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Clause 2 — Protocol about the Law Commission's work

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:05 pm on 16th October 2009.

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Photo of Bridget Prentice Bridget Prentice Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Justice 2:05 pm, 16th October 2009

I should like to add my congratulations to my hon. Friend Emily Thornberry on getting her Bill to this stage. I hope that, within the next few minutes, it will receive its Third Reading. These are important issues. As David Howarth said, they might look technical, but they will have a real effect on our constituents' lives.

It is a great privilege for my Department to be associated with the Law Commission. The Commission has made a significant contribution to law reform since it was founded in 1965, and that contribution is much valued by the Government and those in the legal and judicial world. Contrary to what people might infer from earlier contributions to the debate, many Government Bills have originated with the Law Commission. I can cite two current examples in my Department. The first is the Perpetuities and Accumulations Bill, which is nearing the end of its parliamentary stages. I hope that, by the end of Monday, it will have completed most of its Commons stages. The second is the bribery Bill, which is included in the draft legislative programme for 2009-10.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury has said, the task of the Law Commission is fundamentally important because its aim is to make the statute book fairer, more appropriate to the circumstances of the time, simpler, more easily comprehensible and more cost-effective. The good health of our statute book is fundamental to the good health of our democracy.

As my right hon. Friend the Lord Chancellor has previously said to the House, we are committed to strengthening the role of the Law Commission. I should like to give the House two recent developments as evidence of this. First, as Mr. Bellingham mentioned, we have introduced a new procedure in the House of Lords for the consideration of politically non-controversial Law Commission Bills that are strongly supported by the Government. The Perpetuities and Accumulations Bill is the first Bill to go through this procedure, and, as I have already said, we hope it will achieve Royal Assent very soon. I hope that many more Bills will use this system, leading to even higher levels of implementation of the more technical Law Commission Bills.

Secondly, we have amended the Law Commissions Act 1965 to provide that the chair of the Commission must be a High Court or Court of Appeal judge. We believe that that will enhance the standing of the Commission as a whole, and that it will provide a symbol of its independence and political neutrality, both of which are extremely important to it. The newly appointed chairman of the Law Commission, Sir James Munby, is a Court of Appeal judge, and we wish him and his team well in the course of the next few years.

During the debate, allusions have been made to the length of time it has taken for some Law Commission reports to be implemented, and I agree that, in some cases, that has been shockingly long. There has also been a suggestion that very few such reports make it to the statute book. I have to say that the facts do not bear that out. Currently, we have implemented 67 per cent. of Law Commission reports, or two out of three. We obviously want to improve on that, but it is not such a bad figure; it is a testament to the commission's impact on our law. All that has been achieved with the Government's support, and we support this important Bill because it is a mark of our commitment to the commission.

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