News: House of Lords Constitution Committee seeks new legal adviser

HLThe  House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution is inviting applications for a vacant post of one of its legal advisers.

 The role is part-time, remunerated by daily fee. The successful candidate will demonstrate a well-established expertise in the fields of public law generally and constitutional law in particular. The primary task is to help the committee fulfil its role examining the constitutional implications of all public bills, but the adviser will also help the committee with other aspects of its work.

The legal adviser will work closely with the committee’s other legal adviser, Professor Adam Tomkins, under the general direction of the clerk.

Role of the adviser

Working with the other legal adviser, the successful candidate will be expected to:

  • prepare a written analysis for the committee of the constitutional implications of Government bills (and some private members’ bills), with the normal aim of the committee considering the note before the bill’s second reading in the Lords;
  • prepare draft reports on bills as appropriate;
  • prepare draft letters to ministers as appropriate;
  • attend the committee as appropriate to assist its deliberation; and
  • undertake other work for the committee as required.

In addition to the legal advisers and the clerk, the Constitution Committee has a policy analyst and a committee assistant. The House of Lords Committee Office is able to provide some secretarial and administrative support.

Skills

The successful candidate will demonstrate a well-established expertise in the fields of public law generally and constitutional law in particular. He or she will demonstrate a strong understanding of how legislation is drafted, and the ability to advise on the effects of legislation clearly and concisely, setting provisions in their legal and constitutional contexts. He or she must be incisive, articulate and able to draft quickly and clearly for both a specialist and a non-specialist audience.

The adviser will be expected to offer the committee impartial advice, regardless of any personal or professional interest in the outcome, and in particular should avoid being seen to favour a particular viewpoint when dealing with contentious issues.

The appointment is likely to be suited to a senior academic lawyer or to a person with experience of working as a senior lawyer in government.

Time

The number of days a week the adviser will need to spend on the work of the committee will vary over the parliamentary session. Activity is expected to be highest following the Queen’s speech opening the session in the spring; so the scrutiny role will particularly active from May to the end of July. There may be less activity in the rest of the year, though it will vary. The commitment should not average more than one day a week when the House is sitting. A fast pace of working is required: a note on a bill will often need to be prepared within days of the bill being introduced.

The adviser would normally work away from Westminster, communicating with the clerk and other staff by email and telephone. The adviser would normally attend committee meetings at which notes on bills, or reports on them, which the adviser has drafted are being discussed.

Conditions of appointment

The appointment will attract a daily fee of £375, payable monthly, either for attendance on the committee or for time spent on the work of the committee. A half-day rate is payable. Travelling expenses are payable within specified limits and there is provision for a modest subsistence allowance. Amounts received by way of fees and expenses are potentially liable to income tax (or VAT) and the House of Lords may seek formal assurance that income tax and national insurance obligations are being met. The committee’s legal advisers are not employees of the House of Lords.

Applications

Interested candidates should send a CV to the Clerk of the Constitution Committee, House of Lords, London SW1A 0PW and/or to beslyn@parliament.uk by or on Monday 11 March. Interviews are likely take place in late March. The appointment is subject to the approbation of the committee, with the adviser beginning work at the start of the new parliamentary session, likely to be in late April or early May.

About the committee

The House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution was appointed in 2001 to fulfil a recommendation of the Royal Commission on reform of the House of Lords that:

“The second chamber should establish an authoritative constitutional committee to act as a focus for its interest in and concern for constitutional matters.”

The committee’s terms of reference are:

 “To examine the constitutional implications of all public bills coming before the House; and to keep under review the operation of the constitution.”

The committee set out its approach to this task in its first report, which is available via the parliamentary website www.parliament.uk (as are the committee’s other reports).

The current chairman of the committee is Baroness Jay of Paddington. There are four Labour, four Conservative, two Liberal Democrat and two Crossbench members. The vacancy is created by one of the present legal advisers, Professor Richard Rawlings, standing down. The committee usually meets weekly, on Wednesdays at 10.15 am (though the meeting time or day may be subject to change).

For more information about the committee or the post of legal adviser please contact the clerk of the committee (Nicolas Besly) at beslyn@parliament.uk or on 020 7219 1228.

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