§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services, in view of the fact that it is now taking between nine and 12 months for appeals to the national insurance commissioner to be held, what he intends to do to expedite the hearing of such cases.
§ Mr. Prentice
Appeals to the national insurance commissioners, who were re-594W titled social security commissioners under the Social Security Act 1980, are now in general taking just over 15 months to clear. There has been a gradual improvement since 1978, when the time for clearance was 18 months.
Nevertheless,as I recognised in my reply to the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Cartwright) on 26 November 1979, the situation is far from satisfactory.—[Vol. 974, c. 462–63.] In order to improve the position, three additional 595W commissioners have been appointed during the past 12 months. In addition, with a view to reducing the number of frivolous appeals, section 15 of the Social Security Act 1980 introduces a requirement for leave to appeal to a commissioner to be obtained from the local tribunal chairman or a commissioner. The provision will apply to appeals from unanimous decisions by local tribunals, and will come into effect from 24 November 1980.