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Lord Donaldson of Lymington: Perhaps I make what I suppose is a footling point on Amendment No. 233. I am intrigued as to why a retired circuit judge or someone who has been a circuit judge is eligible, but a retired Lord of Appeal in Ordinary or a retired judge of the Supreme Court--unless he has on the way to that position been a circuit judge--is not eligible. I hastily disclaim any interest in becoming a member.

The Lord Chancellor: The noble and learned Lord's request for information should not be addressed to me but to the proposer of the amendment, who has not risen to the bait. However, I take the point.

These amendments either specify the composition of the consultative panel or set out factors which must be taken into account in appointing its members. The membership of the panel has been deliberately left unspecified in the Bill. That is because the membership of ACLEC is spelt out in some detail in the 1990 Act, and the need to allocate members to the various interest groups--I do not shrink from the expression "interest groups"--(barristers, solicitors and teachers of law) and to have, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, pointed out, a lay majority has led to a large committee, with members sometimes voting on predictable "party" lines. We wish to be able to appoint the best members, based on their individual experience and expertise, rather than to be bound by prescriptive statutory criteria.

The two amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, go a considerable way towards returning us to the composition of ACLEC, and I believe that that is not wise. In particular, I do not think it appropriate to have a barrister and a solicitor (or even two barristers and two solicitors) appointed effectively as delegates from the Bar Council and the Law Society. That would have a tendency to polarise members of the panel into

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two camps, and would hinder them in giving effective, independent advice. "Independent" in this context should not mean only independent of the Lord Chancellor--it should also mean independent of the professional bodies.

The approach is further flawed by the fact that the noble Lord seems to have forgotten that there are now more than two authorised bodies. The Institute of Legal Executives has been authorised to grant rights of audience since last year. If the Bar and the Law Society are to have their statutory representatives, so should ILEX and so should any other body that may be authorised in the future.

That said, it is inconceivable that the panel will not include some members of the legal profession of appropriate standing and experience.

What I want the panel to consist of is not factional representatives of particular interest groups, but independent experts who can advise me. I will advertise the posts and appoint the best applicants. Having said that, I will, of course, in appointing them wish to ensure that a wide variety of expertise is included and that the interests of consumers are not overlooked.

The Government intend that all appointments to the legal services consultative panel will be made in accordance with the Nolan Committee's recommendations on public appointments. There will, therefore, be an opportunity for professional and consumer bodies to urge candidates to apply. We hope that they will do so. But I do not think it is appropriate for the authorised bodies to be able effectively to nominate their own appointees to the panel. I do not guarantee that every authorised body will necessarily have a member on the panel.

In making appointments I will have in mind very much the kind of criteria proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox. I am therefore happy to accept her amendment in principle. On the first day of Committee, when we were considering a similar amendment concerning the composition of the legal services commission, the noble Baroness was kind enough to say (at col. 504 of Hansard, 19th January) that I had "pleased [her] very much". But today it is the noble Baroness who is pleasing me by hitting the target yet again. The only fault I see in her amendment is that it, too, refers to barristers and solicitors, rather than to the wider categories of authorised advocates and authorised litigators to which they belong. But that is a technicality which is worthy only of a lawyer.

I will therefore return with a government amendment on the subject at Report stage. Again I undertake to show the noble Baroness a draft for her consideration before Report. In the meantime, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, and the noble Baroness will agree to withdraw their amendments.

Baroness Wilcox : I am more in control of myself than I was the last time I stood up to speak to an amendment. I am extremely grateful to the Hansard

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reporters who omitted the words, "Gosh, thanks", which is apparently what I said. For once, may I address Hansard and thank the reporters.

Lord Goodhart: The noble Baroness has not entirely got away with it. In one of my later speeches I am afraid I referred to the words she used which have been recorded in Hansard (at col. 540, 19th January).

Baroness Wilcox: I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor for his kind consideration of my amendments. I look forward to reading the wording he returns with at Report stage. Naturally I would not be me unless I wanted everything and I wanted the same wording as with the legal services commission. However, I must not be greedy. I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord because he listened and is prepared to return with further wording I wish also to express my thanks to the noble Baronesses, Lady Goudie and Lady Crawley, for supporting me at this late hour. I apologise to my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern if I in any way quoted ACLEC as not being as representative as I should have suggested. I therefore beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Kingsland had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 233:


Page 17, line 15, at end insert--
("(1A) The persons appointed shall include at least--
(a) one Lord of Appeal in Ordinary or judge of the Supreme Court of England and Wales;
(b) one person who is or has been a circuit judge;
(c) one practising solicitor, appointed after consultation with the Law Society;
(d) one practising barrister, appointed after consultation with the General Council of the Bar; and
(e) one person with experience in the teaching of law, appointed after consultation with such institutions concerned with the teaching of law and such persons representing teachers of law as the Lord Chancellor considers appropriate.
(1B) Subject to subsection (1A), in appointing persons to be members of the Consultative Panel, the Lord Chancellor shall have regard to the desirability of securing that the Panel includes persons with experience or knowledge of--
(a) the provision of legal services;
(b) the work of the courts;
(c) the maintenance of professional standards in the legal and other professions;
(d) consumer affairs; and
(e) management.").

The noble Lord said: I shall certainly not say, "Gosh, thanks!" to the noble and learned Lord for the way that he reacted to my amendments. Nevertheless, I do not intend to move Amendment No. 233.

[Amendment No. 233 not moved.]

Lord Kingsland moved Amendment No. 234:


Page 17, line 24, at end insert ("and publishing those recommendations").

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The noble Lord said: At an earlier point in Committee I tabled a similar amendment to the recommendations expected to be made by the Legal Services Commission in seeking to give advice to the noble and learned Lord. I believe my memory serves me correctly when I say that at that time the noble and learned Lord reacted quite positively to that suggestion. I have made a similar recommendation in respect of the consultative panel and look forward to receiving a similar response from the noble and learned Lord. I beg to move.

The Lord Chancellor: I am happy to accept this amendment in principle. The noble Lord's amendment would require the consultative panel to publish any recommendations that it made to me about the maintenance and development of standards in the education, training and conduct of persons offering legal services. The Government strongly believe in open government, and I therefore agree with the amendment in principle. I see no good reason why the panel's recommendations to me should not be made public. I go further. The noble Lord's amendment covers only those of the panel's activities that are dealt with in paragraph (a) of the new Section 18A(2) of the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990 which deals with maintaining standards of legal education, training and conduct. I believe that the panel should also publish any advice that it gives to me under paragraph (b). This would cover responses to any requests that I made from time to time for advice about any other matters related to the provision of legal services. I shall therefore table a suitable amendment, and on that basis I invite the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, to agree to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Kingsland: The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor could not have been more generous in his response and in those circumstances I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


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