Justice Questions: 3rd July 2012

Anna Soubry (Broxtowe) (Con)
The Secretary of State could be forgiven for not knowing that 72 years ago yesterday, he was born in the same ward of the same Nottingham hospital as my constituent Mr Roy Plumb. Unfortunately, Mr Plumb had to retire as a magistrate on his 70th birthday. I do not expect the Secretary of State to refer to his own age and I would not want him to retire, but does he agree that the time has come to allow magistrates to serve beyond their 70th birthday?

Mr Speaker
Let us hear about the case of Mr Plumb.

Mr Kenneth Clarke
I congratulate my hon. Friend’s constituent on his birthday yesterday. The argument for retaining a retirement age of 70 for judges of all kinds—I agree that this is a mere stripling for most occupations—is that, unlike me and most other people in their 70s, they cannot be removed from office: they are there for life, and can be removed only for quite serious bad behaviour. If we let everybody go on until whatever age, we will get into difficulties and politicians or somebody else will have to start appraising their performance, as they cannot be dismissed peremptorily. That is what has made us hold back from raising the compulsory retirement age for magistrates and judges at every level.