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Period Within Which Proceedings To Be Brought

Volume 897: debated on Saturday 16 August 1975

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Lords amendment: No. 49, in page 44, line 28, leave out "three" and insert "six".

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

This amendment increases from three to six months the period from the date when the act complained of was done, within which proceedings may be brought in a county or sheriff court in respect of that act. Industrial tribunal proceedings would remain subject to their normal three-month limitation, which is in fact prescribed in subsection (1).

The institution of county or sheriff court proceedings however are rather slower, more formal, and more elaborate; and the potential litigant has to consider the question of cost and, possibly, apply for legal aid.

Having considered the matter, the Government concluded that a three-month period would be an unreasonably short period within which to require county or sheriff court proceedings to be instituted and we therefore decided to recommend a six-month period.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendment: No. 50, in page 44, line 43, leave out from "if" to end of line 45 and insert

"in all the circumstances of the case, it considers that it is just and equitable to do so".

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

As it stands, Clause 73(5) enables a court or tribunal to entertain a complaint out of time if it considers that it was not "reasonably practicable" for the complaint to have been brought within the prescribed period. In this amendment we are proposing that courts and tribunals should have a rather more generous discretion to entertain complaints out of time than that which is allowed them by the "reasonably practicable" test.

The principal argument in favour of extending this discretion is that because the individual complainant has to decide in which forum to bring her complaint, provision ought to be made for the complainant who institutes proceedings in one forum, only to discover that they should have been brought in the other, and that she is out of time in that other forum; that is, they should be able to entertain out of time complaints if it is "just and equitable" to do so.

Question put and agreed to.