Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100 - 119)



  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 is yes.
  (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.

Mr Winnick

  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 Appointments Commissioner.
  (Lord Irvine of Lairg) Commission for Judicial Appointments actually.

  105. That appointment will be in place no later than March.
  (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 you—this is a question—on 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 probably—it is not fully worked out yet—be 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—

  111. He?
  (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 the Commissioner?
  (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.[2]

  119. This is quite a new departure, is it not?
  (Lord Irvine of Lairg) I think it is a major departure, yes.

2   Note by witness: HM Queen will make the appointment of the Commissioner by Order in Council. Back

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