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Judicial Appointments

Volume 407: debated on Tuesday 24 June 2003

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28.

What the Lord Chancellor's functions are in respect of the appointment of judges. [121041]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs
(Mr. Christopher Leslie)

The responsibility of the Lord Chancellor in advising Her Majesty and the Prime Minister on senior judicial appointments, and in making other judicial appointments himself, will continue in exactly the same way as before, until a new independent judicial appointments commission is created by legislation.

Given that there seems to be little evidence—or little evidence that the Government have produced, at least—to suggest problems with the existing system, and given that there is no evidence whatsoever of consultation before the changes were announced, what were the terms of reference that guided the changes, and how long will the transition take in respect of the transitional post occupied by this reluctant post-holder? Is it not true that this is about not the separation of powers, but the concentration of power in the hands of the Prime Minister and a few of his acolytes? This is not so much serious constitutional reform as a soap opera: not "Neighbours" and not even "Friends", but "flatmates".

That was a very well rehearsed question, but we believe that it is important to take the judiciary selection process out of the hands of politicians. We are going to consult widely on the details, and a document will be published on 14 July. If the hon. Gentleman is seriously suggesting that he wishes to retain the current system—[Interruption.] He appears not to be saying either way, but if that is his wish he is perfectly free to write in to the consultation.