Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100
TUESDAY 23 JANUARY 2001
LAIRG, QC, AND
100. Its location in reasonably central London
is a great advantage to the people who have to visit it.
(Lord Irvine of Lairg) Yes.
101. Stewart House is to be sold, is it? It
is quite a prime building.
(Lord Irvine of Lairg) During the course of this year.
102. Is it still on course to open as a new
office on 1 April?
(Lord Irvine of Lairg) Yes. Certainly the Act got
Royal Assent a little bit later than we might have hoped but the
position is it will start on 1 April.
103. Has there been any attempt to canvass the
opinions of the actual users of the service, the clients of the
Receivership Division, about how they feel about the changes?
(Lord Irvine of Lairg) I believe, though I do not
want this to be taken as gospel, I set out the proposals in the
document Making Changes: the future of the PTO, which was
published in April 2000. The responses of the clients and stakeholders
who had commented were summarised in that paper. So the answer
(Sir Hayden Phillips) Perhaps I can just add, Lord
Chancellor. This was one of the most extensive acts of consultation
and involvement the Department has ever done with all those who
were involved. It has been a very important way to go about it.
104. We are going to go on now, Lord Chancellor,
to the appointment of judges and QCs. You have already told us
you are going to have, I think it is called, the first Judicial
(Lord Irvine of Lairg) Commission for Judicial Appointments
105. That appointment will be in place no later
(Lord Irvine of Lairg) We still aim to have the appointment
made by March.
106. Then there will be other commissioners.
(Lord Irvine of Lairg) Other commissioners, yes.
107. When are they likely to be appointed?
(Sir Hayden Phillips) We want to engage the new first
Commissioner in the process. This is why we are waiting for that.
I suspect over the next six to nine months we will appoint the
number the Lord Chancellor wants.
108. The Commission will be up and running by
the end of the year?
(Lord Irvine of Lairg) I would hope the Commissioner
will be up and running earlier than that.
(Sir Hayden Phillips) The Commissioner will be up
and running and starting work. I would hope the Commission, if
we can do it, will be up and running fully in the autumn.
109. Let us get it quite clear, Lord Chancellor,
what the Commission will do. As I understand it, correct me if
I am wrong, it will provide an ongoing monitoring of judicial
appointments and act as an ombudsman for complaints. It is not
going to advise youthis is a questionon individual
appointments? Have I got that right?
(Lord Irvine of Lairg) That is essentially right.
May I make a qualification?
110. Please do.
(Lord Irvine of Lairg) It is essentially right. What
the commissioners will do is they will attend all or any judicial
appointment sifts that they choose. They can attend interviews
to scrutinise the procedures applied and the fairness of it. I
can also ask them to investigate any matter in the appointments
process which I want to have examined but, more importantly to
your question, and this is the slight qualification, is that complaints
may be made by individuals, usually probably disappointed candidates,
or by an organisation on their behalf, then the complaint would
probablyit is not fully worked out yetbe allocated
to one or more of the deputy commissioners for detailed investigation
or the first Commissioner could handle it. In the course of investigating
that complaint every single piece of paper, every note, every
record, that is kept on that particular candidate will be open
and made available to the Commissioner. Now if he found a complaint
to be justified he would be entitled to say that the candidate
be reconsidered automatically the next time that a vacancy arises.
He could also amend or expunge any part of the record which he
thought was unfair and unjust to the applicant in the future.
If he thought that anything else should be done he could make
a recommendation to me. It will be fantastically open. He will
report to me annually and I will include
(Lord Irvine of Lairg) He or she, the first Commissioner.
112. There is a possibility it will be a she?
(Lord Irvine of Lairg) Certainly.
113. I was not sure if you were using "he"
in a general way or otherwise?
(Lord Irvine of Lairg) No, no, the masculine includes
the feminine and vice versa. Whoever the first Commissioner is
will be able to attend any meeting. If you take it at a high level,
the succession planning meetings that I have on a regular basis
to discuss very senior appointments with the heads of a division,
he or she
114. He or she.
(Lord Irvine of Lairg)he or she can sit in
and listen to the whole of the discussion. There is nothing whatever
which is a closed book and he or she will publish an annual report
and that will form part of my own Judicial Appointments Annual
Report to Parliament.
115. You are going to make the appointment of
(Lord Irvine of Lairg) Well, I will formally make
the recommendation as to who is appointed but of course there
is an open competition. There will be
116. Let us get this quite clear. You said there
will be open competition.
(Lord Irvine of Lairg) Yes.
(Sir Hayden Phillips) Could I just explain this?
117. It would be very useful.
(Sir Hayden Phillips) Indeed, today I can say that
I am engaged in some of the interviews for the selection process.
We openly advertised the post as well as using Executive Search
headhunters to help us. We have a large number of applicants from
all sorts of backgrounds and we are now settling down in the next
week to conduct the interviews and we will then make recommendations
to the Lord Chancellor.
118. Who will make the final appointment?
(Lord Irvine of Lairg) I will make the final recommendation.
119. This is quite a new departure, is it not?
(Lord Irvine of Lairg) I think it is a major departure,
2 Note by witness: HM Queen will make the appointment
of the Commissioner by Order in Council. Back