Clause 3 — Legal qualifications

Part of Orders of the Day — Constitutional Reform Bill [Lords] — 1st Allotted Day – in the House of Commons at 9:30 pm on 31st January 2005.

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Photo of Jonathan Djanogly Jonathan Djanogly Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 9:30 pm, 31st January 2005

Lord Kingsland, the shadow Lord Chancellor, successfully moved an amendment on Report in the House of Lords to require the Lord Chancellor either to have held high judicial office for at least two years, have practised as a qualifying practitioner for at least 12 years—I should like to declare that I am a practising solicitor—or be serving as Law Officer of the Crown.

The Constitutional Affairs Committee report concluded that it

"may be an advantage for the holder of the post of Lord Chancellor to be a senior lawyer".

I admit that that is hardly the most decisive of recommendations, but it just about constitutes one. Our core argument is that the Lord Chancellor plays a central role in administering justice, including being involved in appointing, disciplining and protecting the judiciary, and that there is therefore a need for legal understanding.

Let me briefly explain some of the functions that will remain with the Lord Chancellor. They include: functions that relate to the framework for organising the courts system; setting the jurisdictional boundaries in England and Wales; providing and allocating financial material and human resources for the administration of justice; matters regarding the pay, pensions and terms and conditions of the judiciary, and providing staff and resources for judicial training. They also include determining the overall number of judges and the distribution of business between the different levels of the varying courts.