The Lord Chancellor is seeking Parliament's leave to bump up the maximum number of High Court judges allowed from 98 to 106.
The Lord Chancellor's Department says the hike is required to help tackle the predicted workload increase caused by the implementation of the Human Rights Act and the Immigration and Asylum bill.
Lord Irvine says: “It is essential our courts should be well prepared to meet additional challenges. I believe some increases to the High Court bench will be needed as early as the beginning of next year, leaving head-room within the new ceiling for further appointment as need arises.”
The move comes as the LCD seeks to increase the statutory ceiling of provincial Stipendiary Magistrates in England and Wales from 50 to 56.
Lord Irvine says that the number of lay magistrates – which currently stands at more than 30,000 – has risen year on year since 1988. He stressed that the appointment of a Stipendiary must be seen as complementary to the lay bench rather than displacing it.