Page last updated at 15:12 GMT, Thursday, 12 July 2012 16:12 UK

European court 'needs more judges'

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) needs more judges to cope with a backlog of cases, the government said in the House of Commons on 12 July 2012.

Europe Minister David Lidington backed plans by the EU to send more lawyers to the court's Grand Chamber, which handles its most sensitive cases.

He said: "The purpose of this is to allow broader participation by ECJ judges in general in Grand Chamber cases, to increase the wider expertise of the court and ensure greater consistency in the way in which cases are handled."

Opening a debate on a draft EU regulation reforming the ECJ, Mr Lidington said temporary judges would be appointed to other parts of the court, cutting delays, and supported plans to create a post of vice-president of the court to manage business.

The court rules on disputes over EU treaties and other EU legislation. Its decisions are binding on EU institutions and member states.

A member state may be taken to court for failing to meet its obligations under EU law. Big fines can be imposed for non-compliance with the court's rulings.

The court hears actions brought by individuals seeking damages from European institutions, or the annulment of EU legislation which directly concerns them. It also clarifies points of European law at the request of courts in member states.

It is made up of senior judges from each member state, who hold office for a renewable term of six years.

Shadow Europe minister Emma Reynolds backed the government's motion, but added: "There is a question as to whether these reforms go far enough. Procedural reforms hopefully will eliminate some of the delays, however structural reforms might be necessary."

Veteran Tory Eurosceptic and Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee Bill Cash said: "It seems to me the real question is how much can we possibly reduce the amount of law, which is leading to excessive workload, which is leading to the fact there are going to now be more judges, which in turn means there are going to be increased costs and I raise the question of what practical impact this will have on the litigants.

"I trust the minister will not encourage the idea of personal litigation of the kind being recommended."

The motion was agreed without a vote.

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