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Clause 1

Part of Law Commission Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:00 am on 8th July 2009.

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Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Conservative, North East Hertfordshire 10:00 am, 8th July 2009

I am as delighted as everyone else to serve under your chairmanship, Dr. McCrea.

The chairman of the Law Commission, Sir Terence Etherton, made a speech about two years ago to the Bar law reform committee in which he identified some of the difficulties in implementing Law Commission proposals. Can the promoter of the Bill comment on the reasoning behind clause 1? Is the purpose to address some of the complaints that Sir Terence outlined in that detailed analysis of what was going wrong in the commission’s relations with Government?

For example, Sir Terence criticised the tiny budget of the Law Commission. He made the point that, administratively, the commission is hidden away in Her Majesty’s Courts Service, rather than having its own administration. He pointed out that its proposals are regularly sidelined by more eye-catching political initiatives, which are given the necessary time, rather than law reform of the sort dealt with by the commission being prioritised. He pointed out that, on average, Ministers dealing with the Law Commission lasted in office for four months, rather than for an extended period; he felt that that interfered with how the commission operated and was able to get its work done. He also commented that Ministers were failing to attend the ministerial committee, sending officials instead, and that sometimes even the officials were not turning up, leaving meetings inquorate.

Yes, reporting to Parliament regularly on the work of the Law Commission and on implementation of its proposals is a good thing. However, I hope that either the promoter of the Bill or the Minister will comment on the analysis that Sir Terence made, whether there has been any improvement since and, for example, whether Ministers are going to turn up to the committee meetings.