UK: Lord Reed calls proposed changes to UKSC ‘idiotic’

UK: Lord Reed calls proposed changes to UKSC ‘idiotic’

Lord Reed

The President of the Supreme Court, Lord Reed, has described as “idiotic” suggestions that the court should be stripped of its title and said that downgrading the institution would be an “act of national self-harm”.

The UK government has been considering changing the court’s name and cutting the number of permanent justices. Sir Stephen Laws, former first parliamentary counsel, last week called for curbs on the court’s remit and clarification of judges’ powers.

Speaking before the House of Lords Constitution Committee, he said: “What’s being talked about is a quite deliberate downgrading and undermining of the most prestigious common law court in the world.”

“I think that would be an act of national self-harm which could only reduce respect for this country as a bastion of the rule of law and weaken the UK as an international centre for legal services.”

Lord Reed said: “There would be no benefits to rename the Supreme Court. I think it would be widely perceived as an act of spite.

“It wouldn’t change the law or the attitudes of judges. The idea that seems to lie behind this proposal, that calling a court a ‘Supreme Court’ results in it behaving like the American one, is simply idiotic.”

Regarding the title of the court, Lord Reed said: “There’s nothing unusual about the title at all, it’s just an easy way to identify the top court”, he said.

“If that change were made, people would think ‘what on earth is Britain playing at, downgrading its top court?’ It wouldn’t be good for our international reputation.”

He also challenged the suggestion that the judiciary is in conflict with the executive.

“Our function of interpreting and applying the law does not set us in opposition to government”, he said. “Our decisions support effective government within the laws and powers conferred by Parliament.

“Nor do I see our function as trespassing on the domain of Parliament. On the contrary, it’s an essential component of our democracy that the courts ensure that public bodies comply with legislation that Parliament enacts.”

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