I have today published the Government response to the "Transforming Tribunals, Implementing Part 1 of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007" consultation paper. Copies have been made available in the Libraries of both Houses and are available on the internet at http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/cp3007.htm.
On behalf of the Government, I would like to thank all those who took the time to contribute to this extremely important debate on the future of tribunals delivery. Their insight and knowledge has proved invaluable in writing this response. The Government would also like to thank its Ministers and officials in other Government Departments for engagement and support in the implementation of the Act. In addition the Government are grateful to the Tribunal's Service senior judiciary for their contribution and guidance throughout the consultation period.
Part 1 of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 is a continuation of the reforms set into motion by Sir Andrew Leggatt in his paper "Tribunals for users: One System, One Service"(1). The 2007 Act creates a two-tier tribunal structure, the first-tier tribunal and upper tribunal, which will bring together existing Ministry of Justice tribunals and tribunals in other Government Departments. The first-tier tribunal will be the natural starting place for most jurisdictions, with onward appeal to the upper tribunal, which will also have the power to deal with judicial review work delegated from the High Court.
The response paper confirms that there will be social entitlement; general regulatory; health, education and social care; taxation and land, property and housing chambers in the first-tier tribunal and administrative appeals; finance and tax and lands chambers in the upper tribunal. Each of the chambers will be lead by chamber presidents under the supervision of the Tribunal Service senior president, Lord Justice Carnwath. All existing jurisdictions will be transferred into these chambers along with their judges and members. The Act allows for judges and members to sit in additional jurisdictions within their own or another chamber, if they satisfy the eligibility criteria for that chamber, and subject to training.
The Act also creates a "Tribunals Procedure Committee" that will be responsible for making tribunal procedure rules, and will bring greater consistency and simplicity to rules across jurisdictions. Appointments have been made to the Committee and it will shortly begin consultation on procedure rules for the new tribunals.
The Government are committed to ongoing transformation of the tribunal environment, placing the user at the very heart of the service. In addition to the statutory changes introduced by the Act, the Tribunals Service is also undertaking a programme of work creating a network of multi-jurisdictional hearing centres, re-engineering administrative processes to improve case management, and exploring alternatives to standard hearings such as mediation, conciliation, and support and advice services. The implementation of the Act works alongside this transformation and is a vital part of it.
(1) "Tribunals for Users: One System, One Service—Report of the Review of Tribunals" by Sir Andrew Leggatt, The Stationary Office, March 2000.