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Clause 2 - Membership of the Commission

Part of Justice (Northern Ireland) Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:15 am on 25th March 2004.

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Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Shadow Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change) 10:15 am, 25th March 2004

I shall speak to amendments Nos. 1 to 3, which stand in my name, although I note that I have the support of the right hon. Member for Upper Bann on amendment No. 1.

These are probing amendments, the genesis of which lies in my consideration of the explanatory notes. They are helpful, but slightly misleading in stating:

''The Criminal Justice Review recommended that the Commission should be representative of the community in Northern Ireland (recommendation 79, paragraph 6.104).''

When one reads that paragraph, it becomes apparent that the review recommended that the lay membership of the commission be representative of the community as a whole. The Government proposals go beyond that, as they would make the entire commission representative. Amendments Nos. 1 and 2 would restrict the duties under subsection (1) to the Lord Chancellor and restrict the ambit to lay members of the commission, so that only the Lord Chancellor could appoint those members.

As the Government have taken a different position from that outlined in the criminal justice review, I thought it appropriate to table these amendments to find out why. In principle, I have no objection to the whole commission being reflective of the community, but I wonder whether that is slightly ambitious when one considers the nature of people who become lawyers. Most people will have heard my declarations of interest in that regard.