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Supreme Court

Volume 684: debated on Monday 24 July 2006

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What are the estimated cost and date for completion of the new Supreme Court.

My Lords, the capital construction costs remain as described in my Written Ministerial Statement of 14 December 2004, subject to those costs having been adjusted for inflation, and they now stand at £35.3 million. There will be additional associated costs, such as fees and furniture. Westminster City Council is currently considering a local planning application, on which it is expected to reach a decision over the Summer Recess. We do not yet know whether this decision will have an impact on the costs. Therefore, when the application has been decided, I propose to make a full report to the House, including the overall estimated costs, once Parliament returns. Subject to a successful application, it remains my intention that the UK Supreme Court should open for business in October 2009.

My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord for that reply—I am not sure whether I should refer to him as the Lord Chancellor or the Minister. In any event, he accepts that costs and completion date shall not be knowable for quite a long time. Does that not afford an opportunity for the House to reconsider the consequences of his preferred option—consequences such as depriving the House of irreplaceable expertise on committees and on the Floor of the House and leaving 300 cases stranded at the Guildhall waiting for trial?

My Lords, traditionally I am called the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. There is a precise date, and a precise date on which the costs will be known. No, let us not have another debate such as that which took up the time, energy and emotion of the House over two or three years. I think that the decision was ultimately made.

My Lords, can my noble and learned friend advise the House of the anticipated extent to which the work of the Lords in Appeal will be improved and enhanced as a result of moving from this place to another building?

My Lords, the quality of the Law Lords is second to none, and I am happy to see some noble and learned Law Lords in the Chamber today. It is right, however, that the final Court of Appeal should have its own building and be separate from the legislative Chamber. That was the basis on which we proposed the measure and Parliament passed it.

My Lords, given that the noble and learned Lord presided with such distinction over that great financial triumph called the Dome, what confidence can we have that this project will be completed with equal success?

My Lords, does the noble and learned Lord agree that, although the Middlesex Guildhall is not a building of great merit, its location is ideal and that changes to its interior can make it far more suitable and accessible to the public than the present arrangements in your Lordships' House, which are cramped and virtually inaccessible to members of the public who wish to see what the Law Lords are up to?

My Lords, I agree with everything that the noble Lord said save for one thing: he is wrong to say that the Middlesex Guildhall is not a building of merit. When it becomes the Supreme Court, its merit will become even more apparent.

My Lords, perhaps the noble and learned Lord will be good enough to agree on this thing, too. Is it not a fact that in order to place the new Supreme Court in the new buildings, about 14 other courts will have to be rehoused? Do the figures that he has given us include the rehousing of those courts?

My Lords, the figure is seven, not 14; and no, they do not. The Question is on the cost of the Supreme Court.

My Lords, will the noble and learned Lord kindly inform us how much the Law Lords cost at present?

Well spotted, my Lords. The construction costs involved in taking the seven courts out of Middlesex Guildhall was given as £15 million; they are now in the region of £18.2 million. There will be associated costs in relation to that.

My Lords, I am afraid that the noble and learned Lord did not address my question, which was: what do the Law Lords cost in your Lordships' House at present? Plainly, your conscience was gnawing at you.

My Lords, I was so excited because I thought that the noble Lord had spotted what the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, was talking about. The approximate annual cost of having the noble and learned Law Lords here is between £3 million and £4 million, and the approximate annual cost of running the new Supreme Court will be somewhere between £8 million and £10 million. So it will cost substantially more.

My Lords, can the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor tell us when the House will get the benefits of the Lord Chancellor’s apartments and of the various other rooms that the lawyers are occupying at present?