§ Mr. Hoon
The Lord Chancellor's policy is to appoint to judicial office on merit those who appear to him to be best qualified regardless of ethnic origin, gender, marital status, sexual orientation, political affiliation, religion or (subject to the physical requirements of the office) disability.
The Lord Chancellor recognises the value of consultations with judges and the profession but has taken steps to modernise and improve procedures. He has arranged that allegations of misconduct must be made known to the individual concerned and has made clear that sexual orientation is not a relevant consideration. He has announced his intention to invite applications for appointment to the High Court Bench, and to provide for appropriate flexibility in part-time sittings arrangements where, for example, women or men have taken career breaks for family reasons. He will increase the upper age limit for appointment as an Assistant Recorder from 50 to 53. He is looking too at longer term improvements, for example an ombudsman to examine complaints from anyone who feels unfairly treated by the appointments process. In the meantime, he will himself investigate any claim of discrimination. He will be working with the judiciary to develop more effective forms of appraisal and assessment for part-time office-holders.
Officials are to develop a scheme whereby an individual can 'work shadow' a judge to find out what it would be like to sit judicially, and a mentoring scheme in which more senior members of the judiciary will advise and guide their more junior colleagues. The Lord Chancellor regards discrimination as wholly unacceptable and supports the joint working group on equal opportunities (on which there are officials from LCD, Bar and Law Society and groups representing women and ethnic minority lawyers) and awaits their proposals with interest.
§ Mr. Hoon
Information from the United Grand Lodge about the number (but not names) of Lords of Appeal in Ordinary, Judges of the Supreme Court and Circuit Judges on the North-Eastern and Midland and Oxford Circuits belonging to the Freemasons was supplied by the then Lord Chancellor to the Home Affairs Select Committee in February 1997 for its inquiry on Freemasonry in the Police and the Judiciary and published in the Committee's report. No other information on this subject has been collated. The Lord Chancellor has no grounds for believing that Freemasonry has had any influence on the appointment of new judges. Judicial appointments are made strictly on merit and are in no way affected by membership or non-membership of the Freemasons.