Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1040
WEDNESDAY 12 NOVEMBER 2003
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,
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
(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
(Sir Christopher Bellamy) Yes. I am very content with
measurements of our output and our staff hours and all that sort
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
(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.