New clause 20 — Lords Justices of Appeal

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 3:15 pm on 4th November 2009.

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Photo of David Heath David Heath Shadow Leader of the House of Commons 3:15 pm, 4th November 2009

In the case of the current Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice, the difference would probably not be very great. However, the hon. Gentleman knows his history, and he knows that the history of judicial appointments has not always been a good one. He knows that, in the past, some Lords Chancellor have blatantly abused their position in respect of judicial appointments. He might recall Lord Halsbury, who had a fearsome reputation for advancing the careers of those who shared his friendship or political persuasion. There are many other examples.

The House should identify with-and it has done so in the process proposed in the Bill-a system that moves us away from the old-school club, from the magic circle and from decisions made between chums in fine dining rooms about who to put forward. That touches on one of my great criticisms of new clause 22: it does not propose an alternative process for the appointment of Court of Appeal judges; the suggestion is simply that they will "emerge"-I have heard that expression used several times in this debate. Well, we know what emerges from such a process: people who are male, who are educated in certain institutions, who share a commonality of background, but who do not necessarily represent those with the greatest merit for judicial appointments and who certainly do not represent the diversity that is beginning to develop, quite rightly, among the judicial, and indeed lawyer, populations in this country.

Mr. Heald makes an important point about how the situation has now developed-he applauded it, and I know he is genuine. However, he cannot then have a process that, at the end of the day, depends on who someone knows, rather than on a proper, transparent appointment process.

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