The Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) should charge regulators like the General Medical Council and Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) fees for making “quasi-judicial” appointments, a government review has suggested.
While praising the JAC for slashing its budget by almost a third since 2010, the triennial Ministry of Justice (MoJ) review said the commission should move to a “more commercial” model.
“The JAC has been approached by non-government regulatory or adjudicatory bodies, such as the General Medical Council and Solicitors Regulatory Authority, to conduct or support selection exercises for posts which exercise judicial-type functions,” the MoJ said.
It argued that “consideration should be given as to whether the JAC should have the authority to conduct and charge for such exercises”.
Factors to be taken into account, the review said, included the “maintenance of the JAC’s independence” under the arrangements, the need to protect and prioritise “public functions” and the continued delivery of value for money.
The review recommended that the JAC also consider charging government departments outside the MoJ for appointments.
“In response to continued fiscal pressure, further work should be done to move the JAC to a more commercial finance model where the MoJ funds the overheads and the JAC charges government departments, such as the Home Office for Asylum and Immigration Tribunal appointments.”
The review concluded that “the function of the JAC, namely the open and merit-based selection of candidates for judicial office, is critical to upholding the rule of law and supporting judicial independence, and must remain”.
It said the commission should continue to operate as a non-department public body which “provides the appropriate balance of independence and accountability consistent with its important constitutional role”.
On efficiency, the review found that the JAC had “significantly improved” its economic performance since 2010.
“As part of 2010 spending review, the MoJ was asked to realise savings of 33%. The JAC supported the MoJ in delivering these savings, reducing its budget and resource spend by 32%, from £8.2m in 2010/11 to £5.6m in 2013/14.
“The meeting of this target is a good indicator of the current ‘health’ of the JAC’s relationship with the MoJ over its financial management.”
An MoJ spokesman said: “The JAC plays a vital role in the selection of our judiciary which was reinforced by the results of its first triennial review. This found the JAC was governed well, was crucial in upholding the rule of law and supported judicial independence and should remain.
“We are at the beginning of the process of exploring different options for charging models.”