HC Deb 08 November 1977 vol 938 cc50-1W
Mr. Madden

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when it is proposed to introduce a right of appeal from supplementary benefit appeal tribunal decisions to the High Court on a point of law; what progress has been made towards providing training courses for the tribunal chairmen; and whether a supplementary benefit appeal tribunal procedural guide has been prepared.

Mr. Orme

My noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor and my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate have made an order under Section 15(3) of the Tribunals and Inquiries Act 1971 granting a right of appeal on a point of law from supplementary benefit appeal tribunals to the High Court in England and Wales and to the Court of Session in Scotland. The order will come into force on 1st January 1978. This measure will not prevent further consideration of a second-tier appeal to a higher tribunal. No identifiable extra administrative costs are expected to be incurred as a result of the granting of a right of appeal.

The provision of training courses for tribunal chairmen and the preparation of a guide to supplementary benefit appeal tribunal procedure are well advanced. Both matters have been under the general supervision of an advisory group representing various interests including tribunal chairmen, the Council on Tribunals, the TUC and the Government Departments concerned. The detailed planning of the training has been the special task of a sub-group under the chairmanship of Professor A. W. Bradley, Faculty of Law, Edinburgh University, and including two serving supplementary benefit appeal tribunal chairmen and a representative of the TUC. Professor Bradley has also agreed to act initially as course co-ordinator, and I am grateful to him and his colleagues for the work they have done.

Starting this month, a series of weekend courses will be held at a number of training centres and universities, including one each in Scotland and Wales. Willingness to undergo training is now a condition of appointment or reappointment of tribunal chairmen; present chairmen should all have attended a course within the next year.

The guide to supplementary benefit appeal tribunal procedure should be published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office about the end of this year; it is intended primarily for the information, advice and assistance of the tribunal chairmen and members. Very considerable assistance has been given in its preparation by Mr. Desmond Neligan, OBE, a former national insurance commissioner.