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National Insurance Commissioners (Appeals)

Volume 974: debated on Monday 26 November 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) what is the current average waiting time for an appeal hearing before the National Insurance Commissioners; and how this compares with the position over each of the past five years;(2) how many appellants were awaiting personal hearings before the National Insurance Commissioners at the most recent convenient date; and how this compares with the position in each of the past five years;(3) what steps he proposes to take to reduce the waiting period for appeals heard before the National Insurance Commissioners.

The table shows, for each of the years 1974 to 1978 and as at November 1979, the average waiting period for an appeal to be determined by the National Insurance Commissioners and the number of persons awaiting the determination of their cases:

YearAverage waiting period (months)Cases awaiting determination
I recognise that the present situation is very unsatisfactory. It has arisen through a variety of factors, including an increase in the number of appeals, the introduction of new benefits involving difficult questions of fact and medical evidence, and the impact of EEC legislation.Steps have been taken to increase the number of commissioners in post. In the past year, the number has been increased from 10 to 12 full-time commissioners, and two recently retired commissioners have been re-appointed on a part-time basis. An additional full-time commissioner has been appointed to take up duty on 3 December, and the need for a further appointment is under consideration. Though it may take a little time before the effect of these additional appointments is felt, I am hopeful that they will lead to a substantial improvement in the situation, which is being kept under close review.