Changes in the Lords

Lord Norton

44109Four peers have died this month and new appointments announced.  In recent weeks, the deaths have been announced of peers who have served the crown (Lord Moore of Wolvercote, former Private Secretary to the Queen), Parliament (Lord Dean of Harptree, who had served as a Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons), the law (Lord Slynn of Hadley, a former Law Lord) and the Bank of England (Lord George, Governor 1993-2003).   Lord Dean in particular was an active member, managing to attend until shortly before his death.

The House will shortly be welcoming two new members, although their time in the House will be brief.  This is because they are both Law Lords, and from October they will decant to the new Supreme Court.  They are Lord Justice Lawrence Collins, a Justice of the Court of Appeal, and Sir Brian Kerr, Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland.   Lord Justice Collins will be introduced, as Lord Collins of Mapesbury, next Tuesday.

We shall also be welcoming another judge, the Master of the Rolls, Sir Anthony Clarke.  He is being made a life peer.   It is not unusual for the Master of the Rolls, as well as the Lord Chief Justice, to be elevated to the peerage.

17 comments for “Changes in the Lords

  1. 22/04/2009 at 1:27 pm

    The fact that, for the foreseeable future, most of the Justices of the Supreme Court will be peers who could, in theory, still speak and vote on legislation makes a mockery of the idea that moving to Little George Street makes the highest court in the land any better.

    I know I’ve asked before, but is there still no word on how we will address supreme court judges who are not peers? I know they are to be “Justices of the Supreme Court”, but that’s the job title, not the same as their form of address. Appeal Court judges are addressed “Lord Justice”, High Court judges are addressed Mr(s) Justice, so how are Justices of the Supreme Court addressed?

  2. Tory Boy
    22/04/2009 at 1:46 pm

    I think with the size of the House a reduction in the amount of new members should be put in place, to control the size of the house. This may help reduce the amount of members to a reasonable size around 600 peers.

  3. lordnorton
    22/04/2009 at 2:05 pm

    Jonathan: Once the new Supreme Court comes into being, the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 provides that Law Lords will cease to be members of the Lords for the duration of their service as Justices of the Supreme Court. They will only be able to speak and vote in the House once they cease their tenure on the court. As far as I am aware, there has been no announcement as to how Justices will be addressed. I suppose initially one could continue to address them in the same way as they are presently addressed, but that would be messy and termporary, since one will presumably need a different form of address for Justices appointed after October (i.e. Justices who are not law lords) – unless, that is, one takes a leaf out of the practice of the Court of Appeal and style them Lord Justices of the Supreme Court.

    Tory Boy: I agree and you will note that, on the figures I have given, the number of deaths exceeds the new appointments. The two new Law Lords will move from the House in October. Only the Master of the Rolls will remain. There needs, though, to be a more systematic and structured approach to reducing the size of the House. At the moment, the combination of nominations by the Appointments Commission and by the Prime Minister is having the effect of pushing the numbers up rather than reducing them. Allowing for peers to take permanent leave of absence, and cease to be counted as members, would be one way of helping reduce numbers.

  4. 22/04/2009 at 2:16 pm

    Perhaps the arrangements in the Constitutional Reform Act should be made permanent. All “justices” can be made peers, but they can’t sit in the Lords until after they have retired from the court. It seems likely they will be offered peerages when they retire anyway, as long as life peerages still exist.

  5. lordnorton
    22/04/2009 at 2:31 pm

    Jonathan: A very interesting proposal. I can see the force of it. Given, as you say, the likelihood of Justices being offered peerages when they cease to sit, then why not make them peers on appointment or just prior to appointment?

  6. Croft
    22/04/2009 at 5:02 pm

    Jonathan: Of course the growing practice these days is to give titles at the termination of office – even where there is a long-standing tradition for them to be given on appointment. I rather suspect this is a mild inducement to good behaviour – for good or ill.

    The obvious comparison is the Scottish system where the Judges of the Court of Session ‘invent’ their own titles and are addressed for practical purposes as though peers: (not Rt.) Hon. Lord (name/location)

  7. Zarove
    22/04/2009 at 5:51 pm

    To be honest, I think I’ve “Reformed” out already.

    I didn’t even like the Reform of the Lords in 1999, and detested the “Democratisation”. I realise Blair and New Labour thought it incredulous that in the 21st Century we still had unelected members int he Legislature, but an elected Senate is more or less going to just be politicians ramming their ideology down everyones throats, as per usual.

    As tot he Supreme Court, the two main questions seem to be, how will they be appointed, and how shall they be addressed?

    I’d suggest a Proper sounding British titles, but they seem out of Fashion as the Government seems to want to instill in us an American style Republic, and along with it American sounding “Modern” title’s.

    Still, here are my suggestions.

    Why not Address them as Lord Supreme Justice? It is in keeping with them being supreme, as a Supreme Court, and in keeping with the title “Lord”.

    when speaking to them in court where the Long Form would be inconvenient, they can merely be addressed as “My Lord”, or ” Your Lordship”.

    As for appointments, why not let the Queens Majesty appoint them? That seems rather Traditional. ( And seems to be Antithetical to the reforms to “Modernise” by embracing essentially the American-style Republican system) but it would be a right proper way to handle the problem. She can appoint them on the advise of the Lord Chamberlain. (You know, the 1400 year old post Abolished by Blair for no apparent reason other than it was old.)

    I also realise my first post here may sound Harsh, and it is. I just think that all these reforms are getting out of hand, and the system we had originally was in no way in need of such revision, as it worked well enough as it was.

  8. 22/04/2009 at 11:03 pm

    Zarove: I quite agree we should have British-sounding titles. “Supreme Court” itself is bad enough, so I don’t want simply “Justice”, and don’t like the senior judge being the “president”.

    I’d thought about Lord Supreme Justice before. I agree it fits in with the other courts’ judges.

    Or perhaps they could take a lead from surgeons, go for the ultimate in inverse snobbery and be simply Mr/Mrs…

  9. Zarove
    23/04/2009 at 3:34 pm

    Well, perhaps the “President” can be changed to something like “Lord Chouncilor Of Her Majesty’s Supreme Court”. A Short Form of this may be “Chouncilor Of The Supreme Court” or “Chouncilor-Justice”.

    I also agree, we’ve gone how many Centuries without the need for a Supreme Court? I don’t understand why all of the sudden we need to change the system in order to “Modernise”. But thats just me. I’m sure I don’t matter.

  10. handj
    23/04/2009 at 4:45 pm

    Lord Norton and Jonathan: When the provision (s.137) of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 which will bar Justices (or Judges) of the Supreme Court from sitting as members of the House of Lords while holding office comes into force, it would appear that it will apply to most ranks of the judiciary (e.g. District Judges, Circuit Judges, Judges of the High Court and of the Court of Appeal). I assume an ennobled Master of the Rolls or Lord Chief Justice would thus be ineligible (unless there’s some small clause somewhere amid all the rig-jigging). In any case Sir Anthony Clarke’s time will be brief as he, too, will be off across the road when it opens having been appointed a Justice of the Supreme Court with effect from 1 October 2009 (http://www.number10.gov.uk/Pagetag/justice-of-the-supreme-court)!

  11. Len
    23/04/2009 at 5:25 pm

    I agree with Zarove and Jonathan. There’s something strangely comforting about having unique titles here in Britain, and while I definitely don’t like the idea of the Appellate Committee moving out, the name change just seems superfluous. I mean, by all means you can remove the ‘House of Lords’ part at the beginning, but the Appellate Committee itself is not particularly problematic. The judiciary is independent anyway. I remember someone saying on here (Lord Norton, perhaps?) that the entire move was based on the premise that no one knew what the Appellate Committee did, and so they moved it out and changed it’s name just because of that. I mean, a little education on how the system works would solve a lot of problems, and wouldn’t cost the amounts I’m sure this project will/is/has.

  12. Zarove
    24/04/2009 at 6:00 pm

    Len, the problem is as I’ve said above; the need to “Modernise”. Our esteemed leaders think that our old titles come form the past and are thus not suited for the 21st century, just as our political system needs revamping.

    Somehow, being in the 21st century magically makes a system of government effected over centuries ineffective, and in need of sweeping reforms. As to the titles, they also need to reflect the new way.

    I personally think we should leave well enough along unless a change is actually needed. Changing for the sake of reflecting what other nations do or to be “New” and “Up to date” is not effective and leads to cultural confusion.

    But thats the mindset we have now. Somehow, we must have a Supreme Court, an elected upper house, and rename everything, because the 21st century demands it.

  13. lordnorton
    25/04/2009 at 10:50 am

    Croft: I take your opening point. I think that is a very good reason for Justices to be elevated to the peerage upon appointment.

    Zarove: On the appointments process, there is now a statutory procedure. I don’t have a problem with the procedure, though I did not have a problem with the old procedure: it produced excellent law lords. The law lords are extremely able and some of them are outstanding.

    handj: You are correct. Section 137 of the 2005 Act bars those holders of judicial office who are already disqualified from sitting in the Commons. Sir Anthony (shortly to be Lord) Clarke will indeed also be moving across the road in order to replace Lord Scott. If Lord Pannick had his way, Lord Scott would not be retiring. Lord Pannick is keen to raise the retirement age for law lords.

    Len: You are right in assuming I made the point that the justification for the creation of the Supreme Court was that people did not understand the role of the appellate committee of the House of Lords. That, to my mind, was not a compelling reason for the change. As you say, you could have renamed the appellate committee – if necessary, just calling it the Supreme Court.

    On the suggestions about names, it may well be that initially a Justice is addressed as ‘My Lord’ (or ‘My Lady’), given that all of them are law lords, and the practice then becomes standard.

  14. Senex
    25/04/2009 at 2:05 pm

    In the spirit of the law events may conspire to remove a Law Lord from the House of Lords but they will never remove the House of Lords from a Law Lord. Least ways not until the spirit in the sky has judged all the incumbents.

    Ref: Judicial functions of the House of Lords
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judicial_functions_of_the_House_of_Lords

  15. Len
    25/04/2009 at 2:50 pm

    Actually, on a slightly tangential subject of titles in a more general sense, I was wondering why, particularly, female life peers seem be addressed by the title Baroness not Lady and male life peers (and hereditary peers) by the title Lord not Baron. The only time I’ve noticed that a female peer has been addressed as a Lady was when it was a hereditary peer, so I assume it’s something to do with that but I could be completely wrong. I don’t suppose someone can enlighten me please? Thanks.

  16. Croft
    25/04/2009 at 4:02 pm

    Len: You have every reason to be confused as the explanation is fairly daft. The first female life peers objected to the real or imagined confusion between the wives of peers and peeresses in their own right (ie female life or hereditary peers) A number of them – the suspects are usually given as *cough* Lady Wootton, Lady Swanborough, and Lady Hylton-Foster made a sufficient fuss to convince the house to go along with this new practice despite it creating a wholly confusing situation with those Scottish female peers who having no peerage rank of baroness still must be called ‘Lady’. Baron itself is never used (except on patents and so on) nor has it been for centuries so all in all it creates a very odd muddle which especially after the present lords reform seems, if it ever had much value, an increasingly unnecessary distinction.

  17. Len
    27/04/2009 at 4:30 pm

    Thank you Croft – that’s much clearer!

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