Lord Justice Phillips, the judge currently conducting the BSE inquiry, is to replace Lord Lloyd of Berwick in the House of Lords at the end of the year.

Lord Lloyd's long-expected retirement from the Lords was announced by the Lord Chancellor's Department last week and his departure will follow hard on the heels of the exit from the Lords of Lord Goff of Chieveley and Lord Nolan.

Their succession by Lord Justices Millett and Hobhouse prompted claims that the make up of the Law Lords was shifting to the right at a time when they were about to become more important with the incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Like Lord Lloyd, his replacement Lord Justice Phillips is a commercial lawyer seen as leaning to the right. He moved up quickly through the ranks after being appointed to the High Court in 1987.

Dan Brennan QC, the vice-chairman of the Bar Council, said Judge Phillips' intellectual clout was reflected in the fact he had been appointed to head the “highly complex” inquiry into the BSE crisis.

Ironically, the announcement of Lord Lloyd's retirement came just a few days after he hit the headlines for describing the Government's anti-terrorist legislation as a “dangerous mouse” that would fail to secure any convictions.

Brennan said Lord Lloyd's House of Lords speech “reflected the fact that he is not only a first-class judge but also very practical and full of common sense about how the law should be applied”.

Edward Garnier QC, the Tory legal affairs spokesman said Lord Lloyd stood out for not only being very astute but also very courteous.