Some of the more adventurous SGS politics students take advantage of the regular lecture visits organised by the indefatigable Mr. Bartlett, and last night's trip to hear Supreme Court President Lord Phillips at UCL proved to be a high profile one. The Supreme Court is, of course, the body that replaced the House of Lords as the UK's highest court. Apart from giving its leader a Star Warsy type of title, it was a move to ensure the independence of the UK judiciary. Lord Phillips last night suggested that the set-up of the court was hardly conducive to much independence, with its funding granted on an annual basis, its civil service answerable not to him, as president, but to the political Justice Secretary, and its appointment of judges subject to MPs' scrutiny.
These are serious charges, and strike at the heart of the constitutional question of how far judicial independence requires independent funding, limited scrutiny from parliament etc. The Supreme Court was an attempt to move closer to the US ideal. For Phillips' money (such as it is!), it hasn't yet moved nearly close enough.
Justice Secretary Ken Clarke, the genial giver of votes to prisoners, responds to some of Phillips' charges on the Today programme here.