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Full cost of new Supreme Court will never be known

15 September 2009

The true cost of setting up the new Supreme Court, which opens on October 1, will never be known, it has emerged.

Jenny Rowe, chief executive of the Supreme Court, told legal journalists yesterday that that it was impossible to compare the new court’s running costs, which she estimated at £14m including salaries, with the running costs of the judicial committee of the House of Lords.

“No comparison can be made because the committee’s costs were part of the running costs of the Palace of Westminster,” she said.

Rowe said it might take until next year to appoint a successor for Lord Neuberger, who stepped down from the judicial committee to become Master of the Rolls, and has since warned of the dangers of an independent Supreme Court and claimed it was the result of “what appears to have been a last-minute decision over a glass of whisky”.

Journalists taken on a tour this week of the building, which formerly housed Middlesex Crown Court, were told that the law lords failed to get their way on the future of one of the historic court rooms in the Grade II* listed building.

English Heritage insisted that the large balcony was retained, scuppering the law lords’ plans to convert the room into a court, and meaning that Court 2 in the Supreme Court appears in most ways to be completely modern.

The old courtroom, with its magnificent “false” stone ceiling, has instead been converted into a library for use by judges, advocates and litigants in person.

Engravings from a range of worthies adorn the walls and new balustrade. Included are quotations from Martin Luther King and Ralph Waldo Emmerson, but only one British judge, Sir Robert Megarry, a solicitor who became vice chancellor of the Supreme Court.

Court 1 has as equally splendid setting, beneath an impressive Edwardian hammer beam ceiling and chandeliers.

The lobby of the old Crown Court has been cleared of clutter and visitors are greeted by a glass panel with lines from the Magna Carta.

The memorial to members of the Middlesex Regiment who died in the wars has been moved to one side and a marble statue of Edward VII transferred to the café, where he presides over muffins and sandwiches.

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