HC Deb 09 June 1992 vol 209 cc137-8
10. Mr. Eastham

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what is the average time taken for employment appeal tribunals to deal with cases.

Mr. Michael Forsyth

The average length of time taken for a case to reach a hearing by the employment appeal tribunals is four months in Scotland and two years in England and Wales—(Interruption.] Like hon. Members, I am very concerned about the delays in England and Wales and we are taking action to help reduce them.

Mr. Eastham

I thank the Minister for that reply. The Equal Opportunities Commission considered a case against Lloyds Bank. The case was heard in September 1989 and succeeded. Lloyds appealed and there was a hearing in February 1992. The parties are still awaiting the judgment. If, at the end of the day, the Equal Opportunities Commission succeeds, it will not even receive interest on the money to which it is entitled.

Mr. Forsyth

The hon. Gentleman will understand that I cannot comment on specific cases. However, I agree that such delays and other current delays are unacceptable. We have made arrangements for additional judge time to be made available through my right hon. Friend the Lord Chancellor. We will also be introducing legislative proposals to allow the employment appeal tribunals president to sit alone in certain cases. Also, additional court and administrative staff have been appointed.

Sir Dudley Smith

Will my hon. Friend remind those who bring cases of their responsibilities? Is he aware that a firm in my constituency has twice within recent years been taken before a tribunal only to find that the appellant did not turn up? Considerable legal costs were incurred by the firm concerned.

Mr. Forsyth

I am sure that my hon. Friend will forgive me if I do not comment on a specific case. It must be in the interests of good industrial relations and good practice if the EAT procedure operates smoothly and effectively. I am sure that there may be something to be learnt from experience north of the border.

Mr. Skinner

If the Minister is going to review the scandalous waiting time of more than two years for appeals, will he consider reverting to what used to happen when people who had been in work for six months were allowed to appeal to an industrial tribunal instead of having to wait until they had been in work for two years? Do that as well.

Mr. Forsyth

The hon. Gentleman, uncharacteristically, seems to be confusing two things. The question is on employment appeal tribunals, and I have given an assurance in that respect. He is tempting me to go into a wholly different area—a temptation which I shall resist.