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

No. As I say, I do not regard the fact that one might have reached a certain number of years of practice in a particular profession as an absolute requirement for having the strength of character to guard the independence of the judiciary or stand up for the rule of law. Those are characteristics of an individual with strength of character and good sound judgment. Those are the qualifications necessary in the person who is best for the job; someone's being a lawyer does not fundamentally guarantee that they do or do not have them. It may be an advantage to have a certain knowledge of the law, but it is not a fundamental requirement.

In fact, we should be very cautious of any notion that power should reside exclusively with one body or one group of individuals. The law does not belong to lawyers, and the office of Lord Chancellor should not belong to any particular profession or class of people. The Prime Minister of the day should be able to pick the best person for the job from the widest pool of candidates, not just from judicial office holders or senior lawyers. A senior lawyer may be the best person to perform the role, but we have no good reason to constrain that choice with statutory limitations in the rigid manner proposed in clause 3, and I strongly urge the Committee to resist it.