HC Deb 21 March 2000 vol 346 c848
33. Jackie Ballard (Taunton)

If he will make a statement on the progress the Lord Chancellor is making on the appointment of women judges to the High Court and higher courts. [114041]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Mr. David Lock)

All appointments are made strictly on merit, but I am pleased to say that there are now more women judges, in more senior positions, than ever before. There are now 11 female judges in the High Court and above, including the president of the family division. Out of the 11 senior appointments made since last April, five are women.

Jackie Ballard

All the 12 judges in the House of Lords are men, as are 34 out of the 35 judges in the Court of Appeal, and 89 out of the 100 judges in the High Court. When will the Government take meaningful action to increase the representation of women in the higher levels of the judiciary? Do we have to wait for a judicial appointments commission to recognise that many able women are hitting their heads against a glass ceiling in the Crown court and in the legal profession?

Mr. Lock

I hear what the hon. Lady says, but I hope that she will give the Government some credit for ensuring that women make up nearly half of recent appointments to the High Court bench. That shows the Lord Chancellor's commitment to appointing the best people to the judiciary. Appointments are made on merit—they are not based on race or gender. Talented women and members of ethnic minorities will secure appointments.

However, she should compare the membership of the Liberal Democrat Benches with that of the Labour Benches. Given that there are so few women among her colleagues at the top in her party, when will the Liberal Democrats practise what they preach on equal opportunities?

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