New Supreme Court judges could face interviews by MPs, suggests Geoffrey Cox

Posted On: 
12th February 2020

New appointments to the Supreme Court could face interviews by MPs, according to the Attorney General Geoffrey Cox.

New Supreme Court justices could face interviews by MPs before being appointed
PA Images

He said the UK could bring in a Canada-style process for approving judges as part of a commission into how the constitution operates.

Mr Cox, who is rumoured to be facing the sack in Thursday's reshuffle, did not dampen speculation he could be put in charge of the review after leaving the Cabinet.

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The Tory manifesto included plans for a "constitution, democracy and rights commission", and, speaking at the Institute for Government, on Wednesday the Attorney General said it was something he is "keen to examine".

The issue has come to the fore again after the Government was unable to deport 25 foreign national criminals this week after losing a judicial review into their cases.

The Prime Minister and his chief aide Dominic Cummings were reported to be furious at the successful legal challenge, and want the system overhauled.

But Mr Cox said there will be no “rush, headlong, into impetuous reform”, and, in a thinly-veiled jibe at Mr Cummings, added: “It will have to be examined quite carefully to see what are the proper contours and the proper balance between those who are elected decision makers and those who are not.

“So colourful comments reported from those inside the Government, whether they are accurate or not, I don’t think are going to affect the calm and deliberative way that this government will embark on the process of this review.”

He went on to say there was a feeling in Government in a “certain respect courts are taking decisions which should be more legitimately taken by Parliament”, and it “long pre-dates current controversies”.

But he rejected rumours the review would lead to politically-appointed judges, saying: “That is completely off the table.”

However he said the review does need to “look at how Supreme Court justices are appointed”, and while he is against US-style confirmation hearings for candidates, he said there is a case for the method used in Canada.

In that country, a committee of its Parliament carries out interviews with candidates, which Mr Cox said could be done here through a “joint parliamentary committee”.

He added: “There would be rules as to the questions that could be asked.

“But what it would lend potentially is transparency to a position which people have seen has enormous power.

“Now I’m not saying that is something I would support, but it’s something the Commission may need to look at.”

But Lord Falconer, the former Lord Chancellor and ex-shadow justice secretary, called it a “very bad idea”.

The Labour peer tweeted: “[It] makes the judges seek support from politicians to get selected.

“Will affect what they decide in earlier judgments.”