THE HOUSE OF LORDS: REFLECTIONS ON THE SOCIAL UTILITY OF FINAL APPELLATE COURTS

AuthorL. J. Blom‐Cooper,G. R. Drewry
Publication Date01 May 1969
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2230.1969.tb02301.x
THE HOUSE
OF
LORDS: REFLECTIONS
ON
THE SOCIAL UTILITY
OF
FINAL
APPELLATE COURTS
A
RADICAL
revision of the House of
Lords
in its deliberative and
legislative capacities is in the
offig:
but its judicial functions will
be left untouched by the legislation foreshadowed in the White
Paper
on
House of Lords Reform.’ Indeed the White Paper (the
proposals of which have been before Parliament in the form of the
much maligned, and now-lapsed, Parliament
(No.
2)
Bill not only
excludes the Appellate Committee from its proposals for reform but
also makes a specific point of exempting serving Law Lords from
the attendance qualifications and from provisions for
a
compulsory
retirement age prescribed for all other categories
of
voting peer.2
The fact remains that, from time to time, a number of prom-
inent members
of
khe legal profession have called for reform
s+r
even outright abolition-f the judicial functions of the House of
Lords. Lord Upjohn (a strong advocate of the view that a second
appeal should continue to lie to the House of Lords) recently
con-
fessed to
u
an uneasy feeling thak in twenty
or
thirty years’ time
there will not be
a
second court
of
appeal.”
A modern attempt
was made to achieve
a
two-tiered system by the Judicature Act
1878,
but this was thwarted three years later by the Appellate
Jurisdiction Act which restored the House of Lords to its present
pre-eminence in the judicial hierarchy.s Outright abolition would
certainly show scant respect for
an
ancient legal institution whose
only
u
fault
stems from its position at the apex of a three-tier
court hierarchy.
The Evershed Committee in its Report
on
Supreme Court
Practice and Procedure B-not notably a radical social document-
suggested a compromise scheme (originally proposed by Lord
Greene) whereby certain categories of case would
leapfrog
’’
from
the court of first instance, over the backs of the Lords Justices, to
the House of Lords. The Report recommended that this procedure
1
Cmnd. 3799.
2
Ibid.
See .the debate
on
a
proposed amendment ,to this part of the
Bill: &.C.Deb., Vol. 781, cols. 432
ff.
3*Lord Goodman,
a
solicitor peer,
was
rash
enough
on
the second reading
of
the Administration
of
Justice Bill (H.L.Deb., Vol. 297, col. 474), November
12,
1968,
to
say
that
m
lawyer supported the system
of
two
appeals.
4
Speech delivered at the National Conference
of
the
Law
Society, October 17,
1968,
Lam
Society’s
Gazette,
November
1968,
p.
657.
5
R.
B.
Stevens,
The Final Appeal
:
Reform of the Houee
of
Lords
and
Privy
Council, 1867-1876
(1964) 80
L.Q.R.
343.
6
Cmnd. 8878
of
1953; see para. 69.
ara.
62.
262

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