Clause 3 — Legal qualifications

Part of Orders of the Day — Constitutional Reform Bill [Lords] — 1st Allotted Day – in the House of Commons at 10:00 pm on 31st January 2005.

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Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Shadow Secretary of State for Deregulation 10:00 pm, 31st January 2005

The Minister has argued two very different positions. Before we vote, it would be good to have a little clarification of which the Government believe in. On one hand, the Minister wishes to agree with Vera Baird and Mr. Simon, who argue that more or less anybody can be Lord Chancellor, as slimmed down, redefined and modernised by this legislation. On the other hand, Keith Vaz made a cogent case for the proposition that even the slimmed down, modernised and damaged version of the Lord Chancellor that we have before us in the Bill should be someone of legal distinction and knowledge, for the obvious reasons that he and my hon. Friends have set out.

I have a simple question for the Minister, the answer to which would help Members decide how to vote: were this Government to stay in office through another change of Lord Chancellor, would the Prime Minister want to appoint someone who was a good lawyer, because he accepts the argument of the hon. Member for Leicester, East, or does the Prime Minister think that modernisation would be advanced by definitely not having a lawyer and by taking advantage of the greater freedom for which the Minister is urging the Committee to vote?