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Clause 6 - Reviews and appeals

Mesothelioma Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:45 am on 12th December 2013.

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Photo of Stephen Phillips Stephen Phillips Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham 11:45 am, 12th December 2013

I beg to move amendment 24, in clause 6, page 3, line 36, after ‘scheme’, insert

‘by a person other than the person who took the original decision’.

Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley

With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment 25, in clause 6, page 4, line 5, at end add—

‘(5) An appeal from the decision of the First-tier Tribunal shall lie to the relevant court, but only with the permission of that court and rules of court may be made accordingly.

(6) In this section—

(a) “First-tier Tribunal” shall mean the tribunal established by the scheme to hear appeals against a decision taken on review;

(b) “the relevant court” means—

(i) the High Court in England and Wales or Northern Ireland, or

(ii) the Court of Session in Scotland.’.

Photo of Stephen Phillips Stephen Phillips Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

Clause 6 deals with reviews and appeals, and makes provision for an applicant seeking compensation under the proposed scheme to request a review of a decision—self-evidently that would be an adverse decision. The clause is therefore an important mechanism by which those who are entitled to compensation that they are initially wrongfully denied may seek to have the decision reviewed in their favour. The amendments would expand on those rights and, in one respect, clarify them, although the Minister may, in any event, be able to clarify matters now.

At the moment, the clause provides that a review should take place, but it does not say before whom it should take place. It is obviously important that whoever reviews the initial decision is totally separate from the individual who reached it. All hon. Members have experience of authorities that make decisions and judgements about people’s rights then effectively reviewing their own decisions. That is obviously unsatisfactory and, not surprisingly, it rarely leads to original decisions being reversed.

Amendment 24 would make it clear in subsection (1) that an applicant’s right to request a review of any decision under the scheme is a right to a review by someone other than the person who made the original decision. The Minister may say that the regulations setting up the scheme will make that clear. If he is prepared to give an undertaking to the Committee that that will be in the regulations, the amendment will be unnecessary.

Amendment 25 would deal with the situation when, following a review, the decision still goes against the applicant. In those circumstances, the applicant obviously would have lost twice—on the original decision and then on the review. However, the review will be administrative—it will not take place before a court—so applicants who are twice denied the compensation to which they believe they are entitled will rightly feel aggrieved that they had never had their day in court. The amendment would therefore add two provisions to permit an appeal from the first-tier tribunal, which I understand is the body of last resort, to the relevant court: the High Court in England and Wales, and the Court of Session in Scotland. Again, the Minister may be able to satisfy me that there are alternative routes by which decisions reached wrongly and adversely to an applicant could come before the courts, such as by way of judicial review. If he can say that that is the case, or if he will reflect before Report on whether that will be the case, I will be sufficiently satisfied not to press the amendment.

The amendments would ensure that a suitable review and appeal structure was in place so that those wrongfully denied the compensation to which they are entitled under the scheme would have recourse to a process that ensures that they receive that compensation.

Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

On amendment 24, we intend to address the issue in regulations to ensure that the person who made the initial decision is not the person who looks at it on review.

On amendment 25, we do not intend to interfere with the first-tier tribunal under the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007. Its decision will be binding. However—I will be happy to discuss this with my hon. and learned Friend before Report—if an applicant is not happy with a decision, that will not stop them from going to the Court of Appeal.

Photo of Stephen Phillips Stephen Phillips Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

On the basis of the Minister’s first assurance, I will be happy to withdraw amendment 24. I will not press amendment 25 at this stage, but if he cannot satisfy me before Report, although I am sure that he will, given that he is such a good “bluerk”—

Photo of Stephen Phillips Stephen Phillips Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

The hon. Gentleman should ask the hon. Member for Wansbeck.

I reserve the right to return to amendment 25 on Report, but I beg to ask leave to withdraw amendment 24.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 6 ordered to stand part of the Bill.