The launch party for the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) on Wednesday night (23 May) had a few notable absentees – namely judges.
Not one member of the judiciary attended the reception at the new MoJ office in Victoria Street, London – the former home of the defunct Department for Constitutional Affairs.
An MoJ spokesperson said: “Stakeholders were not invited. It was an opportunity for ministers to meet new colleagues in the media.”
On Wednesday, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Phillips told the House of Commons constitutional affairs select committee that the two camps remained “poles apart” over the role of the MoJ.
Phillips LCJ said parameters set down by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer had made it impossible to strike a deal safeguarding judges’ independence from the new ministry.
He warned that court funding would be consumed by the Prison Service and repeated calls for resources to be ringfenced to protect the judiciary from interference.
At Wednesday’s launch, Lord Falconer reiterated that he would not be initiating an inquiry into the creation of the MoJ – a requirement that the judges want if they are to support the department.
Falconer said that if any inquiry were to happen it would be once the department is fully established.
Phillips LCJ could now offer a written representation to Parliament expressing judges’ concerns. If he does it is expected to escalate the judicial crisis.