PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES

HOUSE OF COMMONS

OFFICIAL REPORT

First Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.

DRAFT MAXIMUM NUMBER OF JUDGES ORDER 1994

Monday 12 December 1994

LONDON: HMSO

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1

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairman: MR. JAMES HILL

Abbott, Ms Diane (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington)

Ashby, Mr. David (Leicestershire, North-West)

Beith, Mr. A. J. (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

Boateng, Mr. Paul (Brent, South)

Corston, Ms Jean (Bristol, East)

Fraser, Mr. John (Norwood)

Gamier, Mr. Edward (Harborough)

Hawkins, Mr. Nick (Blackpool, South)

Jackson, Mr. Robert (Wantage)

Lloyd, Mr. Peter (Fareham)

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Mates, Mr. Michael (East Hampshire)

O'Brien, Mr. Mike (Warwickshire, North)

Prentice, Mrs. Bridget (Lewisham, East)

Robathan, Mr. Andrew (Blaby)

Rooney, Mr. Terry (Bradford, North)

Spicer, Mr. Michael (Worcestershire, South)

Taylor, Mr. John M. (Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department)

Wood, Mr. Timothy (Lords Commissioner to the Treasury)

Mr. M. Hennessy, Committee Clerk

3 First Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c. Monday 12 December 1994

[MR. JAMES HILL in the Chair]

Draft Maximum Number of Judges Order 1994

4.30 pm

The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Mr. John M. Taylor): I beg to move: That the Committee has considered the draft Maximum Number of Judges Order 1994. The Order raises the statutory ceilings for lords of appeal in ordinary to 12 and for lords justices to 32. There are at present 10 lords of appeal in ordinary. The statutory ceiling is 11. Their numbers are often augmented by retired law lords. In future, however, the Judicial Pensions and Retirement Act 1993 will prevent any retired judge from sitting beyond the age of 75, except for the purpose of completion of proceedings. The Government are concerned to ensure that such senior and important courts continue to work effectively and, as the work load shows no sign of abating, we propose that two further lords of appeal in ordinary be appointed. I refer now to the need for additional lords justices in the Court of Appeal, where the work load is increasing in both the criminal and civil divisions. Additional courts have been sitting in the criminal division and, as a result, delays have been reduced for the first time in several years. However, without the appointment of more lords justices, similar progress could not be achieved in the civil division, where delays in some cases are 22 months. The number of appeals set down is forecast to rise and the Judicial Pensions and Retirement Act will apply equally to those retired judges who sit in the Court of Appeal. After careful consideration of the current and forecast work load of the Court of Appeal, the Lord Chancellor has concluded that three additional appointments will assist in the more efficent dispatch of the business of those courts.

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4.31 p.m.

Mr. Paul Boateng (Brent, South): To a certain extent, we are being asked to approve an increase in the number of rods for beating the Government's back, bearing in mind their current record before the judiciary. Opposition Members are ever happy and prepared to do that, which will not surprise Conservative Members. We have urged the Government for two years to present measures such as the draft order, because we are aware of the current congestion in the courts and its impact on the consumers of legal services, who are foremost in our mind. We owe a debt of gratitude to Lord Ackner and Lord Lane who, at the ages of 74 and 76 respectively, have been pulled out of retirement to assist the Government in their self-inflicted shortage of judicial figures to carry the work load of the courts. It is not right that they should, at their age, be required to sit, to replace the expertise of Lord Nolan and Lord Woolf. We are glad that the Government have belatedly taken action and increased the number of judges who are to sit. We urge the Government to take that action in the context of a fresh look at the current state of the lists in all courts in the jurisdiction. We fear that justice is being denied by current delays and the general low morale in the court service. That results not least from the forthcoming imposition of the court service agency next year, and also from a Treasury-led regime that is not conducive to the interests of justice. We welcome the measure and will give it the fair wind that it deserves.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That the Committee has considered the draft Maximum Number of Judges Order 1994.

Committee rose at twenty-six minutes to Four o'clock.

THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:

Hill, Mr. James (Chairman)

Ashby, Mr.

Beith, Mr.

Boateng, Mr.

Corston, Ms

Gamier, Mr.

Hawkins, Mr.

Lloyd, Mr. Peter

Robathan, Mr.

Spicer, Mr. Michael

Taylor, Mr. John M.

Wood, Mr.