Lord Lester airs concerns over Government reforms

Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC has called on the Government to explain how its plans to create a Supreme Court and a judicial appointments commission will secure the independence of the judiciary.

Last Monday (8 September), Lester told the House of Lords that, although he supported the Government’s proposals to establish a judicial appointments commission, he shares Lord Woolf’s concern that such a commission might be unduly influenced by politicians.

“It may be desirable for reasons of political legitimacy and parliamentary accountability for a parliamentary Select Committee to be involved in some way, and for the Prime Minister to recommend to the Sovereign appointments to the senior judiciary,” the Blackstone Chambers barrister said.

Lester added that the commission should only be responsible for making direct appointments at a junior level and for making recommendations at the more senior level.

“The commission need not be chaired by a judge and it must not be dominated by judges, since that would lead to a form of judicial corporatism,” he said. “I’d strongly oppose the suggestion in the consultation paper that the recommending body for appointing commission members should be chaired by the permanent secretary of the Department for Constitutional Affairs rather than someone wholly independent of the Government.”

The Government unveiled plans for a judicial appointments commission in June. It is among a number of changes planned to abolish the Lord Chancellor role.