Appointments and Diversity: A Judiciary for the 21st Century
Kenneth Clarke (Lord Chancellor, Secretary of State, Justice; Rushcliffe, Conservative)
The judiciary play a critical role in the administration of justice. It is therefore vital that we select candidates for judicial office on merit, through fair and open competition, from the widest range of eligible candidates. However, despite progress, the composition of our judiciary still does not adequately reflect the society it serves.
This issue matters for obvious reasons of fairness, efficiency and enhancing public confidence in the justice system. That is why in November last year I published a consultation which proposed a number of initiatives that aimed to address issues that had been identified with the current system of appointing judges. We have considered carefully the responses received to our consultation and are particularly grateful to the House of Lords Constitution Committee for their own inquiry into judicial appointments, which ran concurrent to our own consultation, as it provided important additional insight and suggestions surrounding our policy proposals.
We propose to take forward a number of the proposals, and these will be included in the Crime and Courts Bill, which has been introduced today. The proposals being taken forward include the introduction of part-time working to the High Court, Court of Appeal and the UK Supreme Court, as well as provisions that will enable the application of the positive action provisions to judicial appointments. These proposals will definitely not undermine the principle that all appointments will be made on merit.
The overall effect of these changes will be to achieve the proper balance between executive, judicial and independent responsibilities; improve clarity, transparency and openness; create a more diverse judiciary that is reflective of society; and deliver speed and quality of service to applicants, the courts and tribunals and value for money to the taxpayer, ensuring that our judiciary,
which is already a byword for integrity, independence and excellence, evolves into a modern, outward-facing institution that is fit for the 21st century and beyond.
The House of Lords Constitution Committee report from their inquiry into judicial appointments made reference to a majority of our consultation proposals and the comments of the Committee have been referenced within our consultation response, which will be published tomorrow. However, their report also made comment on a number of issues that were not included within our consultation and as such I will be bringing forward a Command Paper towards the end of May to respond to these additional recommendations.
Our response to consultation is available online at: http://www.justice.gov.uk/consultations/closed-with-response.