Ministers decide to keep title of Lord Chancellor

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Indy Politics

MPs will take a vote tomorrow which will mean that one of their number could hold the 1,400-year-old title of Lord Chancellor without first becoming a peer.

MPs will take a vote tomorrow which will mean that one of their number could hold the 1,400-year-old title of Lord Chancellor without first becoming a peer.

The decision to retain the ancient title is one of the few concessions Tony Blair has made to his fellow lawyers. They have furiously opposed his legal reforms - which will remove the Law Lords from Parliament, and will mean that the head of the legal profession no longer sits in the Cabinet as a minister.

Most of the judicial functions of the Lord Chancellor are to be transferred to the Lord Chief Justice, as part of a package that includes the creation of a Supreme Court.

"Lord Chancellor" will then become another of those ancient, impressive-sounding but essentially meaningless titles that continue to decorate the list of ministers. Another example is the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster - the title given to Alan Milburn when he took over Labour's election campaign.

Future Cabinets will include a Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, who could be an MP with no legal training, but who will use the courtesy title of Lord Chancellor.

Mr Blair had intended to abolish the title - he sacked Lord Irvine in a cabinet reshuffle last year. Having announced he was abolishing the job, Mr Blair learnt that he needed an Act of Parliament first. Lord Irvine's replacement, Lord Falconer, has therefore been officially known as "the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor (for the Transitional Period)."

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