Committee to examine the Government's proposals for the creation of a new Supreme Court

Press notice 12 of session 2003-04                                21 May 2004

The government’s proposed legislation on a new UK Supreme Court (the Constitutional Reform Bill) is to come under scrutiny by the Constitutional Affairs Committee, it was announced today.

In March the Committee issued a report (Judicial appointments and a Supreme Court (court of final appeal)) looking at the arguments for and against a Supreme Court. The inquiry announced today will build on the Committee's previous work by looking at practical issues relating to the creation of a new Supreme Court. This will include investigations into how the Court will be administered and how judges will manage the Court’s relationship with Parliament and the Government.

Key questions for consideration include:

•How can the Supreme Court’s independence be secured - should it have corporate independence?
• How will the proposed Court be accountable for its budget?
• What relationship should the proposed Court have with Parliament?
• What steps have been taken to find appropriate accommodation for the proposed Court?
• Have the proposed reforms been properly costed?

The Committee will take evidence from legal expert Professor I.R. Scott on the system of administration for the Supreme Court and Rt Hon Lord Bingham of Cornhill, The Senior Lord of Appeal in Ordinary.

Members will also draw on the experience of New Zealand, where similar reforms has recently been completed, taking evidence from Hon Margaret Wilson, the Attorney General of New Zealand, Rt Hon Dame Sian Elias, Chief Justice of the New Zealand Supreme Court, and Rt Hon Thomas Gault, President, Court of Appeal.

Committee Chairman Rt Hon Alan Beith MP said:

“We have already identified a number of problems with the government’s plans for a new UK Supreme Court and our work has contributed to significant improvements in the proposals.”

“The work of the Lords Select Committee on the Bill has taken the discussion forwards.  There are still further issues to be resolved in order to ensure that this major change can be achieved without damage to the principle of judicial independence.”

Details of the evidence sessions are as follows:

Tuesday 25 May

9.30 am Professor I. R. Scott

3.30 pm Hon Margaret Wilson, Attorney General of New Zealand;  Rt Hon Dame Sian Elias GNZM, Chief Justice, New Zealand Supreme Court and Rt Hon Thomas Gault DCNZM, President, New Zealand Court of Appeal (at approx 4.00pm);  Rt Hon Lord Bingham of Cornhill, Senior Lord of Appeal in Ordinary (at approx 4.30pm)

Tuesday 8 June

4.00 pm Rt Hon Lord Falconer of Thoroton, Secretary of State and Lord Chancellor, Department for Constitutional Affairs

Further evidence sessions will be announced in due course. Details will appear on the Committees Future Meetings page.

The Committee's Report Judicial appointments and a Supreme Court (court of final appeal) (HC 48-I and II) will be the subject of a debate in Westminster Hall on the 27 May.