Second Reading

Part of Law Commission Bill [HL] – in the House of Lords at 1:31 pm on 24th April 2009.

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Photo of Lord Lloyd of Berwick Lord Lloyd of Berwick Chair, Ecclesiastical Committee (Joint Committee), Chair, Ecclesiastical Committee (Joint Committee) 1:31 pm, 24th April 2009

My Lords, the Law Commission, as I suspect most of your Lordships will know, was the brainchild of Lord Gardiner when he was Lord Chancellor. It has now been in existence for more than 40 years and has done much good work in the field of law reform. But to some extent it has been the victim of its own success. Many of its reports have had to wait far too long to be brought before Parliament. The Perpetuities and Accumulations Bill provides a good example. It was given its First Reading in this House on 1 April this year, but the royal commission report on which it was based was published as long ago as 1998—more than 10 years ago. I mention that Bill in particular—I could have mentioned other Law Commission proposals—because it will follow the new procedure devised to accelerate the progress of non-controversial Law Commission proposals through Parliament. It is therefore an important step forward. This Bill is another milestone on the same road.

Clause 1 imposes the statutory duty on the Lord Chancellor to report annually to Parliament. He will give an account of Law Commission proposals that have been implemented during the year. Perhaps more important, he will also have to give an account of those proposals that have not been implemented and the reasons for any delay. This will enable Parliament for the first time to hold the Government to account in relation to the important subject of law reform. Clause 2 is perhaps less important, but nevertheless useful. It enables the Lord Chancellor and the Law Commission to agree a so-called protocol which will in future govern the relations between the Law Commission and Ministers in general.

That, I think, is all I need say about what is in the Bill. In recommending it to your Lordships, I cannot do better than quote the words of the Lord Chancellor:

"Good law is imperative for accessible and modern constitutional arrangements. For 40 years the Law Commission has played a vital role in that respect, but I intend to strengthen its role by placing a statutory duty on the Lord Chancellor to report annually to Parliament on the Government's intentions regarding outstanding Law Commission recommendations, and providing a statutory backing for the arrangements underpinning the way in which Government should work with the Law Commission".—[Hansard, Commons, 25/3/09; col. 23.]

Those words were spoken when the Lord Chancellor was introducing the draft Constitutional Renewal Bill. It was not at all certain at what stage that draft Bill would come into law, so the chairman of the Law Commission, Sir Terence Etherton, had the idea that the short provisions relating to the Law Commission could be hived off from the Constitutional Reform Bill and the Lord Chancellor was very agreeable to that being done. Sir Terence Etherton in particular deserves great credit for all that he has done during his chairmanship of the Law Commission and, in particular, for bringing forward the possibility of this Bill. We now have before us this very short Bill, which might have been part of the Constitutional Reform Bill; it is now a stand-alone Bill, which I have had the honour to introduce and I hope will prove non-controversial. I beg to move.