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Office of Lord Chancellor (Constitution Committee Report) — Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:57 pm on 7th July 2015.

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Photo of Lord Faulks Lord Faulks The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice 4:57 pm, 7th July 2015

The Lord Chancellor’s role and his oath, as the noble and learned Lord said, is defined by the Constitutional Reform Act 2005. Clearly, his role is the same as other Ministers’ but must be larger than theirs. Its precise ambit may be a question of some debate but clearly he would regard, as indeed he said in the Legatum Institute talk, that he has a greater and particularly specific role in relation to the rule of law.

I was dealing with the oversight of the constitution. The committee recommended that, “a senior Cabinet minister”—in its view, most appropriately the Lord Chancellor—should have responsibility,

“for oversight of the constitution as a whole, even if other ministers have responsibility for specific constitutional reforms”.

The Prime Minister, of course, has overall responsibility for the constitution. The Cabinet Office has oversight of constitutional policy and has done since 2010. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Oliver Letwin, oversees co-ordination of the Government’s constitutional reform programme and is supported by two Ministers and officials from the Cabinet Office constitution group. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster works in close collaboration with the Prime Minister and other relevant Cabinet Ministers, including the Lord Chancellor, the Attorney-General, the Leaders of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and the Secretaries of State for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This senior ministerial oversight reflects the importance that the Government attach to their constitutional reform programme.

In answer to the noble and learned Lord, I am not aware of any precise protocol, but it is clear that there is a great concentration within the Cabinet Office, in close collaboration with the other offices.