New clause 20 — Lords Justices of Appeal

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 3:00 pm on 4th November 2009.

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Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Conservative, North East Hertfordshire 3:00 pm, 4th November 2009

The hon. Gentleman obviously has all the necessary trappings to become a judge, as he is asking who Dannii Minogue is- [ Interruption. ] Perhaps he prefers another member of the panel or perhaps he does not know what the panel is.

It is a good idea, in some ways, to ensure that candidates have an appropriate level of knowledge. My hon. Friend the Member for North-West Norfolk said that the top barrister or solicitor who wants to be a judge will be bound to know the basic information about how the legislature works and how to apply cases, but if we are trying to widen the ambit for the lower judicial appointments, it may be that having a written test that anyone can take will bring in a few more people. Does the Minister think that it is worth the cost of what is potentially quite a bureaucratic exercise? Historically, one would have said that the sort of people who would be able to apply to become a judge-after years of experience in the law-would not need to do a written test. What is the aim of the test? Is it about modernity, or some basic level of knowledge? Is it about encouraging new applicants but ensuring that they can read and write?

In summary, I have great sympathy for new clause 20 and will be interested to hear the Minister's answers on new clause 22.

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