Appellate Committee of the House of Lords – Highest court in the United Kingdom

Appellate Committee of the House of Lords


The House of Lords, when was exercising its appellate jurisdiction, was the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.

The House of Lords has exercised the delegated judicial authority of the Crown since Parliament first came into existence in the 13th century. Of course, it was not then called the Supreme Court, but it was the highest court in the land. It was the High Court of Parliament.

In those days, judicial business was the main function of the House of Lords. It heard petitions to the King in Parliament. The legislative business of the House of Lords came only later, at about the time of the Statute of Westminster in 1305.  The House of Lords has exercised what was called the “judicial process” for centuries. In calling the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords the Supreme Court I do not overlook the fact that there had already a Supreme Court, which consists of the Court of Appeal, the High Court and the Crown Court governed by the Supreme Court Act 1981.

Supreme Court was created by the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 (1 October 2009).  House of Lords uses to perform their jurisdiction under Appellate Jurisdiction Acts 1876 and 1888.

Appellate Committee of the House of Lords – the highest court in the United Kingdom was replaced by a Supreme Court in 2009. Present Supreme court Justices ( 12) are totally separate from the parliament and Government of the UK. After the creation of the supreme court, now there is complete separation of powers- Legislature (parliament), Executive( Treasury), Church and Judiciary.

Supreme is the final appeal court ( Civil and Criminal) of the United Kingdom can not hear any matter directly if no relevant order has been passed by the lower court/s.

It is said :

“One other feature is the perceived subordination of the Law Lords to this parliamentary assembly. One might ask: “Is not the Judicial Committee just a lot of people appointed by you parliamentarians, rather like the corresponding body of the National People’s Congress in the People’s Republic of China?”. One had some difficulty in discussing the difference between a committee which is a subordinate of the NPC and our Appellate Committee, which is a “subordinate of this House”. But, of course, it is in no sense subordinate”. [UK parliamentary debate on Constitutional Reform Bill [H.L.] 2004.

“I know that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has sought to make a distinction between judges and lawmakers, but there is such a thing as judge-made law. The Law Lords have told us that, when they consider the statutes that they have to apply, they find it valuable to have been in proximity to those who have argued about them in this House. In so far as they remain able to take part in proceedings here, they can contribute in the opposite direction.

From a constitutional point of view, I see no difficulty in the absence of separation of powers. Indeed, to see some of the consequences of following those arrangements too slavishly, one need only look at countries such as Ukraine, where there is undue separation of powers. Ukraine has attempted to emulate the American model by having strictly separated powers between judges, the executive and the legislature, and they have not learnt, as the Americans have after some 200 years, how to manage 1197gridlock in that situation. Perhaps the Americans had the advantage of a rather different factor: for 100 years their Supreme Court was in the same building as the legislature. None of those physical points should be regarded as decisively important”.[UK parliamentary debate on Constitutional Reform Bill [H.L.] 2004.

The cost of the new Supreme Court is 10 times the cost entailed in running the House of Lords. That is 10 times the cost of what is paid by litigants for the benefit of being able to take a case to the Lords.

Categories: CIVIL

Tagged as: , , ,