HC Deb 09 November 1987 vol 122 c15
69. Mr. Alex Carlile

To ask the Attorney-General how many High Court judges and circuit judges, respectively, there are currently in England and Wales; if the Lord Chancellor has any proposals for increasing their establishment; and if he will make a statement.

The Attorney-General

As at 1 November there were 79 High Court judges and 394 circuit judges in England and Wales.

An Order in Council has been laid in draft to increase the statutory maximum number of High Court judges from 80 to 85. If it is approved, the Lord Chancellor intends to recommend the appointment of two additional High Court judges as soon as practicable.

The number of circuit judges needed to dispose of the work load is reviewed regularly. The Lord Chancellor recommends such additional appointments as are considered necessary.

Mr. Carlile

I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for that answer. However, does he agree that there are still far too many people spending far too much time in custody between remand and trial at Crown courts, and that more circuit judges should be appointed from both sides of the legal profession, especially including more women judges, to deal with the cases that are awaiting hearings?

The Attorney-General

My noble Friend the Lord Chancellor makes no distinction between male and female candidates for the bench. He is very anxious to recruit as many as can be recruited without diminishing the judicial quality.

The hon. and learned Gentleman will be aware that the average waiting time in the Crown court has diminished from 17.3 weeks in 1979 to 12.4 weeks in 1987. I agree that delay is always undesirable. I believe that what I have said about the increase both in the establishment and in the number of judges is reassuring.