In 2005 Parliament passed the Constitutional Reform Act which, for the first time in constitutional history, provided for the separation of the Appellate Committee (supreme court) from the legislature (Parliament) and the executive (Government).
The key changes under the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 included:
- reforming the office of Lord Chancellor so that it could be held by someone other than a Member of the Lords and transferring his judicial functions to the Lord Chief Justice
- establishing an independent Judicial Appointments Commission to recommend judicial appointments, and
- transferring the House of Lords' capacity to consider judicial appeals, together with the devolution jurisdiction of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, to a new and separate United Kingdom Supreme Court.
The last hearings and judgments in the House of Lords took place on 30 July and the new Supreme Court opened on 1 October 2009.
The Supreme Court comprises of 12 judges, known as "Justices of the Supreme Court", they include a President and Deputy President, appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Judicial Appointments Commission.
The first members of the Supreme Court were the existing 12 Law Lords (Lords of Appeal in Ordinary) who now sit in the new Court which occupies the former Middlesex Guildhall, opposite the Houses of Parliament.
The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 also made provision for judges of the Court of Appeal (covering England and Wales), and equivalent courts in Scotland and Northern Ireland, to sit as acting judges in the new Supreme Court.
Eleven of the 12 Law Lords in post in July 2009 became the first Justices of the Supreme Court and will remain Members of the House of Lords. They are no longer entitled to sit or vote in the Lords but return to the House of Lords when they retire as Justices.
New judges appointed to the Supreme Court will not be given peerages.