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Lord Renton: My Lords, on this occasion, and perhaps unexpectedly for your Lordships, I find myself sympathising more with the amendments tabled in this group by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor than with that moved by the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, and supported by others. As regards consumers, Amendment No. 5 will enable them to be inserted in Clause 1. As it is already drafted, the clause enables the members of the legal profession to be included. Indeed, in subsection (5) there is express provision saying that the members of the commission must contain those,
Lord Borrie: My Lords, I feel very much in accord with what the noble Lord, Lord Renton, says. It is unfortunate if one has the lack of flexibility which seems to arise from the amendment we are discussing because specific organisations are mentioned. Once you mention specific organisations to the exclusion of others, there is a reduction of flexibility. In the case of consumer organisations or--to adopt the expression that is used--"organisations representing consumers", questions spring to mind. One may say that the National Consumer Council and the Consumers' Association must be within that category. But what about the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux? Perhaps because their remit is broader citizens advice bureaux may not be considered consumer organisations. Therefore a problem of interpretation arises. It seems to me that the amendments of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor present a much more satisfactory solution to the problem of ensuring representation than the amendment we are discussing, and the subsequent amendment.
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, Amendment No. 3 stands in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Goodhart. I counter the points made by the noble Lords, Lord Borrie and Lord Renton, by reference to the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990. Section 19 of that Act, which will be repealed by this Bill, specifies that the Lord Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Legal Education and Conduct should comprise up to 16
The remaining nine members of the committee were to come from, approximately speaking, the same classes of person as set out in the relevant part of Clause 1 of the Bill. What this amendment seeks to do is to put back into the, if you like, compulsory part of the composition of the legal services commission barristers and solicitors, two and two respectively in the case of Amendment No. 2, and two solicitors and one barrister in the case of my amendment. That is not in any way to reflect ill upon my brethren at the Bar but is simply a reflection of the fact that under the Bill a vastly larger number of solicitors will be engaged in the practicalities of the delivery of legal services than will be the case for barristers.
Lord Renton: My Lords, as the noble Lord was not a Member of your Lordships' House at the time, I hope he will not mind my mentioning that even lawyers who were supporters on the government side on that important statute did not agree with all the detail in that Act. Indeed, from time to time some of us moved amendments of a contrary nature. I cannot say that we did so on this matter, but I would not like to feel that that was necessarily the kind of precedent which binds us.
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Renton, for that piece of history which I cannot gainsay. However, I shall not be deterred from suggesting that it is not inappropriate that up to a quarter of the commission to be appointed under the Bill should come from the ranks of practising solicitors and barristers. They carry overwhelmingly the greatest burden of delivery of legal aid services. That will not be altered even though, as we all hope, the process of bringing into the legal aid scheme some of the voluntary bodies envisaged by the Bill proceeds rapidly. Therefore, from a practical point of view, I think it is not inappropriate--I hope your Lordships will agree--that at least one anchors into this important commission four (or, in my case, three) practising members of the legal profession on whose shoulders the success or failure of the provisions of the Bill will principally rest.
Baroness Thornton: My Lords, I wish to speak in opposition to the amendment standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis and that in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, and in support of the amendment proposed by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, which, as we all know, originated in the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, which was supported by myself and many others at the time.
Consumer interests are at the heart of this Bill and their inclusion is wholly to be welcomed. The composition of the legal services commission and how it is appointed is surely intimately linked with how it
Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, I am obliged to my noble friend for giving way. The whole purpose of what I was saying was that they would not be there as delegates or representatives. They would be there--whether as lawyers, consumers or whatever--as people with particular expertise to offer, just as happens in many other cases where bodies of this kind are set up.
Baroness Thornton: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his comments. However, the point at issue is which way one faces when one is appointed to a body. That is the point I seek to make. It is legitimate to represent the interests of an organisation on a body to which you are appointed and indeed to fight for its corner. However, in this case we do not want people who wish to fight the corner of a particular organisation and to whom they owe their primary loyalty. Surely we need people on the commission whose primary concern is the work of the commission and its tasks. I want people who are expert and experienced in these matters, who are skilled at listening and consulting. I want people who act only in the best interests of the commission and I want people who in particular do not look over their shoulders to check whether they should or should not adopt a particular position because of the interests they serve. I fully expect, and welcome the fact, that solicitors, barristers and others will be represented on the commission, as they should be. However, I think they should be appointed through the same public appointment system as everyone else. I believe such a procedure would strengthen the commission.
Baroness Wilcox: My Lords, I support Amendments Nos. 4 and 5. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor kindly sent me the wording following the Committee stage when I withdrew my own amendment on the promise that I would get what I asked for, which I have. I am absolutely delighted by that. I have read the wording carefully. The provision now states,
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