The Tribunals Service has undergone a radical shake-up today with the launch of a two-tier system.
The new structure will see most of the current tribunal jurisdictions transferred into either the First-Tier or Upper Tribunal.
Justice minister Bridget Prentice said the overhaul, which implements a key part of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007, is designed to strengthen the system as well as achieve improved and consistent standards for tribunal users.
"Tribunals deal with more than 500,000 cases a year ranging from those involving the most vulnerable in society to multi-national businesses and therefore it is vital that the system is truly effective and serves their needs," said Prentice. "Bringing together and strengthening the expertise from a wide range of specialist tribunals will ensure that users remain at the heart of the service."
Senior President Lord Justice Carnwath, who become the first statutory head of a unified tribunal service, added that this was the most radical change to the system in 50 years.
"The creation of the Upper Tribunal will group all tribunal appeals in one cohesive structure," explained Carnwath LJ. "Over time the decisions of the Upper Tribunal will build comprehensive caselaw for each area covered by the tribunals, as well as administrative law itself."
The two tribunals consist of chambers, grouping together jurisdictions dealing with similar work or requiring similar skills. The Employment Tribunal and Employment Appeal Tribunal will continue to be separate from the First-Tier and Upper Tribunal, although there will be close links between them.
For now the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal will stay separate from the unified tribunals structure, though the results of a recent consultation will be published shortly.
The Chambers in the First-tier are: • Social Entitlement; • General Regulatory; • War Pensions and Armed Forces Compensation; • Health, Education and Social Care; • Taxation; and • Land, Property and Housing
The three Upper Tribunal Chambers are: • Administrative Appeals; • Lands; and • Finance and Tax.