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The Lord Chancellor: Clause 1(3) provides that:

but states that I may, by order, alter those numbers. Amendment No. 3 is designed to take away altogether my power to vary the minimum or the maximum number of commission members--

Lord Simon of Glaisdale: If my noble and learned friend will allow me, I should point out that that is not quite what the provision does. Indeed, my noble and learned friend would still have the opportunity to do whatever he wanted by primary legislation.

The Lord Chancellor: If my noble and learned friend had allowed me to conclude the sentence, I would have continued to say that, if the three lines 18 to 20 were taken out of the clause, my power under the Bill to vary the minimum or the maximum number of commission members would be removed. Of course, without those lines I could act under subsection (4), which provides that the members of the commission,

    "shall be appointed by the Lord Chancellor",
and thereby appoint just as many as I chose. The purpose of the words of limitation is to indicate that in my broad view something between seven or 12 members is right.

The noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, asked in what circumstances I would wish to increase the number above 12. The answer is that if I, or any successor, thought that greater expertise were required than that provided by 12, the number could be increased. However, if it were thought that having 12 members was over-burdening the commission and that fewer would suffice, there would be a discretion to reduce the number.

We can all become very excited about secondary legislation, but in my respectful submission we must retain a sense of proportion. The provision gives your Lordships the best estimate of what we think the parameters of size should be. We do not want to have to come back and seek primary legislation to change what is essentially an administrative matter.

I turn now to Amendment No. 4 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland. In my view the order contemplated under the amendment is of an administrative character and should only be subject to the negative resolution procedure. If I were to do something absolutely bizarre like reducing the number of members to one, the negative resolution powers

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would be quite sufficient. There is nothing of a serious nature in these provisions to cavil at. I invite the noble and learned Lord not to press his amendment.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale: I am grateful to my noble and learned friend for his explanation. He has taken a very wide bracket here. The reason I thought he would give is rather better than the one he did give; namely, that he might change his mind and want a different maximum or a different minimum. He did not explain at all why a different minimum might be desirable. He addressed himself purely to the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, regarding why he should want more. He answer was, "I may change my mind in the light of experience." That is simply not good enough.

We are a parliamentary democracy. A few years ago we were celebrating the tricentenary of the Glorious Revolution. Our parliamentary system has been battered on several occasions. Members of the Committee will wish to stand up for it and will not want to see it gradually eroded by a power-hungry executive arrogating to itself more and more powers. This will not be the last Bill where we shall have to take notice of that matter; nor is this the last amendment.

In the meantime, as I do not press amendments to a Division in Committee but, if necessary, table them on Report, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment without conceding that my noble and learned friend satisfied me.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 4 not moved.]

Lord Clinton-Davis moved Amendment No. 5:

Page 2, line 3, at end insert--
("( ) Prior to making any appointment under subsection (4), the Lord Chancellor shall consult professional bodies and representatives of consumer interests.").

The noble Lord said: This is a condition precedent, so to speak, to the actual appointment of the members of the commission. The subsequent amendments in the group go into the detail of the membership. It is purely a probing amendment in order to examine the Government's thinking about the process prior to the actual appointments. The amendment calls for professional bodies and representatives of consumer interests to be consulted. I should not have thought that that would need to go on the face of the Bill. I wish simply to ascertain from my noble and learned friend what he has in mind when going about this particular job. I beg to move.

Lord Kingsland: I believe that we are now dealing also with Amendments Nos. 6, 7 and 8 to which I have attached my name. The noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, has dealt most admirably with Amendment No. 5, so perhaps I may now speak to Amendments Nos. 6, 7 and 8. The intention of these amendments is to ensure that among those represented on the commission there should be included at least one practising barrister and one practising solicitor. Indeed, in Amendment No. 7 I have suggested that two practising solicitors should be included as I believe that that is what the existing law

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requires. In circumstances where the solicitors' profession is at the forefront of dealing, at least initially, with those who are seeking legal aid, it seems to me to be strongly arguable and only right that they should be more fully represented than the Bar.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Borrie: Why is it that the mover of this amendment thinks that this provision is necessary bearing in mind that Clause 1(5) already states that persons who may be appointed to the commission will include,

    "persons with experience in or knowledge of... the work of the courts"?
Surely barristers and solicitors have experience of the work of the courts? If they do not, they may be inappropriate people to be appointed to the commission. I should have thought that matter was already covered.

Lord Goodhart: I rise briefly to support the amendments in this group, to two of which I have put my name. It is perhaps difficult to imagine that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor or any of his successors would appoint a legal services commission on which there was not a member of the Bar or a solicitor. However, it is clearly important that interests on all sides be represented. In a commission of seven members--it is even more important in a commission of 12--it is clearly appropriate to have at least two working representatives of the legal profession who should cover both branches of that profession. If a commission of 12 members was appointed, it may be appropriate to appoint two solicitors to it. Be that as it may, I support this amendment. I ask the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor to accept it or at least to indicate that it is his intention to comply with the spirit of the amendment in making those appointments.

Lord Hacking: I oppose these amendments, particularly Amendments Nos. 6 and 7. I do so on two grounds. First, I believe they are unnecessary. That point has already been made by my noble friend Lord Borrie. Secondly, and more importantly, I believe them to be undesirable. The Committee will see plainly that Clause 1(5) identifies the experience and knowledge which members of the legal services commission should have. If I may say so, it is put rather more succinctly than in the Courts and Legal Services Act, although I would include--I believe that the noble Baronesses, Lady Wilcox and Lady Linklater, will speak to an amendment on consumer affairs--in the criteria knowledge and experience of consumer affairs. Having said that, the amendment seems to me unnecessary as it is expressly stated in Clause 1(5) that in appointing members to the commission the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor,

    "shall have regard to the desirability of securing that the Commission includes persons with experience in or knowledge of"
the provision of legal services, the work of the courts and so on.

As I said, my second reason for opposing these amendments is that I believe them to be undesirable. I believe it is of paramount importance that members of

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the legal services commission should act as members of that commission and not as representatives of solicitors, barristers, the judiciary or any other body. We have experience of this matter. Like my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, I participated fully in the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990. My noble and learned friend Lord Mackay--if I may still call him my noble and learned friend--may correct me, but it is my recollection that when he originally put forward the proposal for the advisory committee he was looking for a rather smaller committee than one comprising 17 members, which was the number which comprised the advisory committee.

During the passage of that Bill there was much pressure for representatives--I have to put it that way--to be appointed to that advisory committee. With the exception of the Lord of Appeal or the Judge of the Supreme Court who were to chair that advisory committee, we ended up with a judge, two practising barristers, two practising solicitors, two law teachers and so forth. I have not been privy to the detailed workings of the advisory committee but certainly one has the impression from the length of its deliberations that the solicitor or barrister members of that committee felt that they represented the interests of the Bar, solicitors and so on. I believe that that devalued the efficiency of that committee. Therefore it is strongly desirable that we do not have representatives of the Bar and solicitors on this commission. Members should be appointed to serve the commission and nothing else.

On the question of numbers--

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