Disability Living Allowance (Tribunals)

Oral Answers to Questions — Justice – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 15th February 2011.

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Photo of Bob Russell Bob Russell Liberal Democrat, Colchester 2:30 pm, 15th February 2011

What advice his Department provides to members of tribunals hearing appeals against decisions on the award of disability living allowance.

Photo of Jonathan Djanogly Jonathan Djanogly The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

The Ministry of Justice does not provide any advice to members of tribunals, because the judiciary is entirely independent of the Government.

Photo of Bob Russell Bob Russell Liberal Democrat, Colchester

Well, I suggest that it is about time the Department did something. It has only to look at the case of Mr Robert Oxley, which I raised at Prime Minister's question time last month. The Minister would do well to look at the records of the tribunal in Colchester, and particularly at the cases heard by Mrs Hampshire.

Photo of Jonathan Djanogly Jonathan Djanogly The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

I must emphasise to my hon. Friend that it is not for Ministers to adjudicate on judges' behaviour, because they are independent of the Government. I can tell him, however, that tribunal members undertake annual refresher training, which enables them to carry out their duties effectively. Any appellant who is unhappy with the decision of a tribunal can appeal to the upper tribunal. If an appellant is unhappy with the conduct of the panel, or a member of the panel, they can make a complaint to the regional judge.

Photo of Anne Begg Anne Begg Chair, Work and Pensions Committee, Chair, Work and Pensions Committee

The tribunal system is under a lot of pressure, with an average wait of between 11 and 12 weeks. This is not only because of disability living allowance claims, but because more people will be coming into the tribunal service as the Government proceed with their migration of those on incapacity benefit on to employment and support allowance. The system is already experiencing stresses and strains. What are the Government going to do to ensure that people get the correct determination in as timeous a way as possible?

Photo of Jonathan Djanogly Jonathan Djanogly The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

We have been in touch with the Department for Work and Pensions to make sure that we have a better, more seamless system between the two Departments. We have also been dealing with the increase in tribunal hearings, which the hon. Lady rightly brings up, and have increased the number of judges and the number of medical staff. I am pleased to say that it is now within our sights to end the backlog.