the amendment.

I know that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has had a limited opportunity to consider the amendment, and I understand that he would like further time to do so. I hope that he will consider it favourably, because such a clause would be of the greatest importance to the independence of the judiciary. It is consistent with the separation of powers. It would be valued in Northern Ireland and north of the border in Scotland. That being the situation, I hope that it will be thoroughly considered by the House and the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Maclennan of Rogart Lord Maclennan of Rogart Shadow Minister, Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs

My Lords, I support the amendment tabled by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice. The problem that he has outlined is extremely significant. It would not be wholly resolved by the establishment of a Joint Committee, as provided for in the earlier amendment, because the initiative on whether to mount an inquiry would lie with the committee and not the judiciary. Consequential upon the expectation that the senior judiciary will not be seated in this House, provision must be made to enable their views to be directly represented to Parliament. No doubt, if such representations were laid as proposed, they could be referred like a petition to the appropriate committee for consideration. Neither House of Parliament would ignore such a public statement of position. That must be very much in line with the wishes and purposes of the Government in the Bill.

Photo of Lord Kingsland Lord Kingsland Shadow Lord Chancellor, Parliament

My Lords, until now, if the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice or the noble and learned Lord the Lord President had something to say to your Lordships' House, they would come down and say it. That will no longer be possible under the new arrangements. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, has indicated, your Lordships' House will have to find another way of communicating with the heads of the respective jurisdictions. I see no reason why the proposals of the noble and learned Lords, Lord Woolf and Lord Mackay of Clashfern, should be mutually exclusive; there is a role for both.

I would have preferred to follow the suggestion of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson, and rely on the old tradition that, from time to time, your Lordships' House has invited the judges to come and give advice on a matter. That traditional process could be adapted to modern circumstances. However, I understand that there is some learning in your Lordships' House that this may no longer be appropriate. Therefore the proposal in Amendment No. 24 is wholly apposite and is one that I urge on the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor.

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

My Lords, the practice of calling the Law Lords down to give advice to the House fell into desuetude approximately 200 years ago. I assume that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson of Lymington, regularly takes the opportunity of addressing us through the "Today" programme because he is so worried that he may not be asked to come down sufficiently frequently to advise us. Much as it pains us, therefore, we must face up to the fact that we must try to find an alternative to asking the Law Lords to give advice to the House.

I hope that the message that I gave in response to the amendment tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, was that we needed to try to find a committee. I am simply saying that Parliament should decide whether it is an existing committee or one crafted specially. One of the purposes of those committees—or that committee, if it be only one—is that the Lord Chief Justice or a senior judicial figure of any of the jurisdictions, such as the President of the Family Division, should be able, if he or she thinks it appropriate, to come and give evidence to the committee on an issue. Do we also need the ability for judges to lay written material before Parliament? It could be a useful adjunct. I need to look at the other circumstances in which that can occur and think about where one would get to in setting up a committee.

I shall come back to the matter at Third Reading. Frankly, I do not think that by then we will have made much progress on what the committees are. That is a longer-term discussion, but I hope that I will be able to return to it at Third Reading.

Photo of Lord Woolf Lord Woolf Crossbench

My Lords, in the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Lord Evans of Temple Guiting Lord Evans of Temple Guiting Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, I beg to move that further consideration on Report be now adjourned. In moving this Motion I suggest that the Report stage begin again not before 8.40 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.