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

We now have a Law Officer on the Front Bench who happens to be a Scottish Law Officer, and I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for correcting my misinterpretation of what is going on.

The concordat is only part of what concerns us. Someone who is asked to consider the merits of candidates for the supreme court and can reject a candidate whom he does not want—which the Secretary of State, the Lord Chancellor, will be able to do—must have a knowledge of the law and the personalities within it. That cannot be acquired over a short period; it must be acquired over a number of years.

Any Prime Minister, bearing in mind the nature of the office and the deliberations that have taken place here and in the other place—and, no doubt, reading the report of deliberations in the Select Committee with great care—will know how important it is for that office to be held by a senior member of the profession. I think it entirely unreasonable to restrict it to those who have held high judicial office for two years, which is another reason why I cannot support clause 3. I cannot recall in recent history the appointment of a Lord Chancellor who had first been a judge. I know that senior QCs have been appointed, but we have certainly not had any judges while I have been a Member of Parliament.