Legal reforms have to start right at the top

Two weeks ago Lord Browne-Wilkinson told The Lawyer that he thought the time had come for a Supreme Court. "It is much more logical to set us [the Law Lords] out as an independent court like the Supreme Court," he said.

Now the legal pressure group Justice has said the same thing. Lord Alexander of Weedon told the BBC: "You can't be a judge and a legislator at the same time." Justice went further and called for the Lord Chancellor to step down as head of the judiciary because he is also a Cabinet minister.

The two Lords may be coming from different perspectives – Browne-Wilkinson from that of a working lawyer and Weedon from that of an advocate for legal reform – but they agree that the current system is out-dated and unworkable.

The Woolf reforms were designed to speed up and streamline the legal process. But the blocks to an efficient and just legal process are still there in the form of the highest court being tied to an archaic institution, and the office of the Lord Chancellor's status being continually compromised by its proximity to spin doctors and the daily business of politics.

The Lawyer's recent highlighting of the LCD's political moves in the area of legal aid and the senior Law Lord's misgivings over his role in the constitution of the former colonies show that along with abolishing the power of hereditary peers, the Government needs to look at modernising the highest levels of the legal system.