» Thursday, March 4, 2004

Lord Woolf/Constitutional Reforms

Asked if the Government was intending to ignore the criticisms expressed by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf, regarding plans for a supreme court and changes to the asylum system, the PMOS said that Lord Woolf was entitled to set out his views. However, the Government remained committed to its programme of reform for the reasons that had been set out. It was perfectly legitimate for someone to contribute to a debate and for others to disagree with him. That was where we were. Put to him that Lord Woolf’s criticisms should be considered more serious than simply a contribution to a debate, the PMOS said that we would, of course, listen carefully to what the Lord Chief Justice had to say. But on the issue of asylum, for example, we were not proceeding in a way which was incompatible with our various legal obligations. We believed it was absolutely right for us to tackle the whole appeals process, which often saw cases being drawn out over the course of a year, if not longer. That could not possibly be in the interests of an asylum system which everyone wanted to see have integrity. Put to him that the Lord Chief Justice’s criticisms were more fundamental than that, the PMOS said that the Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA) had issued a statement last night making clear that none of the powers enjoyed by the current Law Lords would be lost and that a separation of powers was vital to maintain public confidence. Put to him that the Law Lords would no longer be members of the House of Lords, which would mean that they would lose their legislative role, the PMOS said that the independence of the judiciary would be upheld. The proposals had been brought forward only after extensive consultation. That was not to suggest, however, that every single member of the judiciary agreed with them. Nevertheless, we believed they were right for the reasons that had been set out. In answer to further questions, the PMOS said he realised that journalists were trying to get him to ratchet up the story on what was a comparatively slow political news day by inviting him to up his rhetoric and engage in some sort of war of words. However, he would have to decline the kind invitation. Asked how we would respond to the criticisms, the PMOS said by continuing with our programme of reform.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Search for related news


  1. So, once again the PM says that people are entitled to disagree with him, but will not make any difference. Its about time that instead of his ‘I am right and you are all wrong’ approach he actually listened and took ideas on board – but I doubt his ego will let him admit he may be wrong at times…..still, they do say that power corrupts…….

    Comment by Tony — 7 Mar 2004 on 11:01 am | Link
  2. So "a separation of powers [is] vital to maintain public confidence"?

    Who told Tony Blair that this was the case? I certainly don’t feel that way, and I’ve never heard it being raised as a "vital" topic of conversation. What is discussed frequently, however, is the way that Tony Blair increasingly acts like a dictator, changing things either on a political whim, or for his own benefit, without any form of consultation to find out what the public really want. So much for public confidence.

    The best "separation of powers" would be to separate Tony Blair and his cronies from power.

    Comment by Neil Moore-Smith — 8 Mar 2004 on 1:56 pm | Link
  3. <<Asked how we would respond to the criticisms, the PMOS said by continuing with our programme of reform>>

    Is that another way of saying, "by totally ignoring any criticism"?

    It’s interesting that the government didn’t tell the BBC to "continue with its programme of journalism" when the Hutton Whitewash was published. (That sets me thinking, perhaps we should see Hutton as a fulfilment of Tony’s promise to be "whiter than white". We wrongly assumed that he would achieve it without a paint job!)

    Comment by Neil Moore-Smith — 8 Mar 2004 on 2:03 pm | Link
  4. It’s interesting to see this sudden belief i in the importance of separation. Traditionally of course that theory involves a separation between legislature, judiciary and executive. So it’s vital to suddenly separate judiciary from the legislature, but not the executive from the legislature, except for the Lord Chancellor who as a member of the judiciary, legislature and executive is the most confused of the lot.

    Comment by Aaron Craigie — 8 Mar 2004 on 2:43 pm | Link

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