Clause 50 - Law Commission

Justice (Northern Ireland) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:15 am on 7th February 2002.

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Photo of Sylvia Hermon Sylvia Hermon Shadow Spokesperson (Women), Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 11:15 am, 7th February 2002

I beg to move amendment No. 198, in page 28, line 35, after 'Court', insert

'either in Northern Ireland, England and Wales or Scotland.'.

The law in Northern Ireland is fragmented with old Acts from the time of Stormont, Orders in Council from the awful time of direct rule, and now Acts of the new Northern Ireland Assembly. I am delighted that we are to have a law commission and I welcome that.

However, when the criminal justice review team made a comparative analysis of law commissions in other jurisdictions, including the Republic of Ireland, England and Wales, and elsewhere, it came to the interesting conclusion in paragraph 14.55 that

''From experience of law reform bodies and other jurisdictions, it is clear that the involvement of at least one person engaged full time on law reform quickly enhances the productivity and credibility of the organisation. However, in the context of a jurisdiction the size of Northern Ireland, we believe that it would be sensible to start with an entirely part-time membership.''

Despite that conclusion by the review team, the Bill does not suggest that we are starting with an entirely part-time membership. On the contrary, under clause 50 the Law Commission will have five members and my understanding is that they will be full-time members.

The Law Commission for the Republic of Ireland, which is a larger jurisdiction, has five full-time members. The Law Commission for England and Wales, which is a much larger jurisdiction, has only five members. It is clear from clause 50(3) that the chairman of the Northern Ireland Law Commission must be a High Court judge and I remind hon. Members that in Northern Ireland we have only seven judges in the High Court.

Photo of Derek Conway Derek Conway Conservative, Old Bexley and Sidcup

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the Minister and the hon. Lady. I am required now to adjourn the Committee, but the hon. Lady will have the Floor when we return this afternoon and the Minister may then intervene.

It being twenty-five minutes past Eleven o'clock, The Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned till this day at half-past Two o'clock.