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Lord Glentoran: I have already spoken to Amendment No. 14, as the Minister noticed rather sooner than I did. I did not intend to move Amendments Nos. 12 and 13.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: As noble Lords have rightly pointed out, Amendments Nos. 10 to 13 seek to restrict involvement in the new Judicial Appointments Commission. During the consultation exercise, the review struck a careful balance in its recommendation. Some argued that lay involvement went too far—a view which may be reflected in our Committee—while others felt that it did not go far enough. I believe that the provisions in the Bill are about right. One could almost assume that if no one is happy, then we must have got it right. Amendments Nos. 10 to 13 would amend the membership of the commission in favour of the judiciary and legal professions. They would increase the number of judicial members and decrease the lay membership, opening it to solicitors, barristers and former judges. We believe the review was right to identify the useful contribution that lay members could make to the appointment process. Noble Lords will be aware that a very similar process is well under way in Scotland. Lay members will bring a valuable perspective and alternative skills to this difficult process. I would be the last to suggest that lawyers lack omnificence, but I hear it rumoured elsewhere that this is in fact so. The lay involvement is important for public confidence. I urge the noble Lord to withdraw this amendment.

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Similarly Amendment No. 18 would remove the lay magistrate representative of the Judicial Appointments Commission and replace this with a magistrate representative. I am not clear why that is preferable to the resident magistrate, as is already provided for.

Amendment No. 19 would add a deputy county court judge to the judicial membership of the commission. That would go against the review, which recommended one judicial member from each tier of the judiciary and carefully balanced the number of legal representatives against the number of lay representatives. A deputy county court judge would come from the same tier as a full judge, so they should not be included.

It may be helpful if I outline the way in which the total of 13 will be made up because I am not sure whether all Members of the Committee are aware of it. The Lord Chief Justice will be in the chair. There will also be one Lord Justice of Appeal, a High Court judge, a county court judge, a resident magistrate and a lay magistrate. Then there are five lay member representatives of the community, one barrister and one solicitor. We think we have the balance right. Looking at models that are being adopted across the board, not just in relation to judicial appointments, it is felt that those who do not come from that particular discipline but may be subject to the acts and omissions of that discipline should participate or have a contribution to make in the selection process, because it enriches the knowledge of those who come to make the selection. The five lay members may add something of real value. I invite the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.

Viscount Bridgeman: I have a general point to raise under Clause 5(8), which runs through many of the clauses we have discussed. I would like clarification. This subsection appears to be unconditional and therefore, as I read it, does not permit any other subjective judgment such as reflectivity or representation. Let us consider the case of six candidates for three posts, three from party A and three from party B. The order of merit, as assessed by this clause, puts those from party A at positions one, two and three and those from party B at four, five and six. Is the Minister prepared to live with that situation if my interpretation of the clause is correct?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Merit would dictate that the best people should be appointed to the post. However, perhaps I should have drawn the Committee's attention to the Government's comments in the Criminal Justice Review Implementation Plan on recommendation 69, which deals with the judiciary being reflective of society. We said:

    "The Government supports the principles of equal opportunity and outreach which seek to stimulate interest in judicial office from sectors that may have been historically under-represented, thus encouraging a greater number of applications from a broader range of candidates suitable for judicial office".

The Northern Ireland Court Service will take these issues forward in consultation with the Equality Commission.

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The Judicial Appointments Commission in Northern Ireland, to be appointed in early 2002—referring to recommendation 95—will also have a monitoring role in this area and will be consulted as the systems and policies are developed further. The Government welcome the review's acknowledgement of the continued primacy of the merit principle.

There will be an active engagement of all parts of the community to apply for these posts. Noble Lords will know that it is rare indeed for merit to be absolutely identical for each candidate. I shall say that there is an active recruitment policy across the board. As I said earlier in my remarks, there is today a pool of talented lawyers from both sides of the community available in Northern Ireland, which was not the case many years ago. It was said then that there was an imbalance in the talent available. We can reasonably anticipate that if there is an active recruitment policy across the board, and if one then applies the merit principle, it is difficult to see how the situation envisaged by the noble Viscount—that of candidates from one group taking positions one, two or three—could arise.

There will be a monitoring role. However, noble Lords know that in relation to other parts of legislation, such as discrimination on the grounds of sex or race, by monitoring a system it is possible to see whether any systemic discrimination is in operation, to the disadvantage of one group or another. Of course we shall bear that in mind. However, we are confident that there is a sufficiently large pool of talented lawyers from which the selections can be made to ensure that the fear voiced by the noble Viscount is not grounded in fact, although I understand completely his concern.

Viscount Bridgeman: I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for that full explanation.

Lord Glentoran: This has been an interesting debate. I apologise for speaking to an amendment in the following grouping. I give notice to the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, that we shall certainly return on Report with Amendments Nos. 10 and 11. For the present, however, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 11 to 13 not moved.]

Lord Glentoran moved Amendment No. 14:

    Page 2, line 39, at end insert—

"( ) Any person who has, at any time, been sentenced to a term of imprisonment whether suspended or otherwise for a term in excess of six months shall not be permitted to be appointed as a member under subsection (5)."

The noble Lord said: I have already spoken briefly to Amendment No. 14. I beg to move.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead: This is where we come to the words "reflective" and "perception". I do not feel that a perception of the greater number of people—whatever their religion or political outlook—would condone the idea of appointing to these bodies people who had been convicted and had served sentences. There is a stipulation here because it does

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not discriminate against someone who inadvertently committed a crime. We are talking about a fairly serious crime.

Again, the word "reflective" has been used in another sense. I do not think that it would be reflective to suggest that we should do other than embody in the Bill the amendment just moved by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran. I believe that a far greater number of people would feel that that would be monstrously unacceptable. I cannot imagine that there would be practically any support for such a thing.

Baroness Park of Monmouth: Briefly, I should like to make a minor point. When we discussed "reflectiveness" and so forth, what we really sought was a formula that would have,

    "the confidence of all parts of the community".

I quote from the Belfast agreement. It seems to me that, if a clause of the kind proposed by my noble friend Lord Glentoran is not included, there will be a lack of confidence among the community.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Smith of Clifton: In speaking to this amendment, I shall also speak to Amendment No. 38, which is preferable to the amendment that the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, has moved. There are cases of people who have been involved in violence and criminal activity redeeming themselves and making considerable contributions to the community and to the peace process. I agree that were they to continue in that violent vein, it would be inappropriate for them to be members of the commission, but past records must be expunged if there is evidence of subsequent redeeming conduct.

My amendment requires people to make a commitment to peaceful and democratic processes, but it does not exclude those who may have previous convictions.

Baroness Park of Monmouth: It is entirely acceptable for people who have tried to expunge their past to serve the community again, and there are many ways in which they can. However, this is not an appropriate one.

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