Irvine insists on role as judge

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The Independent Online
THE LORD Chancellor rejected calls yesterday to end his role as a sitting judge just three days before he is due to give judgment in an appeal from the employment law tribunal.

This, the latest case in which Lord Irvine of Lairg has decided to sit, is being brought by two slaughterhouse workers from Londonderry claiming unfair dismissal. It will be the third judgment he has delivered since his appointment as Lord Chancellor in 1997.

Critics of the Lord Chancellor's role as a working judge say that all cases that reach the House of Lords have political relevance and there is a conflict of interest between his role as senior judge and his main role as a cabinet minister.

Last month Justice, the human rights and law reform organisation, in its report to the Royal Commission on the reform of the Lords, said the Lord Chancellor should not sit as a judge during his tenure of office and he should cease to be the head of the judiciary in England and Wales.

But yesterday he told the Edinburgh law conference that it was important he continued sitting as a judge. He said he exercised his own discretion not to sit. "Provided that the Lord Chancellor has abstained from expressing concluded views on an issue coming before him judicially; and he does not sit in any case where the interests of the executive are directly engaged; there is no reason why he should not sit and preside judicially."