House of Lords votes to maintain status quo on Lord Chancellor role

The House of Lords yesterday (7 December) voted in favour of maintaining the centuries-old tradition that the Lord Chancellor be both a lawyer and a member of the Upper Chamber of Parliament.

The votes on the two amendments to the Constitutional Reform Bill came after a lengthy debate, and represent further defeat for the government in the Bill’s progress through the Lords. Earlier this year, the Lords overturned the section of the Bill which proposed abolishing the title of Lord Chancellor entirely.

During the debate, many lords spoke in favour of maintaining the status quo as it currently stands, including Bates Wells & Braithwaite senior partner, Lord Phillips of Sudbury.

He said: “The reality is that the convention or constitutional principle of the independence of the judiciary and of the rule of law is a function of our political culture. It is lodged in hearts and minds more than in the annals of the law. It is significantly bound up with the role of the Lord Chancellor, which, in its turn, is intrinsically dependent on his or her status as a senior lawyer in this House.”

Lord Phillips, as well as Beachcroft Wansbroughs’ senior partner Lord Hunt of Wirral, voted in favour of both amendments.

The Lords voted by 229 votes to 206 that the Lord Chancellor should be a member of the House, and by 215 votes to 175 that the role should be held by a lawyer.