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Lord Lamont of Lerwick: My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord for that full reply. Bearing in mind the Lord Chancellor's responsibilities for the impartiality of justice, does the noble and learned Lord agree that it was utterly unacceptable, and utterly wrong, for the Prime Minister to offer his personal views on the former president of Chile at the Labour Party conference? How can anyone believe that the Home Secretary will exercise his responsibilities
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I acknowledge that the noble Lord has more than a passing interest in this subject. I should not like to count the number of Written Questions that he has tabled. No, I am not in the business of issuing rebukes to the Prime Minister; and I have complete confidence in the impartiality of the Home Secretary.
Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate: My Lords, is it not the case that my noble and learned friend's sole involvement in the Pinochet affair has been, first, to take steps to ensure that the first appeal hearing debacle is not repeated, and, secondly, to be accountable to Parliament in relation to the leak inquiry, which was not even set up by him in the first instance?
Viscount Astor: My Lords, at the Labour Party conference the Prime Minister described General Pinochet as "unspeakable". Would the noble and learned Lord care to say whether the Prime Minister was speaking as the leader of his party, or indeed as Prime Minister, or both? Are such comments helpful to justice in this country?
Lord Goodhart: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for that Answer. It establishes that the matter is being taken with appropriate seriousness by the Government. Will the noble and learned Lord accept that this is another, and very strong, argument for the establishment of a judicial appointments commission to take judicial appointments out of the hands of the executive?
The Lord Chancellor: No, my Lords. However, I want to make plain, as I have done previously, that I certainly do not exclude the possibility of a judicial appointments commission. However, I await the report of Sir Leonard Peach, the former commissioner on public appointments, who is auditing the whole system of appointments, both of Queen's Counsel and to the Bench in England and Wales. That report will be published, and I have no doubt that it will inform our considerations well.
Lord Hogg of Cumbernauld: My Lords, does my noble and learned friend agree that the matter has been well handled in Scotland where the legal system has been entirely in the hands of the Scots for many centuries? Does he further agree that any knock-on effect on English law can only benefit from the considerable experience that Scotland has had in dealing with matters of this kind?
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I yield to no one, including the noble Lord, in my admiration for the genius of the Scottish nation. However, judicial independence is part of the constitutional culture of Great Britain. I do not believe that any assistant recorder or deputy judge either feels that he is not independent or, in practice, acts other than independently and impartially. A full and proper consideration of the issue in England and Wales will consider the need for independence and impartiality against the background of our long-standing constitutional and professional culture and standards.
Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, does the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor accept that many of us would view with considerable concern the removal of judicial appointments from the traditional system of appointment by the Lord Chancellor? While I am addressing the House, will the noble and learned Lord further accept that he is not a Law Officer?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, in considering changes in the structure of law and justice in this country, have the Government identified any deeply entrenched forces of conservatism in the law? We note that there has been a vigorous attack on the other two liberal professions of medicine and teaching. Do the Government acknowledge that there are similar forces in the legal profession, particularly the Bar? Could the Government by any chance be treating lawyers and judges more gently than doctors and teachers?
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, my experience of lawyers--which is considerable--is that they are tough and robust and that they speak out for clients and vigorously for themselves--and good luck to them.
Lord Mackay of Drumadoon: My Lords, can the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor confirm that the wide-ranging review to which he referred will proceed on the basis that the case of Starrs v. Procurator Fiscal, Linlithgow was correctly decided?
The Lord Chancellor: No, my Lords. If the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate so decides--and for all I know he has come to a decision at this moment--it may be subject to appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council which would then have the last word.
As regards the precedent value in England, it is of some but not great value. The considerations that most influenced the High Court of Justiciary in Scotland were that temporary sheriffs were appointed for a year and might have their appointments revoked--"recalled" is the statutory language--by the Secretary of State without assigning any reason. The whole English and Welsh context will have to be examined for what it is.
Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, will the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor state whether the case has any implications for United Kingdom tribunals? Those may be employment tribunals, social security tribunals or VAT tribunals which are frequently chaired by lawyers in private practice who serve as tribunal chairmen on short-term appointments with no security of tenure. We understand that many seek and would be happy to accept full-time employment whether as judges or on tribunals. Further, how many tribunals would be affected?
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, in principle it is possible that part-time judicial appointments to tribunals are affected. That is part of the consideration which we are undertaking at present. However, I am sure that most people would think it entirely
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, as part of our comprehensive programme against tobacco, the Government will ban tobacco advertising in line with Directive 98/43/EC as soon as practicable. We have supported the hospitality industry's Public Places Charter and the Health and Safety Commission's proposal to introduce an approved code of practice on smoking in the workplace.
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