Clause 3 — Legal qualifications

Part of Orders of the Day — Constitutional Reform Bill [Lords] — 1st Allotted Day – in the House of Commons at 9:06 pm on 31st January 2005.

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Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Constitutional Affairs) 9:06 pm, 31st January 2005

There is equal virtue in that point as in the point made earlier. That may well be undesirable in the view of those who believe that the holder of the post must have a certain degree of objectivity in making appointments without fear or favour from the body of potential candidates and ensuring that there is a certain amount of distance and fairness in the appointment process. We wish to create a judicial appointments commission partly in order to move away from even the suggestion that appointments are made from among people who are perhaps closest to the appointer, and to ensure that they are made solely on merit according to the commission's assessment.

My hon. Friend Mr. Simon makes a reasonable point. I am not saying that it is or is not desirable that the Lord Chancellor should or should not be a lawyer—I am saying that such a qualification is not an essential prerequisite, and a non-lawyer is not incapable of undertaking this fundamentally ministerial office.