This morning, Lord Falconer of Thoroton unveiled his Constitutional Reform Bill to an audience of journalists yawning at the “revelations” that there will be a new Supreme Court, that the office of Lord Chancellor will be abolished and that judges will now be appointed by a Judicial Appointments Commission.
Okay, we’ve been spoonfed so much information already that perhaps to expect more news on constitutional reform would be greedy. But seeing as Lord Falconer was not giving us anything new on the Supreme Court, today was a great opportunity for him to answer some other questions.
These include: what is happening to the QC system?; when is the new Supreme Court being built?; and how does this affect the planned £100m Government funding for a new Commercial Court?
Charlie Falconer fielded all these questions, exasperating and amusing his audience in equal measure. By the end, the Government press conference with the most important man in the law seemed more like a secondary school classroom sitting in front of a supply teacher who cannot produce an interesting lesson.
“If the Secretary of State can decide on massive constitutional reform in only six months, why can’t he decide on the future of QCs?” one journalist quipped, to barely suppressed laughter from the rest.
The only thing the unveiling of the Constitutional Reform Bill revealed was just how surreal the process of legislating for a new Supreme Court will be. If the bill becomes an act next spring, then, constitutionally, we will have a Supreme Court. But where it will be housed, and even whether a new building will be built by then, is the most intriguing question.
But here’s an odd thing. A Department of Constitutional Affairs spokesperson refused to answer The Lawyer’s questions on whether a brand new building is being planned, or whether the 12 Law Lords, who are now snappily rebranded as”Justices of the Supreme Court”, will be moved to existing government accommodation.
According to the spokesperson, these questions are “foolish, prejudiced and stupid”. Tell that to the Law Lords, who are pretty perturbed at the prospect of being shunted into unsuitable accommodation. Charlie Falconer may have a lot more charming to do.