It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Dorries.
Clause 18 deals with judicial diversity, and we very much welcome its enactment of schedule 13 and the provisions that it includes on judicial appointments and judicial diversity. The clause builds on progress that began under the previous Government towards a transparent and independent appointment process for our judiciary, and towards encouraging the opening up of the profession to a more diverse range of talented applicants.
There is clearly a problem, because the comparative statistics on gender equality make the most embarrassing reading for, I suppose, all of us—I was going to say for the Ministry of Justice, but that would be a bit unfair. Women predominate in the judiciary in countries such as Slovenia, where they constitute 78% of judges, Greece, where they make up 65% of judges, or France, where they make up 64% of judges. By comparison, less than a quarter of the professional bench in the UK is female. The proportion is lower only in Armenia, where slightly less than 23% of judges are women, and in Azerbaijan, where the figure is just 9%, so we clearly have an awfully long way to go.
With that in mind, perhaps further progress could be made and should be encouraged. We have tabled amendments to that effect to schedule 13, which are matters for debate when we reach that schedule. We welcome the clause’s inclusion in the Bill.