The Tribunals Service was launched in April 2006 as an executive agency within the Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA) to bring together the largest central government tribunals into one single organisation and to provide those main central government tribunals with common administrative support. The Tribunals Service is responsible for hearing appeals relating to immigration, land registration, tax, freedom of information, employment disputes, benefits, special educational needs and disability, criminal injuries compensation and mental health.
The launch of the Service was the biggest change to the tribunals system in this country in almost half a century. The Service was created out of the 16 tribunals that were already administered by the DCA, together with a number transferred from other government departments. From May 2007 the Service became an agency of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) when that succeeded the DCA.
The Service's mission was to establish, for the first time, a unified administration for the tribunals system. Its goal was to ensure that the public at large had the opportunity to exercise their rights and to seek effective redress against Government decisions, and to help settle disputes between employers and employees. The Service also aimed to deliver greater consistency in practice and procedure, to ensure tribunals are manifestly independent from those whose decisions are being reviewed, and to provide increased access to information for the public.
The Tribunals Service was created in response to Sir Andrew Leggatt's review of the UK tribunal system, entitled Tribunals for Users: One System, One Service, published in August of 2001 which identified the need to reform the existing tribunals system for administrating many tribunals; in particular it was observed that some tribunals were not independent of the administrative bodies over which they were supposed to exert control, and that there was no uniformity of administration between the many tribunals. The Leggatt report was followed by a white paper in July 2004, entitled Transforming Public Services: Complaints, Redress and Tribunals, which, amongst other recommendations, proposed bringing together a number of tribunals under the administrative of a newly created agency.
The Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement (TCE) Act 2007 which received Royal Assent on 9 July 2007, provided a new judicial and legal framework, bringing together individual tribunals into a new and unified tribunals structure. The primary objective in making these changes was to improve the tribunal services provided by:
- Making clear the complete independence of the judiciary, and their decisions making, from Government;
- Speeding up the delivery of justice;
- Making processes easier for the public to understand;
- Bringing together the expertise from each tribunal.
The Act put in place a flexible tribunals' structure which would allow tribunals currently outside the MoJ to transfer into the new system, as well as allowing new jurisdictions to be added. In 2008 the tribunal system was rationalised, as set out in the TCE Act, into First-Tier Tribunals, Upper Tribunals, and Other Tribunals. The First-tier Tribunal has a wide range of subject-matter, mainly involving appeals from government departments or other public bodies. The Upper Tribunal hears appeals from the First-tier Tribunal on questions of law, exercises powers of judicial review in certain circumstances and enforces decisions made by the First-tier Tribunal.
In 2009 the following bodies were included in the Tribunals Service:
- Adjudicator for HM Land Registry;
- Asylum and Immigration Tribunal;
- Criminal Injuries Compensation Appeals Panel;
- Employment Appeal Tribunal;
- Employment Tribunals;
- Financial Services and Markets Tribunal;
- Gender Recognition Panel;
- General Commissioners of Income Tax (England, Wales and Northern Ireland);
- Immigration Services Tribunal;
- Information Tribunal;
- Lands Tribunal;
- Mental Health Review Tribunals;
- Pension Regulator Tribunal;
- Special Commissioners;
- Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal;
- Transport Tribunal;
- Upper Tribunal (Administrative Appeals);
- VAT and Duties Tribunal;
- War Pensions and Armed Forces Compensation.
On 1 April 2011, Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service was created to bring together HM Courts Service and the Tribunals Service into one integrated agency.