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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
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.
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.
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 membersfor better or for worseof, for example, the European Union, it would be preferable to specify that:
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.
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.
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.
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