The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 provided the backdrop for the project, which has been studying the changes since the Lord Chancellor was replaced as head of the judiciary by the Lord Chief Justice, and the judiciary have become a more independent and self-governing branch of government. This AHRC-funded project was titled The Politics of Judicial Independence in Britain’s Changing Constitution (view the original project proposal). In phase 1 of the project, from 2011 to 2013, we did most of the research, including over 150 interviews to understand the changing relations between the judiciary, government and Parliament. Phase 2, the dissemination phase, has seen a host of dissemination activities in 2014 and 2015. In phase 3 we plan to continue the series of practitioner seminars which have been a strong feature of the project, starting in 2016.
A new Supreme Court was not part of Labour’s initial constitutional reform agenda, but became more likely as a result of the combined impact of the Human Rights Act, devolution and Lords reform. Andrew le Sueur and Richard Cornes set out the options for a new Supreme Court in What do the Top Courts do? (2000) and The Future of the UK’s Highest Courts (2001), and we invited the senior law lord Lord Bingham to respond in a public lecture when he came out in favour of a new Supreme Court in 2002. The Lord Chancellor Lord Irvine remained unpersuaded, but he was removed in 2003 and the new Supreme Court was created by the Constitutional Reform Act 2005.
Our 1996 report Human Rights Legislation set out the different options for a Human Rights Act, including a model which did not give strike down powers for the courts. This was taken up by the Labour party in their 1996 policy document Bringing Rights Home, and then by the new Labour government in the 1997 White Paper Rights Brought Home. We then did work on the new structures in Westminster and Whitehall needed to support the new human rights regime, published as A Human Rights Committee for Westminster (1999) and Whitehall and the Human Rights Act (2000).