Clause 3 — Legal qualifications

Part of Orders of the Day — Constitutional Reform Bill [Lords] — 1st Allotted Day – in the House of Commons at 9:45 pm on 31st January 2005.

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Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier Conservative, Harborough 9:45 pm, 31st January 2005

I have no doubt that anyone who is capable of being a good Secretary of State will have the energy and intellect to understand basic ethics and learn about the requirements of the rule of law. However, that person would be at a disadvantage because he would have to learn about it, whereas it was second nature for Lord Irvine, Lord Mackay and Lord Falconer. I am decrying not the intellectual abilities of a non-legal Lord Chancellor, but the downgrading of the office and the growing distance between the two institutions.

A consequence of the situation will be the increasing importance of the Attorney-General as the defender of the law's institutions in Parliament. Although I disagree with the current Attorney-General's politics, he is an extremely fine lawyer. Perhaps because he sits in the House of Lords, he has had the time to appear as the Government's chief advocate in the courts.