HL Deb 10 December 1981 vol 425 cc1434-5

3.8 p.m.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the second Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what, if any, restrictions exist to compel Her Majesty's judges to refrain from making political statements.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone)

My Lords, as the noble Lord will be aware, it is a fundamental principle of the constitution of this country that, subject to the sovereignty of the Queen in Parliament, the judiciary is independent. But Her Majesty's judges are well aware of the established principle that they do not take part in matters of political controversy, and that in their decision of the cases which come before them it is their responsibility to do justice to all manner of people in accordance with law, without fear or favour, affection or ill will.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, in thanking the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor for that reply, may I ask whether he would not agree that it is highly desirable that members of the judiciary should not make statements of a political character, irrespective of the particular case in which they might be involved?

The Lord Chancellor

My Lords, I think that is fully covered by my original Answer.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

My Lords, nowadays do not judges in many cases have to do the work that was formerly done by a judge and a jury? Do not judges, unlike a jury, have to give reasons for their judgment, and is it not then inevitable that, in certain cases of a political character, there may be a political element in the judgment? Inevitably, is that sometimes not pleasing to keen political partisans?

The Lord Chancellor

My Lords, I think the answer to my noble and learned friend's questions in each case is, Yes.

Lord Morris

My Lords, bearing in mind his answer to the original Question, may I ask the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor whether Lords of Appeal in Ordinary are included in that category, as Peers of Parliament?

The Lord Chancellor

My Lords, I thought the Question related primarily to judges who are not Lords of Appeal in Parliament, but I think it is the case that, as has just happened, the noble and learned Lords on the Cross-Benches do make valuable contributions to our debates. I think, in the main, their intervention is generally welcomed in this House. They do not usually intervene in matters which are controversial in any political sense.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, would the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor recommend my noble friend to read Professor John Griffith's The Politics of the Judiciary, and in particular the chapter headed "The myth of neutrality"?

The Lord Chancellor

No, my Lords. I think the noble Lord is well capable of choosing his own literature without assistance either from the noble Lord or from me.