Lord Chancellor

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What is the role of the Lord Chancellor? What changes were made to Lord Chancellor’s role by the Constitutional Reform Act 2005? The position of Lord Chancellor has existed for over 1,400 years. He has played a central role in the English legal system, but the position has been significantly reformed following persistent criticism. This criticism was based on the constitutional doctrine of the separation of powers. Under this doctrine, the power of the state has been divided between three separate and independent arms : the judiciary, the legislature, and the executive. The idea is that the separate arms of the state should operate independently, so that each one is checked and balanced by the other two, and none becomes all powerful. The doctrine of the separation of powers were first put forward in the eighteenth century by the French political theorists, Montesquieu. Montesquieu argued that if all the powers were concentrated in the hands of one group, the result would be tyranny. Therefore, the doctrine requires that individuals should not occupy a position in more than one of the three arms of the state judiciary, legislature, and executive. Each should exercise its functions independently of any control or interference from the others, and one arm of the state should not exercise the functions of either of the others.

The Lord Chancellor had such wide powers which extended to all three arms of the state. His existence was a clear breach of the doctrine of the separation of powers. Until recently, he was at the head of the whole judiciary, and effectively appointed all the other judges. He was President of the High Court, the Crown Court and the Court of Appeal. He was also officially President of the Chancery Division of the High Court, although in practice the Vice-Chancellor usually performed this role. The Lord Chancellor was also a judge himself. When he choose to sit as a judge, it was in the House of Lords or the Privy Council, but recent Lord...
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