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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, as I am sure the noble Baroness is aware, the IPU and the CPA offer some modest support to the all-party parliamentary groups. As I indicated in my initial response, we stand ready to give advice and support when we are asked so to do. Naturally, given that on occasions our advice has not always been tremendously welcomed, Her Majesty's Government are rather concerned about offering a blueprint for a way forward. The suggestions made by the House might be made more directly to the officers of the 73 all-party parliamentary groups, who may themselves be very happy to pick up the suggestions.
Lord Patten: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor for that Answer. I hope that he will accept that I respect both the office of Lord Chancellor and himself. I hope that he will also understand that as someone who is both politically and constitutionally a Conservative, I sometimes believe that it is necessary in the interests of respecting institutions to promote organic and sensible change and to conserve respect for those institutions in that way. Therefore, does not the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor recognise, as a Minister who is turning his reforming zeal upon this House and turning out so many of my hereditary colleagues, that he may well wish to turn some of that reforming zeal upon himself and the holders of his own office and seek to thoroughly modernise the office of Lord Chancellor, which is unique in the known world in combining legal duties, duties of a senior government Minister, making laws, and sitting in judgment upon people who are before the court under those laws?
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, the fact that some things or institutions call for modernisation does not mean that every one does. As the noble Lord has described himself as one who has affection for tradition, he may be interested to know that the evidence to the Wakeham Commission on House of Lords Reform by the Judges' Council, which represents the whole judiciary of the High Court and the Court of Appeal, is,
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I agree with my noble friend. Those who advance the argument which lies behind the Question proceed on the basis that the doctrine of the separation of powers between the legislature, the executive and the judiciary either does or should apply strictly in this country. It does not. We fashion our constitutional arrangements pragmatically. If we applied the doctrine of the separation of powers
Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, will the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor accept my congratulations, which arise from his Answer to my noble friend? It is with the greatest of pleasure that I, for one, welcome him to the ranks of the High Tories.
Lord Borrie: My Lords, does my noble and learned friend agree with me that at least since the beginning of the century the presence of the Lord Chancellor in the judicial proceedings of the House of Lords has been of added value, particularly in the fields of public law, public administration and judicial review? Does he further agree that given that in the latter part of this century far fewer Law Lords have had experience of politics, it is now of even greater value for the Lord Chancellor to be willing to sit on judicial proceedings than may once have been the case?
Viscount Bridgeman: My Lords, does not the noble and learned Lord accept that, as a result of the Human Rights Act and the devolution legislation, the political pressure on the Judicial Committee, of which the Lord Chancellor is a member, will increase?
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, there are two parts to a proper answer to that question. First, the occasions for controversy between the judiciary and the executive may increase as a result of the implementation of the Human Rights Act and the role of the judiciary in settling disputes under the devolutionary settlements. It is all the more important, therefore, that there should be a strong Lord Chancellor to mediate, to act as a buffer, between the judiciary and the executive. Secondly, the implementation of the Human Rights Act involves only a change of degree and not of kind. The judges in the House of Lords and elsewhere have traditionally handed down judgments which have a strong politically controversial dimension. Your Lordships should think of the landmark cases on civil liberties, trade union immunities, citizens' rights in time of war, natural justice, freedom of expression and the whole modern development of judicial review. The Human Rights Act does not make a difference of kind, only a difference of degree.
Lord Renton: My Lords, does the noble and learned Lord agree that it is a great advantage to have at least one Cabinet Minister responsible for achieving co-operation between the Government, the legislature and the judiciary and that that has been achieved by
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I agree with that and do not cast myself in some Burkean role as a High Tory in doing so. I believe in improving our traditions while we transmit them; but if our traditions have got it just about right, in leaving them as they are.
Lord Brightman: My Lords, on a lighter note, will the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor allow me to remind him that there is still in the Royal Courts of Justice a court which is called The Lord Chancellor's Court? In my youth, the Lord Chancellor would come to that court and take his seat for a few moments at the beginning of the legal year. Will the noble and learned Lord consider reviving that happy custom?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, any country which chooses to enter EMU does so on the basis that it is an irrevocable step. The treaty contains no legal basis for a member state withdrawing from EMU. That is why we are determined that any decision on UK membership of EMU must be based on a thorough assessment of the national economic interest, and would need to be agreed by government, Parliament and the British people.
Baroness Young: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that very clear statement that any joining of EMU would be irrevocable. Does he not agree on the importance now of having a statement which sets out clearly not just the economic but the political advantages and disadvantages so that the British people will know what the facts are, if called on to decide in a referendum?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, our policy is to prepare in this Parliament in order to create a genuine option to decide whether to join early in the next Parliament. It is when we have a genuine option before us that it is appropriate to make a definitive assessment of the matters to which the noble Baroness referred.
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