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Constitutional Reform

Volume 407: debated on Thursday 19 June 2003

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs
(Mr. Christopher Leslie)

The Government announced on 12 June a substantial package of constitutional reforms. That package includes the creation of a new Supreme Court to replace the existing Appellate Committee of the House of Lords and the establishment of a new Judicial Appointments Commission, on a statutory basis, to recommend candidates for appointment as judges.These are issues of profound constitutional importance, and the Government will consult widely on how best to take each forward. We intend to publish on 14 July a consultation paper on a Judicial Appointments Commission and a new Supreme Court. The consultation period will run until November 2003, after which the Government will develop policy proposals, taking into account responses to consultation. At the conclusion of that process, legislation on these issues will be introduced at the earliest opportunity.Lord Irvine of Lairg announced to the Lord Chancellor's Department Select Committee his intention to consult on the future of the rank of Queen's Counsel. We therefore intend to publish a consultation paper on this issue, also on 14 July, with consultation closing in November. We will announce the Government's next steps early in 2004.A consultation paper on court working dress was published on 8 May, with responses sought by 14 August. The Government will be discussing the outcome of the consultation and how best to take the matter forward, with the senior judiciary.