As the noble Baroness, Lady Jay of Paddington, mentioned, the Constitution Committee, of which she is the distinguished chairman and I am a member, conducted an inquiry into judicial appointments and reported in March. We found that one of the reasons for there being so few women on the Bench at High Court level and above is the inflexibility of the working arrangements. At paragraph 112 of our report, we observed that one significant reason for the increasing proportion of women at senior levels in other professions in recent years has been due in large part to the greater use of flexible working hours. At paragraph 117, we recommended that allowing flexible working, certainly at the High Court and Court of Appeal levels, was the “minimum change necessary” to promote diversity. We said that:

“For the number of women within the judiciary to increase significantly, there needs to be a commitment to flexible working”.

We need to recognise that many women will either want or need to take career breaks, or work part time or flexibly for family care reasons.

As I understand them, the noble and learned Lords, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, Lord Carswell and Lord Woolf, are essentially concerned about the practicality of part-time working, certainly at the Supreme Court level, but mention has also been made in this debate of the High Court and the Court of Appeal. In my experience, from the perspective of the Bar, I must say that the overwhelming majority of cases in the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal and certainly in the administrative court occupy three days or less. Of course, there is much work to be done by judges out of court—I do not for a moment suggest that judges work only between 10.30 am and 4.15 pm—but actual time in court, which has been mentioned, occupies three days or fewer. Of course, there are longer cases, sometimes six or nine months, but they are unusual, exceptional or out of the ordinary. In any event—this is why I find this a more difficult issue than some noble Lords who have spoken hitherto—we ought to bear in mind that even at the Supreme Court level,

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judges have taken time away. They continue to do so, as I understand it, for a month at a time to sit in the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal. As shown by a notorious example recently, judges at the Supreme Court level take time off, for very good public interest reasons, to sit on inquiries. We should not proceed on the basis that every judge works exclusively, full time in a particular court.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, mentioned—he is absolutely right to emphasise this point—the high reputation of our Supreme Court and, indeed, of our whole judiciary. It is a remarkable fact that as the public have lost confidence—regrettably—in many other institutions of our society, including, most regrettably, Parliament, but also the press and the City, the public rightly retain the utmost confidence in the judiciary. It is one reason why the public are quite prepared to listen carefully, as I am sure they will, to what Lord Justice Leveson will say about press freedom. However, we ought to bear firmly in mind that the confidence of the public in the higher judiciary is in danger of being undermined to the extent that the higher judiciary reflects and is composed of so high a proportion of men with such a small proportion of women.

The point was also made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, and the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, that surely, when someone has reached their late 50s, or 60s, when in the normal course of events they would be eligible for appointment to the Supreme Court, they ought to be prepared to sit full-time. However, surely one can envisage circumstances in which a women aged 60—slightly younger or older—may have a child aged 15 and may find it difficult to sit on the Bench during school holidays. She may also have an elderly relative for whom she is caring. These are not unrealistic examples.

In any event, I suggest that the provisions in the Bill which concern the noble and learned Lords who have spoken are merely permissive. They would obviously not be applied in relation to a Supreme Court appointment unless and until an occasion arose when it was practical to do so. I suggest to noble Lords that, given the importance of a real commitment to flexible working, it would be most unfortunate indeed if the Bill were to contain that commitment but exclude it in principle in any circumstances at Supreme Court level.

Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws: This is an issue close to my heart. When I was a young lawyer in the 1970s I contributed to a book called The Bar on Trial, written by a group of young lawyers seeking to address the nature of the Bar at that time. I wrote the chapter on women and I have been writing about women and law ever since. The issue of flexibility is the one that exercises women in the profession more than probably any other. It is the reason why women’s careers look different—they are the people who have children and who are the primary carers.

Increasingly, women now at the Bar, perhaps unlike those of previous generations, have a different way of wanting to deal with their role as mothers. Their children are not going off to boarding school in their primary school years, they are not away from home,

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they are still living with their parents and there is therefore the issue of who is the primary carer. Still, I am afraid, it usually falls to women, so I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, and the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, for emphasising that this is about flexibility. I regret that the words “part-time” are used. Can we find a way of reformulating this so that it is about flexibility?

I am concerned that often the ways of doing things are still championed by those who have gone through the system and come out at the other end—and I say that respectfully to those who are now retired as judges. We have to be capable of changing to deal with a changed world and the changed aspirations not just of women in the profession, but also sometimes of men in the profession and of the general public, if we want to see our judiciary change in its appearance.

It is right that we are talking first about the High Court. Currently, judges go out on circuit. It is a problem, and I do not know how to square this circle, because I think it is important that judges go out on circuit to try, for example, big criminal cases. It still matters because there is something wrong with the idea that there is a local High Court judge to deal with these things—local circuits can become too cosy and it is sometimes better that someone from outside comes in to try big, difficult cases in which a lot of public outrage might be involved. It deals with the question of whether there is too much cosiness or familiarity when the same judges are always trying the same cases.

I want to pick up the comments of my noble friend Lord Pannick. When it comes to the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, it is very rare that women still have very young children, but it must be possible for there to be flexibility when our children are adolescents, when they are taking exams or having time out of school. It must be possible to make arrangements so that judges can have time to deal with such domestic issues. It became an embarrassment even to raise those things at one time, but it is now possible and sets of chambers accommodate those men and women who want to have time for their families—that is how the working world has to be.

When it comes to the Supreme Court, of course it is right that at the moment, by and large, those who go to sit on the Supreme Court will be about 60—that is the sort of age we are looking at—but, as the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, said, sometimes a woman of 60 is the mother of adolescent children taking exams and going through important parts of their growing lives. It should be possible to find ways of accommodating that. There is something wrong with a system when, of 25 people consulted on the recent appointments to the Supreme Court, 24 were men. Is it any wonder that we only have one woman on that court? I can say emphatically that there are women who could have taken up those new appointments, but who were not considered. I hear retired judges, and even sitting judges, saying, “We only want the best”. Of course, we only want the best, but I want us to open up what those ideas of “the best” are. Sometimes they are defined by men who have no idea about the contribution that highly intelligent women of a different experience might bring to those senior courts. That is why it is not good enough to

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stick with the old system. We have to embrace change if we want to see a different kind of judiciary. We should see the Bench as a whole, and not replicate the same people with those cut from the same cloth. I strongly endorse the efforts to change the arrangements and so am against the amendment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd.

7.30 pm

Lord Lloyd of Berwick: Could I ask the noble Baroness a question? Much of what she said dealt with flexibility. I think that everybody in the House is in favour of maximum flexibility, both at the High Court level and above where it is possible. The real question is whether flexibility demands part-time judges. The view of some of us is that it does not.

Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws: If I may respond to the noble and learned Lord, it seems to me that it has to be one of the possibilities in the whole panoply open to those making appointments. I do not imagine that it would happen very often but it might be that someone exceptional could be appointed who would say, “I will sit during these parts of the year and will be available to you then”. I do not believe that that would bring about resentment from other colleagues once they saw the quality of the work done by people of real ability.

Baroness Neuberger: Much of what I had wanted to say has been said by others, notably by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Kennedy and Lady Jay. I chaired the Advisory Panel on Judicial Diversity and we took a great deal of evidence from both men and women who were either judges or interested in becoming judges. Of the many components needed to create a more diverse judiciary, flexible working was pretty near the top of the list. It was near the top of the list for people in their late 50s and in their 60s, who were not on the whole talking about looking after children—although, like the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, I think one ends up worrying about one’s children for ever—but about caring for elderly parents.

Increasingly, because we are living longer, people in their 60s are caring for parents in their 80s and 90s. It is likely that people who are going to work as much as they possibly can in their 60s may still need to work more flexibly than was hitherto the case because they need to look after, or make sure that somebody else is looking after elderly parents. That point was made to me almost as much by men as by women and almost as much by solicitors as by people who came from the Bar. We must make provision for flexible working given the way that our population is ageing and that we are likely to look after parents in our 60s and 70s.

Therefore, the need to be more creative and flexible in how we think about these issues has never been greater. That was felt very strongly by people from whom we took evidence. Those people, including some members of the present High Court, also said that to them flexible working was not about working two days one week and three days the next, but about working possibly for nine or 10 months of the year and simply

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taking slightly more holiday than other people. That holiday, which would in fact be to allow them to carry out their responsibilities, would simply have to be factored into the system. Sending out a message to the wider world that we are not prepared to consider flexible working for the judiciary when we consider it for every other profession in the country would look very strange indeed.

Baroness Northover: I suggest that the debate on Amendment 115 be adjourned and that the Committee does not resume again before 8.20 pm.

7.34 pm

Sitting suspended.

8.20 pm

Baroness Falkner of Margravine: My Lords, I apologise for not having spoken at Second Reading. I am sorry that the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, is not in her place. She would have appreciated that I was probably not able to speak at that stage of the Bill because I am a 50-something mother of an adolescent child who, in her words, was probably too busy supervising the child’s exam-taking. For the purpose of declaring an interest, I should also say that I am a member of the Constitution Committee, but I was not involved in the report on judicial appointments. However, I was involved in the Constitution Committee’s report on this Bill.

I want to pick up a few points that have been made. As I have already said, the framing of the debate is rather narrow. The past hour or so has involved a discussion of women serving as judges of the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeal. I want to inject a little pluralism into the debate about diversity by suggesting that there are other groups that are also affected by this: all the protected groups, people with disabilities, people from lesbian, gay and transgender backgrounds, but, particularly, people from ethnic minorities.

I think it was implied at some point in the debate that the clauses for flexible working would probably not be taken up by black and minority-ethnic community people, particularly men from that community, because at the age at which these jobs would be open to them, they would have no use for them. As a woman from that community, I have made it my life’s mission to ensure that men from black and minority-ethnic communities take caring responsibilities for their children and their parents—in other words, be new men—and I do not intend to give up now. I do not see why that category of men or women would not be better served by provisions for flexible working. I would not distinguish them, and I would certainly not set them apart from women who might, or might not, have children.

I think it was also implied that the Supreme Court has a heavy responsibility for maintaining the high reputation that the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords built up over decades—probably centuries—and whose decisions were treated with the greatest respect. I completely agree with noble and learned Lords and noble Lords who have spoken in this debate that that is the case. I did quite a lot of work on the Latimer House principles for the Commonwealth which involved agreeing a balance on the principles of accountability and the separation of powers between

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the judiciary, the Executive and the legislature. It is absolutely true that the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom is held in extraordinary esteem certainly by 54 Commonwealth countries and beyond those shores, but I do not accept the implication of the debate that, because it is held in such high esteem and such great respect, if it were to move to a more flexible pattern of working, let us say, with the inclusion of perhaps more women or more ethnic minorities, that would inevitably diminish the quality and standard of the judgments it handed down.

It was also implied that this was gesture politics and that there would be no realistic possibility of any candidate capable of being so appointed to be able to do it or even want to do it. My answer to the critics of these proposals is that that may well be true. I have no evidence to show that it might work either way. But we know that the past has not delivered the diversity that we want, so perhaps changing this may well do so. Let us try it and see.

It is said that full-time judges would be left in a position where they would be trying the heavier cases—in other words that they would have a disproportionate burden put upon them by those who had a need occasionally to work flexibly, and that colleagues would resent this. Before I came into this House I worked in senior positions where successive employers granted me flexible working conditions in pretty full-on jobs. Most people who work flexible hours—there is evidence for this and I will get it for Report stage as I did not know the debate would go this way—tend to overcompensate for the fact that they are putting a burden on others and they therefore tend to work longer hours, be it on a Saturday or Sunday at home or elsewhere, in order not to allow an illusion to develop that they are not pulling their weight.

We have been debating in this House and will debate in the future options for increasing the targets of women serving on boards in the corporate world. As the noble Baronesses, Lady Neuberger and Lady Jay of Paddington, said, in the medical profession we have ample evidence of how difficult it was to convince people of this change, how well it works, and so on. In all other senior positions diversity has been found to add to decision-making and, if not positively to add to it, certainly to create a more plural set of inputs into decision-making. So it is extraordinary that for one category of professionals, some of the most esteemed professionals in the land, there is a question about having a change to slightly more flexible working. That does not mean, as many noble Lords have inferred, that the subject individual would say “I will not work on Mondays and Tuesdays, irrespective of what comes my way”. That is not the meaning of flexible working and that is not the meaning of part-time working either, if we are being pedantic about words in the Bill. The meaning of part-time or flexible working is that people recognise or say openly to their employer that they will be occasionally needing flexibility in terms of their personal arrangements and will be taking that flexibility from time to time. The people who make it into those positions are usually dedicated to fulfilling the task that they are appointed to do in the best manner that they are capable of. That is the basis on which this clause should be debated.

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Baroness Brinton: My Lords, I rise to speak on the important matter of improving the diversity of our judiciary. I start with an apology that a previous engagement elsewhere in Parliament meant that I was unable to attend and speak at Second Reading.

I oppose Amendments 115 and 120 and want to speak in support of the proposals put forward by the Government, specifically to the elements in Schedule 12(2)(3) on the appointment to increase diversity, assuming that all candidates are of equal merit. I refer to the excellent reports by the noble Baronesses, Lady Neuberger and Lady Jay of Paddington, and their committees. Both reports make the demand for change absolutely essential.

8.30 pm

Prior to addressing that, I will briefly take up the point on which much of the previous debate focused—part-time and flexible working. I regret somewhat that, with a couple of noble exceptions, the assumption has been that flexible working would only ever be accessible to or needed by women. That is absolutely not the case. One of the real benefits would be that male judges would feel that it was appropriate for them to take advantage of that as well.

Twenty years ago I was bursar of Lucy Cavendish College, which had the honour of hosting the Law Society summer schools for women. They tried to give women the tools they needed to achieve the promotions that they deserved. It may have taken 10 to 15 years to see real change in the senior members of the solicitor profession. We need to see that elsewhere. Clear action by the Law Society to support those young women in their aims had a significant benefit.

Much of the debate this evening has focused on the practical arrangements. Frankly, many other sectors have been resistant to change and have argued the same points that we have heard this evening. Perhaps we need to remember that the statistics demonstrate the problem of diversity in the judiciary. Unfortunately, encouragement from the sidelines alone has not improved it. Firm but careful steps need to be taken to protect the absolute principle of appointment by merit, while making sure that those from underrepresented groups—not just women—are given a full opportunity if all other skills and competencies are equal. The equal merit provisions safeguard the quality of members of the judiciary and ensure that no woman or black, Asian or minority ethnic judge feels that they have been appointed as a token gesture. This is vital.

Figures published only last week demonstrate why this measure is needed. Prospective women circuit judges for heavyweight crimes made up one-fifth of eligible candidates, but this was reduced to 14% of applications and an even smaller number of 8% were recommended for appointment. That is, nearly half of those recommended for interview were not recommended for appointment. The news of appointments for women during the year has been rather better, which is good, but there is still a long way to go. I understand that part of that issue relates to the number of women in the family courts.

The position for those from BAME groups was also mixed. Their appointment to tribunals was good,

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but not to higher salaried positions. No one from a BAME background who applied to be a deputy judge of the Upper Tribunal—the Immigration and Asylum Chamber—in 2011 was appointed. The figure for recorders showed a substantial rejection of BAME candidates, with 13% at application but 8% appointed.

There is a tendency in human nature to appoint those who look and feel like us. This is the main reason why women have often found it difficult to break through the glass ceiling in traditional areas. With women making up just over 50% of the population, the problem can be very visible. However, other underrepresented groups face the same problem and may not have the advantage of visibility if they represent an even smaller part of the population. My noble friend Lady Falkner of Margravine has already referred to them. Herein lies the problem. Those who do not want even these moderate steps argue, “Trust us. We will always appoint the best, and the best women and BAME candidates will come through”. However, the best may not look or feel like us, and might therefore be excluded at an earlier stage, possibly even in the figures that I outlined earlier.

Last week, the former President Jimmy Carter was honoured by the Just the Beginning Foundation in Atlanta for his bold step in appointing 57 minority and 41 women judges in the late 1970s. These included federal and Supreme Court appointments. Nathaniel Jones, who was appointed by Carter to a federal appeals court position, said:

“President Carter, by virtue of his core values, had a capacity to identify wrong and a capacity and the courage to correct it”.

He later added:

“You have given justice, American justice, a good name around the world”.

Carter, typically modest, replied:

“The credit doesn’t go to me … It goes to the performance of the people I was honored to appoint”.

I cite that example because, in addition to the excellent performance of these candidates, the American system became more flexible as a result. It is fair to say that the American way of affirmative action is not ours, but this example serves to prove that quality does not need to be compromised by providing support for candidates who otherwise would find it difficult to be appointed, because they did not look like those who came before.

In Canada, there has been a similar process in which the Commission for Federal Judicial Affairs passes the names of applicants on to advisory committees who are then charged with respecting diversity when making their recommendations—a process not dissimilar to ours. Ontario has the Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee, which is responsible for contacting individuals from underrepresented groups who might want to apply for judicial posts. This has seen a significant improvement in the number of women in the Canadian system. Unfortunately, only two out of 100 recent appointments were not white. The Canadian system can be described by ethnic minorities as opaque and this is much exercising the Canadian press at the moment—indeed just last week.

I believe that the measures that the Government propose in this Bill provide a mechanism that ensures merit and excellent quality, while ensuring that the

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appointment of underrepresented groups improves, so that our judiciary begins to look like the nation. We have heard that call for our legislature as well, where we are still working at improving the diversity of both these Houses of Parliament.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, my understanding is that we are debating the part-time provisions relating to the High Court, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. I understood that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, said that it might be sensible then to deal with the other amendments in this group. I have in mind in particular the tie break provision amendment and my amendment about whether or not the Lord Chancellor should remain involved in appointing circuit judges. As I understand it, what was envisaged was that the noble Lord, Lord McNally, would reply on the part-time issues, then, without going on to another group, we would move on to the tie break and maybe the other amendment as well. Although the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, has dealt with the tie break, at this stage I will restrict my remarks to the part-time issue, following the lead of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd. I would envisage that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, would open the debate on the tie break as well.

Lord McNally: We had better get this straight from the start. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, said that he wanted to move Amendment 120. He did not mention the amendment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer. I will take advice from the clerk, but if we are discussing only Amendment 115, whether Clause 18 should stand part of the Bill and, presumably, Amendment 116, then in normal circumstances we would go on to Amendment 117, not Amendment 120.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Our problem is that if I talk about the tie break, it is before the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, has made his points about why the tie break is wrong. The natural sequence of events is that I speak, then the Minister, we do not put a question but go round again, which is perfectly okay in Committee. If everybody is happy, that is the right course that I would envisage. A preliminary point: initially, I thought the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart’s, point was that the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 was such an important Act that it could never be amended. I tended to agree with that proposition. As I understand it, and I agree with this, he then went on to say that when a Bill makes a significant constitutional change, it is wrong to put it in the form of a schedule introduced by a section which does not, as it were, preview that it is a major constitutional change. The right way to make major constitutional changes, so that this House—which has a special responsibility in relation to constitutional changes—is aware of what is going on, is by an individual Act of Parliament.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, in relation to this because here we are dealing with an important constitutional issue as regards the position of judges. Like the noble Lord, who is a practical and sensible Member of this House, I fear that we are where we are. We are in Committee and it is obvious that we will pass something along the lines of Clause 18 and Schedule 12. Therefore, it is necessary for us to

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debate the merits of those. But it is extremely important that the Government recognise that where one is dealing with important constitutional issues, it does not in any way inhibit any programme of constitutional change, it just means it is right that it is properly flagged up so that we know where we are.

Lord Goodhart: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble and learned Lord. That is exactly the view I have taken today.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: I support the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, in what he says but, as a matter of practicality, I recognise that we have to move on. The noble Lord, Lord McNally, is much loved around the House and a genuine supporter of sensible constitutional change. He was a significant supporter of the Constitutional Reform Bill in that he allowed it to go through in circumstances where it might not otherwise have gone through, so I have a particular personal reason for believing that the noble Lord is a supporter of constitutional change. It would be worth while if he could say something in response to the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart.

We are dealing with three tiers of part-time judge: first, the High Court of England and Wales; secondly, the Court of Appeal of England and Wales; and, thirdly, the Supreme Court, which is part of the UK judiciary. The average age at which persons are appointed to the High Court of England and Wales is between 45 and about 60. In the Chamber tonight, we have two former High Court judges. The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, were both appointed at the age of 45, which is at the youngest end of the range.

In appointing women between the ages of 45 and 50, it is extremely likely that they will have caring arrangements. I know that from my own experience as someone at the English Bar and as someone appointing judges. The difficulty for people is in making a choice as to what they put as their priority. As the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, rightly said, the current attitude is that it is “full on” if you join the High Court and there are no dilutions. The consequence of that in relation to the High Court is that a significant pool of people who would otherwise be willing to be appointed is being lost. I know that from my own experience in appointing judges.

Lord Woolf: Perhaps the noble and learned Lord will forgive me for making this point. I am sure that his experience was similar to mine. Where a case was made by an applicant who needed special assistance because of personal circumstances, the system that we have had has always been flexible enough to allow us to make those special arrangements and they worked satisfactorily. We should acknowledge that and I suspect that the noble and learned Lord will endorse what I have said. If I have understood him correctly, he was indicating the contrary, although I am sure that he did not mean to.

8.45 pm

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: I accept what the noble and learned Lord says and perhaps I may say that no one was more willing than he—his successor, the

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noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, was the same—to accommodate people as much as possible. So in answer to the point of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, if it was difficult for individual High Court judges to go on circuit then the Lord Chief Justice, in my experience, was always reasonable and understood the difficulties. However, there were limits. The main one was that you would not agree to have as a High Court judge somebody who wanted to have half term and school holidays off. As the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner of Margravine, said, we are not talking about working Mondays and Wednesdays but about whether someone could work for a period but have the children’s school holidays off. There is currently a situation where a High Court judge gets three months off. Is it that much more different to say that school holidays could be taken off as well? That sort of flexibility would open the door to a group of people who currently would not feel able to accept appointment as a High Court judge.

The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, asked broadly why we do not do that at the lower judicial level. Absolutely not. Why should somebody who is 45 and has the quality to be a High Court judge be offered a part-time job only in a position that is essentially inferior to the one that they would otherwise merit? The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, then argued, and had some support from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Carswell, that it is very difficult if you have some part-timers to deal with cases that last for nine months. Again, with the greatest of respect to the noble and learned Baroness, who was equally a champion of diversity, there are a handful of those long cases. The idea that there would be resentment because a number of judges would be willing to do them and others would not is, in my experience, fanciful. With respect to the noble and learned Baroness, I reject that argument. I strongly support the Minister’s proposal in relation to part-time judges for the High Court Bench because it improves and increases merit. It opens and widens the pool. It has no effect whatever on merit. I am strongly in favour of it.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, said it was okay for the circuit Bench but not for the High Court Bench. Again there is no logic and no ultimate justification for that position. We should, as a Committee, endorse the proposal because it indicates that we understand the pressures on successful professional people. We should not say that the High Court Bench—unlike being a consultant doctor, a successful barrister, solicitor, or architect—is the only place where we will not be willing to allow that sort of flexible working. I am sorry that she is not in her place but the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, was right when she said that it is about flexible working. Part time, as a piece of language, may be a slightly misleading suggestion. I strongly support the proposition for the High Court Bench.

The next tier is the Court of Appeal. I have indicated that the range of ages at which people are appointed to the Court of Appeal is between 45 and 60. Although there is no pattern, one could reasonably expect to go to the Court of Appeal after between six and 12 years at the High Court so we are talking about people in

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their early 50s, although there are some exceptions. I am quite sure that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, and the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, were in the Court of Appeal in their late 30s, but normally early 50s is the sort of range, although there are some people who go later. Think about what your responsibilities were when you were in your early 50s in relation to looking after children. Again, I know of people in the current Court of Appeal who have adolescent children and some with children under 12. What is more, as the noble and learned Baroness and the noble and learned Lord will testify, some of them live outside London. So in addition to the problem of having caring responsibilities for children, they have to travel from far away, which puts increased pressure on them.

Should people have the option of saying that they would like to go to the Court of Appeal but would like to do it when there are school holidays or on some other part-time basis? It is said by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Carswell, that this would cause great difficulty because there are long cases in the Court of Appeal. I completely agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, says. My experience with cases in the Court of Appeal is that they do not tend to last more than three days. I know from my own experience of a case that lasted two weeks in the Court of Appeal, but I imagine that that would be regarded as unusual. I cannot think of any other profession where it is said that two weeks cannot be accommodated for somebody who works flexible hours. So with the greatest of respect to the noble and learned Baroness and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Carswell, I would say that the idea that it will cause difficulties in the Court of Appeal is not right.

Finally, on the Supreme Court, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, started off by saying that there was no Supreme Court with part timers. First, there is the House of Lords, which has many part timers. The Lord Chancellor was a part timer as a Member of the House of Lords. It was also the norm for retired members to sit on the Judicial Committee the House of Lords, and indeed for retired members of the Supreme Court to sit in the Supreme Court. So the idea that the Supreme Court cannot deal with the arrangements of part timers is, with the greatest respect, wrong.

Secondly, in relation to the length of cases dealt with in the Supreme Court, my experience of cases in the House of Lords and in the Supreme Court is that they tend to be shorter even than cases in the Court of Appeal. There was one case that lasted over a week in the past few years, which was the Belmarsh appeal, but that was a very exceptional appeal. So in arrangement terms there would be no difficulty in having people in the Supreme Court who were part time.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, went on to another point. The proposal would make absolutely no difference, he said, because there is nobody whom he can envisage would be worthy of appointment who would want to be part time. First of all, we are talking about this being permissive, not compulsory. Secondly, how many people have caring responsibilities for elderly parents? I was describing earlier the fact that, when I

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sought to appoint one High Court judge, she told me that she could not take the appointment because she had responsibilities for her own elderly mother and the mother of her husband as well. How many people would want to be in the Supreme Court and would be capable of being there but have other responsibilities? I do not know—but I look around the world and I see part-time Supreme Court members, such as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf of Barnes, in relation to the Court of Final Appeal in Hong Kong, or Sydney Kentridge in the Supreme Court of South Africa. Have those courts benefited from those part-time members? My answer is yes.

So if we were to agree to a provision that allowed part-time or flexible working members of the Supreme Court in the United Kingdom, there would be two benefits. First, it would increase the pool of people who would be able to apply. Secondly, it would lead to a sense that we thought that flexible working was available from the top to the bottom of our judicial system. I cannot think of a better message for us to send—and it would be one that was not just a gesture but would have an effect on increasing merit. So I and these Benches enthusiastically endorse the brave and sensible proposal that the Government have made in relation to part-time working in the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal and the High Court.

Lord McNally: My Lords, I feel like sitting down. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, was quite right; when he was Lord Chancellor and put through his constitutional reforms the Liberal Democrat Benches gave him full and consistent support. The brain power behind that support was my noble friend Lord Goodhart. I was the political organiser. As the noble Lord, Lord McAvoy, will attest, the triumph of ideals must be organised, so I share the pleasure in these reforms. I also think it is right—we will have lots of discussion about this—that the reforms, good as they were and are, are capable of being tweaked and improved in the light of experience. Therefore, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lords, Lord Lloyd and Lord Falconer, for setting the parameters of the debate, as it were.

Before I go into the detail, I wish to deal with the general point raised by my noble friend Lord Goodhart. I understand where he is coming from and the need to acknowledge the importance of constitutional reform. However, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, found from his own experience, the difficulty is getting parliamentary time to tackle this. You sometimes have to accept the necessity of putting very important issues into a broader based Bill. The Government are always faced with the dilemma—this is true of all Governments—of choosing whether to put provisions together in one Bill, as is the case here, or of delaying legislation on important and necessary reforms. We have chosen the former approach but the fact that these provisions are in Clause 18 and Schedule 12 does not for a moment diminish their importance. Wherever they sit in the Bill, I would expect your Lordships’ House to discharge its usual role in carefully scrutinising the Government’s legislative proposals. If there was any doubt about that, it should have been dismissed by the thorough way in which the House has filleted these proposals for two and a half hours this evening.

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I turn to the merits of our reforms to the judicial appointments process and answer the concerns raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd. His amendments would delete from the Bill the key measures to promote diversity and flexible working in the Supreme Court. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, said, “flexible” is the right word, not “part time”. Of course, we must ensure that the process through which our judges are appointed is fair, open and transparent. The longer I am in this job, the more I am in awe of the quality of our senior judiciary. They are a national asset and are respected throughout the world for their quality and independence, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, said. However, this does not conflict with a requirement for greater diversity in the judiciary. Diversity in the judiciary is important to enhance public confidence in the justice system. The proportion of women and members of ethnic minorities is still too low, and this is particularly the case in the higher courts.

As the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, pointed out, progress in increasing diversity in the judiciary has been woeful and inadequate. We do not believe that we can rely on trickle-up. We consider that allowing flexible working in senior courts is an important reform to increase diversity, and that it will not detract from the principle of appointment on merit. I was recently asked by a very senior member of the judiciary, “Will our judiciary still be held in the same high esteem in 20 years’ time as it is today, if your reforms go through?”. I could look him in the eye and say “Yes, I believe that it will, but it will be a more diverse judiciary”.

The arguments made by the noble and learned Lords, Lord Lloyd and Lord Carswell, and by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, is that flexible working in the Supreme Court is simply not practical, and that all judges of the Supreme Court need to shoulder their fair share of the business by sitting full-time. I simply do not accept these arguments. It is a judgment call, but we have no reason to believe that it cannot work to the benefit of flexibility and diversity. Regarding the virtuoso performance by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, I can see how he earned an honest crust at that game. However, the noble and learned Lord made a good point. Flexible working will not be compulsory but will provide flexibility and, as has been pointed out by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, and the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, the merit test would still be there. It is not a dilution but a move to greater flexibility, which we believe will allow for greater diversity.

Many of the arguments we have heard from the sponsors of this amendment reflect an outdated view of the family. As the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, explained so eloquently, we need flexible working not just to enable a woman in her 30s or 40s to balance her career with her caring responsibilities, but to enable women in their 60s to carry out caring responsibilities for teenage children. Equally, such caring responsibilities can extend to grandchildren, a disabled partner or elderly parents. As my noble friend Lady Falkner pointed out, we are not just talking about women but about ethnic minorities, and some of this flexibility will also apply to men who find the present system too rigid.

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We need to allow men and women of all ages to meet such caring responsibilities and balance them with flexible working patterns. The noble Baroness, Lady Jay, and others noted that such arguments were put forward in the past to oppose the introduction of flexible working in other professions. It has been shown in the medical profession and elsewhere that flexible working arrangements can be readily accommodated. As I have said in this House previously, if anybody asks me what is the biggest difference I have seen, having worked in the Foreign Office and Downing Street in the 1970s and come back to Whitehall now in 2010 to 2012, I would say that it is in the diversity of senior advisers. If our Civil Service can achieve such diversity, why can the law not achieve it?

That is not to say that there will not be challenges in implementing this, and practical issues to work through in, for example, the listing of cases. However, we agree with the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, that these issues are not insurmountable. As he has indicated, most cases in the Supreme Court require hearings of only two or three days. As has been discussed, flexible working can take many forms, such as working during term times, or for nine or 10 months of the year, as the noble Baroness, Lady Neuberger, highlighted. Can I again pay tribute to her committee, which has not simply produced a report, but has kept on the case in terms of chivvying me and the Lord Chancellor in these areas? Moreover, if we are allowing flexible working in the lower courts, including the High Court and the Court of Appeal, the absence of flexible working in the Supreme Court could potentially deny an outstanding Court of Appeal judge the ability to consider applying for the Supreme Court.

I hope that the debate has, in a way, answered the concerns of my noble friend Lord Goodhart. These are important issues that are not to be taken lightly. I do not think that the House has taken them lightly but the case against the Government’s proposals has not been made—in fact, quite the contrary. The balance of the debate has been on our side.

Lord Woolf: Before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps I should mention the position of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Carswell. He did not want to absent himself from the later parts of the debate, but he had to return to Northern Ireland and has sent his apologies. I said that I would convey them to the House.

Lord McNally:Hansard will note that, with the full understanding of the Committee.

Lord Lloyd of Berwick: My Lords, I will be brief because I do not intend to divide the Committee. I am grateful to the Minister for his reply.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jay, was quite right to refer to the Lord Chief Justice’s evidence to her Constitution Committee. However, the point he was surely making was that there is already a great deal of flexibility in the High Court. That point was also made by the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, during my speech. Indeed, it was made very recently by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf. For example, if a judge

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is unable to go on circuit for family reasons or any other reason, he or she will of course stay in London and other arrangements will be made. That is already happening in the High Court. I say “he or she” because flexibility applies to both sexes; it applies to men as it applies to women. The thought seems to have been that somehow flexibility will help only women. That is not the case; it helps men also.

The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, also made a strong point on the importance of flexibility—as did the noble Baroness, Lady Neuberger. The truth is that we are all in favour of greater flexibility, just as we are all in favour of greater diversity. However, greater flexibility does not require the appointment of part-time judges. That is what this debate is not about. It is about whether part-time judges should be appointed not in order to give greater flexibility but to solve the never-ending problem of diversity—how to get more women into the higher courts. When the Minister said in his reply that flexibility and diversity for men and women were all one thing, he missed the whole point of this part of the Bill, which is intended to increase the number of women in the higher courts. All that I can say is that it will do no such thing.

Baroness Falkner of Margravine: I greatly appreciate the noble and learned Lord giving way. I again ask him to clarify whether he accepts that diversity encompasses more than just gender. It encompasses several strands, including disability, sexual orientation, ethnic minorities and so on. The Bill nowhere states that it is intended only to increase the number of women. It speaks in terms of diversity.

Lord Lloyd of Berwick: I could not agree more; of course we are not talking about women but about, above all in this context, black and ethnic minority judges, as I made clear when moving the amendment. As the noble Baroness made clear, we are also talking about other forms of minority, including people with disabilities, for example. However, the whole thrust of this part of the Bill is intended, as one can see from the history, to get more women, as well as ethnic minority judges, into the High Court.

I will not say any more about those who have supported the amendment, except to emphasise the extremely effective point that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Carswell, made regarding the collegiality of the Supreme Court. I certainly had a sense of that when I was in the Supreme Court, and I also felt it throughout my time in the Court of Appeal, although one obviously does not have that sense as a High Court judge. We were all members of one court. I do not think anyone can tell what the effect of the appointment of part-time judges will be on that essential concept of collegiality in both those courts.

I should mention the point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf. He was unable to imagine a woman who would be willing to accept part-time appointment to the House of Lords but not full-time appointment. The question comes back to this: if that is the case, the purpose of this part of the Bill is not to cure the problem of diversity. Instead, the purpose is to send out what the noble and learned Lord called a

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signal; a gesture. I am opposed to gesture legislation, which is what this amounts to. It will not make any difference in practice. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Earl Attlee: If the noble and learned Lord wants to speak to another amendment in this group, I would advise him not to withdraw his amendment. Otherwise the Lord Speaker will inevitably have to go on to further amendments in accordance with the Marshalled List.

Lord Lloyd of Berwick: I am very grateful to the noble Earl. I will defer begging leave to withdraw the amendment until I have moved the other amendment.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, the noble and learned Lord can speak to his other amendment if he wants. He cannot move it, but he can speak to it now.

Lord Lloyd of Berwick: My Lords, the second amendment in my name and the names of the noble and learned Lords, Lord Carswell and Lord Woolf, is concerned only with diversity. It affects the judiciary at all levels. The amendment would leave out line 27 of Clause 18 and Part 2 of Schedule 12.

The Government accept that judicial appointments must be solely on merit. However, the Government argue that there might be cases where two candidates were of exactly equal merit, like two candidates getting the same marks in an examination, in which case the woman or the black man should be preferred. At least, that is the idea. “Solely on merit” is thus to be given a special meaning.

How is it going to work? Let us suppose there is a vacancy in the Supreme Court. The candidates will almost certainly come from the Court of Appeal. Let us suppose that there are two candidates from the Court of Appeal. Their abilities will be well known to the selection commission. The Bill provides that the selection commission shall consist of an odd number of members, not less than five. Is it conceivable, I ask, that all five members would find the two potential candidates of exactly equal merit? The answer is no. I suppose it is just possible that two members of the selection commission might favour one candidate, and two might favour the other, and the fifth member of the commission might be unable to make up his mind one way or the other, but this seems so unlikely in practice that it should not be the subject of legislation.

I am not alone in taking the view that I do. The noble Baroness, Lady Neuberger—who is still in her place, I hope—the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, and the Lord Chief Justice, all doubted whether candidates for the Supreme Court would ever be exactly equal. So did Christopher Stevens, the chairman of the Judicial Appointments Commission.

The idea that the Equality Act might be used where there are two candidates of exactly equal merit comes from a recommendation of the advisory panel in its 2010 report. As the noble Baroness, Lady Neuberger, will recall, it was recommendation 21. In a progress report of May 2011, the Judicial Appointments Commission said that it had always been able to distinguish between the relevant merits of different

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candidates, and that it did not anticipate that the Equality Act would ever be relevant in practice. Therefore I suggest that the idea should have been dropped then and there; it was nothing but an idea.

The members of the Judicial Appointments Commission operate in the real world. Part 2 of Schedule 12, which is based on the idea that one can have exactly equal candidates for these posts, is a good example of the sort of make-believe world in which Governments so often seem to exist.

That leaves only one argument. It is said that even though Part 2 of Schedule 12 would be useless in practice, it would send out a strong signal that diversity is of importance. This was the view of the Constitution Committee, stated in paragraph 101. It was also touched on by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, at Second Reading.

I do not believe that legislation should be used for the purpose of sending out signals. Moreover, in this context the signal is surely rather demeaning. We would be saying to highly intelligent women lawyers, “You may not have been the best but be of good cheer, you were first equal”. If I were the first black judge to be appointed to the Supreme Court, I would want to know whether or not I had been the best candidate, as I would under the existing law. Under the new law, I would not know. If I was only equal first, surely I would want to know who the other candidate was—and no doubt the other candidate would want to know who I was. Moreover, if I were a black judge, what would happen if the other candidate were a woman? How would the equality principle apply in those circumstances? I have formed the view that the Equality Act is of no assistance in this context. Of course it is of great importance in many other fields, but in appointments to the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal it is of no assistance at all: indeed, it could do nothing but harm in the manner that I suggested. I beg to move.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, the noble and learned Lord made a slight mistake. He did not beg to move; we can just carry on debating the amendments in this group.

Baroness Falkner of Margravine: My Lords, I will comment briefly on this point. In his closing remarks the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, asked an interesting question that is posed frequently: where there is a tie-break, as I would refer to it, what should be done if there are two candidates of supposedly equal merit, one of whom is a woman and the other, for example, is from an ethic minority? I note that the report of the Constitution Committee gives a lot of assistance in how we should define merit but makes the point that, certainly in large-scale selection processes, there could conceivably be candidates who end up in a tie-break: in other words, who are assessed to be of equal merit.

It would be quite straightforward to apply the test in those circumstances. You would look to see which group is more underrepresented than the other group and, in the case where there are two from underrepresented groups, appoint the one that was not to be found there. That would be fairly straightforward. With more senior appointments, it is entirely conceivable that it would

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be much clearer. We have heard that there is one female and no ethnic minority member of the current Supreme Court. In that case, it would be fairly straightforward, if the candidates were tied and came out equally in an assessment, you would go for the ethnic minority candidate. Although you would want to increase the gender diversity, on such an occasion, you would need to increase the diversity overall.

I also make the point to the noble and learned Lord that blatantly nobody is seeking to have the senior judiciary reflect the people they serve, because the people they serve on the whole are there, particularly in criminal cases, because they have done wrong. Nobody is suggesting that. However, the Constitution Committee’s report makes clear, as do a lot of other reports, that in senior positions in life it is terribly important for an inclusive society to have people who are representative of different strands of society as a whole. I rest my case there.

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I will just make one rather straightforward point. I think the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, said in relation to the previous amendment that he felt that this was simply gesture politics and somehow the phrase that we used in our report, which the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, has now repeated, about sending out “a strong signal” by adopting this part of the Equality Act was simply inappropriate in legislative terms. I only say that the experience that we heard, particularly from abroad, about the way in which change had been brought about in judicial systems in other countries—I would cite particularly Canada—was that it came from very strong leadership from the top. That may be either in practical terms or, quite importantly, in terms of what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, if I may say so, refers to, in a slightly deprecating way, as gestures but which I regard as importantly symbolic of a change of attitude at the top. In these terms, that means both ministerial and judicial and therefore conveys what I hope would be a change that would percolate down through the system.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I am in favour of the amendments proposed in paragraph 9 in part 2 of Schedule 12 and am therefore opposed to the amendment that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, advances.

I speak from my experience of being engaged in judicial appointments as Lord Chancellor, which is not the same as that of the noble and learned Lord, that there is always somebody who is the best candidate. My experience of judicial appointments is that you are very often comparing people who came with completely different experiences and particular specialities, who are both aiming to fill the same position. You could have a solicitor who was very experienced in dealing with general litigation, widely admired for his wisdom and sense, and a criminal barrister widely admired for her advocacy skills. The idea that one was better than the other and that one should approach judicial appointments on the basis that one was trying to grade the candidates for an Oxford First as 1, 2, 3 and 4 was not remotely my experience.

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I am always suspicious of people who advance arguments along the lines of, “I live in the real world”. The real world involves making comparisons between people where it is essentially not possible, in any meaningful way, to grade them as 1, 2, 3 or 4. You will find that there are people applying for jobs who are of equal merit. That is the position, whether you are dealing with an appointment for one position or with a wider appointment, for example encouraging people to fill 15 posts as circuit judges—

Lord Lloyd of Berwick: Would the noble and learned Lord explain why his experience as Lord Chancellor is so very different from the experience of the Judicial Appointments Commission, which has said quite clearly that it has never found people to be of equal merit and does not anticipate that this clause will help in the future?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: I do not know who the noble and learned Lord is referring to. If he is referring to Mr Christopher Stephens, I have had no conversations with him. All I can do is set out my own experience in relation to this.

Baroness Prashar: My Lords, perhaps I may help the Committee, having been the inaugural chairman of the Judicial Appointments Commission. My experience is the one that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, has described. Let us take two candidates about whom we can say that, although no two people are equal, there is merit. People are assessed against the criteria that have been set out. There may be two candidates who could equally do the job. You then have to assess them against the criteria, and that is where choice and judgment comes in. It is how that choice and judgment is exercised which makes the decision. People may be of equal merit, but they may not necessarily be equal in the sense that has been described.

The noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, was right to say that this became easier when vacancy notices were sent out and we had to appoint a number of judges to the circuit Bench or the district Bench. There were some candidates who were clearly grade A and presented no difficulty, and there were others who were below the line. However, there was a lot of discussion about the people who were in the middle, and they were always assessed against the criteria. I sat on a number of appointments to the senior judiciary, and there were robust debates about merit. What this proposal does is focus the mind by saying that one of the considerations that has to be taken into account is this: what else would the candidate bring to the post? The description given by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, is absolutely accurate.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, for explaining that our experiences are the same. One can test this simply by looking around the Chamber. If one had to make a choice between the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, and the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, I think that everyone would agree that they bring totally different characteristics to a particular

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job. Would we be able to say that one is better than the other? No, in my view they are of equal merit. This is a serious point.

If we assume that the argument is right, the question is then: is it open to the person appointing a judge—because this does not apply just to the Supreme Court, but from the top of the judicial system to the bottom—to say, for example, “We have one woman and 25 men in this job and we have before us people of equal merit. It might be sensible to increase the group with one more woman”? Apart from the judiciary, I cannot think of any other organisation in the world that would consider that to be a bad approach. It also involves moving on from an artificial approach that people have to be graded as number one and number two. I support the approach taken in the Bill and I do not support the approach of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd.

Lord McNally: My Lords, again I am extremely grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, for his contribution. I will not labour the point, but there is a difference of opinion. Most of the contributors to the debate do not believe that merit is something that can be pinpointed with laser-beam accuracy. That is not the real world, as both the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, have so vividly illustrated. I must also say that we must be very careful to ensure that collegiality does not morph into “chaps like us”.

9.30 pm

The Government believe that merit can be more holistic than the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, suggests, and I take the point of the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, exactly—this is not about gesture politics, this is about leadership, and I am very proud that the present Lord Chancellor is giving that leadership. I should also say, since the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, called in aid the Judicial Appointments Commission, that the commission chairman, Christopher Stephens, said on 11 May:

“The JAC welcomes the Government's proposals. These include many very positive changes … We also welcome the introduction of a specific provision to clarify that where two persons are of equal merit, the JAC can select the more diverse candidate”.

So I do not accept that there is support there for this view. It is, as I say, much too narrow a view of what we are trying to do and I hope, just as I am often asked to listen to what the House has said on this matter and think again, that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, will listen to the voices around the Committee and think again, because I think that he is on the wrong track on this. I am sure that after careful consideration, when we get back to Report, he will be an enthusiastic supporter of the Government.

Lord Lloyd of Berwick: Of course, having listened to the noble Lord, I am bound to think again and I shall. At this point all I will do is agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, that this question does not arise at the lower levels at all. At the lower levels there will usually be a large number of vacancies and a large number of applications, so there will be no question at all of putting candidates into any sort of order. However, it clearly does arise where one has one or two candidates

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from the Court of Appeal applying for the Supreme Court, or one or two candidates from the High Court applying for the Court of Appeal. At that level I say that there has never been any difficulty in choosing between them, so once again, this is a provision which will not help in practice.

To those who say the opposite, I shall read how the recommendation of this advisory panel was dealt with—it all comes from that recommendation. When that recommendation was considered, again, in 2011, the answer was as follows:

“The JAC will always select on merit and has to date been able to distinguish between the relevant merits of different candidates based on a careful assessment of an applicant’s entire profile and background”.

Certainly, background is taken into account as the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, would stress.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My understanding is that the Judicial Appointments Commission does not appoint to the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. I understand that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, is saying that there is no problem with this provision in relation to the appointments that it does make—so he appears to be disagreeing with Mr Stephens—and in relation to the area where he is disagreeing, that is not a matter for the Judicial Appointments Commission. So I am not quite clear what point he is making.

Lord Lloyd of Berwick: The point is whether it arises in practice that it is impossible for whoever is making the appointment to choose between two equal candidates. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, says he often had that difficulty. If that is a real difficulty, it is very surprising that the Judicial Appointments Commission, which has made innumerable appointments, has never found that difficulty in practice, and it says that it does not anticipate, therefore, that the provisions of the Equality Act will ever be relevant in practice, either at its level or at any other level.

Baroness Prashar: Let me explain this by giving an analogy. When you make senior appointments, let us say to the High Court, you make a selection. It is like knowing that you want fruit: do you want apples, pears or whatever? That is the point at which you make a judgment. What the noble and learned Lord read from basically explains that you judge the candidate against those criteria. You will take all those considerations into account before making that selection. The distinction is that you will never get two equal candidates. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, said, let us say that the noble Baronesses, Lady Jay and Lady Neuberger, applied. It would be a question of equal merit but against the background of what was needed you would go for one particular noble Baroness because she would match the merit criteria. I think that the confusion is that they are not absolutely equal but they are of equal merit.

Lord Lloyd of Berwick: I regret to say that the difficulty of that is that when one talks about equal merit one is in danger of infringing the very first requirement that all appointments must be made solely on merit and the view that has been expressed over

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and over again that that is not a threshold. That view was rejected by the Constitution Commission, which said that it is wrong to regard merit as a threshold, which the noble Baroness appears to have done—and perhaps the noble Baroness, Lady Neuberger, too. It is not a threshold. You have to get the best person.

Baroness Neuberger: Can I make clear what the advisory panel said on this matter? We were quite clear that the principle of selection on individual merit remains. The point that we were trying to make is that that depends on how you define merit. Your definition of merit may not be identical with mine or with that of the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar. We have a way of dealing with merit. The Judicial Appointments Commission has merit criteria against which we measure. Those criteria have recently been changed in relation to some of the things that may help in these diversity questions. We said that where people were of equal merit and you could not distinguish to say that one was better than another, you could then use the tipping point. Some people have liked that and some have not. Since we now have the availability of that in legislation, all six of us—without being able to put a sheet of paper between us—agreed that that was the right way to go.

Lord Lloyd of Berwick: I am still replying to the debate and the debate is still going on but it is quite apparent that I will not persuade the noble Baronesses. In those circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Do not withdraw it. There is more in the group.

Lord Lloyd of Berwick: From you? I am sorry.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: I am very grateful to my noble and learned friend for not withdrawing his amendment because it allows me to deal with the final set: Amendments 123A, 124A and 126A. I congratulate the Minister on the complicated group that he put together. None of us objected to it so we all are to blame for this particular procedural mess.

I think that this is the last thing we will deal with tonight. These amendments very respectfully question the wisdom of the Bill in replacing the Lord Chancellor with the Lord Chief Justice in relation to the appointment of a number of specified appointments. As noble Lords will recall, in relation to a number of specified judicial appointments, including circuit judges and recorders, the Judicial Appointments Commission makes recommendations to the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chancellor can ask the Judicial Appointments Commission either to think again or to reject a particular appointment. If the Judicial Appointments Commission then comes back with another appointment, the Lord Chancellor is broadly obliged to accept it. We put together this type of arrangement because those of us involved in the Constitutional Reform Act 2005—I have in mind in particular the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, and the noble and learned Lords, Lord Lloyd of Berwick and Lord Woolf—all believed that it was

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extremely important that the Executive remained involved in the appointment of important and significant judicial appointments.

What is in effect being legislated for now is that the Lord Chancellor—the Executive—should remain involved—put aside the question of the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court, the Lord Chief Justice and heads of division—only in the High Court. I suggest to the Minister that that is a big mistake. The reason that the Lord Chancellor was given the residual power is that he is able, as an external force to the Judicial Appointments Commission and to judges, to say, “Think again”. The areas where the Lord Chancellor could say “think again” in a way that the Lord Chief Justice—the chief judge—might not be as willing to do might be, for example, in relation to diversity issues or to criteria adopted by the Judicial Appointments Commission.

I suspect that the main thinking behind this is that the Lord Chancellor is fed up with looking at lots of names of people to be appointed circuit judges. If that is the reason, it is a discreditable, bad reason for making the Lord Chief Justice, who does not have the resources that the Lord Chancellor has, look at them, and it removes the Lord Chancellor—the Executive—from the important position of appointing judges.

I ask the Minister to think again. This is an important issue. It reduces the stake of the Executive in the appointment of circuit judges, who are the major criminal judges in this country, and recorders, the major stepping stone from being a part-time judge to being a full-time judge. Those are the two most important appointments. To suggest that the Lord Chief Justice makes them adds nothing to the process. The pressures on the office now are huge. In my respectful submission, it is a big mistake to do that.

I have dealt with paragraph 27 about judges. Paragraphs 28 and 40, with which my other two amendments deal,are about replacing the Lord Chief Justice with the Senior President of Tribunals, who is basically a Court of Appeal judge. The Government are replacing the Lord Chancellor with a senior Court of Appeal judge in the context of senior appointments to the Tribunals Service. The Tribunals Service now covers a huge range of administrative matters and its judges are just as important in relation to involving the state as those other judicial appointments. I hope that the Minister thinks about removing the Executive from these roles and placing the burden on people who cannot carry it for administrative reasons. If one is serious about the Executive having an influence on criteria and diversity, this is the way it would be achieved. I invite the Minister to think about that.

9.45 pm

Lord Woolf: Will the Minister bear in mind that it is very important that there is someone who can speak on behalf of the judiciary in Parliament? One of the changes that took place in consequence of the Constitutional Reform Act was that the right of the Lord Chief Justice, which had existed hitherto, to speak to Parliament on behalf of the judiciary on matters that affected the administration of justice went and we have this business of putting in a statement. That illustrates that the Lord Chancellor will be the

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spokesman who has to take parliamentary responsibility for the appointment of all judges. We know that sometimes it is very tempting for a Minister or even a very senior Minister to refer to unelected judges. It causes the judiciary grave offence that that should be said because judges may not be elected but they are appointed in accordance with the process laid down by Parliament and by Members of Parliament who, certainly in the other place, are elected. That responsibility means that Parliament is a place where in regard to these matters somebody has to be answerable. We do not want to see the Lord Chancellor no longer having responsibility for these appointments.

Baroness Falkner of Margravine: I have agreed with almost every word that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, has said this afternoon but I am now surprised at his explanation for why he wishes to move these amendments with respect to what I think he implied was an abrogation of responsibility by the Lord Chancellor for the judiciary. I wonder whether he is familiar with those parts of the Constitution Committee’s report.

For other noble Lords who might not be, I will take just a minute or two to point those parts out. Looking at this part and pages 14 and 15, the Constitution Committee in taking its evidence found:

“This argument was supported by the previous Lord Chancellor, Jack Straw MP, who described his role in relation to the lower tiers of the judiciary as ‘ridiculous’. The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, also stressed that the Lord Chancellor ‘has no input at all to make other than to be there to look as if he is making an input ... It simply suggests there is political involvement when we have tried to get rid of it’”.

The committee goes on to make the point at paragraph 32 that,

“The Lord Chief Justice has day to day responsibility for the judiciary of England and Wales: he knows what is required of judicial office at all levels. He is therefore better placed than the Lord Chancellor to make an informed assessment of whether a nominee put forward by the JAC should be appointed. Transferring the Lord Chancellor’s power to request reconsideration or reject nominations to the Lord Chief Justice would strengthen the appointments system”.

In conclusion, the committee finds that,

“there is indeed a need for the legal framework for appointments to reflect both the extent to which the Executive should be involved in individual appointments and the reality of that involvement”.

The committee makes one point which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, made, that,

“The Government should consider whether the Lord Chief Justice will need additional support in order to take on this role”.

I think that point is well made.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The noble Baroness asked me whether I was aware of that. I most certainly was. With the greatest respect to the chair of the committee, my noble friend Lady Jay of Paddington, it was wrong. It is such a misunderstanding of the importance of the role of the Executive. I admire the judges more than anyone but I do not want the judges to be completely in control of the process of appointment. It is a siren song to say “let the Lord Chief Justice do it”. He is a splendid person but what a mistake it would be to remove the Executive and say “hold on a minute, I am not sure that is right”. Yes, I was aware and, my goodness me, she was led astray in what she said.

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Lord Deben: My Lords, it always surprises people that non-lawyers such as me sit through long periods of Bills such as this one. It is mainly because some of us think that no profession should be left to make its own decisions about its own set-up. Therefore, I hope the Committee will allow me to say just two things.

First, I entirely agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer. It is necessary for the protection of judges that someone should make an interjection of this sort. Secondly, the noble and learned Lord who argued against the question of equal merit ought to learn a lesson from the rest of his life. I know perfectly well what I have to do when I choose people to work for me in my businesses. I often get a large number of people of similar merit. Then I get it down to people of equal merit. What do I say to myself? I say, “I can’t run a business in which I have too many women and too few men. I can’t run a business in which I have no gays. I can’t run a business if I don’t have some kind of different ethnic minority representation when I could”. It is a very simple thing and I am a bit tired, if I may say so, of the legal profession talking as though it was a unique operation—as though it somehow has nothing to do with how the rest of us work.

That is why I sit through these debates from time to time—to say occasionally, “For goodness’ sake, realise that you are in a world that operates in a particular way. When you talk about representation, it is about being sensible of and sensitive to the way the world works”. I found the previous discussion bewildering. It is manifestly true that you often find people who are of equal but different merit. The issue then is about what mix works, given that you have 25 other people of equal but different merit. How do you fit that person in? Anybody who has chosen people for a team or run anything finds that to be true. I cannot understand why judges are supposed to be different or, in particular, why they become more different the more senior they become. I find that extremely odd.

Therefore, I ask the Committee to learn a lesson from those of us who are not lawyers. The nature of our legal system is accepted partly because people feel that, in general, the way in which it operates has some parallels with how everything else operates. If it operates in a totally different way, frankly, we have got it wrong. Let us try, in those areas where parallels are obvious, to make the system parallel. Where it is not parallel, we should be able to defend why it is unique. In neither of the cases that we have talked about in this curious group of amendments is it possible to claim uniqueness. In both cases, it is better to do what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, suggested, and to disagree with the well argued but fallacious point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd.

Baroness Butler-Sloss: My Lords, I do not dare to follow what the noble Lord has just said. I want to make a slightly different point, which is to agree very much with the noble and learned Lords, Lord Falconer and Lord Woolf. There needs to be somebody in Parliament who speaks for the judges. That is probably the most important point that is being made and the major reason why the Lord Chief Justice should not have the final say.

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Lord McNally: My Lords, we should first thank the noble Lord, Lord Deben, for what in the film industry is called a cameo performance. It was none the worse for that. I am under strict instruction from the Box not to say anything rude about the judges, so I can take pleasure at one remove.

This is an interesting little debate. At this time of night, I am sure that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, will not press his amendment. However, I will take this back to the Lord Chancellor. If a former Lord Chancellor gives the kind of powerful warning that the noble and learned Lord has given this evening and is supported by people of experience, the least I can do is say, “They don’t think this is such a good idea”.

I would, however, say two things. Working with the present Lord Chancellor, I am absolutely convinced of his belief in the separation of powers. He is convinced of it, as am I and as is the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, and he is very careful to try to ensure it.

The other thing I know from direct experience is that the Lord Chancellor is extremely robust in defending the independence of the judiciary and has reminded colleagues at the highest levels of government about the limits of criticising the judiciary. On those counts, we can be secure. The Lord Chancellor also retains overall responsibilities to answer to Parliament, which should not be underestimated. As the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, pointed out from the report of the Constitution Committee, the evidence was that there is no real input from the Lord Chancellor on this tranche of appointments. Jack Straw said that and, in the robust language of the present Lord Chancellor, appearance and reality diverged where names were going past him that he did not know and he was supposed to give approval for. It was a paper exercise that he felt uncomfortable with. He felt that it was more sensible to give this responsibility to the Lord Chief Justice. I take the point, again made by the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, about whether there are resource implications. Knowing the Lord Chief Justice, I suspect that he will call that in aid.

What the Bill provides is that for many judicial offices below the High Court, the Lord Chancellor’s powers in relation to selection decisions and appointments are transferred to the Lord Chief Justice, for courts in England and Wales, and to the Senior President of Tribunals for appointments to the First-tier Tribunal and Upper Tribunal. Where the appointment is made by Her Majesty the Queen, the recommendation for appointment will still come from the Lord Chancellor, but he will merely transmit the decision taken by the Lord Chief Justice or the Senior President of Tribunals upon the selection of a person for office following a selection process carried out by the Judicial Appointments Commission. The Lord Chief Justice and Senior President will be constrained in the same way as the Lord Chancellor currently is, in that they will receive one name from the Judicial Appointments Commission and either have to accept the selection, reject it or ask the commission to reconsider its selection.

These amendments would undo that transfer of such responsibilities from the Lord Chancellor to the Lord Chief Justice and Senior President of Tribunals.

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While we consider that it is important for the Lord Chancellor to retain accountability and ownership of the judicial appointments process as a whole, and a direct role in appointments at a senior level, we do not consider that there is a need for the Executive to be involved in each individual appointment below the High Court. It is not practical for him to have knowledge of judicial officeholders at a more junior level and his role in the appointments process, at this level, becomes a rubber stamp. We therefore consider it appropriate that for many judicial offices below the level of the High Court, selection decisions and appointments are made by the senior judiciary, but that the Lord Chancellor retains accountability for the appointment system as a whole. This measure also received the support of the Constitution Committee in its report on judicial appointments. However, I will draw to the attention of the Lord Chancellor the fact that a former Lord Chancellor has spoken so strongly on the issue, and we will ponder what has been said in this debate tonight.

10 pm

Lord Woolf: In taking that message to the Lord Chancellor, will the Minister also convey the message that, with great respect to the Lord Chief Justice, the Lord Chief Justice does not know all the people who will be appointed? He will know possibly a few more than the Lord Chancellor, but I suggest that just as the Lord Chancellor would have to rely on advice, so would the Lord Chief Justice.

Lord McNally: Certainly, I will make sure that the Lord Chancellor reads today’s Hansard. The point is that it is advice that comes from the process of the Judicial Appointments Commission. Just as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, wants the Executive still involved, I am not so convinced and, even more importantly, nor is the Lord Chancellor. As I have said, we both take a view about the separation of powers of which this could and should be a useful symbol: the Lord Chancellor of the day would not be holding on to a rubber-stamping exercise, he would be leaving it with the Lord Chief Justice of the day. This has been an interesting mini-debate, which I will raise with the Lord Chancellor for further consideration.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: I am grateful to the Minister for saying that he will raise this matter. Perhaps I may say that the Minister’s arguments were much better before he moved on to his written notes, which were of poor quality. On the point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, as regards the Lord Chief Justice knowing the candidates to be Admiralty Registrar better than the Lord Chancellor, I agree that that is an unlikely assertion. The implication of what the Minister said was that, unlike the circuit Bench, the deputy registrars and the Masters, the Lord Chancellor would be aware of all the candidates who would be going up for High Court appointments.

Speaking for myself, when I came from the Bar to being the Lord Chancellor, I was not aware of all the candidates. I would imagine that as regards the current Lord Chancellor—who I greatly admire and I believe utterly, with no doubts at all, to be a defender of the

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independence of the judiciary—90% of the people, if not more, who are being considered for the High Court Bench are equally unknown to him in relation to the circuit Bench. The judicial appointments system is not supposed to be on the basis that the Lord Chancellor knows the people and therefore has some input, but on the basis of him looking at the way in which the system works.

I found the friendly Minister saying, “I will give this a thought”, more attractive than the unsatisfactory nature of what was said in defence of the argument. Let me give the Minister two pauses for thought. First, if as Lord Chancellor you had not appointed one woman circuit judge for a year, you might want to ask about that in a way that the Lord Chief Justice would not be in a position to do. Secondly, let us suppose that the Judicial Appointments Commission said that in relation to circuit judge and recorder appointments it is going to award those appointments only to those people who have a 2:1 from Oxford or Cambridge. The Lord Chancellor can do something about that in the way in which the Lord Chief Justice cannot because the Lord Chancellor has a role in judicial appointments. Those two points are in aid of and additional to the point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, which I had not made but which is just as important; namely, that when there is a question mark about what a circuit judge has done, which there is very frequently, there needs to be someone in Parliament who has had some responsibility for appointing that judge and can say that the appointment was made in a sensible way. The idea of shuffling that off to the Lord Chief Justice is a mistake which will weaken the judiciary

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in our constitutional arrangements, without in any way improving the separation of powers. I hope that we will think about this issue again.

Lord McNally: I think that that is called extra time. So as to make it clear, I and I alone take responsibility for anything that I say from this Box. Just to give the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, some idea of how deep the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice go, having sat in on a number of meetings, I now have a full knowledge of the working of the Midlands Circuit 1970. I will take those points back.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: I cannot resist the temptation to ask how many people who were on the Midland Circuit in 1970 are now being appointed judges. Their age, if they were on the circuit then, would now be 68.

Lord Lloyd of Berwick: I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 115.

Amendment 115 withdrawn.

Clause 18 agreed.

Schedule 12 : Judicial appointments

Amendment 116 not moved.

House resumed.

House adjourned at 10.06 pm.