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Lord Goodhart: My Lords, I welcome the amendments. I hope that it will be possible to give an equally warm welcome to the regulations when they are laid before the House.

Lord Hardie: My Lords, the regulations will, of course, be framed in consultation with the President of the Independent Tribunal Service and the ad hoc group, which includes NACAB and others. It is intended that they will deal with a requirement that tribunals on incapacity-to-work cases would include a medical practitioner and that cases on disability living allowance would require a doctor and someone with experience of disability, as well as a lawyer.

Secondly, the regulations concerning the allocation of cases would ensure that similar cases were allocated consistently to similar types of tribunals. Administrators would be able to seek the advice of a legally qualified member of the panel if, exceptionally, there were any doubt about the appropriate constitution of the tribunal to consider an appeal. These matters will all be dealt with in the detail of the regulations. I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, and others will scrutinise them carefully when they come before this House.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Hardie moved Amendment No. 10:

Page 4, line 23, at end insert--
("( ) Regulations shall make provision with respect to--
(a) the composition of appeal tribunals;
(b) the procedure to be followed in allocating cases among differently constituted tribunals; and
(c) the manner in which expert assistance is to be given under subsection (4) above.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 11 not moved.]

Schedule 1 [Appeal tribunals: supplementary provisions]:

Baroness Anelay of St. Johns moved Amendment No. 12:

Page 57, line 41, leave out ("Secretary of State") and insert ("President").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 12, with the leave of the House I shall speak also to Amendment No. 13. Similar amendments

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were moved in Committee by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell. Today I seem continually to persist in stealing his good ideas. The effect of the amendments is to give the president of tribunals power to,

    "appoint such officers and staff as he thinks fit for the President and for appeal tribunals".

I supported these amendments in Committee when they were moved by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, because they raise a fundamental issue which extends to all courts and tribunals; that is, what is to be the relationship between the judiciary and administrators? When the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, withdrew the amendments in Committee, he said that what troubled him about the response of the Lord Advocate was that there seemed to be little indication in his reply that the Government had reflected upon this difficult question.

I brought back the amendments on Report to give the Government an opportunity to tell the House whether or not they have been able to reflect further and also whether or not the Minister has now read the report, Tribunals, their Organisation and Independence. I note that at Committee stage the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, in his customary generous manner, offered to supply the Lord Advocate with a free copy. I beg to move.

Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, I share the curiosity of the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay. I rise only to add one factual point to what is known already to your Lordships; that is, I came prepared with a copy of the report of the Council on Tribunals, only to discover that my noble and learned friend had already procured a copy for himself.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Hardie: My Lords, I can confirm that I have read the report.

Amendments Nos. 12 and 13 seek to transfer from my right honourable friend the Secretary of State to the president of appeal tribunals the responsibility for appointing officers and staff for himself and for those tribunals.

It is clear from the full debate in Committee and from the points raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, today that the concerns centre on three issues. First, the potential for undermining the independence of the appeals system if responsibility for the administration of appeals is removed from the president; secondly, the potential for conflict between the president and the administration in terms of accountability; and, thirdly, the potential for a conflict of interest if the Secretary of State is responsible both for first-tier decisions and the administration of appeals.

I propose to address each of those issues in turn. But first I should like to reiterate a point I made in Committee. The Government's proposal to transfer the responsibility for administration from the president to the Secretary of State, and to establish an executive agency to deal solely with the administration of appeals, so that administration is separated from the judicial

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function is not a new or strange concept within appeals systems. Rather, it is the current system of a judge as president with responsibility for administrative as well as judicial functions, which is unique to the Independent Tribunal Service.

Separation of administration and judicial functions happens in other appeal systems; for example, pensions appeal tribunals are administered by the Court Service, an executive agency; industrial tribunals and employment appeal tribunals are administered by the Employment Tribunals Service, also an executive agency. Our proposals will mirror those arrangements.

The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, suggested that the independence of the president and of appeal tribunals would be enhanced if the president retained his current responsibility for appointing administrative staff to support their work. In saying that, I am assuming that the noble Baroness is adopting the argument of my noble and learned friend Lord Archer of Sandwell.

We are fully committed to preserving the independence of the president, of appeal tribunals and of the decisions they make. The provisions we have made in Clauses 5 and 6 for the Lord Chancellor to appoint the president and all panel members enhances their independence. The president will be the judicial head of appeal tribunals. He will be responsible for approving panel members for their expertise and suitability to deal with particular types of appeal. He will also be responsible for arranging the training of all panel members, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officers and the Secretary of State, as appropriate. I can assure noble Lords that the Secretary of State will have no role in the functions of appeal tribunals or in the decisions they make.

During Committee and again today, reference was made to a report by the Council on Tribunals, Tribunals, their Organisation and Independence. I have now had the opportunity to read the report and have found that it is generally supportive of the measures we are introducing. I do not propose to go through the areas in which I found support, but if noble Lords require clarification, I can do so. There are eight in number.

On the question of accountability, my noble and learned friend Lord Archer suggested during Committee that if the senior administrator or chief executive were answerable to the president, it would be the president who could be summoned to the Public Accounts Committee. Currently, the president is responsible for the administrative as well as judicial functions and he delegates responsibility for administration to a chief executive. However, neither the president nor the chief executive is accountable to Parliament for the performance of ITS.

This lack of accountability for performance within the existing system has the effect of limiting improvements in efficiency and service to claimants. We intend to put that right by separating responsibility for administration from judicial functions, an approach endorsed by the Council on Tribunals. Importantly, the chief executive may be appointed accounting officer, directly responsible to Parliament for the public money spent on administration and the efficiency of the service provided.

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We do not believe that the changes we are making provide the potential for a conflict of interest. The setting up of an executive agency to deal with the administration of appeals is a measure which is welcomed by the Child Poverty Action Group, among others. Agency status will enable the new appeals service to operate at arm's length from Ministers, and separate from the agencies that are involved in first-tier decision-making.

It is the Secretary of State and not the president who will be responsible for the appeals service as a whole and it is she who will be accountable to this House for the standards of administration and the public money spent. In view of her responsibility and accountability, we believe the Secretary of State should exercise the power, through the appeals agency chief executive, to appoint administrative staff to support the president and appeal tribunals.

I hope that I have been able to reassure noble Lords that our proposals for the new system are already tried and tested in other systems and that the essential elements of it are supported by the Council on Tribunals' report and welfare rights organisations. For those reasons, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Anelay of St. Johns: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for reflecting further and for reading the report of the Council on Tribunals. Like him, I will not list specific areas in the report, in my case where they do not agree with the Government's way forward. However, I take seriously the arguments he put forward with regard to accountability issues and I shall read carefully what he said in Hansard. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 13 not moved.]

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