Politicians could scrutinise the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court in an attempt to prevent the ‘judicialisation’ of politics, the attorney general said this week. Speaking at an event at the Institute for Government in central London, Geoffrey Cox QC said the ministers had ‘no desire’ to see politically appointed judges proposing instead a Canadian-style appointments system in which Parliament interviews candidates.
The Conservative’s 2019 manifesto pledged to stop judicial review being ‘abused to conduct politics’ and ‘to look at the broader aspects of our constitution: the relationship between the Government, Parliament and the courts’. ‘I do think there is a question now on whether or not the judicialisation of politics requires some amelioration, some changing of the balance, and has gone too far,’ Cox said yesterday; before adding that there would be ‘no headlong rush into impetuous reform’ of judicial review.
The lawyer talked of a Canadian-style appointments system whereby Parliament interviews candidates. ‘Let me make plain: we’ve no desire to see politically appointed judges – that is completely off the table,’ he said.
‘In Canada now, for appointments to the Supreme Court, there is a committee of the Canadian Parliament that will carry out interviews,’ he explained. ‘In our country it could be a joint committee of the House of Lords and the House of Commons under clear guidance – 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 that is something that I would support, but it’s something I think the Commission may need to look at.’
Cox insisted that there would be ‘no headlong rush into impetuous reform’ of judicial review. According to a report in the Daily Telegraph, Cox, who is tipped to be replaced in today’s reshuffle, could be on a ‘collision course with Mr Johnson’s senior advisers, who are understood to want to push ahead with an overhaul of the system’.