Clause 4

Part of Employment Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee am 11:30 am ar 14 Hydref 2008.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Jonathan Djanogly Jonathan Djanogly Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Solicitor General, Shadow Minister (Justice), Shadow Solicitor General 11:30, 14 Hydref 2008

This is a probing amendment, to open up this important clause to wider discussion and perhaps clarification.

Michael Gibbons’s 2007 report “Better Dispute Resolution: A review of employment dispute resolution in Great Britain” recommended that some cases before the tribunal should be dealt with by a fast-track procedure. His emphasis was on the settlement of monetary disputes on issues such as wages, redundancy and holidays, as the legal points at issue were simple and would be resolved more quickly by expert determination. However, in the debate in the other place the matter got confused, and it is necessary to make it clear when a full tribunal hearing is required and when a fast-track individual hearing is appropriate. Specifically, there seemed to be confusion in the other place about whether the Government intended the process to apply solely to monetary claims.

The balance that must be struck is between comprehensiveness, fairness and cost. The aim of an abbreviated fast-track process must be to deal quickly and fairly with those cases that do not need a full tribunal. I support proposals for a system that, in the words of the Minister in the other place,

“will deliver swift and effective justice and help many claimants to receive redress early, potentially relieving them from hardship and uncertainty”.

The Minister went on:

“Respondents will also benefit from having cases determined at an early stage, freeing them to concentrate on their businesses.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 4 February 2008; Vol. 698, c. 487.]

That is all well and good, but care must be taken not to place an individual in a weaker position for the sake of expediency. We need to limit the role of single-member tribunals to dealing with those cases that are so clear-cut as to be almost procedural. There is something worrying about limiting a claimant’s right to a review by a full panel in all but the most simple and incontestable cases.

If we are to introduce a written consent process, as envisaged by proposed new subsection (3AA) to section 7 of the Employment Tribunals Act 1996, provision must be made to ensure that that cannot be abused. I am especially concerned about the role of deemed consent to a single-person tribunal. To that end, I would be grateful if the Minister could make clear to the Committee the limits of the proposed new subsection: the claims to which the fast-track process would apply, and what form consent in writing to a single-member tribunal would take.