Bar queries Govt's Treasury Counsel hiring procedure

THE BAR Council has asked the Attorney General, John Morris QC, for details of exactly how he goes about appointing Treasury Counsel.

The request is part of a joint investigation by the council's sex discrimination and equal opportunities committees into government appointments procedures for legal advisers.

Last November the current system came under attack when Philip Sales, a barrister at the Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine's old chambers, 11 King's Bench Walk, was appointed to the coveted post of First Junior Treasury Counsel, Common Law or 'Treasury Devil'.

The committees had decided to embark on their investigation before the controversy flared up and had already sent a letter to Morris asking for details of the procedures used by his department.

Morris has promised to provide the Bar Council with the information.

Laura Cox QC, chair of the sex discrimination committee, said: 'We are trying to find out exactly how these appointments are made as we are very concerned about their lack of transparency.'

But the government has consistently defended its right to appoint Treasury counsel without inviting formal job applications.

The Solicitor General, Lord Falconer QC, told The Lawyer last month that the government was in effect a client appointing a legal adviser: 'It's from a very small pool,' he commented. 'It's not a job that could be selected by any sort of committee.'