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Jack Straw and Lord Falconer, titans of the Lords Constitution Committee arena

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It was a battle of the Titans, and, given the usually quiet, orderly atmosphere of the House of Lords Constitution Committee, and given the subject matter, judicial appointments procedure, it was almost quite exciting. In the red corner, Jack Straw, Lord Chancellor under Gordon Brown; in the also somewhat reddish corner, Lord Falconer, a former Lord Chancellor to, and friend of, Tony Blair (friend in the modern political sense, that he was often mysteriously seen with Blair on official business, claiming to be his “adviser”).

The buffer, as it were, placed between these antagonists for their own protection was yet another former Lord Chancellor, Lord Mackay of Clashfern.

The issue was who should appoint members of the judiciary – and each of the three had rather different ideas. Straw made his startling claim: the UK Supreme court is a shadowy unaccountable organisation that is, shockingly, “developing a social policy” which it is imposing on the unsuspecting citizens of Britain by issuing so-called “judgments” – new forms of legislation that had overthrown the supremacy of Parliament.

Well, he did not take it quite this far. In fact he was at pains to point out that he personally had nothing against what the Supreme Court was doing, that most people would obviously agree with its excellent judgments on letting (alleged) terrorists and child molesters wander the streets freely, that he could understand quite how they had found themselves in the terrible position of being legislators rather than interpreters of legislation: it’s all the fault of that pesky Human Rights Act (you know, Labour’s pesky Human Rights Act of 1989).

But since the Supreme Court was developing a social policy, there needed to be some political control of who was developing it. The current legislation on this was not fit for purpose (you know, Labour’s pesky Constitutional Reform Act of 2005). Read the rest of this entry

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