Lords call on Irvine to give up judge's role

A panel of seven lords is calling on the Lord Chancellor to stop sitting as a judge or risk violating the Human Rights Act when it comes into force next year.

In a report to the Royal Commission on the Reform of the House of Lords, a working party for legal campaign group Justice has joined calls for the Lord Chancellor to stop sitting as a judge while in office. The lords also say judges should not sit and vote in the reformed House of Lords.

Lord Irvine will not comment on the advice from his peers – including Lord Alexander, Lord Archer of Sandwell, and Baroness Kennedy – but is known to be irritated at suggestions he should relinquish his judicial duties.

Lord Steyn, a Law Lord, said in a recent speech that the debate over “the Lord Chancellor's position may expose the fragility of the supposed pragmatic justifications for the present arrangements”.

Justice director Anne Owers says article six of the European Convention on Human Rights may make it untenable for him to continue next year.

“Many argue the quality of independence article six requires can be compromised if the judge is also a member of the legislature. That argument applies with even greater force to the Lord Chancellor. You shouldn't have a person who's a member of the legislature and the executive serving as a judge,” she says.