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The Tribunal

Volume 76: debated on Wednesday 3 April 1985

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With this it will be convenient to take the following amendments: No. 122, in page 11, line 4, leave out from 'members' to end of line 6.

No. 123, in page 11, line 4, leave out 'each' and insert 'one of whom holds or has held a high judicial office and two others'.

There is a principle in life in Britain: when in doubt about starting any particular set-up, one brings on the lawyers. I am not particularly attacking lawyers. All that I am seeking to do in amendments Nos. 121 and 122 is to end the monopoly of lawyers—in other words, to end the requirement that only people with a legal qualification can be members of the tribunal. That would not stop Ministers appointing lawyers, but they would not be obliged to do so.

Amendment No. 121 gives the Minister discretion to appoint more or less than five members of the tribunal. The amendments are simple and I hope that the Minister is sympathetic to them.

Amendment No. 123 is in part motivated by the considerations which led the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Dubs) to move his amendment. It recognises that the Government think that the tribunal should have a quasi-judicial role, that it should therefore be presided over by a judge, and that a majority of tribunal members should have a legal background.

Other experience and expertise, in addition to legal expertise, might be of value to the tribunal. Technical expertise such as that offered by hon. Members who have participated in the debate might be useful. A tribunal consisting solely of people with legal expertise might he a little confining. I hope that the Minister agrees that greater flexibility is required.

Only yesterday we decided through a Government amendment that the tribunal would act as the High Court would act on hearing an application for a judicial review. The tribunal will have a quasi-judicial role and it is therefore appropriate that lawyers should discharge its functions. I say that not because lawyers alone are able to reach balanced judgments, but because legal training is particularly desirable for members of the tribunal.

We do not say that only legal qualifications are needed. The tribunal must comprise people with wide experience and proven maturity of judgment. We stick to the view that tribunal members should be lawyers but that they should not just be lawyers. The Government intend the tribunal to include in its membership people with a wide experience of affairs. That should give some comfort to hon. Members. We do not think it necessary that the tribunal should include someone who has held high judicial office. I hope that the amendment will be withdrawn.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule I agreed to.