Report (2nd Day) (Continued)

Part of Crime and Courts Bill [HL] – in the House of Lords at 9:30 pm on 4th December 2012.

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Photo of Lord Mayhew of Twysden Lord Mayhew of Twysden Conservative 9:30 pm, 4th December 2012

It seems almost trite to make the point that wherever you have a chain of command within an organisation, that chain of command should be clear and not muddled or uncertain. If you find that those defects are present, you are bound to get trouble sooner or later-and it will probably be sooner. In the case of the United Kingdom Supreme Court, it seems to me to be very important that there should be no such blemish in its constitutional arrangements, for the very reason that has been explained so powerfully to us this evening, and which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Phillips-with the support of all his brethren-would have been adopting, we understand, were he present. The whole point of the setting up of the Supreme Court is that it should be operationally squeaky clean of any contamination by the Executive. That was the point of moving it away from the Judicial Committee of your Lordships' House, something that many of us regretted. If that is to be the case, however, then it is particularly important that there should be no capability of misunderstanding and resulting conflict-let alone litigation-arising out of an assertion that there is a dual chain of command here.

It is not necessary to go into the statutory provisions of the 2005 Act, which have already been explained to us this evening. This amendment proposes that the Lord Chancellor shall no longer be the appointer, but the president, of the court. I suggest that that must be right, if one bears in mind the overriding importance of the operational independence of that court. I very much share the hope, expressed at the end of his speech, of the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, that as a result of their discussions the Government will come to the conclusion that this is an amendment which should in its substance be supported. If it is not possible for that to be achieved, then I very much hope that we shall have a very clear explanation why, and of what is thought to be achieved by a Government who insist on keeping the appointment in the hands of the chief executive-particularly when it falls to the chief executive, under the present constitutional arrangements, to appoint all the other officers and officials of the court. I very much support this amendment.