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

I am pleased to be here this morning to assist the Under-Secretary of State for Defence, my hon. Friend the Member for Hove (Mr. Caplin), and to represent the Government as a Minister at the Department for Constitutional Affairs on the important matter of the tribunal arrangements for our armed services. The

Government agree with the spirit of the amendment. We feel that the reasonable expenses of claimants should be met when taking a case to appeal. In that regard, we are introducing an amendment to clause 7, which I will get to in due course.

I want to explain what is available to people when they make applications. Both the pensions appeal tribunal and the social security commissioners provide for the expenses of claimants incurred in the course of a hearing. Accommodation and travel expenses are met, and the detail is set out in the pensions appeal tribunal rules and the procedural regulations under the Social Security Act 1998. The cost of rail travel or car mileage is paid. Subsistence is paid at a rate of £4.25 for five to 10 hours away from home. Overnight accommodation in London is also paid.

The community legal service—what some might think of as legal aid—can assist people in meeting other expenses incurred when taking a case before a tribunal. For example, the legal help scheme can provide up to £500-worth of assistance from a solicitor in preparing papers for appeal. However, the Government do not consider legal representation in front of a tribunal to be necessary. As my hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes (Shona McIsaac) mentioned, the general nature of the tribunal system, whether it involves a social security or an employment tribunal, is that people represent themselves.