Joint Committee On Human Rights Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 77 - 79)




  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.

Baroness Prashar

  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.

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