The justice secretary made his comments while addressing the constitution committee inquiry into the judicial appointments process, the Guardian has reported.
Statistics released by the Bar Council this week reveal that the increase of women barristers in the last few years has been minimal. The study shows that in 2010 women made up 34.8 per cent of all barristers, only a slight increase from the number in 2006, when they formed 33.4 per cent.
The MP made clear he felt that the appointment of women judges was currently far behind the levels required.
He said: “I think it’s going too slowly. I look at other areas where we are getting used to women at every level. The judiciary doesn’t look good enough. Why are we taking so long to get the proportion up to what we think it should be?”
Appearing before the committee, the justice secretary gave his approval for section 159 of the Equality Act 2010, which concerns positive action in recruitment and promotion, to be used in the appointment of judges.
He suggested that a ‘tie-break system’ be put in place, which would favour candidates from these underrepresented groups, in order to promote greater inclusion in the workplace.
The MP also expressed concern over the levels of ethnic diversity at the bench. However, having noted that greater diversity and inclusion is needed, he also emphasised that appointments should be based on competency.
“We are going very slow on ethnic minorities … I’m totally opposed to quotas and I don’t think targets add very much … one immovable thing is that we appoint on merit,” he added.
The Bar Council study revealed similarly disappointing levels of appointments for ethnic minorities. The number of judges from black or minority backgrounds in 2010 lay at 10.2 per cent, a slight rise from the 9.6 per cent who held judicial positions in 2006.