§ Mr. Boateng
To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what action he is taking to encourage(a) women and (b) members of ethnic minority groups to pursue careers in the legal profession.
Mr. John M. Taylor
Although he has no direct responsibilities in this field, the Lord Chancellor is concerned to ensure equality of opportunity between all persons intending to be employed in the provision of legal services. Section 64 of the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990 extends the provisions of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and the Race Relations Act 1976 to the Bar in England and Wales. For those who seek judicial office, the Lord Chancellor's policy is to appoint those best qualified, regardless of gender, ethnic origin, political affiliation or religion. Without prejudice to this overriding principle, the Lord Chancellor has stressed publicly, and will continue to do so, that he would like more women and those of ethnic origin who are suitably qualified to be appointed to the judiciary.
The Government recognised the importance of encouraging equality of opportunity when it established the Lord Chancellor's advisory committee on legal education and conduct, which is independent of the Government. The Act requires the committee to have regard to the desirability of equal opportunity when fulfilling its general duty of assisting in the maintenance and development of standards in the training and conduct of those offering legal services. The committee has commenced a major review of legal education and training; this issue will be considered as part of that exercise.