Second Reading

Part of Law Commission Bill [HL] – in the House of Lords at 1:38 pm on 24th April 2009.

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Photo of Lord Kingsland Lord Kingsland Shadow Lord Chancellor, Parliament 1:38 pm, 24th April 2009

My Lords, I admire the Law Commission in so many different ways but, above all, I admire it for its stoicism. Over the years, since it came into existence in 1965, it has been tasked with many seemingly intractable problems, has grappled with them and produced a solution, only to find that solution spurned by the political classes. It is in that context above all that we can welcome this Bill.

Clause 1 does two things. It introduces, first, a desirable element of certainty and, secondly, an ingredient of accountability. The certainty is there because the Lord Chancellor, from now on, will have to set out the Government's views about the likely implementation of Law Commission reports and drafts. That position will have to be taken publicly. The consequence of that is to introduce into our arrangements an element of accountability for the Law Commission's work by the Government that did not exist before. In effect, the Government have got to put up or shut up about Law Commission proposals. That will concentrate the minds of this and future Lord Chancellors.

As far as the other substantive matter in the Bill is concerned, the question of the protocol, there is no obligation for that protocol to come into force. The word used in the Bill is "may", not "must". I hope that there will be a protocol, because I think that it will have the effect of creating a more intimate, if not necessarily a more harmonious, relationship between the Law Commission and Whitehall; and ought to lead to a better targeting of the work that the Law Commission does. In return, it would be reasonable for the Law Commission to expect that what it has done will be appreciated politically in the future in a way that it has not been in the past.