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Gauke moots increasing judicial retirement age

2 May 2019

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Justice secretary David Gauke has hinted that he is in favour of proposals to increase the judicial retirement age from 70 to 72.

The idea was floated by Supreme Court president Lady Hale last month as a way to retain talent at the top of judiciary, particularly while recruitment remains a challenge. 

Addressing the House of Lords constitution committee on Wednesday (1 May) Gauke said “There is a strong case to be made for moving to 72. It is not for me here and now to announce a change of policy, but I hear the argument and want to explore it further.”

Critics of the move have said it could create problems for younger judges coming up the ladder and has the potential to further hamper progress on diversity.

During the evidence session Gauke also referred to the Courts and Tribunals Online Procedures Bill scheduled to be presented to the House of Lords later that day.

He said the bill would introduce a committee to “oversee the modernisation of the court system and ensure that digital services are fit for purpose”.

The justice secretary seemed optimistic about the Ministry of Justice’s budget going forward, implying that the Treasury had acknowledged the immense pressure the department is under.

He said he was “hoping to make progress” on the budget for the current financial year, as well as making a case to the Treasury for the next spending review.

He illustrated his optimism that more money might be made available by pointing to a £916m increase in 2016, when he was Treasury, secretary, and an additional £1.2bn for the last financial year.

However, he said much of that money had been used to fund legal aid. “The demand for legal aid has been greater than anticipated and changes to the Advocates Graduated Fee Scheme had to be funded,” he said.

“I know there is sometimes a concern that additional resources are always thrown at the prison system. That is not the concern here.

“We’re hoping to make progress on the main estimate for 2019-20 in the near future and we’ve been working constructively with the Treasury.”

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legal aid