The UK House of Lords Constitution Committee is currently conducting a review of the Office of the Lord Chancellor. In 2003, this ancient officer, who traditionally spanned across the judicial, executive and legislative branches of government, was substantially reformed as part of wider constitutional reforms. Today, the Lord Chancellor is no longer head of the UK judiciary, nor is the Lord Chancellor the presiding officer of the House of Lords. However, the office retains statutory duties to the rule of law and to uphold judicial independence, as well as a role in the appointment and discipline of judges. The individual who holds the office of Lord Chancellor today is also the Secretary of State for Justice, responsible for policy areas such as criminal justice and prisons.
The House of Lords Constitution Committee Inquiry is investigating the reformed office, inquiring into the distinct role of the Lord Chancellor under the current arrangements, the effect of the combination of the roles of Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, and the criteria for appointment to the office.
The Public Law and Policy Research Unit’s Deputy Director, Dr Gabrielle Appleby, made a submission to the inquiry. Her submission draws on her extensive research into the role of the Australian Law Officers – the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General – and their obligations to the rule of law and judicial independence.
A full copy of the submission is available on the Committee’s website: http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/constitution-committee/the-office-of-lord-chancellor/written/11953.html
Dr Gabrielle Appleby is the co-editor of Public Sentinels: A Comparative Study of Australian Solicitors-General (Ashgate, 2014) and is currently writing a monograph on the Australian Solicitor-General and the Constitution for Hart Publishing.