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Lord Goodhart: Does the noble Lord accept that it is not proposed in these amendments that the member of the Bar or the solicitor who are appointed should be representatives or have any trade union capacity? It is simply a matter of having someone on the commission who is a practising barrister and someone who is a practising solicitor.

Lord Hacking: It is highly likely that that will happen. However, as regards the advisory committee, practising solicitors were to be appointed after consultation with the Bar Council and after consultation with the Law Society. Therefore the amendment does not go as far as the terms of the Courts and Legal Services Act. However, it is still proposed that persons will be appointed whom I must describe as representatives of members of the professions that I have mentioned.

My final point concerns the question of numbers. I am not entirely sure how many members are now on the Legal Aid Board whose membership can rise to 17. I suspect that the present constitution of the Legal Aid Board is closer to 16 or 17 than the lower number, which I believe is 11. It is important that my noble and learned friend has stipulated an upper cap at present of 12 members for the commission. In my view that will make the commission work more efficiently, more succinctly and with greater coherence. I have already mentioned the number of 17 members in connection with

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the advisory committee. There is an upper figure of 17 members as regards the Legal Aid Board. For all those reasons I believe these amendments are misconceived. I hope that the Committee will reject them.

The Lord Bishop of Lincoln: I venture into deep waters. I take the example of St. Peter and hope that I can walk upon them not too badly. I support Amendment No. 5. I make a plea that the commission should contain representatives of consumer interests. One of the things I try to do in connection with prisons is occasionally to deal with individual cases not only as regards convicted inmates but also as regards their families. I have been impressed by the support which many people in these circumstances have received from law shops and law centres. Those places seem to me to give access to legal advice in an appropriate way. Access to high quality assistance is an important element of the intentions of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor.

In my experience about a third of the clients of these law centres seek advice on housing difficulties and about the same number seek advice on social security matters. I hope it is possible to appoint someone to the commission to represent consumer interests as I am sure that would strengthen and support the intentions that the noble and learned Lord has in mind.

Lord Hacking: I rise again briefly to correct myself. I said that I thought the amendment was different from Section 19 of the Courts and Legal Services Act in the sense that the proposed barrister and solicitor members would not be appointed after consultation had taken place. I note that I was incorrect. The words that the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, and those others who have tabled the amendment have used are the exact words that I used in the Courts and Legal Services Act. The same applies to Amendment No. 7. That strengthens my argument that they inevitably will be there--basically through the nomination of their professional body--regardless of whether they are there as representatives in the first place.

Lord Wigoder: Whatever answer the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor gives to these amendments, I hope that he will not rely on the contention of the noble Lords, Lord Borrie and Lord Hacking, that the words in subsection (5)(b) concerning persons with experience of the "work of the courts", necessarily involve the services of trained or qualified lawyers. The "work of the courts" does not necessarily involve that. It might refer to prison officers, police officers, probation officers or even experienced prisoners. I hope that if the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor intends to appoint some qualified members of the legal profession to the commission, he will not do so by relying on the words in subsection (5)(b).

The Lord Chancellor: I take note of the remarks of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lincoln that consumer interests should be represented. It will not have escaped his attention that Amendment No. 11, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, addresses that issue.

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The noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, calls attention to the fact that persons with experience in, or knowledge of, the work of the courts may include many persons other than qualified lawyers, but I should not have thought that those words excluded qualified lawyers.

The Government's intentions on the composition of he commission are set out in Clause 1(5). The categories of expertise set out in that subsection are designed to ensure that the commission is informed about the nature of the service that will be provided under the community legal service and the criminal defence service, the interplay between the provision of services and the work of the courts, the social environment in which services will be provided, and good management practice.

Certainly the Legal Aid Act 1988 expressly required the appointment of lawyers. But the role of the legal services commission will be quite different from that of the Legal Aid Board. It therefore requires a different composition. The lack of a requirement for a specified number of lawyers among the members of the commission reflects the shift in focus from the needs of providers of legal services towards the needs of users. I shall return to that point from time to time as the Committee proceeds.

I can assure your Lordships that lawyer membership of the commission is by no means precluded; it is to be expected. It is envisaged that the commission will include members who represent both providers and consumers of the services that the commission will provide. We intend that all appointments to the commission will be made in accordance with the Nolan Committee's recommendations on public appointments and the Office for the Commissioner of Public Appointments' guidance on appointments to executive non-departmental public bodies and NHS bodies. There will therefore be an opportunity for the professional bodies to nominate candidates for appointment, and we hope that they will do so.

On that basis, I invite the noble Lord in whose name the amendment stands to withdraw it.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern: Before that happens, I should like to say a word about the constitution of the Legal Aid Board under the 1988 Act. That is a closer analogy than the advisory committee under the Act of 1990.

It was certainly my practice when I held the office of Lord Chancellor to consult the Law Society and the Bar Council as required with regard to the lawyers who might serve on the Legal Aid Board. So far as the work of the Legal Aid Board was concerned, there was no question of those people acting as trade union representatives for the profession, which is how the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, referred to them. I pay tribute to all of them for the way in which they served the community through their work with the Legal Aid Board. I do not believe that any of them were more concerned to protect the providers than the users of the service; they were concerned to provide good service.

There was a link between the board and the professions, but the Legal Aid Board did all that it could to make sure that the users of the service were properly

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served. I should like to make it clear that that was my impression of their work. I was grateful to the professional bodies for the care that they took in advising the Lord Chancellor on such appointments. I can say without any equivocation that we found them all to be very helpful in the work that they were asked to do.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Kingsland: Does the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor agree that it is difficult to think of any profession that is better qualified to express a view about the terms on the provision of legal advice is made to less well-off people than the solicitors' profession?

The Lord Chancellor: I yield to no one in my admiration of the solicitors' profession, but there are many people from the voluntary sector and consumer organisations who, in my judgment, are at least as well equipped to advise on that matter.

Lord Clinton-Davis: I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment Nos. 6 to 8 not moved.]

Lord Simon of Glaisdale moved Amendment No. 9:


Page 2, line 8, at end insert ("and").

The noble and learned Lord said: This amendment concerns two very short drafting points. Subsection (5) of Clause 1 states:


    "In appointing persons to be members of the Commission the Lord Chancellor shall have regard to the desirability of securing that the Commission includes persons with experience in or knowledge of",
what is set out in paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d).

My first point is one which I have raised before about whether it would not be much easier for a user of the statute book if the word "and" came at the end of both paragraph (a) and (b) without one having to wait until the end of paragraph (c) to see whether it is "and" or "or". The last time I raised that point it did not meet with the approval of the noble Lord, Lord Renton, or my noble and learned friend Lord Brightman. That, of course, causes me to pause. Tossing the provision back in my teeth, their objection was that it would add extra words to the statute. If my noble and learned friend will accept the two extra words proposed in Amendments Nos. 9 and 10, I can guarantee to find 200 unnecessary ones which he can use to compensate for them.

My second point is whether the draftsman really does mean "and" rather than "or". Does he really require that the person to be included has to possess all those qualities? It would be even more difficult if the noble Baroness succeeds in carrying Amendment No. 11 because one would have to add to all these accomplishments a knowledge of consumer affairs.

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It may be that the Lord Chancellor will find some Pooh-Bah who meets all these criteria, but I venture to think that it will be sufficient if the member in question meets one of them, and particularly perhaps that which is favoured by the noble Baroness. I beg to move.


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