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Lord Williams of Mostyn: I am so very pleased that the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, is here for this historic moment, which I am about to relish! I am going to read out the names that will live in infamy: the noble Lords, Lord Rogan, Lord Maginnis of Drumglass, Lord Laird and Lord Kilclooney. All of them put their names to the amendment, which could be described as the lawyers' trade union amendment. The point of this proscription of those dreadful people

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who might be qualified lawyers is to make absolutely certain that there should be one lay member—unsullied, untainted and unpolluted—to sit on the commission.

Lord Smith of Clifton: Given the battering that I have received from legal representatives in the Committee this afternoon, I acknowledge the force of the argument of the noble and learned Lord. There is a case, occasionally, for a lay person to have a look at legal matters.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass: I hear the determined tone in the voice of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Privy Seal. I am happy to withdraw the amendment. I know when I am beaten.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 49 agreed to.

Schedule 9 agreed to.

Clause 50 [Duties of Commission]:

Lord Smith of Clifton moved Amendment No. 179:

    Page 29, line 26, at end insert "and consult as widely as possible on such proposals"

The noble Lord said: The review recommended in Recommendation 245 that the proposed Northern Ireland Law Commission should be able to commission research and that it should consult as widely as possible on proposals for reform. We believe that consultation is important in making changes so that public confidence in the system is enhanced. Before we hear the ritual incantation from the Minister that of course all reasonable people will consult as widely as possible, I believe that, on this occasion, that there is some point in putting it on the face of the Bill to ensure that they do consult. The question of law revision is something that should not be simply the preserve of the Law Commission itself.

I should be happy to withdraw the amendment if the Lord Privy Seal was willing to incant once more and tell us that, in short, the commission will consult as widely as possible. I beg to move.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass: I wish to speak briefly to Amendment No. 179A. What I have to say is in line with some of the points I made earlier this afternoon. I have some reservations and know the suspicion that will derive from Clause 50(4)(c), where the Law Reform Commission of the Republic of Ireland is specifically named.

I do not set about preventing a proper consultation from taking place but, given that we are members—for better or for worse—of, for example, the European Union, it would be preferable to specify that:

    "In performing its duties the Commission may consult any equivalent national law commission".

Why should we seek to single out in a way that will be totally misunderstood the Law Reform Commission of the Republic of Ireland, and then not include the opportunity to consult with other equivalent national law commissions?

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I would have thought that this would be an area where the sensitivities would be recognised by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Privy Seal and that he would see the common sense of approaching the matter on a broader base. I beg to move.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: At this late hour I rise to offer as counsel to the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, the great and eloquent words of the late leader of the Monster Raving Loony Party who, in the 1992 general election, enchanted the whole nation with the main slogan of his party, "Why only one Monopolies Commission?".

Viscount Bridgeman: I should not like to anticipate the incantation of the Lord Privy Seal. However, we feel that an unspecific requirement to consult, as in Amendment No. 179, is not appropriate for the Bill.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I wish that the noble Lord had not made that reference to "Why only one Monopolies Commission?" because there will be an amendment down on Report if we are not careful.

The incantation is exactly the one that the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, gave. "Consult as widely as possible" on such proposals is in the category of mom and apple pie. It is not capable of being enforced and should not be in statute. However, I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Clifton. Plainly, any responsible body of commissioners will consult as widely as possible.

Amendment No. 179A relates to recommendation 245. In my experience over many years—I am sure the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew of Twysden,

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will endorse this—law commissions have never been tainted with political partiality. I see that my noble friend—if I can call him that—Lord Maginnis of Drumglass is smiling quizzically, not to say Delphically, but I know of no example in these commissions that are specified on the face of the Bill in which political partiality has played any part, although there may be differences about the outcome of their deliberations.

These are obviously common law jurisdictions with history and traditions significantly in common. It is plainly sensible that the Law Commission should consult with the three designated ones.

I take the wider point made by the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis of Drumglass, that the commission may consult any equivalent national law commission. It has that power and discretion in any event. We ought to leave it in the way that the Bill has been drafted.

Lord Smith of Clifton: I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 179A not moved.]

Clause 50 agreed to.

Clause 51 agreed to.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: It may be convenient for us to adjourn until Tuesday at 3.30 p.m.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees: The Committee stands adjourned until Tuesday 18th June at 3.30 p.m.

        The Committee adjourned at thirteen minutes before eight o'clock.

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