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I have one question on the clause, which I otherwise support. In some parts of the country, including my own borough, there are well established, well used and respected mediation services that deal with many of the issues that are covered by tribunals. Do the Government envisage that either in the legislation or subsequently, the mediation service provided by the Tribunals Service as described in the Bill, will include, incorporate or link with well established, recognised and respected mediation services? I understand that the first step in the process might involve a mediator inviting opposing parties to talk to one another before going to tribunal. If Ministers or officials have not thought about that before, will they do so now?
There is some very good mediation practice out there. I was talking to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, Central, who said that as far as she knows there is no such service in the middle of Cardiff. The mediation service in Southwark is by repute one of the most long standing and best regarded. Rather than creating new bodies, we ought to be folding in existing provision for mediation. I would like there to be a link between the tribunal and a mediation service. That way, a tribunal could tell someone that it would like them first to talk to the mediation service, which could subsequently report back when it had done what it could. In such a situation, the mediation service would be linked to and recognised by the tribunal.
The provisions in clause 24 are enabling provisions, so they can embrace any kind of mediation. Most immediately, the Government have in mind mediation by tribunal members and staff, which seems to be a wise way forward, but there is absolutely nothing to prevent the involvement of community mediators such as the those to which the hon. Gentleman referred. I know of one such very good scheme in Wandsworth. The county court in Manchester had an excellent scheme that is now being rolled out in other areas and which might be included.
Essentially, mediation is fairly high on our agenda. Clause 24 was added in the House of Lords by the Opposition, not because we did not want mediation, but because we did not think it necessary to include a clause to enable it. That is exactly what it does; it will enable mediation and we will encourage it in whatever form is best for the parties.