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Home >> About us >> Functions and constitution

Functions and constitution

The Council was set up by the Tribunals and Inquiries Act 1958 and now operates under the Tribunals and Inquiries Act 1992.

The Council is to consist of not more than 15 or less than 10 members appointed by the Lord Chancellor and the Scottish Ministers. In addition, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration (the Parliamentary Ombudsman) and the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman are members by virtue of their office. In appointing members, regard is to be had to the need for representation of the interests of persons in Wales.

The Scottish Committee of the Council is to consist of two or three members of the Council designated by the Scottish Ministers, and three or four non-members of the Council appointed by them. The Parliamentary Ombudsman and the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman are also ex-officio members of the Committee.

The principal functions of the Council as laid down in the Tribunals and Inquiries Act 1992 are:

  1. to keep under review the constitution and working of the tribunals specified in Schedule 1 to the Act, and, from time to time, to report on their constitution and working;
  2. to consider and report on matters referred to the Council under the Act with respect to tribunals other than the ordinary courts of law, whether or not specified in Schedule 1 to the Act; and
  3. to consider and report on matters referred to the Council, or matters the Council may consider to be of special importance, with respect to administrative procedures which involve or may involve the holding of a statutory inquiry by or on behalf of a Minister.

The term "statutory inquiry" means (i) an inquiry or hearing held in pursuance of a statutory duty, or (ii) a discretionary inquiry or hearing designated by an order under section 16(2) of the Act. The relevant order is the Tribunals and Inquiries (Discretionary Inquiries) Order 1975 (S.I. 1975/1379) as amended.

The Council must be consulted before procedural rules are made for any tribunal specified in Schedule 1 to the 1992 Act, and on procedural rules made by the Lord Chancellor or the Scottish Ministers in connection with statutory inquiries. It must also be consulted before any exemption is granted from the requirement in section 10 of the Act to give reasons for decisions. It may make general recommendations to Ministers about appointments to membership of the scheduled tribunals.

The jurisdiction of the Council extends over the whole of Great Britain but it has no authority to deal with any matter in respect of which the Parliament of Northern Ireland had power to make laws.

The Council is required to make an annual report which must be laid before Parliament and the Scottish Parliament and may, at any time, make a special report on its own initiative under points (a) or (c) listed above.

References to the Council or reports by it are made by or to the Lord Chancellor and the Scottish Ministers, either both or one or other of them according as the matter in question relates to Great Britain as a whole, to England and Wales or to Scotland.

Certain tribunals operating in Scotland, which are specified in Part II of Schedule 1 to the 1992 Act, come under the particular supervision of the Scottish Committee. Before making any reports in regard to these, or on any matter referred by the Scottish Ministers, the Council must consult the Scottish Committee. In addition, the Scottish Committee has the right in certain circumstances to report directly to the Scottish Ministers.

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