HL Deb 15 July 2004 vol 663 c66WS
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Lord Filkin):

I am placing today in the Library of the House copies of the White Paper Transforming Public Services: Complaints, Redress and Tribunals.

The Government are committed to improving access to administrative justice and justice in the workplace. Central and local government make millions of decisions each year about the rights and obligations of individuals and where things go wrong the public have the right to expect swift resolution. Similarly, employees are entitled to fair and decent standards in the workplace and some means of redress where these standards are breached. Tribunals deal with about 1 million cases a year. They are one means of redress, but not the only means.

This White Paper sets out the Government's vision for an improved and seamless system of dispute resolution. Sir Andrew Leggatt, in his report Tribunals for Users, identified how tribunals can offer a better service for users. We have already announced our intention to accept the central theme of that report and create within the Department for Constitutional Affairs a single tribunal service, bringing together most central government tribunals.

But this White Paper goes a step further. The basis for the new organisation will be the largest tribunal organisations administered by central government, collectively responsible for more than 90 per cent of tribunal cases. But the organisation we are creating will be more than just a federation of existing tribunals. This will be a new organisation and a new type of organisation. It will have a remit to innovate, looking at alternative methods of resolving disputes and stimulating improved decision making so that the need for disputes does not arise. We intend that it will formally come into being in April 2006 but we are recruiting a chief executive now.

This approach to proportionate dispute resolution is the first manifestation of the department's new strategy for helping users of the justice system to resolve issues without recourse to formal hearings.

To help us to deliver this new approach we also intend to create a more unified and cohesive corps of tribunal panel members better equipped to deliver the service that users expect, while continuing to provide and enhance both their independence and their expertise. To provide the tribunal judiciary with leadership through this time of change and beyond into the new service we intend to create in statute the post of Senior President of Tribunals. The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales has asked Lord Justice Robert Carnwath to act as Senior President designate in advance of legislation.

We also believe that this new approach to administrative justice requires a new, more strategic organisation to oversee it so we plan to create an Administrative Justice Council, based on the existing Council on Tribunals which currently supervises the work of tribunals in England, Scotland and Wales.