Department for Constitutional Affairs

– in the House of Lords at 2:39 pm on 14th June 2005.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Hunt of Wirral Lord Hunt of Wirral Conservative 2:39 pm, 14th June 2005

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What further proposals they have for the future structure of the Department for Constitutional Affairs.

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, the Prime Minister announced in May 2005 that we would assume responsibility for coroners and local government elections. In April 2006, an independent judicial appointments commission and a judicial complaints commission will be established. At the same time, the new tribunal service will be launched. The implementation of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 in April 2007 will create the new role of the Public Guardian alongside a new court of protection.

Photo of Lord Hunt of Wirral Lord Hunt of Wirral Conservative

But, my Lords, does the Minister recall that two years ago the Prime Minister announced the abolition of the post of Lord Chancellor? Is she aware how pleased we are on these Benches that we still have a Lord Chancellor?

Will she also accept my very best wishes for every possible success with her new brief on compensation? Does she foresee a place in the forthcoming compensation Bill for rapid and effective rehabilitation right at the heart of a streamlined and improved compensation system whose priority is making people well and fit again, rather than putting an arbitrary price tag on human inconvenience or pain? Will she therefore put in place the right structure to ensure that, properly funded in partnership with the compensator, the National Health Service has a leading role to play in such a partnership?

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 note the noble Lord's comments on the Lord Chancellor. We have debated that many times in your Lordships' House.

I am grateful for the noble Lord's congratulations, if I may put it like that, on my work on the compensation culture. There is an interdepartmental working group of Ministers, including my noble friend Lord Hunt of Kings Heath. One issue being considered between Ministers from the Department of Health and the Department for Work and Pensions is precisely the question of rehabilitation, for reasons that the noble Lord knows extremely well, which is critical to ensuring that we get people back to work and deal with those issues accordingly.

Photo of Lord Goodhart Lord Goodhart Shadow Lord Chancellor, Law Officers (Constitutional Affairs), Advisory Team On Legal Matters, Non-Departmental & Cross Departmental Responsibilities

My Lords, why do not the Government transfer the responsibility for criminal justice to the DCA and thereby constitute a proper ministry of justice?

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 are already strong trilateral relations with colleagues in the Home Office and with the Attorney-General which work extremely well. Any changes to the department's organisation would be a matter for the Prime Minister.

Photo of Lord Crickhowell Lord Crickhowell Conservative

My Lords, is there a Cabinet committee considering future constitutional arrangements? If so, who chairs it?

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 is no constitutional Cabinet sub-committee as such. As I said, there is a Cabinet sub-committee considering issues concerning electoral reform and so on, of which noble Lords are aware, and I ensured that details of who attended that Cabinet committee were put on the website.

Photo of Lord Mackay of Clashfern Lord Mackay of Clashfern Conservative

My Lords, which department has responsibility for ensuring that proper consideration is given to the creation of new statutory offences? I have the impression that, since 1997, we have had one or two of those and I wonder what effect, if any, that has had on provision for the courts—which is, of course, the responsibility of the DCA.

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 unable to give the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, details of exactly how the structure works, because it is not an area specifically covered in the Question. I can tell him that the relations that I have described between the Attorney-General's office and the Home Office ensure that when we consider statutory offences and their impact on the courts, that is done collectively and collaboratively.

Photo of Lord Phillips of Sudbury Lord Phillips of Sudbury Spokesperson in the Lords (Id Cards & Charities Bill), Home Affairs

My Lords, will the Government help to alleviate considerable public confusion by making their mind up whether the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, is to be known as the Lord Chancellor or the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs?

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 not sure that there is a great deal of public confusion—as much as the public, I am sure, spend time deliberating that question. However, the question has been raised with me in your Lordships' House. I shall refer it to my noble and learned friend to see whether he wishes to indicate further, perhaps in writing to the noble Lord, his personal view.

Photo of Lord Carlisle of Bucklow Lord Carlisle of Bucklow Conservative

My Lords, further to my noble friend's original Question, is the noble Baroness happy that, two years later, we still have a Lord Chancellor?

Photo of Lord Peyton of Yeovil Lord Peyton of Yeovil Conservative

My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that some of us look back with nostalgia to the days when the occupant of the Woolsack was the present Lord Chancellor's predecessor?

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, the joy of being in government is perhaps never to look back. However, I have a great deal of nostalgia for many noble Lords who have served in all kinds of capacities. I am sure that noble Lords will agree that they have all done a wonderful job.

Photo of Earl Ferrers Earl Ferrers Conservative

My Lords, when the noble Baroness writes to her noble and learned friend asking whether he would like to be known as the Lord Chancellor or the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, will she suggest to him that he remains the Lord Chancellor?

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 was not going to write to my noble and learned friend; I was going to talk to him and ask him to write to the noble Lord who raised the question. I will ensure that noble Lords' views are brought to his attention but it will be for him to decide.