Supreme Court — Question

– in the House of Lords at 11:21 am on 23 April 2009.

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Photo of Earl Ferrers Earl Ferrers Conservative 11:21, 23 April 2009

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is to be the postal address of the new Supreme Court.

Photo of Earl Ferrers Earl Ferrers Conservative

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the brevity of his reply will be appreciated by everyone for its rarity as well as its brevity? Does he realise that the same building in its earlier incarnation had the address of Little George Street? Why, if it is the same building now, have the Government changed the name? If they are going to change the name, why not change it to something really grand—with deference to the Duke of Wellington, why not call it No. 2 London?

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Justice, Government Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

My Lords, the reason why the address will be changed is that at the moment Little George Street is the street on which the front entrance to the building is situated. The front entrance will alter to face Parliament Square, so the address will be Parliament Square.

Photo of Lord Henley Lord Henley Shadow Minister, Justice

My Lords, bearing in mind the need for the Supreme Court to be seen to be independent of government, would it not be more appropriate if the word "gov" did not appear in the e-mail address for the new Supreme Court?

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Justice, Government Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

My Lords, I have to say that that is the best question that the noble Lord has ever asked me. I will look into that, but I do not really think that he has a point there.

Photo of Lord Thomas of Gresford Lord Thomas of Gresford Shadow Attorney General

My Lords, does the Minister accept that it is very important that the public should know where the Supreme Court is? Some years ago, I was co-defending in Kuala Lumpur with a rather elderly QC who jumped into a taxi with his instructing solicitor, Monika Skowronska, and said: "Supreme Court". About half an hour later, he realised that they were going through a very seedy part of Kuala Lumpur. Their protestations to the driver were not heeded. They thought that they were being kidnapped, probably by my client or agents of my client. They were decanted in a new housing development on the edge of the city called Supreme Court.

Photo of Lord Lloyd of Berwick Lord Lloyd of Berwick Chair, Ecclesiastical Committee (Joint Committee), Chair, Ecclesiastical Committee (Joint Committee)

My Lords, surely the noble Lord, Lord Henley, has a very good point. If it was worth spending £100 million to avoid a supposed misunderstanding on the part of the public about the role of the Law Lords, surely we ought to avoid creating a far worse misunderstanding that the Law Lords, or the new Supreme Court Justices, are part of the Government.

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Justice, Government Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

My Lords, I said that the noble Lord, Lord Henley, has a good point and that I will take it away. The amount of money is £58.9 million, as opposed to £100 million, but there is a serious point here; when the Supreme Court opens for business in October this year, it will be a major constitutional milestone for this country. The court will be physically separate from Parliament, which will demonstrate more clearly than anything else its status as an important and independent core institution in this country. Equally importantly, the court will be much more accessible to the general public than I am afraid the present court is. It will be visible to everyone, too. This is an important change, which I hope the House now welcomes.

Photo of Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Conservative

My Lords, the Minister says that the cost will be £58.9 million. I assume that that estimate was produced by the Chancellor. Will the Minister remind us what the Government told us the court would cost when they embarked on the project?

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Justice, Government Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

My Lords, as I understand it, £58.9 million is the set-up cost; £36.7 million for capital construction was announced in June 2007, £20.2 million of other set-up costs were announced in June 2007—the same month—and £2 million of additional repairs to the Middlesex Guildhall were announced in July 2008.

Photo of Baroness Trumpington Baroness Trumpington Conservative

My Lords, when the noble and learned Lords who will sit in the Supreme Court retire, could they be encouraged to come back to this place to give the benefit of their wisdom?

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

My Lords, will the Minister accept that the word "org", hideous though it is, would be more appropriate to indicate the independence of the Supreme Court than the word "gov", another horrible word?

Photo of Earl Ferrers Earl Ferrers Conservative

My Lords, could I be a little more helpful to the Minister? My noble friend asked what the Government's estimate was in the beginning. I think the Minister said that it was made in 2007, but if he reads the Written Statement on 14 December 2004, he will see that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said:

"The cost of establishing the Supreme Court at Middlesex Guildhall will be approximately £30 million".—[Hansard, 14/12/04; col. WS 72.]