HC Deb 05 August 1975 vol 897 cc343-5
Mr. Brittan

I beg to move Amendment No. 222, in page 68, line 1, after 'of ', insert: 'the Committee under this Act or'. This amendment leads to the provisions of the Bill providing for appeals to the Employment Appeal Tribunal. Under Clause 9 there are a number of ways by which an appeal can reach the appeal tribunal. Normally, an appeal will lie on a question of law from a decision of an industrial tribunal as a result of the Redundancy Payments Act, the Equal Pay Act, the Contracts of Employment Act, the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act and, after the enactment of this Bill, this Act.

We believe that an appeal should also lie from the Central Arbitration Committee and its deliberations. We think that it is wrong that the CAC, which carries out extremely important functions, sometimes on a compulsory basis if there has been failure to comply with a recommendation of the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service concerning a recognition or disclosure of information matter, should be a court not only of first but of last resort. It seems only right that, where we have a perfectly good appeal body such as the Employment Appeal Tribunal, which contains not only a High Court judge as its presiding officer but people with experience in industry, we can safely entrust appeals from the Central Arbitration Committee as well as from an industrial tribunal.

It may be said that, if the Central Arbitration Committee exceeds its powers in certain respects, even without any express provision for an appeal it would be possible to apply to the High Court for a prerogative order of Certiorari or man- damus. We do not believe that is a satisfactory or sufficient form of appeal, because the procedural limitations imposed on Certiorari mandamus and prohibition are considerable. They permit the High Court to intervene only if there have been procedural irregularities or gross errors in law in the operations of the Central Arbitration Committee. We think that there should be a general right of appeal.

8.45 p.m.

Mr. Booth

I am opposed to there being appeals from the decisions of the C. A. C. to the Employment Appeal Tribunal. Most of the decisions of the Central Arbitration Committee will be not judicial decisions but industrial arbitration awards and will therefore not be appropriate for appeal to a court of law. The CAC will have special expertise in these cases, which a court of law would not have.

Most of the functions of the Central Arbitration Committee will be similar to those exercised by the Industrial Arbitration Board, or, before that—since 1920—the old Industrial Court, namely, awards to settle disputes and to determine terms and conditions of employment. These have never been subject to appeal, and there is no case for so providing now. The object of these decisions, which in all cases are made in proceedings which come at the end of a long process of negotiation and conciliation in which no settlement has been reached, is to put an end to the dispute by providing the terms for settlement.

Provision for appeal would destroy the value of such arbitration and would, indeed, delay its finality. The force of this can be readily seen when one bears in mind that, if one had an appeal to the EAT, there could be a further appeal to the Court of Appeal and then to the House of Lords, so that what set out as an attempt to get swift and final determination of an issue by the Central Arbitration Committee could be the start of a long legal process. I do not believe that this would commend itself to those who would want to use the CAC, and I hope, therefore, that the amendment will not commend itself to the House.

Mr. Brittan

At the outset, I thought that the Minister was about to make a conciliatory statement to the effect that, although he could not allow a right of appeal from the Central Arbitration Committee throughout the length and breadth of its juridiction since so much of that would be pure arbitration, none the less, to the extent that the Central Arbitration Committee was engaging in legal functions and not just in pure industrial arbitration, he would consider the question of an appeal.

I had it in mind at that point to seek leave to withdraw the amendment, on the basis that that was really all we wanted, having put down an amendment calling for a general right of appeal in order to smoke the Minister out. Sadly, however, the hon. Gentleman has not gone along that happy and conciliatory path but has rejected the opportunity of appeal of any kind.

I accept that it is inappropriate that there should be a legal form of appeal in a straightforward arbitration situation, although I must remind the hon. Gentleman that in commercial arbitrations there is such a right of appeal, so that there is no magic in the concept of arbitration such as to render the idea of appeal inapplicable or inappropriate.

However, leaving that general argument aside, as regards the essentially legal functions of the Central Arbitration Committee, which, by implication, the Minister conceded do exist, in our view there is no argument against there being an appeal. Therefore, even if the matter will not be resolved to our satisfaction here, we hope that it will be considered and dealt with satisfactorily elsewhere.

Amendment negatived.

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