Members of the Lords continued examining Schedule 12 of the bill detailing the provision of judicial appointments.
Lord Pannick (Crossbench) opened the debate by moving Amendment 117 questioning the role of the Lord Chancellor in judicial appointments. He explained: 'At present the Lord Chancellor can ask the appointments commission to think again about a proposed appointee, but the Lord Chancellor is not a member of the commission.' He argued that allowing the Lord Chancellor to be a member of the Judicial Appointments Commission would 'increase the danger of political partiality in the appointment of a senior judge' and 'undermine the appearance of political independence of the senior judiciary'. The commission would 'inevitably find it more difficult to conduct an objective assessment of rival candidates', he added.
The amendment was supported by other members of the House involved in the legal'judicial profession namely: Baroness Prashar (Crossbench), former chairman of the Judicial Appointments Commission; Lord Woolf (Crossbench), a former Lord Chief Justice; and Baroness Jay of Paddington (Labour), chairman of the Constitution Committee.
Lord McNally (Liberal Democrat), responded on behalf of the government. He said: '... the Lord Chancellor is determined to defend the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary.' He explained the new role would 'enable his accountability to be exercised in a more direct and effective way'.
The amendment was withdrawn and will be further scrutinised at report stage.
Members will continue examining the bill on Monday 2 July.
About the Crime and Courts Bill
The bill was introduced in the House of Lords at its first reading stage (formal introduction) on 10 May. It aims to establish the National Crime Agency and suggests abolishing the Serious Organised Crime Agency and the National Policing Improvement Agency.
It also examines the structure, administration, proceedings and powers of courts and tribunals and addresses issues like border control and drugs and driving.
What is committee stage?
Detailed line by line examination of the separate parts (clauses and schedules) of the bill takes place during committee stage. Any member of the Lords can take part.
It usually starts no fewer than two weeks after the second reading and can last for one to eight days or more.
The day before committee stage starts, amendments (changes) are published in a marshalled list – in which all the amendments are placed in order. Amendments on related subjects are grouped together and a list (groupings of amendments) is published on the day.
During committee stage every clause of the bill has to be agreed to and votes on the amendments can take place. All proposed amendments can be discussed and there is no time limit, or guillotine, on discussion of amendments.
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