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Last Updated: Friday, 2 July, 2004, 12:55 GMT 13:55 UK
At-a-glance: Law reforms report
A special committee of the House of Lords has published its report on plans to abolish the office of Lord Chancellor and to create a Supreme Court. Here are the main points of their report.

Disagreements within the committee

  • The committee was divided on government plans to transfer powers from the Lord Chancellor to a Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs.

  • The committee could not agree on the adequacy of provisions to keep judges independent. Many judges perform judicial reviews of government activities which need their full independence.

  • The committee cannot agree whether the Supreme Court should be delayed until permanent premises are ready.

  • It failed to agree whether judges who are members of the House of Lords should still be able to speak and vote in debates.

Agreements of the committee

  • The committee agreed on the duties to be performed by the minister replacing the lord chancellor if the Bill was passed.

  • The court should be established separate from the Department for Constitutional Affairs. The minister should not have the power to amend its rules.

  • The "concordat" agreed between the government and the lord chief justice, who is made head of the judiciary, should be implemented by law, with changes to ensure the deal is fulfilled.

  • A commission for choosing a supreme court judges should provide only one name - not between two and five candidates as originally proposed.

  • The Supreme Court should be directly funded by the Treasury and the new minister should not be able to adjust its rules.

  • The committee backed the plans for a new appointments commission for choosing judges and said "merit" should be the only basis for choices.

  • It said the original plans to allow the new minister to reject the commission's choice of judges were too widely drawn.

  • It welcomed the lord chancellor's proposals to make it clear a candidate could only be rejected if the minister thought he was not the best suited for the job.

  • There should be a new parliamentary committee to ensure dialogue between Parliament and judges.




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