Clause 5 - Amendments to Pensions Appeal Tribunals Act 1943

Part of Armed Forces – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:15 am on 24th February 2004.

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Photo of David Lammy David Lammy Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Constitutional Affairs) 9:15 am, 24th February 2004

In response to my hon. Friend's point, we should put the matter in context. Under the new arrangements, the social security commissioners will replace the High Court, which was the only point of appeal from the PAT. For the first time, there will now be a further right of appeal to the higher courts—the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords. Only about 20 cases a year go beyond the PAT and more than two-thirds of them are appealed on the papers, not at oral hearings, although people can request a hearing should they need one.

As I said, the nature of our tribunal system is such that people should be able to represent themselves informally. My hon. Friend will know from experience that chairmen and commissioners conduct tribunals in an inquisitorial way, to counter the adversarial nature of the court system. He will also know that the tribunal system arose after the war with the growth of the state. The Attlee Labour Government set up the tribunals to make it easier for specialism to grow in particular sectors of the state, for example in benefits, employment and in the area that we are discussing. Sir Andrew Leggatt recommended that there should be a second tier of appeal to correct decisions that tribunals get wrong.