HC Deb 09 July 2002 vol 388 cc734-5
37. Mr. John Burnett (Torridge and West Devon)

What plans he has to propose reforms to the Judicial Committee of the House of Lords. [65334]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Ms Rosie Winterton)

The Government have no plans to propose reforms to the Judicial Committee of the House of Lords.

Mr. Burnett

Many will be disappointed by the Minister's indifference. The Government should lead, not just react. The weight of case law and opinion in recent years has been to seek a total separation of the judiciary from the Executive and legislative authorities. I should like to draw the Minister's attention to the admirable speech made by Lord Bingham of Cornhill to the Constitution Unit on 1 May 2002, in which he said: But if the House of Lords is to be reformed, and even if it is not, the opportunity should be taken to reflect in institutional terms what is undoubtedly true in functional terms, that the law lords are judges not legislators and do not belong in a House to whose business they can make no more than a slight contribution. Does the Minister agree with the senior Law Lord?

Ms Winterton

Obviously, the Government listen carefully to the senior Law Lord, Lord Bingham, but I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is aware that the Law Lords hold a number of different views about the issue. That was certainly reflected in the evidence to the Wakeham commission which, as he will know, recommended the retention of the Law Lords in the House of Lords. The Government are not convinced that there is a case for changing those arrangements, but if the proposed Joint Committee on parliamentary reform makes such proposals, the Government will consider them.

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough)

My hon. Friend has just answered my question, so perhaps I can refine it. She assured the House that the Government will consider any recommendation that the Joint Committee may make. With how much energy will they consider it? The history of reform of the House of Lords is scattered with examples of people saying that they will consider something, then doing nothing. Can we have an assurance that if the Joint Committee makes a strong recommendation, that will be considered seriously and action proposed?

Ms Winterton

I certainly would not like to predict future energy levels, but I reiterate that the Government are not convinced, in any sense of the word, that there is a sufficient case for change. I repeat that the Joint Committee can make proposals, which will certainly be considered.

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