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Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I am sure that there are many lessons that we can learn from the Dome. The National Audit Office has already written one report in relation to it and will write another one after the sale process is completed. When we have seen that second document, we can consider what further lessons can be learned.
Lord Mackay of Clashfern: My Lords, does the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor accept that at the present time the House of Lords is in fact the final Court of Appeal for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, although not for Scotland in respect of crime? It may be, as he says, that it is a legislature, but it is not only a legislature. Is it not also a judicial body? I know that the noble and learned Lord wants to change that.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, of course I accept the current arrangements. My point in answer to the question asked by the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, was that essentially Parliament is a legislative body, although I accept what the noble and learned Lord says about the current arrangements.
Lord Henley: My Lords, the noble and learned Lord, or rather his department, has no doubt been looking at a number of possible sites for the proposed new Supreme Court. Can he tell us what discussions he has had with English Heritage about some of those possible sites?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, we looked at a large number of sites. In particular, we are focusing on six sites. In so far as English Heritage is involved with any of those sites, we shall have discussions with it. We have not had legal discussions with that body so far.
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, is there not a good compromise that would satisfy most of the Government's objectives, most of the judges and most of everybody elsenamely, to maintain the reading of judgments in this Chamber, which would give them dignity and the force of tradition? The Government might also retain the informality of the Judicial Committee's work, which is uniqueno wigs, no palaverwhile obtaining the extra space, which everybody agrees is needed, by acquiring premises in the immediate vicinity at a very modest price.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, if there are premises in the immediate vicinity for a very modest price, I would be interested in knowing what they are. I have absolutely no doubt that the new Supreme Court will be able to conduct its proceedings with both
Lord Ackner: My Lords, is the noble and learned Lord prepared to draw a distinction between costs up to the Court of Appeal and costs in the Lords? Litigation in the House of Lords or the Supreme Court is designed to develop and clarify points of principle and is not concerned to the same extent with a dispute inter partes? In those circumstances, is it not right that the state should pay the costs in the House of Lords or the Supreme Court?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, civil fees currently make a contribution to the court system, not to the final Court of Appeal. It is appropriate, if one seeks to invoke the civil court system, that one makes a contribution to the cost, even if one never gets to court at all, for example. Most civil cases never get to court, yet they make a contribution to the cost. That is the right approach.
Lord Dubs: My Lords, does my noble and learned friend agree that in addition to the many good arguments for the changes that he proposes, there is one other? The general public, whose servants after all we all are, is totally unaware of the distinction between this place as the legislative Chamber and this place as a court. I would invoke the fact that during the Pinochet hearings many people asked me how I was going to vote on the future of General Pinochet. I pointed out that I had no opportunity to do soand that it would not be proper. Does my noble and learned friend agree that in order that the public understands what we are about, the separation of the legislature from the Supreme Court would be beneficial and would lead to transparency?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I think that one effect of creating a Supreme Court is that it will make much clearer the distinction between the final Court of Appeal and Parliament. I also think, separately, that once there is a proper Supreme Court building, it will be easier for members of public to come to see the proceedings of the final Court of Appeal.
Lord Millett: My Lords, may I be naive enough to ask the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor a question in the desire to obtain information? I should like to ask him whether Somerset House has been ruled out as the location for the Supreme Court; and, if that is so, can he say why?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, in relation to particular sites, I have said that it is wrong for me to identify the position we have reached. I have said that I will inform the Select Committee in another place where we have got to, so that my negotiations with other sites are not prejudiced.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I am sure that one reason that leads to an increase in the costs of any building is that we learn more about our requirements as time goes on and, as a result, are in a weaker negotiating position in the middle than at the beginning of the process. Whatever we commission, whether it be by way of refurbishment or a new building, we will do our level best to ensure that all the requirements are provided at the earliest possible stage. I cannot guarantee that we will get it absolutely right but, plainly, the noble Lord's point is a good one.
Lord Smith of Clifton: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply, but does he recall the late Lord Williams of Mostyn, replying to a Question on the cessation of producing government annual reports, telling the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy:
Lord Rooker: Well, my Lords, I am astonished at the Question asked by the noble Lord on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Greaves. As I said, this is the second progress report, not the first one, on delivering a £22 billion programme. As I said, most of the others have concerned the south-east. We want to make clear
The document outlines the progress that we have made on, for example, the northern market renewal pathfinders, involving a half a billion pound programme where we have collapse of the housing market and problems of community cohesion. The document explains how the money has been spent. It contains a progress report on the coalfields community programme.
The document mainly concerns the north and the Midlands, but not exclusively. For example, it announces the setting up of the 16th urban regeneration company in Gloucester. To describe it as a fatuous glossy is quite out of order and out of proportion to its contents. I cannot respond fully in the context of this Question, but I am quite happy to have these reports debated in this House at any time that noble Lords choose.
Lord Henley: My Lords, I am tempted to use the same form of words to describe the document as did the noble Lord, Lord Smith, but I shall refrain. The Minister talked about creating sustainable communities costing £22 billion. How much of that will come from general taxation?
Lord Rooker: My Lords, the £22 billion is government expenditure. The programmes that have been carried out across the country will lever in a factor of four, five or, sometimes, up to tenfold from the private sector. Most of the investment will come from the private sector; we have made that clear. Most of our money is for remediationgetting land, especially brownfield land, ready; opening up sites with infrastructure such as bypasses or bridges; and a whole host of work. Most of the money for investment in both the wider four growth areas of the south-east, which is what the Sustainable Communities Plan is about, and in the north and the Midlands, on which I have just touched, will be levered in from the private sector.
I challenge anyone to argue that this is not a report on progress madeas I said, a second progress report. No one seemed to criticise the first one. Perhaps that is because it was devoted exclusively to the south-east and the Members of this place, like the Members of the other place, and journalists, being London-centric, thought that that was a good idea. Because this report concentrates on the north and the Midlands, all of a sudden, it is not on.
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