Reform of Devolved Tribunals

2. Questions to the Counsel General and Minister for the Constitution – in the Senedd at on 6 March 2024.

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4. What progress has been made on the reform of devolved tribunals? OQ60789

Photo of Mick Antoniw Mick Antoniw Labour 2:23, 6 March 2024

Our White Paper consultation on reform of the devolved tribunals closed in October 2023 and the summary of responses was published in January. I am grateful to those who responded and whose contribution is shaping the policy for legislative proposals. We continue to engage with stakeholders as work progresses.

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Diolch, Cwnsler Cyffredinol. One argument in favour of setting up a first-tier tribunal with multiple chambers is the opportunity to save money, to allow for the pooling of resources into a single pot, which then can be allocated flexibly in line with demand and will allow for tribunal users to access specialist services that they made not be able to otherwise. I was concerned to see recently that members of Welsh Tribunals will not be getting a similar increase in their pay in comparison to their English counterparts. Will the Welsh Government guarantee that members of a future joint first-tier tribunal for Wales will have pay of similar levels to their colleagues in England, or the concern is that we will lose people to tribunals across the border? Diolch yn fawr.

Photo of Mick Antoniw Mick Antoniw Labour 2:24, 6 March 2024

Thank you for the point. This is a matter that, obviously, was discussed between the First Minister and the president of tribunals, and, indeed, me. Considerable time and thought was given to the decision on the pay award for members of Welsh Tribunals. Our decision was to award 5 per cent compared to the 7 per cent awarded by the UK Government for those sitting in reserved tribunals, some of whom, of course, do also sit in devolved—. Some sit on our tribunals but also some in non-devolved tribunals. So, our decision was taken bearing in mind the overall financial position, budgetary constraints, but also the importance of valuing public sector workers equitably. No sector for which Welsh Ministers are the primary decision makers on pay matters has received more than 5 per cent for the 2023-24 financial year.

There is an intention to establish parity within the tribunal system, and the reform of our tribunals provides an opportunity to do that because the issue of reform and the creation of a first-tier tribunal system, and indeed an appellate structure, isn’t just on the percentage rates that might apply in one particular year to tribunal members, but it is about looking across the six or seven chambers that there will be, how those will operate, but also the broader terms and conditions, the amount of time there is for preparation, the amount of work in particular types of tribunals, and so on. So, I think, as part of our tribunal reform, there is actually a broader need to look across the whole picture of what will become the Welsh tribunal system and to look at how this can be achieved. That is something I believe is part of the preparations for the legislation and part of the issues that will arise around it, and that there will be a need to have that engagement broadly and, indeed, with members of the judiciary themselves, in order to achieve something that is at least as equitable as, if not better and more appropriate than, what exists at the moment.