HC Deb 21 April 1952 vol 499 cc18-9
31. Mr. Janner

asked the Minister of National Insurance whether he is aware that serious hardship is being caused to claimants who, owing to illness or otherwise, are prevented from appearing before the local National Insurance tribunal, and are not allowed to be represented there even by a near relative such as a son if he is a barrister or solicitor; and if he will amend Regulation 13 of the National Insurance (Determination of Claims and Questions) Regulations, 1948, to remedy this position.

34. Brigadier R. Medlicott

asked the Minister of National Insurance if his attention has been drawn to the case where the local National Insurance appeal tribunal at Skipton refused to allow a man to represent his mother at the hearing of an appeal in respect of her pension, on the ground that he was a solicitor; and if he will take steps to correct this anomalous interpretation of Regulation 13 of the National Insurance (Determination of Claims and Questions) Regulations, 1948.

Mr. Turton

Claimants who are ill can ask for the hearing of their cases to be postponed. The rule, which prohibits legal representation before local tribunals, has existed for over 30 years and has been reviewed on three occasions by independent committees, none of which has recommended its abolition. My right hon. Friend is not aware that hardship is being caused and does not think it necessary to propose any amendment of the Regulation.

The application of the Regulation to individual cases is a matter for the tribunal and the commissioner, with which my right hon. Friend cannot interfere.

Mr. Janner

Has the Minister's attention been drawn to the fact that at a local appeals tribunal at Skipton a solicitor, who was looking after the affairs of his mother, who had been bedridden for three months, was not allowed to represent her at the hearing? Does not that create a ridiculous position, and will the hon. Gentleman not go into the matter again?

Mr. Turton

It would be very improper for me to comment upon the finding of a tribunal when that matter might be the subject of an appeal to a commissioner. That is a matter in which no Minister could properly interfere.

Brigadier Medlicott

Is the Minister aware that the right of a citizen to be represented by an advocate has, in fact, existed from time immemorial and the modern tendency to interfere with this right is a great deprivation to those who are not blessed with the gift of fluent speech? Will the hon. Gentleman look at the whole Regulation again?

Mr. Turton

My hon. Friend must realise that this has been a Regulation for the last 30 years. Committees have been appointed to go into it and they have all come to the conclusion that it is the fairest way of expediting business and of securing justice for the claimant. Therefore, I cannot look into it again.

Mr. Janner

But has not this case to which I have referred been drawn to the attention of the Minister, and does he not think it a ludicrous position to find that a son, who happens to be a solicitor, is not allowed to appear before a tribunal in order to plead his mother's case? Will he please look into the matter and see what can be done about it?

Mr. Turton

I repeat it would be quite improper for me to comment upon a matter which may be the subject of an appeal.

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