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Pensions Tribunals

Volume 466: debated on Monday 4 July 1949

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asked the Attorney General whether he is aware that war pensions (special review) tribunals are hearing and deciding cases in the absence of an appellant, without the appellant being given prior permission for this course to be followed; and whether he will cause these tribunals to follow the normal rules laid down for the conduct of pensions appeal tribunals by the Lord Chancellor and the Lord President of the Court of Session.

I am aware of the practice referred to by the hon. and gallant Member. A few cases have been heard by the special review tribunals in the absence of the appellant, but only when the appellant has previously failed to appear without explanation. It is clearly in the public interest that the review of cases, which is being carried out by this special machinery, should not be allowed to drag on interminably. Some months ago, when the bulk of cases had been disposed of and it was realised that the chief obstacle to the early completion of the review was the large number of adjourned cases, it was decided that in certain circumstances appeals should be heard ex parte. This has been done in an extremely small number of cases and only after notice had been given to the appellants concerned that their cases might be heard in their absence if they failed to attend. Had any of these appellants indicated a desire to attend by asking for an adjournment his request would certainly have been granted. In the circumstances, my noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor does not propose that the statutory rules of procedure which bind the pensions appeals tribunals should be extended in every particular to the special review tribunals which are a non-statutory body whose object is merely to advise the Minister on the question of granting ex gratia pensions.