What transitional arrangements are being made for tribunals that will join the Tribunals Service in 2006.
A major programme of work is under way to prepare for the transfers. We are working closely with the tribunals, parent Departments and stakeholders to ensure a smooth handover. A team of about 40 staff is working on that. We are on target to complete the transfers by April.
In my constituency, the efficiency of the asylum and immigration tribunal is vital. Will my hon. Friend reassure the House that the transitional arrangements will not compromise that efficiency, especially the average time taken for appeals to be heard against an initial decision to refuse asylum?
My hon. Friend can be assured that immigration and asylum tribunals will not be affected by the transition because they are already part of the Department for Constitutional Affairs. He makes an important point about delay, which is not good, especially in asylum and immigration cases. The asylum and immigration tribunal, which started its work in April, now logs all cases directly. Those that are logged directly with it are often heard within a month of their being listed.
I had the pleasure of visiting the Arnhem centre last Friday and I saw the efficient work that is being done there. However, I am worried about appointments to the tribunals during the transitional period. Will the Lord Chancellor continue to make them or will responsibility be handed to the Judicial Appointments Commission, which already has a new chairman?
I, too, have visited the Arnhem centre in Loughborough in the past couple of weeks. I put on record my thanks to the staff for their dedication. They work extremely hard and do an excellent job. Discussions are taking place about appointments in the transitional period. Those that are in the pipeline will continue to go through, but further discussions are being held with the different stakeholders to ensure that the transition is as smooth as possible.