Public consultations

Public Consultations

FRU is often asked to comment on changes in law or regulation.  We regard it as part of our job to respond to consultation documents when we have a view or relevant experience.  A selection of recent responses is set out below.  

FRU cautions against move to single judge ET hearings

The Free Representation Unit has cautioned against a move to restrict the use of lay panel members in Employment Tribunals. The Senior President of Tribunals, Sir Keith Lindblom, consulted on how to exercise new powers to determine how many members each tribunal should be composed of.

The consultation paper stressed that having more members lengthened proceedings and made them more expensive and harder to list. In the context of severe delays in employment tribunal claims being heard FRU agrees that it is crucial to minimise delay. However, we believe that in many cases the contribution of non-legal panel members remains important, and necessary. The increased legalisation of Employment Tribunals leads the need for a better understanding of the realities of the workplace and in our view this is provided through the judicial insight of the panel members.

FRU Chief Executive David Abbott said "At FRU we mainly focus on helping individual clients, but it is also important to take every opportunity to feed the experience of our clients into policy making. The issue of who sits on employment tribunal panels is an important one for the interests of justice. We understand the need for the tribunals to be efficient, but it is even more important for the right experience to be brought to bear in making decisions. We believe that it is important to retain the experience of non-legal tribunal members where it is needed to make the best decisions".

Important Select Committee report draws on FRU evidence:  The Justice Select Committee has published a hard hitting inquiry report on HMCTS reform of the court and tribunal system. The report, which can be found at this link draws on evidence from FRU’s written submission.  In particular the report quotes our evidence on court closures and the importance of face to face hearings for our sick and disabled clients, the impact of legal aid cuts on access to justice and the availability of support for users, and the effectiveness of HMCTS communication about its reforms.

The report called on the Ministry of Justice to evaluate the impact of court reform against the legal standard of access to justice summarised in the Legal Education Foundation’s “Digital Justice” report which FRU also contributed to. That report can be found at this link

FRU objects to the 2010 Green Paper's proposals for changes to civil legal aid. We responded in February 2011. Here is a copy of our submission to the Ministry of Justice. We are opposed to the removal of Legal Help from welfare benefits, criminal injuries compensation and many employment cases. The main points we make are these:-

  • Early intervention saves cost for all
  • The law and the legal process is too complex for most individuals who would be affected
  • Legal aid in civil cases is an essential part of the rule of law in a civilised society
  • The changes would hit the most vulnerable
  • Legal help unlocks lawyers' pro bono activities
  • Pro bono organisations cannot fill the gap
  • Allowing Legal Help to continue in the discrimination aspects of employment cases but not other aspects will complicate cases, confuse clients, impede negotiated settlement and increase racial and other forms of prejudice
  • Telephone help is no substitute for face to face contact.

Discrimination Law Review: The Government's wide ranging review of discrimination law, in preparation for the Single Equality Act was published in June 2007. Our response.

Cost recovery in pro bono cases: The Department for Constitutional Affairs, as it then was, issued a document ‘Cost recovery in pro bono assisted cases’ on which it sought views. Our response

Resolving disputes in the workplace:  On 21st March 2007, the Government published the outcome of an independent review of the employment dispute resolution system in Great Britain, led by Michael Gibbons. The website of the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform contains details.  The Government sought views. Our response AOur response B.

Bar Standards Board consultation on barristers’ entertaining.  The Bar asked for views on barristers’ entertaining. In June 2007, the Bar Standards Board produced guidance which deals with the concerns we expressed.  Our response.