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Clause 1

Part of Law Commission Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:15 am on 8th July 2009.

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Photo of Michael Wills Michael Wills Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice 10:15 am, 8th July 2009

I am pleased to serve under your chairmanship, Dr. McCrea. I want to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury on this short but important Bill. As we have heard, there is a great deal of appreciation for the excellent work that the Law Commission does; indeed, there has never been any shortage of that appreciation. Its task is fundamentally important because its aim is to make the statute book fairer, more appropriate to the circumstances of the time, simpler, more easily comprehensible and more cost-effective. The good health of our statute book is fundamental to the good health of our democracy, which, as we know, is underpinned by the rule of law.

However, despite all the appreciation that there has been for the good work of the Law Commission since it was founded by a Labour Government in the 1960s, we recognise that it has been sadly neglected by successive Governments. The hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire made those points well, and I largely agree with everything that he said. I point out, however, that I am not a lawyer, and I have been in post for nearly two years. That is six times the average that he gave, so I hope that I have now increased that average.

We have made it clear that we intend to deal with this issue in a number of different ways. We have disbanded the ministerial committee because we felt it more appropriate for the work that it was doing to be dealt with by a Cabinet committee. In other words, we have upgraded the status of ministerial consideration, and that is part of the way that we want to strengthen the role of the Law Commission.

The Bill has an important role. It makes the Government’s role in relation to the Law Commission more transparent, and transparency is crucial to the effective working of our democracy. That will be a significant factor in ensuring that the Government respond in a more timely and appropriate fashion to the constant stream of good reports from the commission. We need to do that and  put in place mechanisms to keep not only this Government, but successive Governments, conscious of and responsive to the commission’s work.

We are fortunate with the current Law Commission, and with past Law Commissions, to have had such excellent contributions to our law from practising lawyers, academics and everyone who serves there—the staff and the team under the chief executive. We are fortunate to have such high-class professionals working in that way. Parliament and Government now need to do their job in responding to that good work, and that is why the Government are pleased to welcome the Bill.