The Scots Law Student

The SLS : Life and trials of learning law in Scotland

Tag: house of lords

Do we need an (elected) House of Lords?

The House of Lords is a curious piece of constitutional framework but I think it’s better than the alternative. I don’t like that I have an MSP, an MP, an MEP and a couple of local councils (I live in one council area while I work and study in another). I think there has to be one or two too many cooks in that equation. I’ve got a funny feeling none of them particularly listen to me on the future state of the world and therefore do I really need 5 elected bodies to not particularly listen to my views? Do I need another?

The idea that the House of Lords should be elected is built on sound ideological foundations – democracy is good. I think it really is good, I just don’t see why people need multiple identical elected representatives to represent them. I think, if the second house will be made up by people voted for by the same people and arranged in the same political parties who will decide along party lines on the same legislation, this only happens because we assume we need a second house at all. Why would we? It’s exactly the same as the lower house.

I don’t want an elected House of Lords, I want a differently constituted upper house or I want us to save a bit of money by getting rid of it entirely. The whole point of the House of Lords is that it’s supposed to be able to resist the hue and cry of the masses and look at things objectively, the whole point of the House of Commons is that it’s supposed to listen to the voters.

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Search queries: How law lords are elected in supreme court

Short story

They’re not, they’re appointed.

Long story

I’ve been noticing a number of Supreme Court related search queries in the blog stats and thought this was a good question to be searching for because the Supreme Court is a new and critical part of our constitutional framework. I’ve studied the House of Lords reasonably well for mooting etc but I’ve read very little on the Supreme Court because it’s just not yet bubbled down to me. Therefore, pinch of salt should follow.

The Supreme Court is a horizontal shift for the House of Lords. It doesn’t actually gain any new powers but the judges get new emails, a new building and court room and they lose their robes and wigs (which I think is a shame).

There are 12 Justices of the Supreme Court who have simply stopped being Law Lords and started being Justices of the Supreme court one day. It’s really probably the best way to get your bench of venerable and well experienced judges from one court to another.

I think that elected judges are a pretty dangerous situation. You don’t actually want the guy who can literally send you to jail trying to appeal to people who read the Daily Mail, you’re not going to measure up. You end up with situations like the US where judges need to differentiate themselves through how tough they are on criminals. It makes wonderful headlines but it’s not exactly Baron Hume. I think there are considerable problems with the appointment model, it appears to be self propagating etc, but it is a better curtailing measure against concentrated state power (a very New World ideal) than if they and the legislature were both chasing after the same votes from the same voters. I think you really want a little bit of heterogeneity in your government.

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Law Lords move to Supreme Court

“We do not want to lose you, but we think you ought to go.”
– Lord Wallace of Saltaire

The highest appeal court in the land has, for 133 years, been the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords.  This is coming to a close, with the Law Lords no longer staying in the House and instead moving to Middlesex Guildhall as Justices of the Supreme Court.

I’ve watched a lot of the lords reform with some disapproval (I don’t think we need an elected house of lords, I think either we need an unelected, or at least differently constituted, body to stand in the face of public hysteria and take an objective view or we don’t need an very expensive upper house at all) and I’ve not really understood what difference a supreme court would make to our jurisprudence.  I think this is a gap in my knowledge I should quickly rectify if I do manage to end up on the bar, it might be good to know.  I believe it helps separation of the judiciary, but given how the law lords generally kept themselves out of legislative roles I don’t know if anything has actually changed.

It is oddly reassuring to know that the first apparent mention of a Supreme Court came, not from Tony Blair, but from an 1869 Royal Commission.  This is not because the Royal Commission is infallible, it’s just that New Labour has been wrong before.

The 10 “going away” speeches from the 21 June can be found here: http://www.theyworkforyou.com/lords/?id=2009-07-21a.1507.0

Baroness Royall’s speech is a particularly enjoyable read, I point out the anecdote about the Duke of Buccleuch which any Scot would appreciate, while Lord Strathclyde’s is a much needed caution.  The whole debate is worth having a look at, with much of the continuum of opinions on constitutional reform quite succinctly included.  Not to mention a good bit of political point scoring, some of it from centuries ago.

This also raises a slightly uncomfortable point – were the Law Lords moved out to make space for Alan Sugar?