How will Britain's new supreme court work?

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Indy Politics

Was Lord Irvine the last Lord Chancellor of England and Wales?

No, Lord Falconer of Thoroton will hold this post until legislation abolishes the 1,400-year-old office. Lord Falconer has said he will not exercise the Lord Chancellor's right to sit as a judge.

Will a new supreme court be modelled on the American system, in which judges are vetted for their political views by the Senate and are vested with the power to strike down laws passed by Congress?

Under Labour's plan, the court will perform a similar function to that of the existing judicial committee of the House of Lords. It will not be allowed to interfere with the will of Parliament so the constitutional balance of power between the legislature, executive and judiciary is unlikely to be altered. But questions remain over the future jurisdiction of the law lords sitting as the Privy Council when it hears appeals from former Commonwealth countries and other constitutional matters.

Will the judges sit together like the nine members of the US Supreme Court or continue to hear cases in panels of threes and fours?

This has not been decided.

Who will appoint the judges of the supreme court?

The Government plans a judicial appointments commission. Its members, probably senior and retired judges, will take over the role of judicial appointments, now the responsibility of the Lord Chancellor.

Will the law lords have to apply for their old jobs?

This has not been made clear. But they will probably be moved to the new court.

Who will become the new head of the judiciary?

The Lord Chancellor has responsibility for the appointment and discipline of judges. As head of the judiciary, he has the power to admonish and even sack a judge. This power would not pass to the new Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs. The natural choice would be the Lord Chief Justice, who could be aided by the Judges' Council.

What happens to the post of Speaker of the House of Lords?

This was another duty of the Lord Chancellor. The Government is to make a statement on Monday on plans to reform the Speakership of the Lords. The intention is that the Speaker would no longer be a minister.