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Judicial Appointments Commission

Oral Answers to Questions — Constitutional Affairs – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 28th February 2006.

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Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Labour, Leicester East 2:30 pm, 28th February 2006

How many of her civil servants are being transferred to the Judicial Appointments Commission; and if she will make a statement.

Photo of Bridget Prentice Bridget Prentice Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs

No departmental staff will transfer to the Judicial Appointments Commission on 3 April 2006. It is currently anticipated that 80 staff will be seconded to the commission for up to two years. The commission, as an independent body, has the power to recruit its own staff.

Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Labour, Leicester East

While I welcome the establishment of the Judicial Appointments Commission, which is a great constitutional change for the judiciary, transferring or seconding staff amounts to the same thing. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is important that the new organisation, which is intended to be truly independent, should start with no staff from the Department, because some may have preconceived ideas about the method of selection or the qualities of particular candidates? Can she give an assurance that that independence will remain?

Photo of Bridget Prentice Bridget Prentice Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs

I can give my hon. Friend the assurance that that independence will remain. I have every confidence that the chair of the commission, Baroness Prashar—of whose appointment I notified the House a month or two ago—will provide the necessary leadership to forge a new and independent body. The JAC will be able to determine its own staffing strategy after its launch on 3 April.