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 am sure that the Whips will have noticed my hon. Friend's second bid for the post.

The fact remains that of course the Prime Minister is going to appoint whoever he wants to this position, assuming that people are appointed on the basis of merit in politics. He will get the best man or woman for the job, irrespective of whether that person is a lawyer or not. The way in which the Select Committee has moved with regard to its recommendations signifies the desire that the person ought to be a lawyer, and a senior lawyer at that. Where the Minister has got me is with regard to the very restrictive nature of the clause as it has been drafted—and that is why I shall support the Government in the vote.

I am not clear why there would be any doubt that the person serving as a Law Officer of the Crown should have

"practised as a qualifying practitioner", although I note that the Solicitor-General did not practise as a qualified practitioner—nor, I think, did her predecessor. Perhaps the Minister will tell us why this provision has been put into the Bill, because I did not follow the deliberations on it in another place. I would have thought that it was pretty obvious that the Law Officers should be members of the Bar, or members of the solicitors' profession, as is the case with the present Solicitor-General. I know that she was made a Queen's Counsel, as was her predecessor, my hon. and learned Friend Ross Cranston, just before they assumed office. I did not think there was any doubt that the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General ought to be members of the profession, although both are senior members of the profession.