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Judges: Performance Monitoring and Appraisal

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern): The Royal Commission on Criminal Justice recommended that: "The performance of judges should be monitored during training by other members of the judiciary" (Recommendation 249)

The performance of those who sit in a part-time judicial capacity, both in the Crown Court and in other jurisdictions, is already appraised, particularly during their initial training. Following consultation with the senior judiciary and the Chairman of the Judicial Studies Board, these arrangements will be extended further.

At the present time, before a trainee Assistant Recorder, for example, is authorised to sit alone, he or she must undertake an induction programme, which includes the training course run by the Judicial Studies Board, but also involves a period of sitting-in with an experienced Circuit Judge in the Crown Court (the Pupil-Master Judge) who is required to report to the Lord Chancellor stating whether in his or her opinion the trainee is duly fitted to sit.

In accordance with the recommendation of the Judicial Studies Board, the role of the Pupil-Master Judge in respect of Assistant Recorders (and the equivalent supervising judges in respect of certain other categories of judicial office-holder) is to be extended to include an element of in-court observation so as to provide further advice and appraisal to newly appointed part-time judges, and enable better assessment of their suitability for appointment to full-time judicial office.

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Advice is already provided to those who attend Judicial Studies Board courses by serving members of the judiciary who serve as tutors for this purpose.

Full-time judges are appointed only from the ranks of those with the experience of service in a part-time capacity for a sufficient period to demonstrate their competence and suitability for full-time appointment; the period of part-time service accordingly provides a basis for ongoing assessment for this purpose.

The Royal Commission also recommended that:

    "The judiciary should also have in place a formal system of performance appraisal. Presiding and Resident Judges should have the lead in this; members of the Bar should also be able to comment on the performance of judges. These aspects should be looked at by the Lord Chancellor in consultation with the judiciary." (Recommendation 251).

These matters have been reviewed, as recommended by the Royal Commission.

There are already appraisal arrangements in place for the judiciary. It is an essential feature of the arrangements for part-time sittings by Recorders and Assistant Recorders and others that their service affords opportunities for assessing their suitability for appointment to full-time judicial office (and this stands to be developed further in accordance with the arrangements outlined above).

Judicial office-holders are also assessed by more senior full-time judges as to their suitability for appointment to higher judicial office.

Judges accept their obligations under the judicial oath which is taken on appointment. All judges are subject to two further forms of appraisal or review. First, almost all judicial decisions are subject to appeal or review, enabling higher courts to scrutinise and, where appropriate, to comment on or redress judicial decisions or conduct. Second, judges undertake their work for the most part in full view of the public and are subject to the more informal scrutiny of the media.

It is, however, important to ensure that we do not undermine the primary place within our constitution of the principle of judicial independence or our confidence that judges will determine each case fairly and on its own merits, without fear of reprisal or improper intervention. The independence of the judiciary, therefore, must connote not only independence from the executive but also that of one judge from another. For these reasons, neither the Lord Chancellor nor any of the senior judges has any constitutional power to require one judge to report on another, or to offer appraisal or any other qualitative assessment of the judge's performance as a judge. Neither is there any authority to require a judge to submit to such appraisal. The Lord Chancellor's statutory powers to dismiss a judge, which in any event do not extend to the more senior judges, are also very narrowly drawn. These important considerations make it inappropriate to introduce a formal system of appraisal. The Heads of Divisions, and Presiding and Resident Judges, however, do have responsibilities for the oversight of judicial business and they are able to assist judges informally where that

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appears likely to be helpful. It is a well understood role of the Leaders of the Circuits to draw to the attention of the Presiding and Resident Judges, as appropriate, concerns expressed by members of the Bar about the judiciary.

In his Report, Access to Justice, Lord Woolf recommended that the judiciary conducting civil cases should be monitored in the performance of the case management functions envisaged for them in the report. This monitoring would not amount to appraisal, but would be aimed at securing consistency of approach in this new role and promotion of best practice. The Government support that recommendation, and its aim of facilitating the improvement of judges' working methods.

Judges are fully aware of their duties and responsibilities to the Crown, and the existing arrangements strike an appropriate balance between the obligations of the judiciary to the public and the overriding importance of preserving judicial independence.

Released Prisoners: Housing Prospects

Lord Harris of Greenwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What monitoring has been carried out of the impact of changes in housing benefit regulations in April 1995 on the housing prospects of released prisoners, and what are the results of each monitoring.

Lord Lucas: New rules concerning the treatment of temporary absence from the home were introduced in Housing Benefit from April 1995. Questions relating to these changes were asked of local authorities in respect of the year ending 31st March 1996. Information about the number of prisoners affected by the new rules will be available around the end of 1996.

No specific enquiries have been made into the housing prospects of released prisoners. However, housing benefit is available to released prisoners in the normal way.

Intervention Board: Performance and Targets

Baroness O'Cathain asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How the Intervention Board performed against its targets for 1995-96; and what key performance targets Agriculture Ministers have set the Agency for 1996-97.

Lord Lucas: The Intervention Board's performance against its key targets in 1995-96 was as follows:

Percentage of claims processed within deadlines98.5%99.9%
Percentage of claims processed correctly98.5%99.2%
Cumulative running cost efficiency gains2.5%3.3%
Improvement in index of productivity6.0%3.9%
Ratio of disallowance to EAGGF funds handled0.40%(1)--
To maintain expenditure within vote provision, cash and running cost limited--Met
New value for money savings in procurement of goods and services6.0%8.8%
Yield: cost ratio of anti-fraud activities3.0:1.03.7:1.0

(1) A decision covering the clearance of the 1993 EAGGF accounts is still awaited.

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In agreement with my right honourable friends the Secretaries of State for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, my right honourable friend the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has set the following target for 1996-7.

Percentage of claims processed within deadlines99.0%
Percentage of claims processed correctly98.5%
Cumulative running cost efficiency gains2.5%
Improvement in index of productivity6.0%
Ratio of disallowance to EAGGF funds handled0.40%
To maintain expenditure within vote provision, cash and running cost limited
New value for money savings in procurement of goods and services6.0%
Yield: cost ratio of anti-fraud activities3.0:1.0

Fisheries Council, 14th October

Baroness Carnegy of Lour asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the European Fisheries Council held in Luxembourg on 14th October.

Lord Lucas: My honourable friend the Minister of State together with my honourable friend the Under-Secretary of State at the Scottish Office represented the United Kingdom at the meeting of the Fisheries Council in Luxembourg on 14th October.

The Council discussed the principles underlying Commission proposals for substantial further capacity reductions in Community fishing fleets in the next series of Multi-Annual Guidance Programmes to run from 1997 to 2002. Most member states expressed concern about the rates of reduction proposed, the way that these would impact on particular fleet segments, and the consequences for employment and the economy of coastal communities. My honourable friend the Minister of State made it clear that the United Kingdom could not implement further compulsory fleet reductions while the quota hopping problem remained unresolved, and

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drew attention to the burning sense of injustice which the present situation caused in the British fishing industry.

It was concluded that further detailed examination of all elements of the Commission proposal would be needed before decisions could be taken. There was, however, general recognition of the need for fishing mortality to be reduced to acceptable levels for critical stocks, and for this to be done in ways which are appropriate, equitable and soundly based. This would include consideration of policies other than capacity reduction, such as technical conservation and enforcement. It would also include careful assessment of the effects of reductions in fishing activity on the industry and those dependent on it.

The Council also took note of the Commission's report on implementation to date of the existing Multi-Annual Guidance Programmes, with the proviso that the figures for a number of member states, including the United Kingdom, needed correction, in particular in relation to tonnage measurement.

Ministers had a first exchange of views on the Commission's proposal for new technical conservation measures. There were many reservations about the proposal but general agreement on the need to improve the current measures in order to conserve stocks and reduce discards. It was also accepted that the measures eventually agreed must command the confidence of the industry and must therefore be based on sound scientific advice, easily understood and enforceable.

The Council discussed the Commission proposal on satellite monitoring. My honourable friend the Minister of State pressed for harmonised implementation by all member states, and pointed out the need to guard against fishermen being unfairly penalised in respect of genuine equipment failures. He also requested that the Commission should explore ways in which satellite monitoring could reduce the regulatory burden on fishermen. In the light of the many detailed concerns raised by member states, it was concluded that the matter should be referred for further detailed examination.

The Council agreed unanimously a proposal consolidating regulations laying down common marketing standards for fish and fisheries products. The proposal makes minor modifications to grading standards. It also provides for the ending of Community financial compensation for lower quality "B" grade fish with effect from 1st January 2000 and subject to a review after one year.

My honourable friend the Under-Secretary of State reminded the Council of the difficulties that salmon farmers are facing in the critical marketing period before Christmas as a result of low prices. He emphasised the importance of the Commission's investigation of complaints about dumping and unfair subsidies in Norway, and of resolving these recurring difficulties.

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The Council also agreed by qualified majority, with Italy and Spain voting against, a measure raising the ceiling on beef intervention purchases for 1996 by 60,000 tonnes and providing new intervention arrangements for store cattle until December.

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