20 November 2007
Senior President hails the quiet evolution of Tribunals
Lord Justice Carnwath, the first Senior President of Tribunals, has set out his vision on the reform of the tribunals’ service, which is now underway.
Speaking at the first ever conference of the Administrative Justice & Tribunals Council, he said:
“The Tribunals Service currently hears nearly 600,000 cases a year. The Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act has given us, the judiciary, and the administration the tools to begin a quiet evolution of that system into integrated & flexible structures well able to meet the increasing needs in civil justice arenas.”
The Senior President went on to emphasise that while tribunals covered a broad spectrum of issues – examples ranging from mental health to asylum to employment – there were also some common features linking all of them;
“The hallmarks of the tribunal system are the expertise and experience of its members, combined with the flexibility to develop and vary its procedures to suit the particular needs of its users, from single individuals to sophisticated city institutions.”
The structure of tribunals will change fundamentally, following the implementation of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007. That creates a two tier tribunal structure; the First Tier and an Upper tribunal. The Upper Tribunal will act as the uniform appeal route for jurisdictions within the First-tier. The First Tier will be divided into a number of broad subject ‘chambers’, led by Chamber Presidents.
Lord Justice Carnwath said:
“I see no reason why the Upper Tribunal should not acquire a status and authority in tribunal matters equivalent to that of the Administrative Court in relation to public law generally.”
One marked aspect of the reform has been the close collaboration and consensus between judges and administrators. The passing of the Act has now provided the legislative machinery to start the next phase, of implementing the reforms.
The Senior President also explained what his own, entirely new, role would entail:
“The legislation provides a summary of 14 different responsibilities, including for example the power to assign judges to chambers, and the power to make practice directions.
“Two responsibilities are modelled directly on the Lord Chief Justice’s for the uniformed judiciary; the power to make written representations to Parliament on matters of importance relating to tribunals and generally to represent the views of tribunal members to Parliament and Ministers.
“The second is the duty to make arrangements for ‘training, welfare and guidance’ for tribunal judges and members, a duty to be exercised in co-operation with the three chief justices of the United Kingdom.”
Lord Justice Carnwath also noted that the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act confirms unequivocally that tribunal judges and members are entitled to the same guarantee of judicial independence as their court colleagues under the Constitutional Reform Act.
Lord Justice Carnwath also noted that the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act confirms unequivocally that tribunal judges and members 1 are entitled to the same guarantee of judicial independence as their court colleagues under the Constitutional Reform Act.
Notes for Editors
1. That is, the offices listed in the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 Schedule 14.