Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80
WEDNESDAY 22 NOVEMBER 2006
RT HON LORD FALCONER OF THOROTON
Are you happy that it is taking until next spring for you to remove
yourself from that?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: I think it is an
incredibly important thing to do, to get a whole new Judicial
Appointments Commission in place and running. I think it is sensible
for there to be a transition period that takes as long as it takes
for it to happen. I do not think the right thing to do is to rush
into it. I have tried to do it as quickly as is reasonable. For
example, in relation to High Court appointments there was a competition
in which people were urged to apply; we are still operating on
that list. The Judicial Appointments Commission have advertised
for new people to apply; they will not be ready with a list until
the spring of next year so the sensible thing is that I continue
to take responsibility for something that is not their work and
then they take it over when they can.
Are you able to tell yet what sort of impact this is having on
the composition diversity balance of the Bench? Is it too early
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The Judicial Appointments
Commission started in place in April 2006, a few months ago, and
they have made incredibly few appointments. It is impossible at
the moment to tell what effect it has had. The main effect on
diversityremember that merit is the sole basis of appointmentis
going to come from people being more encouraged to apply, increasing
the pool of people who apply. I think it is too early to say what
effect that has had.
If you remember, this was a matter of great concern on all sides
in the House that the quality of the Bench should not be compromised
and yet the Government wanted there to be a wider pool from which
meritorious candidates could be drawn. I realise it is early days,
but can you take a view of how long it will be before you and
the Judicial Appointments Commission between you are able to take
a view of how successful you have been in balancing those two
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: In the three and
a half years that I have been making judicial appointments before
the Judicial Appointments Commission has come in, I think there
has not been remotely a dilution in qualityindeed I think
it has gone upand I think the pool has increased. If you
look at the figures the number of black and minority ethnic judges
and the number of women judges has gone up.
There is progress but it is too soon to make any overall assessment.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: I hope there will
be continuing progressI am sure there will be continuing
progressbut there is a long way to go.
Lord Chancellor, you have been very generous with your time. Thank
you very much for you candid, sometimes provocative, answers.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Thank you for having