Select Committee on Constitution Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1040 - 1049)



  1040. It is a rehearing.
  (Sir Christopher Bellamy) It is in a sense a rehearing, but they are starting from scratch and redoing it all.
  (Mr Dhanowa) It is an inquiry which is triggered by a reference made by the regulator as a result of him/her being unable to reach an agreement about the regulated undertaking. So in a sense the regulated undertaking is drawn into it through unilateral action by the regulator.

  1041. One other question just on the frivolous hearings to which you referred earlier. I guess you have not had too many, but you might well have as the widening powers that are available to you take effect. How would you deal with frivolous appeals? Have you got a form of sanction such as costs?
  (Sir Christopher Bellamy) We have a cost sanction.

  1042. And this is the best sanction?
  (Sir Christopher Bellamy) That is the best sanction, yes.


  1043. I want to come back to the point about accountability. You are a mechanism of accountability, but in terms of your own accountability, you have explained the extent to which you could be challenged on a point of law or in certain cases brought to the Court of Appeal and so on. Is it appropriate for you to be accountable beyond that in terms of at least answering questions before a Committee of Parliament? Have you had to   give evidence to any other Select Committee previously?
  (Sir Christopher Bellamy) I have not been invited to give evidence to a Select Committee in this capacity. I would have thought, though I am somewhat thinking aloud, that if it is in relation to the quality or content of our decisions that might raise one or two constitutional issues that would need to be thought about. If it is in relation to the use of our budgetary resources, how we run our operation and administrative matters of that sort then we are subject to the normal audit arrangements of the PAC and the National Audit Commission and so forth. We have arrangements in place, I hope, to deal with all that side of it. We are a small operation as you can imagine, but we should certainly be accountable administratively, but I would have thought it would be more difficult to explain one's judicial decisions.

  1044. Indeed. So you are accountable to the PAC.
  (Sir Christopher Bellamy) We have arrangements to agree with the Department, they are not fully finalised yet, various operational targets as to how we operate and so forth and what we can achieve within that time limit.

  1045. If one was looking at the method of assessment in terms of how you were doing it, it would be in terms of the content of your appeals mechanism, it would be more an operational matter.
  (Sir Christopher Bellamy) Yes. I am very content with measurements of our output and our staff hours and all that sort of thing.

  1046. You were mentioning earlier the point about transparency and what you are doing in terms of the amount of material you make available on the internet. So that would be a mechanism for checking up.
  (Sir Christopher Bellamy) For technical reasons we have not quite reached Hutton-type levels, but we are moving in that direction. We put as much as we can into the public domain.

  1047.There are the measures that have now been enacted that affect your position. Presumably it would be entirely appropriate if you were invited to comment on further changes in terms of the process itself. Would you be happy with the actual appeals process?
  (Sir Christopher Bellamy) Yes.

  1048. Given your judicial nature that is really as far as one could go in terms of any element of wider accountability.
  (Sir Christopher Bellamy) Yes.

  1049. Any other questions by members of the Committee? I think that covers everything. That has been extremely helpful to us. I think it has given us a clear picture now of the Tribunal in its new form and how it is starting to operate. We are most grateful to you. Thank you both very much indeed.
  (Sir Christopher Bellamy) Thank you.

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