Clause 6

Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:45 am on 15th March 2007.

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Certain judges who are also judges of First-tier Tribunal and Upper Tribunal

Photo of Henry Bellingham Henry Bellingham Shadow Minister (Justice)

I beg to move amendment No. 10, in clause 6, page 4, line 40, at end insert ‘or’.

Photo of Joan Humble Joan Humble Labour, Blackpool North and Fleetwood

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 11, in clause 6, page 4, line 41, leave out from ‘Ireland’ to end of line 42.

No. 12, in clause 6, page 4, line 43, leave out (i) and insert (h).

Photo of Henry Bellingham Henry Bellingham Shadow Minister (Justice)

This is a small, probing amendment. I do not plan to detain the Committee for more than a minute or so. The clause is headed, “Certain judges who are also judges of First-tier Tribunal and Upper Tribunal” and runs through a number of categories of different people, including judges of a Court of Session and circuit judges. The amendment would remove the final category, which

“is a District Judge (Magistrates’ Courts)”.

We are trying to maintain consistency. The clause confers automatic qualifications to various types of judges to become tribunal judges. We are not saying that

“a District Judge (Magistrates’ Courts)” should not be appointed; we are saying that they should not necessarily qualify automatically. The list is wide ranging. Subsection (1) takes it too far.

The amendment is a probing amendment, and we are entitled to ask questions. I am not being pedantic; I am being, I hope, consistent in my approach. I should like the Minister to clarify the reason why the clause extends that automatic right as far as it does.

Photo of Vera Baird Vera Baird Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs

As the hon. Gentleman said, the point of the clause is to supplement the judges of new tribunals with judges from the courts. Most tribunal judges will be transferred from existing tribunals—the EAT, the AIT or the JAC—to one of the new offices. We expect that judges from the courts will be deployed in small numbers from time to time to bring in skill and expertise that is not readily available, or just to help out. The list of the people who can be used in that way comprises almost all the salaried judicial offices in the mainstream core. None of them has a right to sit in the tribunal; they can sit only if the senior president invites them and the relevant chief justice agrees. We have made the pool as large as possible, because the necessary expertise might reside in all sorts of unexpected places, and

“a District Judge (Magistrates’ Courts)” should not be excluded from that consideration. They are not only experts in crime; they often have to evaluate technical evidence, and they have a great deal of day-to-day, real life experience in the lower courts. Some sit on family matters, too, and undertake such work as licensing appeals, so they have a diversity of experience.

The users of tribunals are entitled to expect the best arrangements that we can manage, but that objective will not be met if we exclude suitable judges from  hearing a case because of unnecessary restrictions on their deployment. I hope that that explanation is sufficient to persuade the hon. Gentleman not to press his amendment to the vote.

Photo of Henry Bellingham Henry Bellingham Shadow Minister (Justice)

In the light of what the Minister has said, it would indeed be churlish to press the amendment. I am grateful to her for her clarification, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 6 ordered to stand part of the Bill.