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Clause 100 - Power to alter judicial titles: Northern Ireland

Courts Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:00 pm on 8th July 2003.

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Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath 4:00 pm, 8th July 2003

I beg to move amendment No. 26, in

clause 100, page 54, line 22, leave out 'Lord Chancellor' and insert 'Prime Minister'.

We have come to the sensitive subject of Northern Ireland. I am sorry that no one from the Northern Ireland parties was appointed to sit on the Committee, because the hon. Member for North Down (Lady

Hermon) has been helpful in a number of recent Committees considering legal Bills of which I have been a member. We think that the Prime Minister should make the orders about any alteration in judicial titles in relation to Northern Ireland. That is a small but important point. Again, it feels somewhat surreal debating whether the Lord Chancellor will do something, when the Government have said that, if they have their way, there will not be a Lord Chancellor in about three years—

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath

I hear the hon. Gentleman talking about getting rid of the Lord Chancellor, but I went with the new Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, to Her Majesty the Queen's official opening of Tynwald, the Manx Parliament, yesterday, and it is clear that the present Lord Chancellor is thoroughly enjoying his role. He also enjoyed all the ceremonial that we saw at Tynwald. It is apparent that the Isle of Man is keeping all the traditions that the Government want to sweep away. Lord Falconer might reflect on that when he considers what his Government are doing. Who knows, the Government might have a change of policy if the present Lord Chancellor has his way.

On the sensitive subject of Northern Ireland, any changes in judicial titles should be made by the Prime Minister. That is a serious point, although it can be quickly debated.

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Constitutional Affairs)

I realise that the hon. Gentleman's amendment refers to the narrow terms defined in the clause, but dare I suggest that there was a bit of mischievous intent in tabling it? Perhaps he was seeking to reopen discussions about the changes affecting the position of Lord Chancellor. He seemed to suggest that in his comments. However, it would not necessarily be in order for me to address those points in detail. Suffice it to say that I do not think that there is any convincing or compelling reason why the Prime Minister need exercise a power of the type the hon. Gentleman mentions in Northern Ireland, when the Lord Chancellor is capable of dealing with it.

Titles are a matter for the Crown, and it is for Ministers of the Crown to advise on them. Therefore, the Lord Chancellor, who is to be the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, is quite capable of undertaking that function. The current arrangement is adequate, and we see no need to have the powers vested in the Prime Minister, as opposed to the Lord Chancellor, so I ask the Committee to reject the amendment.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 100 ordered to stand part of the Bill.