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Volume 472: debated on Wednesday 20 February 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many judges are expected to be appointed in 2008; what steps he plans to take to promote diversity amongst the judiciary; and if he will make a statement. (185005)

Appointments to judicial office are made by the Lord Chancellor following selection and recommendation by the Judicial Appointments Commission. The JAC puts forward its recommendations on the basis of requests from the Lord Chancellor to fill vacancies, the timing of which is determined by business need.

The JAC have already made 38 recommendations for appointment to me in 2008 and current plans are for some 30 further selection exercises to be completed, covering in excess of 250 posts for both courts and tribunals. These figures are, however, subject to change, as business need and priorities can vary in-year, affecting both the timing of selection exercises and the number of vacancies to be filled.

I plan to continue the work under way as part of the Judicial Diversity Strategy, which was agreed between my predecessor, the Lord Chief Justice and the Chairman of the Judicial Appointments Commission in May 2006, and to work constructively with stakeholders to drive progress in this challenging area. This includes legislative changes to extend the ranger of individuals eligible to apply for judicial office; outreach work to promote judicial service to a wider pool of applicants; judicial mentoring and work-shadowing schemes; and work to produce guidance for Diversity and Community Relations Judges in engaging communities.

I am also exploring what more we can do to work with others to support and encourage greater diversity in our legal professions