HC Deb 02 February 2001 vol 362 cc332-3W
Mr. Dismore

To ask the Prime Minister (1) what steps he takes to ensure compliance with the principles of equal opportunities in the appointment of(a) Sheriffs,(b) Under-Sheriffs, (c) Lords-Lieutenant and (d) deputy Lords-Lieutenant; and if he will make a statement; [146727]

(2) what plans he has to review the appointment procedures for (a) Sheriffs, (b) Under-Sheriffs,(c) Lords-Lieutenant and (d) deputy Lords-Lieutenant; and if he will make a statement. [146728]

The Prime Minister

The prime duty of Lords Lieutenant is to be the Queen's representatives in their county or area. Other than in four Scottish cities (where each Lord Provost is Lord-Lieutenant by virtue of office), Lords-Lieutenant are appointed under current legislation by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister of the day, following consultations locally and, where appropriate, with the relevant Secretary of State or First Minister.

Those appointed as Lords-Lieutenant are people of standing in their local communities, most frequently on account of their record of voluntary activity for the good of the community. In considering these appointments, the principles of equal opportunities are always taken into account. Deputy Lieutenants are appointed by Lords-Lieutenant, subject to the Queen not disapproving of the granting of the commission. Lords-Lieutenant are specifically advised that within each county or area, Deputy Lieutenants should be widely representative of its life in social range, gender, ethnic mix and service to the community.

Serving High Sheriffs are responsible for nominating their successors and their Under-Sheriffs. The Government are working with the Shrievalty Association to ensure that nominations cover a wider range of ethnic and social groups and both sexes, and has recently endorsed a proposal to establish nomination committees in England and Wales to encourage a more systematic approach.

Mr. Dismore

To ask the Prime Minister how many(a) Sheriffs, (b) Under-Sheriffs, (c) Lords Lieutenant and (d) Deputy Lords-Lieutenant there are; in each category (i) how many and (ii) what proportion are (A) women and (B) from ethnic minority backgrounds; and if he will make a statement. [146731]

The Prime Minister

In England there are currently 46 Lords-Lieutenant (one of whom serves as Lord-Lieutenant of the separate counties of Herefordshire and Worcestershire); in Wales, six, plus two vacancies; in Scotland 35 (of whom four are ex-officio as Lord Provosts of cities); and in Northern Ireland eight.

Of these, seven in England are women; four in Scotland; one in Wales; and one in Northern Ireland. None is currently from an ethnic minority.

I welcome the fact that the number of female Lords-Lieutenant is growing and I look forward to the appointment of the first Lords-Lieutenant from ethnic minorities in due course.

I will write to my hon. Friend with the information that is available on the numbers of Deputy Lieutenants; it will take a little time to assemble.

There are 54 High Sheriffs in England and Wales (of whom one serves as High Sheriff for both Herefordshire and Worcestershire). Of these, seven (almost 13 per cent.) are women, and none is from the ethnic minorities. Nominations already made mean, however, that the proportion of women High Sheriffs will reach 25 per cent. in 2003. Three members of ethnic minorities have been nominated for future years in Greater London, Greater Manchester and Leicestershire respectively. There are 61 Under-Sheriffs in England and Wales, of whom two (just over 3 per cent.) are women. I regret that information is not available on the number for ethnic minorities.

There are eight Sheriffs in Northern Ireland, three of whom are women (37.5 per cent.); none is from an ethnic minority. There are no Under-Sheriffs in Northern Ireland.

Sheriffs in Scotland, being salaried judicial appointments, are not comparable to High Sheriffs or Sheriffs in England, Wales or Northern Ireland.