Justice (Northern Ireland) Bill
Lord Ackner (Crossbench)
My Lords, I am not quite sure of the purpose of the interruption, particularly as the Opposition were called to recognise the limitations in the second stage of the Bill. A number of questions were preceded by the phrase, "Before the noble Baroness sits down", a formula which I thought was frequently used but which is not apparently available on Report. That is news to me.
In any event, the intervention by the noble Baroness does not bear upon the amendment. The reason for the amendment is to translate a majority on the judicial side. They are now a minority of one; the lay people succeed by an extra one. It is a little like saying to the passengers on a liner, "You know nothing about the technical side of this ship, but you take over the engine room. Those who do know about it will go up to the cabins which you occupied".
I should like the noble Baroness to explain to the House exactly what is the function of the lay people, except to see that the system is fair; that the decision appears on the face of it to be sound and reasonable; and to ask any questions which they may believe have not been asked by the lawyers who have expressed their views. I hope that we will be told why the particular numbers were hit upon. There must be some explanation, but, as has been pointed out already, to say, "I think we have just got the balance right", is a conclusion and not an argument.