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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 Tony Baldry Tony Baldry Conservative, Banbury 10:00 am, 8th July 2009

It was with some apprehension that I received a telephone call from the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury because, although we are both members of the Bar, under the new modernised hours in the House we never get to meet anyone, unlike in the halcyon days of all-night sittings when one got to meet people during the night. Therefore, I do not know the hon. Lady very well, so I was slightly surprised to receive a telephone call from her.

As I was listening to the hon. Lady, I suddenly remembered with horror that she is my son’s Member of Parliament. I am sure that other colleagues must have this difficulty. I occasionally get telephone calls from my son, saying, “Dad, what do you know about such and such an Act?” I reply, “I don’t know. I must have voted for it or against it. Why do you ask?” He says, “Well, Dad, I’ve just been arrested under its terms for demonstrating against the Iraq war.” When I got the hon. Lady’s call I suddenly had a moment of horror: perhaps my son had started sending vexatious correspondence to his Member of Parliament and she wanted to complain to me and forward it to me. It was  therefore with some relief that I discovered that all I was being asked to do was come and sit on the Committee, and I was happy to do so.

I shall just make three quick points. First, I am happy to be here. I suspect that at some stage someone instilled in all the lawyers here a love of law, particularly statute law and how to construe it. I was fortunate to have as my law tutor at university a guy called Professor Colonel G. I. A. Draper, a profuse writer of letters to The Times, who was usually very informed on international law. Dear old Draper had been one of the junior prosecuting counsel at Nuremberg and did much to establish the whole concept of war crimes and the law of war. It just so happens that this week is the 20th anniversary of his death, so I am pleased to be able to note that.

I shall just make a couple of points on the substance of the Bill. The Law Commission is important because of its invaluable work not only in dealing with the concepts and reports that the hon. Lady raised, but in helping to consolidate statute legislation. I have often thought about how it must be increasingly difficult for people to construe statute legislation because far too little time and effort is now spent on consolidating it. When attempts are made to consolidate statutes such as the Rent Acts or consumer credit legislation, it is of enormous benefit to practitioners and others. It must be a nightmare being a magistrate in one of the youth courts nowadays, trying to work out, depending on the age of a defendant, what sentencing powers one does or does not have, because one is having to look through all sorts of Acts of Parliament.

The Law Commission has done much good work that has been unheralded for far too long. It plays an important part in our particular system of law, given that it is a combination, originating partly from Parliament and partly from decisions of judges. The commission’s work, being both to examine the concept and to help consolidate legislation, is very important, and it should be given the respect and resources that it needs.