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Courts and Tribunals

Volume 508: debated on Wednesday 24 March 2010

The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in the Budget today that the Ministry of Justice will be moving to bring together Her Majesty’s Courts Service and the Tribunals Service into a new single organisation.

Her Majesty’s Courts Service and the Tribunals Service between them provide the administration for the courts in England and Wales and most of the non-devolved tribunals in the United Kingdom. They share the common purpose of providing access to justice, whether in the criminal, civil or administrative justice fields. We aim to bring these broadly similar functions together into a new single organisation for the efficient delivery of access to justice.

Creating a unified service holds out the prospect of significant benefits to the users of courts and tribunals, to the taxpayer and to the administration of justice generally. There is the potential for improved service provision for users through joint administration and shared hearing venues. The new arrangements will also facilitate the building of a unified judicial family in England and Wales.

The new structure will preserve the unique and distinctive features of both systems while taking advantage of the benefits to users, judges and staff from closer working. We will ensure that the statutory responsibilities of both the Lord Chief Justice for the courts and the Senior President of Tribunals for the tribunals are respected and preserved. There are also a number of important differences between the two organisations which will need to be given careful consideration in planning for the new organisation. These include the different territorial coverage of HMCS and the Tribunals Service, their different governance arrangements and judicial structures and the different regional and jurisdictional structures currently in place.

In addition, and following a recent public consultation on the future of the Parole Board, we will consider the opportunities that this new organisation offers to secure the board’s position in the justice system, so that it is best placed to deliver timely, rigorous and fair decisions.

A considerable amount of detailed planning will need to take place before the new organisation can be formed and we will be working together closely in the coming months to design arrangements that will work effectively and deliver the desired results. There will be full consultation on the developed proposals with those representing users of the courts and tribunals, the judiciary, trades unions and all of those affected in the Scottish and Northern Irish legal systems and wider public before implementation.