Law Lords Split over a Supercourt

Article excerpt

Byline: JAMES CHAPMAN

LORD Falconer's plan to create a new Supreme Court to replace the Lords was dealt a grave blow by Britain's most senior judges last night.

In an unprecedented intervention, six of the 12 Law Lords indicated that they would fight the proposal, which they condemned as 'unnecessary and harmful'.

The row raises the nightmare prospect for the Government of the six rallying fellow peers to vote down the legislation that would be needed.

Critics have already voiced fears that a Supreme Court would end up packed with Government cronies.

The six Law Lords are also believed to be deeply concerned about the costs of a new court - it would take many millions to construct a new building or refurbish an existing one.

They also feel that the wider contribution the Law Lords make to Parliament, often on non-political issues, is too important to be discarded.

Lord Falconer has vowed to replace the Lords as the country's highest court under reforms of the legal system which will include the abolition of his own ancient office of Lord Chancellor. He wants the changes implemented by 2005.

The Government has been accused of taking a 'wrecking ball' to the British constitution with a series of ill thought-out reforms.

The opposition of the six Law Lords - including the second most senior, Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead - will be a serious embarrassment for the Government.

Shadow Attorney General Bill Cash said last night: 'It ought to be a matter of the gravest concern that these extremely distinguished Law Lords should have said what they have said. …