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Division No. 1


Addington, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Calverley, L.
Carlisle, E.
Dacre of Glanton, L.
Falkland, V.
Geraint, L.
Goodhart, L. [Teller.]
Hooson, L.
Ludford, B.
McNally, L.
Maddock, B.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Meston, L.
Methuen, L.
Newby, L.
Perry of Walton, L.
Razzall, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Russell, E. [Teller.]
Sandberg, L.
Steel of Aikwood, L.
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Thomas of Swynnerton, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Tope, L.
Tordoff, L.
Ullswater, V.
Waddington, L.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Williams of Crosby, B.
Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.
Wynford, L.


Acton, L.
Ampthill, L.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Ashley of Stoke, L.
Barnett, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Berkeley, L.
Blease, L.
Borrie, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Burlison, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.
Carter, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Coleraine, L.
Craig of Radley, L.
Currie of Marylebone, L.
David, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Davies of Oldham, L.
Desai, L.
Dixon, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Erroll, E.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Ewing of Kirkford, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Fitt, L.
Gallacher, L.
Gilbert, L.
Gladwin of Clee, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Hanworth, V.
Hardie, L.
Hardy of Wath, L.
Haskel, L. [Teller.]
Hattersley, L.
Hayman, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Islwyn, L.
Janner of Braunstone, L.
Jay of Paddington, B.
Jeger, B.
Jenkins of Putney, L.
Kennedy of The Shaws, B.
Lockwood, B.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Lovell-Davis, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller.]
Mallalieu, B.
Mason of Barnsley, L.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Milner of Leeds, L.
Mishcon, L.
Molloy, L.
Monkswell, L.
Montague of Oxford, L.
Morris of Manchester, L.
Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Nicol, B.
Orme, L.
Palmer, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Prys-Davies, L.
Puttnam, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Renwick of Clifton, L.
Richard, L. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Rogers of Riverside, L.
Sefton of Garston, L.
Sewel, L.
Simon, V.
Simon of Highbury, L.
Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Stone of Blackheath, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Thomas of Macclesfield, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Varley, L.
Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Whitty, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.
Winston, L.
Young of Old Scone, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

20 Apr 1998 : Column 975

6.26 p.m.

Lord Goodhart moved Amendment No. 16:

Page 7, line 42, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 16. The purpose of Amendments Nos. 16 and 17 is to retain the three-month period for appeal and give greater discretion to allow appeals out of time. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hardie, confirmed at Committee stage, the Government intend to impose by regulations a one-month limit for appeals to appeal tribunals. It is true, as the Government have said, that most people if they intend to appeal do so within one month, but those who do not are likely to be the most vulnerable: the disabled, the mentally ill, the very old, the immigrant and the illiterate. They are the people who need help. While there are organisations which will give claimants help, they may not know where to go. They may take some time to find out where to go to get help. The organisations which provide help may take some time to organise a visit or meeting to enable claimants to find out what the situation is and to give them advice as to whether an appeal should be brought and how to bring it.

At Committee stage I read comments by the Richmond citizens advice bureau. I do not propose to repeat them at this stage. Those passages can be found at col. 416 of the Official Report of 2nd April. Those

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comments are made by people who have great experience of the system and I believe that they make a very strong case for a longer and more flexible time in which to appeal. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hardie, said that the appeal period de facto would be two months because time would run only from the end of the one-month dispute period. I am not clear what is meant by "dispute period", but I understand from what the noble and learned Lord has said that that period arises only if some action is taken by a claimant within one month of the decision to query that decision. Effectively, we are back where we started; that is, people who do not know what to do will not initiate the dispute provision.

The problem occasioned by the reduction in time for an appeal would matter less if there were greater flexibility in allowing leave to appeal out of time. The present position is that under regulations made in February 1996 time limits can be extended only if an appeal has reasonable prospects of success and it is in the interests of justice to grant leave. The reference to "interests of justice" has been interpreted very narrowly. Under the existing practice of tribunals the power to extend the time limit is considered to apply only if there are special reasons which are wholly exceptional. In the view of the citizens advice bureau, in practice it is virtually impossible under the present system to obtain leave to appeal out of time.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hardie, said that new regulations for setting time limits would be discussed with the interested parties. However, in replying to this amendment at the Committee stage, he gave no undertaking to relax the present criteria for leave to appeal out of time. If the regulations provided that a chairman of the tribunal or another legally qualified member of the panel could give leave to appeal out of time whenever the complainant had a reasonable excuse for failing to comply with the time limit, that would to a very great extent draw the sting of the reduction in the standard time for making an appeal.

Is the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate willing to accept that the corollary of shortening the time is that the present criteria for appealing out of time should be relaxed and leave to appeal should be capable of being given whenever there is a reasonable excuse for failing to comply with the time limit?

6.30 p.m.

Lord Borrie: My Lords, at the Committee stage I spoke generally in favour of the amendment, partly because the Government had already indicated that most people made their application within a month. It was not logical to say that just because most people made their application within a month that should be a rule, an outside limit, and that anybody who applied outside one month would not be entitled to make a claim.

The argument goes completely the other way. If there are only a few people who apply beyond the month, why are the Government being so rigid in saying that there must be a one-month time limit? The Government must bear in mind the kind of points made by the noble

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Lord, Lord Goodhart, both today and more extensively at the Committee stage and the quotations of the Richmond CAB and so on.

As to the point that the kind of people who are likely to apply for social security benefits need advice and do not know where to go, I suggest that they may go to the citizens' advice bureau or some other adviser. They in turn then need time to consider whether the claim is justified, and before you know where you are the four weeks are up. The Government suggest that only in a minority of cases more than a month expires before the claim is made.

In response in Committee, my noble and learned friend the Lord Advocate mentioned the dispute period, which would add one month. I would be grateful if the noble and learned Lord could explain that further. As I understand it, if in the example I mentioned the CAB--which is a lot more knowledgeable than individual claimants about these things--simply put in a claim without any reasoning it would have another three or four weeks in which to substantiate the claim. The claim would then be allowable.

If that is so, the Government have modified what some thought was the rather rigid position of having only one month within which to make a claim. I am not sure that that entirely solves the problem because, as I asked a moment ago, if only a relatively few number of claimants claim outside the one month period, why do the Government stand firm on this being an outside limit with no possibility of the claim being made at a later date?

Lord Hardie: My Lords, perhaps I may first respond to the points raised in relation to Amendment No. 16 where it is proposed to change the word "may" to "shall" in Clause 12(7). I can assure the House that we will make regulations under the power in Clause 12(7) to prescribe the time and manner in which appeals may be brought. As I indicated in Committee, in this context "may" and "shall" have the same meaning. It is drafting convention that leads us to prefer "may".

The real issue is Amendment No. 17, which seeks to ensure that the time limit for appealing is not less than three months. As I stated in Committee, the Government intend to make regulations setting a time limit of one month in which an appeal can be made. We have previously stressed our view that rights go hand in hand with responsibilities. A person who is dissatisfied with the decision has the right to appeal, but the responsibility to do so within the time limit rests with the appellant. We believe that one month is a reasonable period and most appellants make their appeal within one month.

As to my noble friend Lord Borrie's point, if people know that they have a month within which to appeal they will aim to achieve that target. The one-month period must also be seen in the context of the dispute period. That point was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart. The effect of the dispute period and the appeal period is that

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effectively one has two months within which to lodge an appeal. The decision will be issued and there will be one month in which to dispute it.

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