Peers consider whether new Supreme Court should be .gov or .org

April 26, 2009 at 5:55 pm Leave a comment

by Tony Grew

The new Supreme Court of the United Kingdom should not have a .gov email address, according to a member of the House of Lords.

On October 1st 2009 the Law Lords will become Justices of the Supreme Court and move across Parliament Square to a new building,  Middlesex Guildhall, that is being refurbished for their needs.

Lord Henley, a Conservative Justice spokeman, said that “bearing in mind the need for the Supreme Court to be seen to be independent of government, would it not be more appropriate if the word gov did not appear in the e-mail address?”

Lord Bach, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice, said:

“My Lords, I have to say that that is the best question that the noble Lord has ever asked me. I will look into that, but I do not really think that he has a point there.”

Lord Dixon-Smith said that .org, “hideous though it is, would be more appropriate to indicate the independence of the Supreme Court than the word gov, another horrible word?”

Lord Lloyd of Berwick, backed Lord Henley, and claimed that “if it was worth spending £100 million to avoid a supposed misunderstanding on the part of the public about the role of the Law Lords, surely we ought to avoid creating a far worse misunderstanding that the Law Lords, or the new Supreme Court Justices, are part of the Government.”

Lord Bach said the new court would cost £58.9 million.

“When the Supreme Court opens for business in October this year, it will be a major constitutional milestone for this country.

“The court will be physically separate from Parliament, which will demonstrate more clearly than anything else its status as an important and independent core institution in this country.

“Equally importantly, the court will be much more accessible to the general public than I am afraid the present court is.

“It will be visible to everyone, too. This is an important change, which I hope the House now welcomes.”

Lord Thomas of Gresford was concerned the public may not know where the court is.

“Some years ago, I was co-defending in Kuala Lumpur with a rather elderly QC who jumped into a taxi with his instructing solicitor, Monika Skowronska, and said: Supreme Court,” he told the House.

“About half an hour later, he realised that they were going through a very seedy part of Kuala Lumpur. Their protestations to the driver were not heeded.

“They thought that they were being kidnapped, probably by my client or agents of my client. They were decanted in a new housing development on the edge of the city called Supreme Court.”

Lord Bach responded that “the address is the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, Parliament Square.”

Earl Ferrers thought a more grand address might be appropriate.

“Does he realise that the same building in its earlier incarnation had the address of Little George Street?

“Why, if it is the same building now, have the Government changed the name?

“If they are going to change the name, why not change it to something really grand—with deference to the Duke of Wellington, why not call it No. 2 London?”

Lord Bach explained that “at the moment Little George Street is the street on which the front entrance to the building is situated.

“The front entrance will alter to face Parliament Square, so the address will be Parliament Square.”


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