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 Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Labour, Leicester East 9:30 pm, 31st January 2005

I should like to declare an interest, Mr. Stevenson. I am a non-practising barrister and my wife holds a part-time judicial appointment.

I am troubled by what the Minister said this evening, not because I do not have enormous respect for him— I do. This issue occupied the Select Committee for a while, and the reason why there was not a decisive outcome to those discussions—although Mr. Djanogly thinks that there was, this is the first time that I have heard the word "may" being used to describe a decisive outcome—was that there was a genuine division among members of the Committee on the issue. It was only thanks to the avuncular and consensual chairing by Mr. Beith that we managed to arrive at the words in our report.

I am of the view that the holder of the office ought to be a lawyer, although I was happy to go along with the recommendations of the Select Committee, because they represent a firm indication of the kind of person who we think should occupy the position. The Minister's argument—he put it forward very eloquently again this evening—is that if the Secretary of State for Health is not a doctor, why should the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs be a lawyer? That is correct, although the Secretary of State for Health probably has to be a non-smoker these days to be able to retain the position—