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Earl_of_caithnessLord_selsdonConservative peers have tabled written questions about Britain’s (uncodified) constitution.

The Conservative Party has some tough decisions to make about these kind of issues. They may not be glamorous, but they matter. Can ConservativeHome readers offer some suggestions as to how we can avoid laying siege to our constitution as New Labour have?

The Earl of Caithness asked about the presence of judges in the upper chamber:

"The Earl of Caithness asked Her Majesty’s Government:

    How many representations they have received since the passing of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 about the presence of Law Lords in the House of Lords; and from which individuals or organisations. [HL6260]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): Ministers have received two letters and one Parliamentary Question from the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, answered by my noble friend Lord Hunt of Kings Heath on 29 September 2008 (Official Report, col. WA416) specifically about the presence of Law Lords in the House of Lords since the passing of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005."

That question was followed by another:

"The Earl of Caithness asked Her Majesty’s Government:

    What assessment they have made of the effect of the presence of (a) judges, and (b) Ministers in the House of Lords on the principle of the separation of powers. [HL6261]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): The Government set out in their proposals for establishing a separate Supreme Court the importance that they attached to a visible and institutional separation between the judiciary and the executive and the legislature.

However the UK has never been governed under a system of the pure separation of powers. In a parliamentary democracy, where the executive are directly dependent on and constituted from the legislature, it is appropriate that the executive should be directly represented in both Houses of the legislature."

Lord Selsdon received a latest estimate of the cost of the proposed Supreme Court:

"Lord Selsdon asked Her Majesty’s Government:

    What is the current estimated capital cost, including fitting out and provision of library, visitor and dining facilities, and the revenue costs, including security, of the Supreme Court; and when it is expected to open. [HL6264]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): As announced by my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer of Thoroton on 14 June 2007, the estimated set-up costs for the UK Supreme Court are £36.7 million for capital construction, which will be met over a 30-year period through rental payments of £2.1 million per annum, increasing at a rate of 2.5 per cent per annum, plus £20.2 million of other set-up costs (including provision of library, visitor and dining facilities). The only change to this estimate is an additional £2 million for repair work (as announced on 3 July 2008) and new security measures (where we will update the House with costs once we have the final figure). The UK Supreme Court will open at the beginning of the legal year in October 2009."

He followed it up with another constitutional question:

"Lord Selsdon asked Her Majesty’s Government:

    What assessment they have made of the effect on the House of Lords of exclusion of those persons appointed under the Appellate Jurisdiction Act 1876 who become Justices of the Supreme Court. [HL6263]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): The Government believe that the exclusion of those appointed under the Appellate Jurisdiction Act 1876 who become Justices of the Supreme Court will have minimal impact on the House, as the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary play little active part in the work of the House while they sit full-time in the Appellate Committee. Retired members of the Supreme Court who are Members of the House will be able to resume sitting and voting in the House."

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