Examination of Witnesses (Questions 77
MONDAY 26 MARCH 2001
77. Lord Chief Justice, Lord Bingham, Master
of the Rolls, we are delighted to see you. Welcome to this public
session of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. As far as we can
tell this is a somewhat unique occasion because it is the first
time that three such senior members of the judiciary have appeared
together before a Parliamentary Committee. We are extremely grateful
to you for agreeing to give evidence today and for allowing us
to explore with you the impact so far on the higher courts and
on the senior judiciary of the Human Rights Act 1998. We are well
aware that there are certain matters upon which you would not
feel it proper to comment, notably, but not exclusively, individual
cases. I can assure you that we have no wish to place you in an
awkward or invidious position and if, in our desire to range as
widely as possible across the field, some of our questions appear
to you to nudge you up against the constitutional boundaries between
the roles of the legislature and the judiciary, I am sure you
will not hesitate to let us know. Would any of the witnesses wish
to make any opening remarks before we start?
(Lord Woolf of Barnes) No, thank you
very much. We are grateful for your welcome.
(Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers) No, thank you.
78. Last week the Lord Chancellor and the Attorney
General appeared before us and the Lord Chancellor said that in
his view the Human Rights Act 1998 involved what he called a "dialogue"
between Parliament, the Courts and the executive, and he saw this
dialogue as being very important and probably the main mechanism
in moving to the culture of human rights. Does this idea of a
dialogue reflect your experience and, if so, what form do you
think this dialogue would take? If I may address that question
to all three of you in turn starting with you, Lord Woolf.
(Lord Woolf of Barnes) It may not be precisely the
language I would use, but I suspect I know what the Lord Chancellor
was intending by that remark. As I see it, the judges have got
a role, Parliament has a role and the executive has a role, and
the Human Rights Act is going to affect all three in the performance
of that role.
(Lord Bingham of Cornhill) I would not myself think
in terms of dialogue at all. The business of the judges is to
listen to cases and give judgment. In doing that, of course, they
will pay attention to the arguments that are addressed to them
and one hopes they will be alive to the currents of thought which
are prevalent in the community, but I do not myself see it as
the role of the judges to engage in dialogue.
(Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers) I do not think
dialogue is the right word either, but I do think there is a spirit
of co-operation rather than adversarial feeling so far as the
judiciary and the executive are concerned; we are both trying
to do the same thing.
79. My question is about the training and preparation
that was done because a lot of time was invested in preparing
for the implementation of the Act both by the judges and the Judicial
Studies Board. I would like to hear your views on whether you
think that was worthwhile and effective.
(Lord Woolf of Barnes) As far as the training was
concerned I thought it was essential and I think it did make a
very important contribution to what has been so far a successful
introduction of legislation which is very significant with regard
to the role of the courts.
(Lord Bingham of Cornhill) I agree.
(Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers) So do I.