Select Committee on Constitution Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80 - 84)

WEDNESDAY 22 NOVEMBER 2006

RT HON LORD FALCONER OF THOROTON

  Q80  Chairman: 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.

  Q81  Chairman: 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 to tell?

  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 diversity—remember that merit is the sole basis of appointment—is 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.

  Q82  Chairman: 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 aims?

  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 quality—indeed I think it has gone up—and 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.

  Q83  Chairman: There is progress but it is too soon to make any overall assessment.

  Lord Falconer of Thoroton: I hope there will be continuing progress—I am sure there will be continuing progress—but there is a long way to go.

  Q84  Chairman: 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 me.







 
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