Administrative and public law

Westminster update: Constitution Committee session with president of Supreme Court

Your weekly update from our public affairs team on all the latest developments and debates in parliament and across Whitehall.

Palace of Westminster

What you need to know

Supreme Court president questioned in parliament

On Wednesday 6 April, the Constitution Committee held its annual evidence session with the president and deputy president of the Supreme Court.

The president of the Supreme Court, Lord Reed, said that the Supreme Court currently has three main concerns:

  • reopening the court following the pandemic
  • the economic recovery of legal services following the pandemic
  • increasing the diversity within the court

When questioned on the relationships between the court and the government, Lord Reed said that he had a good working relationship with both the Ministry of Justice and the Foreign Office, but that the court is making efforts to explain to ministers what the role of the Supreme Court is, and to challenge the idea that the two institutions are in opposition.

The witnesses were asked about the application process to sit on the Supreme Court: whether it was fair, whether the was sufficient accountability, and whether measures were in place to promote diversity.

Lord Reed said that increasing the retirement age would certainly not be helpful for increasing diversity, as it would significantly lower the turnover of judges.

He noted that the pool of candidates from which the Supreme Court can choose tends to not be very diverse, so that work needs to be done in lower courts to promote diversity and to encourage both women and candidates from ethnic minorities to apply for the role.

He did, however, state that the process for hiring, as it stands, is a very thorough exercise, and there are many different skills and personal qualities that each candidate is tested on, to ensure a suitable hire.

Nationality and Borders Bill: Lords vote on Commons' amendments

Peers debated the Commons's amendments to the Nationality and Borders Bill on Monday 4 April.

There were several notable votes which confirmed the amendments of the Commons.

  • Motion C1, which stated that the Commons considered that the provisions in Part 2 are compliant with the Refugee Convention, was passed 189 to 151
  • Motion D1, which stated that the Commons believe that it should be possible to accord different treatment to refugees depending on whether they have complied with the criteria set out in clause 11, was passed 191 to 148
  • Motion G1, which stated that the Commons had voted against a prevention of future overseas asylum processing centres, was passed 176 to 156
  • Motion L1, which proposed that a person who knowingly arrives in the United Kingdom in breach of a deportation order commits an offence, was passed 163 to 138
  • Motion M1, which proposed that the offence is committed only if a person facilitates entry to the UK without reasonable excuse, was passed 162 to 141

The bill will now return to the Commons following recess for consideration of Lords amendments on 20 April.

The specific wording of the passed amendments can be found in the amendment paper (PDF).

Judicial Review and Courts Bill has Third Reading in the House of Lords

The Judicial Review and Courts Bill had its third reading in the House of Lords on Wednesday 6 April.

The Lords thanked the minister and the bill team for the amount of time they had given to the peers, which Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames (Liberal Democrat) said had been used "very successfully".

Both Lord Marks and Lord Ponsonby of Schulbrede (Labour) spoke of the importance of the amendments passed by the Lords, and hoped that the Commons would give the changes some serious consideration, given that the Lords had deployed a "great deal of expertise, knowledge and effort in making those changes".

The minister, Lord Wolfson of Tredegar, said the debates on the bill had "showcased the depth of experience across the house", before he begged to move that the bill did pass to the Commons.

Coming up

We'll be working closely with MPs and peers to influence a number of bills and inquiries:

If you made it this far...

Read our briefing on the no-fault divorce reforms, which came into force on Wednesday 6 April.

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