(231) BYE-BYE HOUSE OF LORDS, HELLO SUPREME COURT?
The Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair, announced a Cabinet reshuffle on 12 June 2003 which also included a number of constitutional innovations and reforms. From a legal system point of view the most important change was the abolition of the office of Lord Chancellor and an announcement that there was to be consultation on whether the House of Lords as a judicial body should be replaced by a Supreme Court which did not also form part of the legislature. There will also be a judicial appointments commission for England and Wales. The office of Secretary of State for Scotland also ceased to be a separate one, with Transport Minister Alastair Darling being made responsible for Scottish affairs within the Cabinet also. A new Department of Constitutional Affairs was also created, under Lord Falconer (who had hastily to be appointed Lord Chancellor as well, when it was discovered that that office could not simply be abolished by Prime Ministerial fiat). Overall, the new arrangements appeared to be a success for the senior Law Lord, Lord Bingham, who had been arguing the separation of powers case for a supreme court wholly distinct from the legislature and the executive (in the form of the Lord Chancellor, a government minister who could also preside in the House of Lords as a judicial body). See in particular Lord Bingham’s Spring Lecture to The Constitution Unit, University College London, delivered on 1 May 2002 and entitled A New Supreme Court for the United Kingdom” (accessible at http://www.ucl.ac.uk/constitution-unit/files/90.pdf).
Debate immediately ensued about how the new supreme court would relate to the Scottish legal system. Lord Hope of Craighead