HC Deb 25 July 1990 vol 177 cc592-3
The Attorney-General

I beg to move amendment No. 176, in page 9, line 43, leave out from beginning to end of line 3 on page 10.

Madam Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to take Government amendments Nos. 104, 106, 109, 113 to 115, 117 to 122 and 124 to 127.

The Attorney-General

These are drafting amendments consequential upon the introduction of the categories of authorised advocates and authorised litigators.

Mr. Alex Carlile

My concern and my regret is the passing of the term "barrister" from a term of definition to merely one of art. For many centuries now there have been barristers in this country and the degree of barrister has been a qualification, when some years' experience have been added to it, for certain types of office, including judicial office. Many of us here, including myself and including the Law Officers, are proud to be barristers and to hold that degree.

In amendments Nos. 114 and 118 we see two of the many examples—there will be many more to come in other legislation—of the disappearance of the term "barrister" from our statutory law.

Amendment No. 114 goes further than merely the removal of a term or definition. It deals with the Crown prosecution service and substitutes for the words who is a barrister or solicitor the words who has a general qualification (within the meaning of section 58 of the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990). That involves the potential dilution of standards; the sacrifice of useful experience and qualification for no apparently good purpose.

Under the amendment, instead of the Crown prosecutor in question being a barrister or solicitor, that person could be anyone with full rights of audience in the magistrates court. So we are going down a standard, from someone with rights of audience in the Crown court to anyone with full rights of audience in the magistrates court. I wonder, first, why we have to do away with the definition of barrister and, secondly, why we have to put up with the potential dilution of standards in that way.

Amendment No. 118 deals with the important Supreme Court rule committee. As the Attorney-General knows, by virtue of clause 7 the rights of appeal to the Court of Appeal can be curtailed by the Supreme Court rule committee. Up to now it has been necessary to have on that committee two barristers and two solicitors, ensuring that the committee always has upon it a reasonable representation of people experienced in the use of the courts, the High Court in particular, both at the preparation stage and at the advocacy stage.

Amendment No. 118 will substitute a provision which could mean that there would be no barristers on the Supreme Court rule committee. That raises the potential of a committee dealing with important matters which could lack those very people who have the greatest and most direct experience of the matters which will be considered by the committee. I cannot see how that will help the administration of justice and I invite the Government to address those issues once again.

The Attorney-General

As always, the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) makes a carefully prepared speech, and I shall naturally ensure that the Lord Chancellor and the Government take careful note of his points. I am sympathetic to what he said about the diminished use of the description of a barrister. The same could be said about the description of a solicitor. We are reluctant for that historic nomenclature to be less widely used and we have therefore considered the drafting of the amendments carefully and on a number of occasions. That consideration has made it clear that attempting to graft references to those who acquire new rights of audience or the right to conduct litigation on to the existing nomenclature would be less clear and considerably more cumbersome.

11 pm

The hon. and learned Gentleman noted and acknowledged that the nomenclature is employed, and that what matters is very much more the substance than the form. For example, clause 29 states: On the coming into force of section 25— (a) barristers shall be deemed to have been granted by the General Council of the Bar the rights of audience exercisable by barristers (in their capacity as such)". Of course, the nomenclature is by no means abandoned.

I have responded with sympathy to what the hon. and learned Gentleman said and I shall ensure that what he has said is properly taken into account.

Amendment agreed to.

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