The Lord Chancellor is the Speaker for the House of Lords. Whereas the House of Commons votes for its Speaker, this is currently not the case with the House of Lords where whoever holds the position of Lord Chancellor automatically becomes the Lord’s Speaker. Currently, the Lord Chancellor is Lord Falconer. The 2005 Constitutional Reform Act will change this once it is introduced and will allow the Lords to vote for a Speaker – though in theory the standing Lord Chancellor will be able to compete in this election.
The Lord Chancellor is also a member of the Cabinet as he is head of the Department of Constitutional Affairs (formerly the Lord Chancellor’s Department). Therefore he is a direct link between the Executive and the Lords and it would be his task to feed back to the Cabinet views held within the House and whether any contentious bill will receive the support of the Lords or not.
The Lord Chancellor is head of the judiciary in England and Wales. He will act as president of the planned Supreme Court.
As a result of all these posts, the Lord Chancellor is in the unique position of being a member of the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary. In 2003 the Lords rejected a plan to abolish the position of Lord Chancellor – the government wanted the position ended as they believed that there was too much of a blur between the responsibilities of a post that found influence in all three areas of government.
When the Lords are sitting and the Lord Chancellor is present, he sits on the Woolsack. The government sits to the right of the Woolpack. The Lord Chancellor is also allowed to show his political colours in debates whereas the Speaker of the House of Commons has to show political neutrality.
The Lord Chancellor appoints the deputies to the Clerk of the Parliaments (who is a Crown appointment) who are known as the Clerk Assistant and the Reading Clerk. However, his appointments have to be approved by the House of Lords.