WEDNESDAY 23 JANUARY 2001 _________ Members present: Mr Gerald Howarth Mr Martin Linton Mr Humfrey Malins Mr Marsha Singh Mr Paul Stinchcombe Mr David Winnick _________ (In the absence of the Chairman, Mr David Winnick was called to the Chair) THE RT HON LORD IRVINE OF LAIRG, QC, a Member of the House of Lords, attending by leave of that House, Lord Chancellor, and SIR HAYDEN PHILLIPS, KCB, Permanent Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, examined. Mr Winnick 1. Lord Chancellor, Sir Hayden, good morning and thank you very much for coming along, we are always pleased to see you both. Apologies from the Chair of the Committee. Unfortunately, Robin Corbett has not been able to come along today due to illness and he had been looking forward to chairing this session for a great while. I understand, Lord Irvine, that you want to make a statement. We have had a paper circulated. Could I just ask insofar as it is possible if you could make it as briefly as possible. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Chairman, I am content not to make it at all if you just wish to read it. The purpose of it was simply to draw to your attention important issues that are in prospect but may not yet have gone on to your radar because naturally you will be more concerned with contemporary and current issues. What I really wanted to point out is that we will be receiving two major reports shortly both of which I think will be of very great interest to this Committee. The first you probably know a certain amount about, the second not much is known about. Lord Justice Auld is conducting the first ever review of the criminal courts system from end to end. It was clear from his published interim report which he put on the Internet in October that he had in mind very radical changes. Things he was looking at include: a unified criminal court with common rules of evidence and procedure; a reassessment of the level of trial required for charges of varying seriousness; a thorough going analysis of the jury system; the codification (a very large project) of the whole of criminal law; and an assessment of the law of evidence to ensure that there was a fair balance between the interests of the prosecution, the defence and victims. The second, which I think very much less is known about, is a report from a retired Court of Appeal Judge Sir Andrew Leggatt on administrative justice and this is on the vast array of administrative tribunals. Tribunals have not been examined thoroughly since Oliver Franks' Royal Commission in 1957. The number has increased very substantially, it is now 91. The workload is amazing and it is larger than the whole of the civil courts put together. It includes employment, immigration, social security, education. It handles about one million cases year and there are about 15,500 members and staff. So it actually handles more business than the civil courts which handle about 750,000 a year. It is a disparate, diverse system which has grown like topsy in which responsibility for different tribunals is spread across a number of government departments and in which responsibility for appointments is divided between me for judicial members and other government Ministers for lay members, and that creates problems. Staff also are capable of suffering from not working in a large unified organisation with greater career opportunities, and economies of scale in accommodation are obviously not capable of being realised because administrative justice is not unified. I just thought I would flag that up for you because it is a big future issue. I hope that by March I will be able to announce the appointment of the First Judicial Appointments Commissioner - and maybe you will want to ask me questions about it - and he will be entitled to investigate every appointment, every piece of paper, every assessment, every opinion, attend all or any interviews he chooses and attend the meetings that I have on appointments with the most senior judiciary. Then on 1 April two new organisations come into effect: CAFCASS, the Children and Family Courts Advisory and Support Service; and then the Public Guardianship Office, succeeding the PTO. So both of these are big business and I wanted to flag them up. I will say no more because I appreciate the purpose of my being here is to answer your questions. 2. Thank you very much, Lord Chancellor, and undoubtedly some of the matters which you have raised will be the subject of questioning. Can I ask first regarding part II of the Family Law Act 1996, as I understand it, it was decided to drop the no-fault divorce changes. That is the position, is it? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) The consequence certainly will be that the no-fault provisions will not be introduced. The way I would prefer to put it, however, is that we took a decision not to implement part II of the Family Law Act because we believed that it would be ineffective. 3. It would be? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Ineffective to achieve its purposes. A large part of its purpose was to try to give people information through information meetings about how to save their marriages and, on the other hand, about how to divorce if they wanted to divorce and therefore the information meetings were set up to achieve, if you like, two conflicting purposes. But all the evidence was that it simply did not work and I can give you details about it if you wish. 4. No doubt you can circulate a paper to us if you wish. The point that perhaps has been made arising from the decision is that the difficulty was over compulsory mediation and that element, compulsory mediation, was put in because, if you like to use the phrase, the anti-divorce lobby felt it was necessary. Would you like to comment on that? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) It was not compulsory mediation, and mediation was never going to be compulsory, but you are right in the sense that it was hoped that the information meetings would result in more mediation. The facts are, however, that information meetings generally came too late to save marriages and the evidence was they tended to tip into divorce those who were even uncertain about whether to divorce. But on your specific point about mediation, only seven per cent of attendees went on to use mediation in the seven months following the information meeting compared to an expectation before the research that as many as 40 per cent of couples would be diverted into mediation. In contrast, 55 per cent went to a solicitor in the same period. The other thing I can say is, and I have already mentioned it, that there was consistent tension between presenting in one and the same meeting information about marriage saving and information about how to handle a divorce. The other point that I think is quite interesting, again it is directly on your question on the promotion of mediation, only 42 per cent of attendees were in favour of mandatory meetings although attendees at these pilots were volunteers and not conscripts as they would be if part II had come into effect and mediation had become mandatory. I think all the information that we as a Government derived from these information meetings is that they were pretty bitterly resented as the "nanny state" in action. 5. Could it not be said, Lord Chancellor, that however much it is unfortunate, it is a fact of life that when marriages break down the likelihood is, with all the bitterness that unfortunately accompanies a breakdown of the closest possible bond between two people after childhood, that the chance of mediation being successful was always a remote possibility? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) I think that is fair and the architects of part II obviously hoped otherwise. It was a perfectly pious and responsible hope, but it simply has turned out the other way. You might be interested, if I could just read to you something that one of the attendees wrote complaining about the rigid and impersonal structure of the meeting. One of the attendees is quoted in the research as saying this: "I am very glad that I received the information pack but the meeting was an absolute disaster. It was not what I was expecting. Its time limit was strictly adhered to so there was no time for my own concerns. I was not able to make any comments about my own situation. The presenter told me, 'You have no idea the number of people who go away absolutely furious because their expectations have not been met.' I thought, 'How can they do this to me when I am very vulnerable and could do with some help?'" That is not a straw in the wind, there were many such responses. 6. Some of us have been through it. Just as a matter of interest, I was reading only in the last fortnight Evelyn Waugh's novel, A Handful of Dust, which deals, as you may know, with divorce - a brilliant piece of writing - and it gives an indication in the 1930s of how difficult it was for a divorce to take place. The next question that I would like to ask, if I may, is do you feel, Lord Chancellor, the decision of the Employment Tribunal last week vindicated your appointment of a special adviser? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) I have always abstained from commenting about this decision when it went against me in the Employment Tribunal and I think I should really continue to abstain from comment when it has gone in my favour. The two applicants concerned got leave to appeal. The case may well go to the Court of Appeal. I think I would probably be very wise to say nothing. But I do really think that there is a point of commonsense here which I hope will engage the sympathy of the Committee. The relationship between any Cabinet Minister and his special adviser is really one of very considerable trust and confidence because of the access that that special adviser naturally has to the inner most workings of government, and that is true of special advisers generally. And the view that before you appoint someone he or she must be someone whom you have known for a very long time or a substantial period of time and have trust and confidence in, I think does command sympathy and understanding and, indeed, agreement by the overwhelming majority of people. Beyond that I do not really want to say anything about the niceties of the case. 7. We will not press you on personalities and indeed I would be very reluctant if any member of this Committee does so, although I understand Mr Howarth wants to ask a question or two in a moment. Leaving aside personalities, it is said that you were the first Lord Chancellor - perhaps this is not so - to have a special adviser. Is that the position? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) I believe that that is so, yes. 8. Why did you need a special adviser when your predecessors seem to have been able to get along without one? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) I am sure that it has been noticed by some people that I have got quite heavy burdens in government and during my Lord Chancellorship I have had responsibilities which have been given to me across a very broad area of policy. In a sense I have been lucky because I think that if there had been a major programme of constitutional reform under any of the predecessor governments post-War of whatever political party, the probability is that the Lord Chancellor of the day would have been asked to chair the Cabinet committees concerned with the development of policy and, of course, everything that lies behind such Cabinet committees and seeking consensus within government. But it was unique for me and I think that it therefore gave a greater breadth to the office and a greater political dimension which made it entirely appropriate to have a special adviser. 9. Did you work at all on the basis that senior Ministers, certainly in the previous government as well as the present one, have special advisers, and there is no controversy, as I understand it, about that and therefore you said, "With my burden of work" - which you have just mentioned to us - "there is no reason why I should not have one?" Was that your reasoning? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) It was certainly not like that. It was because I felt I could gain from the wisdom and experience of this particular special adviser in accepting important duties. 10. I said we would not discuss personalities, but when it came to the appointment you did not think it should be an open one? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) No, and no special adviser across Whitehall is appointed by means of an open competition. Mr Winnick: That is indeed so. Mr Howarth? Mr Howarth: I am sorry to disappoint you but I would like to say I agree entirely with what you have said, Lord Chancellor, about the nature of the appointment. Mr Winnick: That does not necessarily mean that you are wrong! Mr Howarth 11. I did not interrupt you, Chairman! It is one thing for a Lord Chancellor to have a special adviser but if it is accepted that he should, for the reasons you have given, have a special adviser, then it seems to me that that special adviser should be your appointment for all the reasons you have given. Personally, and you may or may not comment as you wish, I think it is absolutely outrageous that some tribunal should try to second-guess your choice and your judgment for the very reasons you have given. I do not know if you want to respond. I would like to take you back to family issues if I may --- (Lord Irvine of Lairg) I am not going to complain about an Employment Tribunal that chose to find against me. 12. But I think it is important in the wider debate to make the point that the relationship between a Minister and a special adviser is much like the relationship between a Member of Parliament and their researcher or secretary, and it is of a personal nature where there must be total trust otherwise you cannot do the job. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) I can agree with all of that. 13. Lord Chancellor, I would like to go back to family policy, if I may, and take you slightly beyond the narrow issue of divorce to the debate which was initiated by Baroness Young in your House last week. Can I put it to you that there clearly is, if not chaos, certainly complete inconsistency in the Government's view on marriage and family policy. If I can put it to you, you said: "A loving marriage between two parties of the opposite sex provides, for the overwhelming majority in our country, the best assurance of a happy personal life and provides the surest foundation upon which to raise a successful family", words which effectively mirror the Government document Supporting Families where the Government says: "We do share the belief of the majority of people that marriage provides the most reliable framework for raising children." How do you square that with the remarks by the so-called Minister for Women, Tessa Jowell who said that: "Marriage could not be regarded as the best framework in which to bring up children, but simply as one of a series of equally valid alternative lifestyles." (Lord Irvine of Lairg) I am not going to comment on the way that Tessa Jowell chose to put it. I certainly heard in that debate she had put it that way. I have not read any account of what she said but I think it is so important in this area not to sermonise. As I said in the debate, Christ himself never found words to condemn any loving relationship, he reserved his strongest language for the self-righteous, and I think we should not be self-righteous on this subject. 14. It is not a question of being self-righteous. It is a question of the government having responsibility for framing laws in this country which do impinge on personal life and one has a choice, does one not, as to whether those laws will be based on the Christian code - and the marriage ceremony makes it absolutely clear that it is supposed to be a life-long commitment - and it just seems to me that you cannot simply dismiss Tessa Jowell's remarks by saying, "I have not read them." I think you ought to read them because these views are sending out conflicting signals to the public. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) I would not myself condemn any loving and stable relationship. I have affirmed my own view that marriage is the best and securest basis for bringing up children, and that is my view. If you want me to be even more direct about it, I regard marriage as best for me but I am not going to lecture others about what is best for them, and no matter how many different ways you put the question that is what I am going to say. 15. If you regard it, as Lord Chancellor of England, as being the best foundation, and that is what you have said and that is the Government's policy in the supporting documents, if you recognise that every single report that has been produced examining this issue has shown conclusively, incontrovertibly that marriage provides the best framework for bringing up children in terms of health, in terms of social well-being, in terms of crime, how can the Government sit on its hands when, frankly, we are descending into social disorder in this country, where by the year 2020 it has been suggested that less than half the population will be living in married households? Is this not a recipe for disaster? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) I am not going to condemn the people who choose to live together without marrying and provide stable homes for children. So - I repeat - any form of this question that you ask me will receive the same answer, and that is that I regard marriage as best but I am not going to condemn those who choose a different lifestyle. My Department provides funding of œ4 million towards marriage support and we have increased these figures recently. That is clear evidence of support for marriage, but I am not going to condemn people who choose an alternative mode of life. Mr Howarth: Can I just finish this point. Mr Winnick 16. I am going to quote what the Lord Chancellor said on 17 January. You quoted Nigel Evans, a front bench spokesperson --- (Lord Irvine of Lairg) That was a spot of fun. 17. You did quote him in a pamphlet which he launched when he said, 'Conservatives should therefore support: an equal age of consent, the abolition of Clause 28, and the right of Gay marriage.' (Lord Irvine of Lairg) That is what I quoted and I asked Baroness Young if she could confirm (I think Nigel Evans is a Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party) that that was the Conservative position when she came to reply but she did not cover that. Mr Howarth 18. Perhaps I could assist the Lord Chancellor. It is my understanding that this somewhat eccentric view does not represent in any way official Conservative Party policy and I think the Lord Chancellor knows that perfectly well, as he was good enough to tell the Committee that he was having a spot of fun. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) I do think it does show, when dealing with someone as senior as Nigel Evans is, that on this subject the Conservative Party is a broad church. 19. Can I take you on because this is a serious issue, and I am not trying to score partisan points because I chair something called the Lords' and Commons' Family Protection Group, as you probably know, and I have a genuine concern, as do many people, particularly Christian groups in this country, that marriage is being undermined constantly. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) I do not question your sincerity and I hope you are not questioning mine. 20. I am not questioning your sincerity, Lord Chancellor. All I am saying is that your Party is in government and there is a clear confusion, in my view, as to what your policy is. If I can take you back to the point you made about œ4 million for Relate and other organisations seeking to protect marriage, can I draw attention to the report I chaired last September The Cost of Family Breakdown. We have itemised and identified œ15,000 million of identifiable costs attributable to marriage and family breakdown and we believe that the true figure is double that so, basically, Lord Chancellor, œ4 million is peanuts by comparison. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Yes, but if the suggestion is that there is a correlation between the cost of marriage breaking down and the amount government pays for marriage counselling and marriage support, there is no correlation at all. Marriages do break down, they break down to a distressing extent and, no doubt, there are costs associated with that but the co-relation does not exist. Mr Winnick: I think we must make some progress. Marsha Singh wants to ask some questions on immigration appeal charges which has been the subject of some welcome change. Mr Singh? Mr Singh 21. Lord Chancellor, the principle underlying tribunals, I believe, is the principle of free access. Why was it thought necessary to break that principle in the case of family visit appeals? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) First of all, and of course I speak on behalf of the Government, you do appreciate that the fees for family visa applications are set by the Home Office and not by the Lord Chancellor's Department. There is a principle of full cost recovery which applies throughout the whole of the court system and throughout the whole of the judicial system and the figures that were originally fixed on a full cost recovery basis, I accept, looked very, very high. They were œ280 --- 22. Lord Chancellor, I will come onto that but I would like to pick up one point of principle. You said the full recovery of cost principle applies across the justice system. If I were to go to an employment tribunal, an immigration tribunal or a social security tribunal I would not be expected to pay a fee to get access to that tribunal, and yet you said --- (Lord Irvine of Lairg) I think the reason for this is that these were appeals against refusals to grant a visa administratively to a judicial tier, that is to say to the adjudicators, then to the immigration appeal authority and then, if necessary, by way of judicial review to the court, which are very intensive of judicial time and it was thought that they should attract fees on the same basis as court proceedings generally. I take your point but that is the answer. 23. Would you agree with me that many people were disappointed in that although the Labour Party - my Party - made a commitment to restore visitor appeals, no mention was made at that point of any fees for such appeals? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) I have read the debate in the House of Commons where the Home Secretary was tasked about this, from behind as well as across the Chamber, and of course I recognise the depth of feeling and that is why there was a response, and from œ280 on paper and œ580 oral it is now œ50 paper and œ125 oral. That is a very, very significant reduction. I appreciate that if you are opposed to any charge in principle this will not satisfy you, but this is a very major reduction, in response very substantially to pressure from the Government's own supporters. 24. One of the things that was heard on the grapevine was in fact that this was a cock-up between the Home Office and your Department in that no money was asked for from the Chancellor in order to cover the cost of this appeal system and consequently a fee had to be put in place to cover those costs. Is there any truth in that? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) I certainly cannot confirm that, no. 25. Let us go on to the actual levels of fees. I understand that originally the costs were proposed to be œ280 for a paper appeal and œ580 for an oral appeal. What assumptions gave rise to that first assessment and what were the factors that later led to the reduced fees of œ50 paper and œ125 oral? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) There was a lesser volume of this work than was anticipated. An initial decision had been taken to set a fee. That was a decision taken by the Home Office. It was the Home Office's policy to allow an appeal both to an adjudicator and to the tribunal, that is the Immigration Appeal Authority. That was what was driving the high fee levels. A decision was taken, largely because of the reduction in volume of business (so that demands upon the resources of the system were not going to be as great as it was anticipated they would be) that the fees could be significantly lowered within the context of full cost recovery overall. 26. I would not at all like to comment on the intelligence of those who advise on the level of fees, Lord Chancellor, but surely it does not take an Einstein or a genius to figure out that if you put the fee at œ500 (or originally œ580) there is going to be a drop in anticipated take-up? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Yes, and it will be interesting to see if that point is made good by evidence and that there is an increase in the take-up, but these figures are now set and that is that. 27. Fine. If there is no increase in take-up, is it proposed that your Department picks up the full cost of this appeal system? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) No. As I say, by statute the responsibility for setting these fees is with the Home Office and not with my Department. 28. The point I am making is we have reduced appeals to œ50 for paper and œ125 for oral and if there is no increased take up of those appeals, the appeal system is still there, established, so who will pay the cost of that system given the principle of recovery of full cost to pay for it? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) My Department is responsible within its financial settlement to run all the judicial elements, that is to say the adjudicator level and the Immigration Appeal Authority level, for considering these appeals. 29. If there is no increased take-up you will continue to pay the costs for administering the system which has been established? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Yes, these fees have been set - I cannot say that they will never be altered but they have been set for the foreseeable future - and whether or not there is an increase in this volume of business should not affect that fee structure. I cannot be clearer than that. 30. I understand that your Department, Lord Chancellor, charges the fee but if an applicant is successful the fee for the amount is refunded by the Home Office. Is there any mechanism for your Department then to reimburse the Home Office for their reimbursing the applicant? (Sir Hayden Phillips) May I explain my understanding of how this is operating. One of the reasons why it is possible within a policy of full cost recovery to lower the fees is in the course of the refunding mechanism the Home Office judged that within its own budget it can afford to support us in this level of subsidy for the fee. That is my understanding. 31. Is that support already built into their estimates or will they be cutting elsewhere in order to provide that support? (Sir Hayden Phillips) As I understand it, it is already built into their estimates of the total costing operation for this particular area of work. Mr Singh: I would just finally like to say, Chairman, that I do welcome the reduction in fees, Lord Chancellor. Mr Winnick: I am sure that is appreciated. Mr Malins? Mr Malins 32. Lord Chancellor, I welcome that reduction as well. You may know that I founded the Immigration Advisory Service about eight years ago which does a great deal of work in this connection. We were at the forefront of lobbying for these fees to come down. Given that the preponderance of family appeals visits might relate to the Indian sub-Continent where there is extra poverty, the Immigration Appeals Service thinks there is a slight immigrational disadvantage for people on that sub-Continent in relation to appeals compared to elsewhere; what do you think? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) I think it is very difficult to assess the comparative means of people from various parts of the world who are applying for family visit visas. I think that to designate parts of the world as very poor and other parts of the world as not so poor and to have some kind of sliding scale would probably cause more offence than relief, frankly. 33. I take your point. Originally, did Jane Kennedy not say that she expected about 9,500 appeals per year? My understanding is that the appeals that have been lodged so far are very, very few in number - very few. Have you any figures on that or thoughts on that? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) I do not have them readily to hand, I do not recognise the figure that you quote from Jane Kennedy. I can confirm that the volume of business is very much less than anticipated but at that level of detail I cannot help you at the moment. 34. It might be helpful to know what was expected by way of appeals and what we are getting and to link that up in a sense with fees charged or fees potentially to be charged and at the same time link up the issue of fewer appeals with lower fees and the question of whether we will get full recovery. I think there is a little to be looked at that in this area. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) I had not anticipated, and I apologise, questions at that level of detail on this issue. I make no complaint at all and I will ensure that I will write to you with as much detail as I can achieve in a short space of time. I entirely understand the worry. Mr Winnick 35. You will have read the debate, of course, with the Home Secretary when he was asking for approval for the system of immigration appeals and the strength of feeling certainly on the Government benches. The Home Secretary, as you know, towards the end of that debate said he would review the charges, which he has done. Presumably you have read that debate and understand the strength of feeling? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Undoubtedly I read it at the time. I cannot say I have a detailed recollection of it but I have a clear impression of it certainly. 36. Arising from that debate, as you know, the Home Secretary decided to review those charges, which he has done. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) He did and we discussed it together and we took the view that this reduction was right. Mr Winnick: Mr Stinchcombe wants to ask you about the supervision of solicitors. Can I remind colleagues that if they have any interest to declare obviously they must do so, as in the Chamber. Mr Stinchcombe? Mr Stinchcombe 37. Lord Irvine, I declare an interest, albeit as a member of a different strand of the profession to solicitors, having started 18 years ago in your chambers as a pupil. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) I remember it well. 38. I thought you might. You have expressed concerns previously, as have many others, about the capacity of the Office for the Supervision of Solicitors properly and effectively and efficiently to consider complaints made against solicitors and, indeed, have previously set targets that they determine a given percentage of complaints within three months and within five months, otherwise powers to appoint a Legal Services Complaints Commissioner might be invoked. What is the latest figure you have about the percentage of complaints processed by the Office of Supervision of Solicitors in the three month and five month period? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) I want to walk quite a narrow road here because I do not want to demoralise in particular the new government of the Law Society, if I may put it that way, which is trying very, very hard to improve services at the OSS. First of all, the Government accepts that the OSS has made real progress in 2000 and we are grateful for the strong commitments to improving service by the new President Michael Napier, and the last thing I want to do is to demoralise people when they are trying to improve and, with excessive threats. But the core problem with complaints against solicitors is that complaints are still running at the rate of one complaint for every five lawyers per year to the OSS. The basic point that I want to make is that the handling of complaints will only improve when a culture of client care pervades throughout the legal profession. What I have really in mind, and I think perhaps I am using language that I used when I last appeared in front of you, the trouble with solicitors is that when they fall out with their client they treat the management of the client's complaint against them as if it was litigation by another means instead of trying to arrive at an understanding. In the past year there has been an excessive focus in the OSS on reducing the numbers of backlog cases and there has not been a sufficient focus on improving the quality of the decisions. To be fair, the OSS achieved the numbers target of reducing outstanding complaints down to 6,000 by 31 December 2000, so that is good news, but they failed on the quality target and they failed on the speed of processing new complaints. David Lock, who is my junior Minister with delegated responsibility in this area, set out a range of targets for the OSS to achieve in 2001 and both the Government and the Law Society consider that they are tough but achievable targets. I can tell you what they are but I think that would be excessive detail. What we are doing is we are receiving monthly information from the OSS concerning progress and we will be looking at this very, very closely over the next six months. So although there has been some improvement and one must give credit where it is due to this new administration, the jury is really out on whether the Law Society has the capacity to handle complaints against solicitors in the long term effectively. If I were forced to generalise, I would say that the performance between July 1999 and December 2000 was overall disappointing but there is considerable evidence of improvement in the latter stages as well as a strong political commitment within the Law Society's current Presidency to improve complaints handling. So there it is. The Law Society has itself issued a consultation paper to its members. Basically the purpose of the proposals in that consultation paper is to deal properly with many more cases, as it were, domestically, so that they do not get to the OSS, so that the OSS case load is less. They are also proposing a Standards Board and a lay Commissioner for Complaints. I welcome the introduction of a lay Commissioner - but I have to say that it has not happened yet. They have proposed that there would be a Commissioner to head a service complaints redress scheme. They have proposed there will be funding provided by the Law Society for a new Standards Directorate partly on the "polluter pays" principle, and an overall cultural shift towards a better customer focus. I have to say that I am disappointed that decisions on these proposals were not taken by the Council of the Law Society at its last meeting, but I also understand that they have to consider a great deal of detail about how this will work in practice. I am going use this opportunity of answering your question to say that I hope that these issues come back in front of the Law Society's Council with the least possible delay and that there is a positive outcome. 39. Has the OSS ever achieved a target set for it by your Department in 1999 to process 90 per cent of its complaints within three months and all of them within five months? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) No. 40. So it has not achieved the quantitative targets set for 1990 and you say --- (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Well, it did get its numbers target of reducing outstanding complaints down to 6,000 by 31 December 2000. It did achieve that. 41. It achieved the target of reducing the number of outstanding complaints, the backlog. It has not achieved the timescale targets within which new complaints are processed --- (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Standards have been set which they have accepted and really what one has got to look at now is the new targets and whether these new targets are achieved. Let us take one illustration - and it is turn round times, you are absolutely right - if you take service and conduct cases, they should be aiming for determination of all service and conduct cases within a 12-month period but what we have agreed in the shorter term is 50 per cent within three months, 80 per cent within six months, 90 per cent within 12 months, and 100 per cent within 18 months. Now these are the new targets. One of the things that I will have to look at, enormously cursorily, having had this chance, is whether they deliver on these targets. I do say that I am perfectly willing to consider more radical solutions. 42. Those new targets you have just given, are they analogous, and therefore relaxations of the targets given in 1999, processing 90 per cent of complaints within three months and 100 per cent within five months? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) I think they are, yes. 43. We have relaxed those targets that were there set and you have also told us that you are happy with the quality of the decisions. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Yes, I have, yes. 44. Given that the Government has assumed for itself the power to appoint a Legal Services Complaints Commissioner, if the OSS fails to come up with the goods in terms of both quantity and quality, when will that power be invoked? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) I am not going to say obviously when it will be invoked but obviously the gravity of the situation which the Law Society finds itself in is very, very well known to us and self-regulation is a privilege, it is not a right. I think that self-regulation must be exercised in the interests of the public, not in the interests of the profession. I hesitate always to say that this is the Law Society's last chance, I hesitate to say that, but I do say that the gravity of the situation that faces them is very clear to the current leadership. I do not wish to discourage it from the efforts that it is making to transform the attitude to customer care in the solicitors' profession. You are far better sticking with self-regulation, if you can, but at some point because Government's patience will run out. 45. But you do have a hope that under the current leadership those targets you set can be fulfilled? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Yes, of course. Mr Winnick 46. If we move on to one or two questions on modernising the courts. Lord Chancellor, what is the position at the moment over the possibility of some court cases being televised? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Well, what I would say about that is this: that you have to distinguish very, very closely between trials and in particular criminal trials and, let us say, appellate proceedings. There is, of course, a statutory ban on photographing or televising court proceedings. But I am sure that many in this room will remember the Louise Woodward trial in 1997, and I have to say that I expressed then a view - which I repeat to the Committee today - that I am hostile to the televising of trial proceedings in this country. Let me tell you why. There is a great, great risk that the behaviour and the judgment of the lawyers, the witnesses and, indeed, the jury itself might be affected by the knowledge that these parties are participating in a live media event. Even more serious than that is the risk that the witnesses, particularly in criminal cases, might be influenced in the evidence that they give, or find themselves subject within their own communities to undue pressure as a consequence of live coverage. Indeed, I go further, that televising criminal trial proceedings would risk the post-trial punishment of witnesses and perhaps also their intimidation in future cases. You can take it that is the position of the Government in relation to trials, and in particular criminal trials. Now as far as appellate proceedings go, if I felt that there was any interest or demand for it, certainly I would be willing to consult with the higher judiciary on the feasibility, on a pilot basis, of televising appellate proceedings of particular public interest so that the public could be better informed about the nature of the judicial process. We can think of many cases recently where there would be a very valuable educative effect potentially in that, for example the Siamese twins case, for example perhaps even the Pinochet case. 47. I was going to mention that one. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Yes. Now then I think if that proposal was made, the pilot could not be broadcast because there is a statutory ban that would reach that but you could certainly pilot it and assess the quality of what the media did to see whether there would be any change. Now, of course, there would be some who would oppose that on the basis that it would be the thin end of the wedge and appellate proceedings would go first and that would feed an appetite for trial proceedings, but I hope that I have made it absolutely plain that a line in the sand has been firmly drawn as far as trial proceedings go. 48. You have made a very powerful argument and one which it would be difficult, I would imagine, to counter about criminal cases. You mentioned the Pinochet case. Without going to the merit or otherwise of the case itself, I listened to some of the proceedings in the Lords and I could not for the life of me see what harm would come, as far as justice was concerned, if it was televised. So you are not closing the door by any means? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) No, certainly. I intended to indicate that. 49. Yes. Do you think that there is any possibility that, along the very limited lines that you have mentioned, we will see in the next five years such televising? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) I doubt it if one is talking about televising and broadcasting but certainly I have not closed my mind, if there is demand and a request for it, to piloting the televising of appellate proceedings. I have to say, although I may be proved wrong, it is a matter for the media really to say whether this is something that they would be interested in. I think the principal media appetite obviously would be for trials because of their dramatic quality but if I was satisfied that there was a demand, if I was satisfied that we could set up pilots in appropriate places, I would discuss it with the higher judiciary and I do not set my face against it. 50. Have the media actually approached you in any way to discuss it? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) No. 51. Not at all? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) No. Mr Stinchcombe 52. Directly on this point. You have said that you have not set your face against certain kinds of televising of certain kinds of trial or appellate proceedings, at least. Obviously you are not going to promote it. You have said you will be willing to respond to media requests. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Yes. It is not an issue that is very high on a crowded agenda for me but what I am making absolutely plain is that if there is a demand for it, and there is a responsible proposal, I would look at it very carefully. 53. That, therefore, would be, in some respects, an invitation to the media to approach you as to the kinds of proceedings, appellate proceedings, that they might wish to try and televise. You can then consult upon it. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) My door is always open. Mr Winnick: We see your special adviser. Mr Stinchcombe 54. The appellate proceedings and those other proceedings which would involve pure points of law but would not necessarily involve witnesses might not be restricted to the very highest courts, the House of Lords and the Court of Appeal. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) No. 55. It might be below that. For example, the High Court Divisional level on a case from the magistrates. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Yes. I used appellate proceedings because of their considerable public interest in particular cases but I could see that the same principle could apply to any case which simply involved legal argument, if you like, at whatever level between the judge and the lawyer in court. 56. First instance judicial review. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) For example, yes. Mr Linton 57. Can I just say to start with, Lord Chancellor, you are being televised at the moment. I hope that is not influencing what you are saying. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) I am sorry you reminded me of that because it has made me more self-conscious. 58. I am sure it does not. I just wanted to ask a question about information technology. We have a list here of the various pilot projects in information technology, on e-mail, on video conferencing, on websites. I am a little bit alarmed that the legal system finds it necessary to have a pilot project on the use of e-mail. Are you worried that it might not catch on? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) I think it is always wise really to pilot anything that is new. Since you cannot be doing everything all of the time, you want to be able to assess, I would have thought, wherever there is demand where the greatest demand is, it seems to me to make sense. 59. To have a pilot project on e-mail in one county court implies that all the other county courts do not have it or have it later. Is it not self-evident enough now that things like websites or video conferencing or e- mail are a part of normal business methods of any business that it could be introduced everywhere at the same time? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) It seems to me that there are a whole range of future possibilities arising out of IT. You can have virtual hearings where parties resolve their disputes online. You can have electronic case files where parties can file documents in court. You can have streamlined administration of small claims. There is a whole range of things, all of which are set out in our document Modernising the Civil Courts. I know that you can say "Well, it is pretty obvious that this one is going to work" but I do not, for myself, object to piloting to test demand. My instinct is, of course, to agree with you. If it is good in one place you would infer that it would be good elsewhere. 60. Do you feel confident that the legal system is making rapid enough progress in using information technology? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) I think we are doing quite well. You would always wish that you could do better. I think we are making good progress, yes. Mr Malins 61. Lord Chancellor, a couple of questions about courts. I should declare an interest, as you know, as a part-time member of the judiciary. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Quite. 62. First on security. I am sure you will have been as shocked as the rest of us to have read recently about the incident involving Judge Ann Goddard at the Old Bailey which highlights that there is a potential problem which will not go away and is going to be around. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Yes. 63. I wondered if you had got any general thoughts arising out of that as to perhaps any way forward or any conclusions? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) I have a great deal of thoughts about it, as you might imagine. In fact, I spoke to Judge Goddard at her home on the evening of the quite deplorable attack on her. I would like to take the opportunity of this Committee to say how much she really is to be admired. Mr Winnick 64. Hear! Hear! (Lord Irvine of Lairg) She took a day off work, when many might have taken a lot longer, and was immediately back sitting as a judge. It was a very nasty attack on her indeed. Now the facts of the Judge Goddard attack I would not conceal from you are worrying. In all courts the security of the prisoner in the dock is the responsibility of the Prison Service, you will appreciate, not the Court Service, for which I am responsible. Now there were three professional security guards in the dock, still the defendant escaped, still he succeeded in attacking the judge. It was a court clerk who pulled him off but not before injury had been done to the judge, closely followed by a detective constable who was in court. So, unsurprisingly, I have commissioned a departmental security inquiry which, among other things, will have to consider how these three security guards did not react successfully to the emergency. I am looking for, and will receive, a report within a matter of weeks. Mr Malins 65. Thank you. Lastly, on courts, locality. It is quite topical. There is an increasing worry, is there not, that some courts in remote areas are being closed and people have to travel quite large distances now for access to civil and criminal justice? Whilst we understand the financial constraints that can be a problem, can it not? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Oh, yes, obviously. 66. I hope you are aware of that and have your finger on the pulse. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Certainly. Of course you want courts that provide the totality of services that people require, whether they be victims, whether they be witnesses, whether they be women with children. You cannot always keep open the local court which people naturally have love and affection for because it has been there for a long time but I certainly recognise what you say. On the previous subject, we will really, I think, have to think very, very fundamentally about security in courts. There are about 420 guards, they are not responsible for the dock but there are about 420 guards in courts across the country, 160 in the crown court, 200 in the combined courts and 60 in the county courts. We are aware that an increasing area of tension, quite obviously, is in the family hearing centres because of the sensitivity of the issues and the deep emotions that they give rise to. I am not ruling out anything here. One fundamental proposal that is around is that either the former routine uniform police presence should be reinstated or - and this would be a very long term venture - that a new uniform service should be established by the court service to provide security in courts. I have asked my officials, quite apart from a report into the incident on Judge Goddard, which I am not in the least surprised was the incident with which you started, to report within three months on the adequacy of the existing arrangements around the country and on the feasibility of more fundamental proposals. There is also, I would not conceal from you, a real problem in the district courts where district judges have to administer what is - I must not say summary civil justice because it is not summary in that sense - civil justice robustly and expeditiously and there you have to be concerned about the security of the district judges as well. I am very, very alive to it. Mr Winnick 67. Perhaps it would be possible, Lord Chancellor, for either you or Sir Hayden to pass on to Judge Goddard our deep sympathy with what happened but, moreover, her dedication to her duties. It was indeed an example of a judge determined to carry on her responsibilities and duties regardless of what had occurred. We much admired her for that. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) We will certainly pass that on. Mr Winnick: I am going to ask Mr Howarth to ask you a few questions on what might be somewhat more controversial, the Human Rights Act. Mr Howarth 68. Lord Chancellor, the Human Rights Act, of course, has been in force now for just about three months, coming into force on 2 October last year. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Yes. 69. I understand your Department has introduced arrangements to survey cases through data collection systems in the magistrates courts and the courts service to see how it is working. Inevitably you will not be able to give us a full report on the effect so far, but can you tell us whether you have learnt any lessons from this Act to date? In particular perhaps you can tell us about the expenditure of œ60 million a year for the costs of implementing it, how that is working out? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Well, I do not recognise that figure at all. What has been set aside for Human Rights Act implementation is œ21 million for additional court time plus œ39 million against the possibility of an increased Legal Aid bill, and that is where the œ60 million comes from. I would say really quite frankly that the implementation of the Human Rights Act has proved to be a triumph and that all the press reports of chaos in the courts are completely misconceived and that, unsurprisingly, our courts, who have had two years to prepare for the implementation of the Human Rights Act, are dealing with the matter with remarkable efficiency. I am looking at a Financial Times editorial of 27 December in which they say - and I can confirm it by the amplus detail - "The Human Rights Act, which became law in October, was condemned by many who claimed it would create a legal nightmare - jamming the courts with worthless cases and rendering centuries old British traditions illegal. But such predictions have proved to be wide of the mark. Judges have shown a commendable willingness to throw out bad cases while expediting more serious claims". Then tribute is paid to the smooth transition to the new rights based culture, which reflected careful preparation in Whitehall over a period of two years, training of all judges right down to every magistrate. The results have been excellent. There is no chaos in the courts and I can give you chapter and verse for it if you wish. 70. Lord Chancellor, I am sure the Financial Times is daily reading in your household, I am not certain it is daily reading in every household in the country and I am not sure you would be well advised, therefore, to base your case on the editorial writers of the Financial Times. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) What I would say to you, quite clearly, is that since what the Financial Times says is absolutely correct, and I know the full detail to back it up, on this occasion the Financial Times has been both objective and correct. 71. As you know, Lord Chancellor, the fact is that there are a great many people who believe that this law does represent a very substantial and, indeed, unacceptable shift in power from Parliament to the courts. I would like just to take up two points here, if I may. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) I do not agree that many people think that at all. I think that the overwhelming body of opinion in this country, if it was ever to be tested on this single issue, would take the view that the human rights, which every country in Western Europe enjoys, and which are directly enforceable through the ordinary courts of every other major Western European country, should also be enjoyed by people in this country in their own courts without having to beat the lonely and expensive road to Strasbourg. On the contrary, I believe that over time the Human Rights Act will prove to be a much appreciated and highly valued piece of legislation which this Government has passed. 72. There are also a lot of people in this country who are rightly coming to the conclusion that this Government is an authoritarian government, that it has contempt for Parliament. The Prime Minister, as you know, is seldom here and --- (Lord Irvine of Lairg) That point does not, if I may say so, appear to relate to the previous point which was about the popularity or otherwise of the Human Rights Act. Mr Winnick: One at a time, please. Let the Lord Chancellor respond, Mr Howarth, and then you can continue your questioning. Mr Howarth: I was finishing my point which is that this Human Rights Act in the view of many does represent a shift of power away from Parliament. If I can cite one example --- Mr Winnick: No. By way of a question, if you please, Mr Howarth, the same way that I would ask any other Member of this Committee, not a statement, by way of a question, please. Mr Howarth 73. Chairman, I do not think I need instruction on how to ask a question of the Lord Chancellor. May I put it to the Lord Chancellor that when the Lord Chief Justice stated in an article in The New Statesman - not known to be an impartial organ - that he thought it was wrong for the Home Secretary to have the power to determine the tariff for adult murderers and that if the matter came before the courts it was likely that that power would go, surely that is an example the Lord Chief Justice should not be seeking to make that sort of policy? These are issues which should be determined by this democratically elected Parliament or certainly by the democratically elected House of Commons. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Judges have always given public lectures and written articles which have been controversial. This is not the consequence of the Human Rights Act. The real issue is whether the Human Rights Act is good or bad. I have given you the reasons why I think it is good. Ultimately sovereignty remains with Parliament. We have not even had a declaration of incompatibility other than in the planning area under this Act. There will be precious few over time because our laws do generally conform with the European Convention. We were substantially the architects of it. Our laws are substantially compliant. Of course, with any new system of legislation bad arguments are raised from time to time in the courts and they have been dealt with robustly by the higher courts. This will become part of the democratic furniture of this country which people will applaud. 74. May I just ask you a further question about a case which took place in Scotland where, of course, the Act has been in operation for, I think, two years longer than it has been here. You will know that there was a case there involving the Proceeds of Crime Act where drug traffickers had their assets seized, as Parliament had ruled should happen, and, indeed, that has been in force since 1986, and the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh ruled that confiscated assets of convicted drug traffickers breached European Human Rights law. May I put it to you, Lord Chancellor, people in this country generally see drugs as being a major problem and drug traffickers as being the most odious people that there are in this country. They find it astonishing -let me put it that way - that the courts should place the rights of the trafficker over the democratically determined view of Parliament. Surely that is the way these issues should be judged? Are we not going to see more cases like that which appeared in Scotland as the Act progresses in England? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) You seem to be unaware that in a similar case in England the Court of Appeal Criminal Division has ruled that the legislation concerning confiscation orders is not incompatible. The case may or may not go to the House of Lords. I have to say that if you look at it over the whole sphere, if you look at it over, so far, confiscation orders, breach of bail, any of the range of cases that have come up, the courts are reacting sensibly and proportionately. Let me quote from Lord Bingham, the senior Law Lord, when addressing magistrates: "You will hear many arguments based on the Human Rights Act. Some of those arguments no doubt will be good, many will be bad. You must of course listen to the argument, take advice from your clerk and make up your own minds but I would, if I may, recommend a measure of suspicion. Do not be too ready to accept that we have been doing everything wrong all these years. As a society we have on the whole been very respectful of Human Rights, we developed many of them. We have taken steps since the Act was passed to rectify some obvious deficiencies. So I would commend a measure of caution. If you conclude there is no breach, it will always be open to a higher court to review your decision and reach a different conclusion". I can tell you that you can take it that the senior judiciary from the senior Law Lord, the Lord Chief Justice, the Master of the Rolls, right down have all these considerations well in mind. 75. How would you react, Lord Chancellor, if the Countryside Alliance were to claim their rights to go hunting and not to be criminalised, as is the plan of the overwhelming number of members of your party, if they were to seek to exercise their human right and if the court upheld it was their right along with those of anglers and shooters? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) The Human Rights Act will apply to all future legislation of whatever character. If anyone invokes the Human Rights Act successfully then what they are doing is their right. I have to remind you that the Human Rights Act was passed by Parliament. It is now part of the law of the land and people have their rights under the Human Rights Act until it is changed. 76. Of course there are a number of Acts passed by this Government which do not enjoy the wholehearted consent of Parliament, as you will appreciate, as many Acts passed by the Conservative Government did not enjoy the same unanimous support. Let me put this point to you further, Lord Chancellor. The Prime Minister's wife who, you know, is a partner in a special firm of barristers set up specifically --- (Lord Irvine of Lairg) She is a member of a set of chambers called Matrix Chambers. 77. --- in order to exploit the new body of law that is likely to come in, said in an article that it is not enough for public authorities to refrain from violating rights themselves, of course the other thing is we are looking at establishing an investigation into racism at the moment effectively. What Martin Myers, the former President of the Law Society, pointed out - a very great man he is indeed - is one has to co-operate to investigate effectively. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) I am not going to comment on a straight quote which I am quite unable to verify from Miss Booth --- 78. It was in The Daily Telegraph. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) --- be it in The Daily Telegraph, a newspaper which I read avidly every day, or whatever, I am not going to comment on that, but of course there are people who practise in judicial review, as Miss Booth does, who will now be practising in the human rights' area as well. One of the most interesting things about the Human Rights Act, you know, is that it has scarcely generated any new cases. The prophets of doom who are progressively being proved wrong said there will be an enormous influx of new business into the courts and the courts will grind to a halt. In fact, the truth is that almost all the Human Rights Act points are being raised in existing cases so it is just an added dimension to an existing case and there is no evidence whatsoever of the courts being overwhelmed, on the contrary. 79. If I could just put it to you, Lord Chancellor, the jury is still out in the sense that I am sure you will accept this is a new development. I do not wish to challenge that point which has just been made. Can I just come back to the figure you mentioned about the œ39 million being set aside for Legal Aid. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) I think that is the right figure. I said that off the top of my head. 80. That is the figure I have got, so we are not disputing it. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) If you have it, it must be right. 81. Thank you, Lord Chancellor. I might put that in my election address. If I can ask you this question. How do you see that figure squaring away now after three and a half months of operation of the Act? Is it within budget or are you likely to have to revise it? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) It is absolutely impossible to predict. Since there is no evidence of any significant increase in the number of judicial reviews or of criminal appeals, since hardly any points, contrary to expectation, have been raised in the magistrates courts, although we trained the magistrates thoroughly to be able to deal with them, I am sanguine about the adequacy of these figures which have been preserved in the budget for this purpose. 82. Lord Chancellor, I hope you will not misinterpret it if I leave now. I have a constituency engagement, it is nothing to do with the answers you have given me. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Not at all. Have a safe journey. Mr Winnick: You are not walking out in disgust. Mr Howarth: I am not Disgusted from Aldershot. Not that I agree with much of what the Lord Chancellor has said. Mr Malins 83. Lord Chancellor, I tend to agree with you that in our magistrates' courts and crown courts human rights points are not cropping up very much. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Certainly. 84. I think that is the burden of what you are saying. I think I rather agree with that. However, there is another area where I think they are cropping up quite a lot, immigration appeals. I think there is a much higher proportion of take up points on human rights in immigration appeals cases. That is only anecdotal. Do you think that is likely and does that give you any cause for worry? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) It is perfectly possible that that may be so but I have no evidence of any significant trend in that area. 85. I have no evidence, it is just anecdotal. It is not something which at the moment has caused you any concern? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) None at all. 86. About the efficacy of those hearings? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Certainly not. 87. It is something to perhaps bear in mind if problems come up. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Yes. I think one very important point to remember is that the judiciary was thoroughly trained at every level for this. 88. I can confirm that. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Which you will be able to confirm. In many ways we learned from the experience of New Zealand because New Zealand passed its Human Rights Act and almost immediately implemented it. They had many more teething problems than we have had. In my view we have had virtually none. The reason is two fold, that the judges down to every magistrate were trained to respond sensibly to Human Rights Act points and trained in Human Rights jurisprudence, but also there was a massive exercise across the whole of Whitehall addressing really every rule, every principle, every practice, every procedure, to see that it was compatible. So Whitehall at the same time did a great deal of preparation and preparation has, in my view, borne fruit. Mr Stinchcombe 89. Just a few questions, Lord Irvine, following from those of my colleague, Mr Howarth. The Human Rights Act simply incorporated into domestic law the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights save for Article 13. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Yes. 90. Before the incorporation into domestic law was that European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights capable of protecting British citizens if their rights were violated? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) You know as well as I do the various classes of case where the courts did have regard to the Convention pre incorporation. 91. As a matter of international law, was the Government bound to observe the requirements of the Convention prior to incorporation? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) We are signed up to the Strasbourg Court. Our citizens have a right of access to that court. We have invariably, when the Strasbourg Court has ruled against us, changed the law, the domestic British law, to be compliant. But all this is a thing of the past now because, much more sensibly, people can enforce the Human Rights in British courts. How the Convention was indirectly enforceable before is history really. 92. Does that mean then, Lord Irvine, that the substantive rights have not changed, it is simply that they are now enforceable here quicker and cheaper? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Absolutely. Exactly so. There will be more intensive enforcement of human rights in our own courts with greater access by our people to our own courts. 93. Rather than treading that lonely and expensive path to Strasbourg. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Which could sometimes take five or six years. Mr Stinchcombe: Right. Mr Winnick: We are going on now to the Public Trust Office and Mr Linton has one or two questions to put to you. Mr Linton 94. I just want to ask you about the future of what I appreciate is a little known part of the Lord Chancellor's Department which is due to be abolished on April 1st and to be replaced by a new body. Can I first of all congratulate you on the modifications of your original proposals which you mentioned in your opening statement. As I understand it there is a new name now, the Public Guardianship Office. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Yes. 95. Which is a big improvement on the original proposal on the Mental Incapacity Support Unit. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Yes. I am not proud of that. I am much prouder of the Public Guardianship Office. 96. Secondly, the accounts collection is not to be handed over to the Inland Revenue, which is a change for the good. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Yes. 97. The first one you mention there is going to maintain a visiting service. Do I understand that is what is currently known as the Receivership Division of the Public Trust Office? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) No, not as such. We have recruited ten visitors bringing the total to 16 and we are on course to achieve 4,000 visits to clients by April 2001, double the number of visits made last year. 98. Very good. There are still one or two parts which seem a trifle unclear. The Office is still due to be relocated but as far as I know it is not yet known exactly where or what the budget is for the relocation? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) I can tell you about that. There is really a quite urgent need to find improved accommodation. Stewart House, where it is at present, is just not conducive to a modern working environment. We did consider refurbishment. We rejected it as not a viable option. The estimated costs were œ20 million. The level of refurbishment involved would have caused a major disruption and a need to decamp to temporary premises and there is an urgent need to find here and now improved accommodation for the PTO. We looked at three possible areas. We looked at Milton Keynes, Greater London, Croydon. We took the view that Milton Keynes was too far removed from the London area, Croydon not sufficiently accessible and we selected Archway Tower. Nothing is ideal but I think it is a good outcome. 99. Certainly I think it is preferable because, as I understand it, a lot of people have to come from all over the country to the Public Trust Office. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Yes. 100. Its location in reasonably central London is a great advantage to the people who have to visit it. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Yes. 101. Stewart House is to be sold, is it? It is quite a prime building. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) During the course of this year. 102. Is it still on course to open as a new office on April 1st? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Yes. Certainly the Act got Royal Assent a little bit later than we might have hoped but the position is it will start on 1st April. 103. Has there been any attempt to canvass the opinions of the actual users of the service, the clients of the Receivership Division, about how they feel about the changes? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) I believe, so I do not want this to be taken as gospel, I set out the proposals in the document Making Changes: the future of the PTO, which was published in April 2000. The responses of the clients and stakeholders who had commented were summarised in that paper. So the answer is yes. (Sir Hayden Phillips) Perhaps I can just add, Lord Chancellor. This was one of the most extensive acts of consultation and involvement the Department has ever done with all those who were involved. It has been a very important way to go about it. Mr Winnick 104. We are going to go on now, Lord Chancellor, to the appointment of judges and QCs. You have already told us you are going to have, I think it is called, the first Judicial Appointments Commissioner. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Commission for Judicial Appointments actually. 105. That appointment will be in place no later than March. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) We still aim to have the appointment made by March. 106. Then there will be other commissioners. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Other commissioners, yes. 107. When are they likely to be appointed? (Sir Hayden Phillips) We want to engage the new first Commissioner in the process. This is why we are waiting for that. I suspect over the next six to nine months we will appoint the number the Lord Chancellor wants. 108. The Commission will be up and running by the end of the year? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) I would hope the Commissioner will be up and running earlier than that. (Sir Hayden Phillips) The Commissioner will be up and running and starting work. I would hope the Commission, if we can do it, will be up and running fully in the autumn. 109. Let us get it quite clear, Lord Chancellor, what the Commission will do. As I understand it, correct me if I am wrong, it will provide an ongoing monitoring of judicial appointments and act as an ombudsman for complaints. It is not going to advise you - this is a question - on individual appointments? Have I got that right? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) That is essentially right. May I make a qualification? 110. Please do. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) It is essentially right. What the commissioners will do is they will attend all or any judicial appointment sifts that they choose. They can attend interviews to scrutinise the procedures applied and the fairness of it. I can also ask them to investigate any matter in the appointments process which I want to have examined but, more importantly to your question, and this is the slight qualification, is that complaints may be made by individuals, usually properly disappointed candidates, or by an organisation on their behalf, then the complaint would probably - it is not fully worked out yet - be allocated to one or more of the deputy commissioners for detailed investigation or the first Commissioner could handle it. In the course of investigating that complaint every single piece of paper, every note, every record, that is kept on that particular candidate will be open and made available to the Commissioner. Now if he found a complaint to be justified he would be entitled to say that the candidate be reconsidered automatically the next time that a vacancy arises. He could also amend or expunge any part of the record which he thought was unfair and unjust to the applicant in the future. If he thought that anything else should be done he could make a recommendation to me. It will be fantastically open. He will report to me annually and I will include --- 111. He? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) He or she, the first Commissioner. 112. There is a possibility it will be a she? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Certainly. 113. I was not sure if you were using "he" in a general way or otherwise? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) No, no, the masculine includes the feminine and vice versa. Whoever the first Commissioner is will be able to attend any meeting. If you take it at a high level, the succession planning meetings that I have on a regular basis to discuss very senior appointments with the heads of a division, he or she --- 114. He or she. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) --- he or she can sit in and listen to the whole of the discussion. There is nothing whatever which is a closed book and he or she will publish an annual report and that will form part of my own Judicial Appointments Annual Report to Parliament. 115. You are going to make the appointment of the Commissioner? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Well, I will formally make the appointment but of course there is an open competition. There will be --- 116. Let us get this quite clear. You said there will be open competition. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Yes. (Sir Hayden Phillips) Could I just explain this? 117. It would be very useful. (Sir Hayden Phillips) Indeed, today I can say that I am engaged in some of the interviews for the selection process. We openly advertised the post as well as using Executive Search headhunters to help us. We have a large number of applicants from all sorts of backgrounds and we are now settling down in the next week to conduct the interviews and we will then make recommendations to the Lord Chancellor. 118. Who will make the final appointment? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) I will make the final appointment. 119. This is quite a new departure, is it not? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) I think it is a major departure, yes. 120. What would you say to the argument that this is really a sort of sop? Not necessarily my view, I want to make clear, I believe it is a serious new departure, I welcome it. What do you say to those who say it is a sort of sop to the alternative which at one stage the Labour Party was committed to and that was a fully independent Judicial Appointments Commission? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) First of all, it is not a sop. It is an expression of confidence in the fairness of the existing system which I think is of a quite remarkable character if you are willing to open up as complex and as detailed an appointments procedure as this to the most thorough scrutiny. I think, Chairman, you implied that you accepted that because it is a very serious change. Of course it is not the same as a Judicial Appointments Commission, that is true. A Judicial Appointments Commission could be appointed, it could make the appointment or it could be advisory as to who should be appointed, but the point is that we have in this country a system where we wish to appoint people on the basis of merit only, the merit principle underpins everything that is done, and the new Commissioner for Judicial Appointments will be well able to say whether there is any principle other than merit which applies to these appointments. 121. Is there a possibility - it may not be within their remit - that the Commission recommends at some stage there should be a different form of appointment? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) I have always made it absolutely plain that I have not a closed mind on a Judicial Appointment. 122. You have not ruled it out? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Certainly I have not ruled it out, nor have I ruled out going out to consultation on it at some time. It is, of course, highly controversial because there are some who think - and I am not putting myself in any camp - the merit principle would be diminished by the compromises that would be implicit in an Appointments Commission and the seeking of something called representativeness as distinct from merit. Now I am not expressing any views on this. I made it absolutely plain, and I made it plain I believe to this Committee before and to other Committees of the House of Commons, that I have not in any sense ruled it out. I think that public understanding will be much greater, the public will be much more fully informed about the quality of the existing system after the first Commissioner has reported for the first time. 123. I am sure we all look forward to seeing how that actually works in practice. Lord Chancellor, there is a proposal, is there not, for an assessment centre whereby those going on the first step of the judicial ladder will be invited to come to a place to be interviewed and various tests will be made, is that correct? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) That is right. The Permanent Secretary probably knows more about the detail of this than I do but there is going to be a pilot later this year, I think at Deputy District Judge level, to test out the feasibility of an assessment centre, assessing judicial aptitude for judicial appointment. 124. Psychological tests as well? (Sir Hayden Phillips) The process is now being designed and we will look at a variety of assessment centres which have worked in the past and see which ones we think best for the sort of job we are seeking. 125. The sort of test, interview by whom and what? (Sir Hayden Phillips) There will be a mixture of interview. There will be some sorts, I am sure, of psychological or temperamental assessment. There will probably be some actual work that has to be done in a sort of mock up situation and so on. 126. While this is a pilot, it is intended, I take it, Lord Chancellor, it should become a permanent feature of any first step judicial appointment? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Not necessarily, it depends upon the outcome. 127. What about those being promoted, one already on the judicial ladder who will be promoted to a more senior position? Is it being suggested that perhaps in the future they should attend a one day assessment centre? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) There is no such suggestion. 128. No. You rule that out? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) No, but there is no such suggestion. 129. Before one of my colleagues asks about the appointment of silks, if we look at the table which has been circulated to us on judges and lay magistrates in post. I am looking at 1st April 1999 and 1st April 2000 if you have it. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) You are looking at? 130. The table for judicial appointments, the annual report. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Thank you. 131. I am comparing the figures from April 1999 to April last year. When it comes to Lords of Appeal in Ordinary we remain, do we not, 12 men, no women whites, blacks, Asians or others. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Yes. 132. On Head of Division, including the Lord Chancellor, three men, one female, so there has been some progress here. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Yes, 25 per cent. 133. Colour four, no blacks, Asians or others. Lord Justices of Appeal, that has remained the same, has it not? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Well, no, not quite. I appointed --- 134. The figure I have April 2000, Lord Justices of Appeal, 34 men, one female. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Yes, well that is not up to date. I appointed Brenda Hale in October 1999 and Mary Arden in October 2000, so they are two lady Justices of Appeal appointed by me. If you include Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, the President of the Family Division, that is three women at appellate level. 135. It does not change the position on colour, I assume. High court judges, the next figure I have, 93 men, nine females, no blacks, Asians or others, correct? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) That is true, but can I just say this. Things are changing now. In 1999 to 2000 I made seven appointments to the High Court bench, three out of seven were women. Heather Hallett in April 1999, Gill Black in October 1999, Ann Raffetty in February 2000. Now I am not exuding complacency at that but these are good outcomes based on merit and you may also have noticed that recently Mrs Justice Janet Smith has been entrusted with a very great public inquiry, the Shipman Inquiry. If I may say so, the comparison that is made between the proportions of women in the profession today and the proportion of women at senior judicial level is a false comparison. The reason is that you do not become a judge at that level until you have been a lawyer of over 20 years' experience and perhaps well over 20 years' experience. If you take, for example, that as being the relevant pool then only 11.6 per cent of barristers and 9.8 per cent of solicitors of more than 20 years' standing are women and that is the relevant comparison. I have got no doubt that over the fullness of time on merit, and merit only, women will punch their weight equally with men. That is why I went out of my way to mention these names to you which are really significant progress. 136. You used the phrase "fullness of time", it is a question of how long it will be before there is any kind of equality of gender on the bench? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Unless the proposition is that we have an entirely different form of judiciary in our country, a judiciary which is drawn from highly experienced ranks of professional lawyers who have been in substantial practice for 20 to 25 years, unless you are going to change that, until the pools become equal as between the sexes of lawyers of that seniority you are going to have a disparity. 137. That applies to ethnic minorities? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Yes, it does. 138. We need not be too optimistic about substantial progress in the near future? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) I regard the progress that I mentioned to you, three out of seven of the appointments to the High Court bench in the last complete year have been women, and I hope that the Committee will regard that as an encouraging point ahead. 139. One also has to look at the overall position. Can I ask you as a layman the position over solicitors? Do I take it the solicitors are excluded necessarily from any of the most senior appointments? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Certainly not. I appointed the first solicitor to the High Court bench, Laurence Collins. 140. That was the first appointment of its kind? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) That was the first appointment. We do have solicitor High Court judges who started off as circuit judges and have been promoted to the High Court bench but Mr Justice Laurence Collins, who was appointed to the Chancery Division by me, was the first solicitor to be appointed to the High Court bench direct from the profession, yes. 141. Are we unique in this country in having a division between the two branches of the legal service? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) No. You have it up to a point in New Zealand and in Australia but the point is that it is not something which the Government as such has a policy on. It is a question for the profession to decide how it wishes to organise itself. If I can respond. In 1990, when solicitors were given, by statute, the right to acquire higher court rights of audience - and it was absolutely correct that they should do so because it was a restrictive practice to disallow them - a very, very small proportion, I cannot remember the figure but I think there were about 80 or 90,000 solicitors in the country - I will be corrected if I am wrong - probably nearer 90,000 and I think that the figure of solicitors who took up higher court rights of audience was only about 800 in all. Now, of course, I certainly do not think that advocacy skills are the sole skills which are required to be a good judge. I do not think that for a second. I just give you that fact to illustrate how comparatively rigid the divisions between the two professions are, even when bars are removed. Mr Winnick: I am going to ask Mr Stinchcombe if he will ask the next questions regarding the appointment of QCs. Mr Stinchcombe 142. Lord Irvine, the Joint Working Party suggested, as I understand it, that the earnings of individuals applying for silk should be removed from the list of relevant considerations for appointments. That was a recommendation that you rejected, is that right? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Earnings are of very, very little importance. Let me put it in perspective and if there are any misperceptions about it then I will obviously make it my business to correct them. Size of income is a very, very rough guide to size of practice but it is only rough because there are certain categories of work which attract much more reward than others. I think that the Legal Aid work attracts much less reward. Pro bono work attracts no reward at all. Certain categories of work, for example in the planning sphere, if you appear for a developer who is willing to pay high fees you get a lot more money than if you appear for a local authority which is not able to do the same. All these considerations are very, very well known to me and I would be very concerned if there was any notion around that people in order to heighten their opportunities for silk have to go for maximising their income. 143. I am obliged. These are issues that I covered with your colleague, Sir Hayden, last time. Given that, why do we, nonetheless, still continue to include the income in the list of answers that applicants have to give? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) I have difficulty in saying that it is irrelevant. For example, if you have got two practitioners who are practising in the same sphere of law with the same sort of portfolio of clients, which happens in many, many areas, then the income is a rough guide to size of practice but it is not something which I give any great weight to at all. You could have somebody who wants, for the best of reasons, to devote a significant amount of time to pro bono work. You could have a lawyer who for very good reasons wants to take time out from practice to do a certain amount of teaching at a university or even do what solicitors do, but barristers very rarely do, take a sabbatical for a few months abroad. I can absolutely assure you that there is no significant adherence to a pecking order based on earnings. 144. All of which is extremely welcome and extremely helpful. To what extent are those other possibilities - that a barrister or a solicitor has chosen to work for local authorities or public authorities where their earnings are perhaps less, or chosen to offer services pro bono to an action group or chosen to take a sabbatical or to go into academia - capable of being properly reflected in the applications? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) I think they are. I think you have a good point here. One does not want to give a false impression you see either. I think, as you recognise, it is all about perception and there are many false perceptions around across the world, if I may say so, which have no relationship to the reality at all. You do not want to compel people to do pro bono work to heighten their chances, that would not be right either, but what you do want, you do want to know if people are doing pro bono work because that will explain why they might have a lesser profile in the higher courts for argument sake. I have a very, very open mind to improving this form in any way I can. I devote an enormous amount of personal attention and time to looking at these applications and any suggestion to me that there is anything about the form or the information that is unfair I would consider and if there are any misperceptions around it is my duty to try to dispel them. Mr Winnick: You may or may not be relieved, Lord Chancellor, to know that we are coming to the last series of questions on magistrates. I am going to ask Mr Singh to ask you one or two questions. Mr Singh 145. Thank you, Chairman. Lord Chancellor, over the summer I was fortunate enough to spend some time with the chairman and representatives of the bench in Bradford and I was very impressed with their commitment and their dedication to their job and the experience that they obviously had. They were quite openly concerned about their future as a lay magistracy and I would like to ask you whether you can allay their fears in terms of those concerns and if there are changes to be proposed, what the nature of those changes might be? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) First of all, let me say that there is no stronger advocate or supporter of the lay magistracy than I. I have a very, very high regard for them. It is true that there was a great amount of media speculation, I think it was at the time that you are referring to, which was suggesting that the days of the lay magistracy were numbered and that they were all going to be replaced by stipendiary magistrates. There was no truth in it, there is no truth in it, if you consider this about the lay magistracy, that they are a first class example of quality citizenship in action. They give their time for no reward, they reflect the community that they serve, there is great public confidence in them and they represent par excellence a principle of government which this Government promotes, which is the promotion of volunteering. I feel very, very strongly about this. There was a research report published recently which was jointly prepared under the aegis of the Home Office and my Department by Rod Morgan and it was called Judiciary in the Magistrates' Court. Let me quote what I said on publication and let me quote what the Home Secretary said. I said: "The report concludes that eliminating or greatly diminishing the role of lay magistrates would not be widely understood or supported. At no stage was it suggested to the researchers that in most respects the magistrates' courts do not work well or fail to command general confidence. Lay magistrates represent civic engagement in the justice system and Government has no intention of removing that." The Home Secretary said: "The unpaid work of the lay magistracy is greatly valued by the Government and we are committed to ensuring that they continue to play a significant part in the criminal justice system." So I hope the opportunity that you have given me in this question to repeat that gives it some currency in the media. 146. I am very glad to hear that, Lord Chancellor. I think it would be a great shame if we did anything else. Magistrates provide a direct link from the community into justice, they represent that community and in a way they are as near to being judged by your peers, apart from the jury system, as I think you can get. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) I agree with that. In our way our country allows a quite remarkable lay involvement in the system of justice. You are quite right, the lay magistracy typify it, the jury typifies it, and I think our justice system is better for it. 147. One of the things the lay magistracy has been very good at it is reflecting local communities in terms of gender balance or ethnic balance. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Yes. 148. In terms of ethnic balance I believe they are slightly ahead of the total representation of the population and 50 per cent of the lay magistracy are women. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) That is correct. 149. In that sense, and we have been discussing the higher judicial appointments, they are doing extremely well. However, the basic principle of what they represent was, and still is I believe, a political balance. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Yes. 150. I understand that you believe that no longer should be the criterion on which we draw the magistrates, is that correct? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Successive Royal Commissions, but they are very old, down the century, the 20th Century, have regarded political balance as a proxy for social balance. I took the view that how you vote is old-fashioned today and the notion that you come in a particular social category if you vote Labour, Conservative or vote Lib Dem is just not correct today. I had a review consider at great length whether we could find some other criterion than political balance as a proxy for social balance. I am sorry to say that they failed, they did not come up with anything, so we do continue to use political balance. It does ensure in a sense that the bench is politically representative of the neighbourhood it serves, but I would agree that it is not a sure yardstick of social balance. If anyone here can tell me what the sure defining test is, I will look at it with the very greatest of care. Mr Singh: It causes me some concern because I believe that the membership of the Conservative Party is quite aged now. Mr Malins: Speak for yourself. Mr Singh 151. Thank you for your answers. I can tell my local bench that it is thumbs up from you? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Yes. Mr Singh: Thank you. Mr Winnick: Lord Chancellor, I said that was the last of the series of questions but I understand, however, Mr Linton and possibly one other Member would like to ask briefly about access to justice. Mr Malins: Nothing from me. Mr Linton 152. A couple of questions on the Community Legal Service. If the Community Legal Service is to have 100 per cent coverage, do you think there should be a statutory duty on local authorities to fund the law centres? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) We did look at it at the time that the Community Legal Service was set up. We took the view that in order to establish the Community Legal Service concept and the Community Legal Partnerships, which are essentially partnerships, as you know, between local authorities, between advice services, between lawyers, that we should proceed voluntarily. It has been such a huge success. CLS Partnerships now cover 74 per cent of the population of England and Wales, substantially ahead of my expectation at the time we embarked on the venture. Therefore, if funding problems do not emerge, if the local authorities, as they are doing up and down the country, continue to support these voluntary bodies which are working so well, then I would leave it there but, of course, nothing is excluded. This is, in fact, a very good news story, the Community Legal Service. 153. My local authority does not fund law centres and I do not think ever will unless it is made compulsory. One of the purposes of this reform was to refocus spending on social welfare law. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Yes. 154. I do not know how that fits in with the reduction of, I think, 124 million in spending that is in your budget. How does that square with a refocusing onto social welfare law? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) The Legal Aid budget is broadly consistent over time, it is 1.6 billion a year or thereabouts. 155. But I am talking about the Community Legal Service's budget which goes down from 810 million to 686 million in 2003. I am sure I am quoting the figures from your annual report. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Let me tell you what I understand to be the position. This year expenditure on the Community Legal Service will be around 780 million. That is despite a base line of 623 million, so it is up on the base line. Average annual expenditure over the next three years will be 710 million. That, again, is a substantial increase over this year's base line but less than this year's annual expenditure, that is the point. The fact is that we have made savings from the fact that most personal injury cases, which represent about 50 million per annum, are now financed by the private sector and, therefore, I have got no anxiety about these funding triggers at all. It is true that headline expenditure over each of the three years will be a bit less than this year's expenditure but above base line. 156. Just to avoid confusion, I have no problem with the personal injury cases, I just thought that the idea was to refocus, in other words to shift spending away from personal injury towards social welfare law. There is a lot of very good work done by law centres certainly in my area which could do with greater funding. Is that the intention? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Of course, the money is now much better targeted on priority need, on the most deserving cases, which are social welfare, mental health, housing, domestic violence. The legal help budget is going to be fixed at 236 million over the next three years, which is an increase of 35 million per annum. I am not troubled by these figures. 157. One last point on this: in Scotland they now have Legal Aid for employment tribunals, is there any thought now that the new system is bedding in to extend Legal Aid to tribunals? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Thought has obviously been given to this subject in terms of the Human Rights Act apart from anything else. I have to say that the Government has no present plans to extend Legal Aid to employment tribunals. One of the problems about employment tribunals - it depends what way you look at it, of course - is that there is a no cost rule in employment tribunals. There is a cost rule in personal injury cases. The cost is that the cost follows the event and in a personal injury case, and this is what has aided the acceptance and progress of conditional fee agreements, if you win you recover the uplift and you recover the insurance premium from the defendant who, after all, did inflict the injury on you in the first place. I think one thing that we do have to look at is whether the absence of a cost rule in the employment tribunals makes sense today when the compensation that can be recovered is so much more than it was before. The reason for not having a cost rule traditionally was that poor people would be deterred from bringing a case to an employment tribunal by the risk of being liable for the employer's costs if they lost. Whether that reasoning holds good today is something that does deserve progressive thought, I think. Mr Winnick 158. I wonder if I could leave you on this particular point, Lord Chancellor, with the feelings of the National Association of CABs who have a number of concerns. I think you would agree, would you not, that the CABs perform a very, very important service up and down the country? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Absolutely, yes, 100 per cent. 159. Of course, they were the ones who originally expressed concern over the fees for immigration and visitors' appeals, which we have already gone through. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Sure. 160. Have you been asked by the National Association for them to have a meeting with you where they can put their concerns face to face? (Lord Irvine of Lairg) No, but my door is open. I would be delighted to meet NACAB. I visit CABs quite frequently and I would be delighted to meet them. 161. We will no doubt pass that on, it is minuted as such. Lord Chancellor, can I take this opportunity of thanking you very much, together with Sir Hayden, for coming along. It has been a session of interest, somewhat controversial on occasions, but I hope from your viewpoint as well as ours it has been a very fruitful exchange. Thank you very much indeed. (Lord Irvine of Lairg) It has been very valuable, thank you very much.