Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40-59)|
20 MARCH 2007
Q40 Keith Vaz: So you have at the
moment 65 full-time members of staff from the DCA and in addition
another 22, of whom how many are agency staff?
Clare Pelham: Sixteen.
Q41 Keith Vaz: So you actually only
haveand my mathematics is not perfect
Clare Pelham: Six.
Q42 Keith Vaz: six full-time
members of staff recruited by yourselves in the last 11 months?
Clare Pelham: No. We will have
65 members of staff seconded from the DCA, of whom 39 were those
who came to the Commission on secondment arrangements.
Q43 Keith Vaz: I understand that
Clare Pelham: The remainder were
subsequently recruited by the JAC.
Q44 Keith Vaz: Sure, but it is six,
is it? We are talking about six full-time who were recruited because
65 come from the DCA? They may not have been in judicial appointments
but they were somewhere in the building, in Selborne House? You
found them somewhere in there?
Clare Pelham: We had a Whitehall
trawl and they were the successful candidates.
Q45 Keith Vaz: We understand all
that, but what about the number of full-time members of staff
that you have recruited in the last 11 months? Is it six if you
take away the agency staff?
Clare Pelham: I am sorry to labour
the point, but the 39, as it were, were part of the original inheritance
from DCA. The difference between the 39 and the 65 is people that
the JAC has recruited.
Q46 Keith Vaz: But there are only
six from outside the DCA and outside agency staff who are full-time
members of your staff that you have recruited?
Clare Pelham: Who are directly
recruited from other government departments.
Q47 Keith Vaz: Oh, they have come
from other government departments?
Clare Pelham: Yes.
Q48 Keith Vaz: They have not been
part of an open competition outside Whitehall?
Clare Pelham: No.
Q49 Keith Vaz: So your entire staff,
apart from the agency staff, are just people who already work
for the Civil Service?
Clare Pelham: Yes.
Q50 Keith Vaz: I see. Are you happy
with that balance, coming from the private sector?
Clare Pelham: I think it is a
consequence of the original relocation strategy because the original
relocation strategy dictated that there was this uncertainty about
where the Commission would be located in 2008. That made it extremely
difficult for the Commission to recruit people who might be asked
to work they know not where in 2008, but when the decision on
relocation was taken in October there was then the opportunity
for us to recruit our own staff on our own terms and conditions.
We could not put those in place before the tranche of staff returning
in April. We are now putting those in place as soon as we can.
We would like then to advertise completely openly and we hope
that we will get a large number of staff from a huge range of
Q51 Keith Vaz: You obviously were
not in post when the decision not to relocate happened.
Baroness Prashar, why did the Lord Chancellor decide that you
were not to relocate until 2010? What was the problem? Office
Baroness Prashar: No. The decision
to relocate was made as part of the Lyons Review before the JAC
came into being. When I took over the post I felt that it would
be a big burden on the JAC, it would not give us the stability
we needed, having been set up in 2006, to have to relocate in
2008. I am afraid the choice was very stark: we either concentrated
on relocation or concentrated on doing the business, so this was
discussed with the Lord Chancellor and we had a business study
done and we were very pleased when the Lord Chancellor agreed
that we should not be relocated until 2010.
Q52 Keith Vaz: So you had made representations?
It was not that the Lord Chancellor told you to do this? You made
representations to him to say, "We want to stay a little
Baroness Prashar: We made very
strong representations to the Lord Chancellor.
Q53 Keith Vaz: And he accepted them?
Baroness Prashar: He accepted
Q54 Keith Vaz: And you did that on
the basis of a paid-for study?
Baroness Prashar: That is right.
Q55 Keith Vaz: How much was the study?
Baroness Prashar: Can you remember
how much was the study, Clare?
Clare Pelham: I think it would
be better if I wrote to you about that so that I can be absolutely
Q56 Keith Vaz: Are you embarrassed, Baroness
Prashar, that your very first competition for circuit judges has
ended in such controversy? Is it a disappointment to you?
Baroness Prashar: Of course. Any
mistake made is a great regret, particularly against the background
of our progress, if I may say so. I was very pleased with the
progress that we had made in the first year, so it is, of course,
a regret, but on the other hand I do want to say to the Committee
that what I am pleased about is that, with great help from my
Chief Executive and Mr Justice Goldring, we took steps immediately
to make sure that no candidate was disadvantaged and, secondly,
we immediately learned lessons and introduced the changes that
we have done. If I may say so, that is a sign of a very robust
organisation given that it is early days.
Q57 Keith Vaz: Sure, but can we say
to you that we regard this as a very serious matter indeed?
Baroness Prashar: Of course. So
Q58 Keith Vaz: And the appointment
of judges, with the greatest respect to somebody who works at
a checkout at Tesco, is not the same thing; it is pretty important,
and would you accept that the credibility of the JAC in the eyes
of the profession and beyond has been damaged by this experience?
Baroness Prashar: Let me tell
you something. Nobody more than I, my Commissioners and my staff
knows the importance of judges because in a way all of us took
this job because we think it is a very important matter of public
interest, and we want not only to maintain but also enhance the
reputation of the judiciary. If I may say so, I think that the
mistake can be exaggerated. Of course, it was a human error and
steps were put into place and I think the outcome will be fair
to everybody, so I think to exaggerate it and stir it up and kind
of put a spin on it, that we did this in response to pressure
from the judiciary or all sorts of things that have been said
Q59 Keith Vaz: I have not said that.
Baroness Prashar: I am talking
about what has been said in the press because what I really want
to make clear to you is that it was always our intention that
references should be taken into account. If that was not our intention
why would they be on the files of the people that were going to
2 Note by witness (Clare Pelham): There was
a misunder- standing as to when Clare Pelham was appointed Chief
Executive of the Judicial Appointments Commission. She took up
the role in February 2006, and therefore was in post at the time
the decision not to relocate was made in October 2006. Back
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