Clause 5 - Amendments to Pensions Appeal Tribunals Act 1943

Part of Armed Forces – in a Public Bill Committee at 8:55 am on 24th February 2004.

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Photo of David Lammy David Lammy Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Constitutional Affairs) 8:55 am, 24th February 2004

The legislation, which will bring into force the proximity of social security commissioners as the point of appeal from the PAT, is a direct consequence of Sir Andrew Leggatt's report, which was published in March 2001. It was the most comprehensive review of the tribunal system for 44 years. The report, entitled ''Tribunals for Users: One System, One Service'', recommended to Lord Chancellors that tribunals should have a second tier of appeal. To that extent, we are bringing current arrangements for armed services personnel into line with the report's recommendations.

In the report, Sir Andrew Leggatt and his committee, which was made up of distinguished members, largely reiterated established practice on legal representation, saying in paragraph 7:

''Tribunals are intended to provide a simple, accessible system of justice where users can represent themselves. So it is discouraging to note the growing perception that they cannot. Every effort should be made to reduce the number of cases in which legal representation is needed.

Logically that can only be done by seeking to ensure (a) that decision-makers give comprehensible decisions, (b) that the Tribunals Service provides users with requisite information, (c) that voluntary and other advice groups are funded so that they can offer legal advice, and (d) that the tribunal chairmen are trained to afford such assistance as they legitimately can''.

To that extent, I reassure hon. Members that the social security commissioners will act in that way. They will be able to bring to bear the specialism that they have built up, and people will be able to represent themselves.