HC Deb 09 November 1999 vol 337 c501W
37. Mr. Swayne

To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will make a statement on progress in the reform of selection criteria for magistrates. [96385]

Jane Kennedy

The Lord Chancellor set out the personal qualities required for appointment in his Directions for Advisory Committees on Justices of the Peace issued in August 1998. Advisory Committees must take into account the need for benches to be balanced in terms of gender, ethnic origin, occupation, place of residence and social 'background'. Since the beginning of this century, social background has been linked to party affiliation. This has been supported by successive Lord Chancellors. This Government are not, however, convinced that political balance is an adequate proxy and an alternative is being sought.