The report of the review of current panels of junior counsel to the Crown has been published today. Copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. A copy has also been placed on the website of the Legal Secretariat to the Law Officers, which can be found at www.Islo.gov.uk.
I maintain (by means of an open advertisement and application process) four panels of junior counsel to undertake civil and EC work for all government departments. I have three London panels (an A panel for senior juniors, a B panel for middle juniors and a C panel for junior juniors) and a provincial panel.
The current panel system for junior counsel to the Crown was introduced in 1999, following approval by the then Attorney-General (John Morris QC) of the recommendations arising from a review undertaken by a working party chaired by the then Solicitor-General (Lord Falconer QC) in 1998.
In March 2002, I established the Panel Counsel Review Group to review the operation of the current system. The membership consisted of lawyers from within the Government Legal Service and counsel from the independent Bar. The review recommends a number of measures to improve the current working of the panel system and I accept the recommendations, with the following two additional points:
1. the issue of dual membership in London and the provinces ought to be revisited and considered in a separate small working group, as suggested in recommendation 14 of the Report; and
2. with regard to recommendation 10, I will review whether an appointment of an external chair in future selection boards is feasible.
I believe this will satisfy my objective of choosing counsel of the highest quality to advise and represent government in a fair, open and transparent way and ensure a fair allocation of this important work across suitable candidates.
I am grateful to all those on the Panel Counsel Review Group for their time and expertise in contributing to this review.