HC Deb 23 May 2000 vol 350 cc855-6
27. Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle)

If the Lord Chancellor was consulted by the Scottish Executive over proposals to establish a judicial appointments commission in Scotland. [121904]

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

The Lord Chancellor was aware of the proposals, now set out in a consultation paper issued by the Scottish Executive, to establish a judicial appointments commission in Scotland. This is a matter for which the Scottish Executive has devolved responsibility.

Mr. Prentice

So the Lord Chancellor was aware, but was not consulted. Will experience in Scotland lead the Lord Chancellor to think again about a long-established Labour policy—set aside two years ago—to move away from the secretive, widely criticised current system towards an open and transparent judicial appointments commission? Why cannot we have one?

Mr. Lock

My noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor keeps judicial appointments procedures in England and Wales under continuous review. Over recent years, there have been many developments in procedures, and he is constantly seeking to improve them. That is why he asked Sir Leonard Peach, a former commissioner for public appointments, to conduct independent scrutiny of the judicial appointments and Queen's counsel procedures. Sir Leonard reported that the appointments procedures were as good as any that he had seen in the public sector. One of his main recommendations was that there should be a commissioner for judicial appointments, and that has been accepted by the Lord Chancellor and is being carried forward.