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29 Mar 2001 : Column: 785W
Jane Kennedy: Mr. Manifield has appealed to the Pensions Appeal Tribunals against a decision of the War Pensions Agency to reduce his disablement benefit. Mr. Manifield's appeal has been listed for hearing at the Pensions Appeal Tribunal in Exeter on 22 May 2001.
Mr. Nicholls: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (1) what the average time is before (a) all types of appeals and (b) appeals relating to war pension disability orders are heard by appeal tribunals; and if she will make a statement; 
Jane Kennedy: Appeals to the Pensions Appeal Tribunal currently all relate to war pensions entitlement and disability assessments. The average waiting time between the receipt of an appeal by the Pensions Appeal Tribunals and hearing is currently 82 weeks.
Provisions in The Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Act 2000, which came into force in England and Wales on 9 April 2001, will enable appeals to be listed for hearing more quickly and allow for appeals to be dealt with efficiently and effectively.
The introduction of a six-month time limit will mean that the information available to the tribunal to determine the appeal will be more timely. At present there is no time limit for appealing a decision of the War Pensions Agency and in some cases the tribunal have to decide appeals where the decision has been made many years before.
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tribunal also have to take into account any changes that may have occurred between the decision being made and the date of the hearing. In practice this has meant that the tribunal often had to obtain new evidence which was not considered by the War Pensions Agency in making their decision.
Mr. Lock: The Lord Chancellor appoints to judicial office on merit from among those who are eligible, suitable and who put themselves forward for appointment. The number of women holding judicial office reflects the number of women practitioners in the legal profession with the appropriate period of experience. In the more senior positions there are now more women judges than every before. As of 31 March 2000, there were 11 women judges in the High Court and above and, of the 12 senior appointments made last year, five were of women. The Lord Chancellor has introduced a number of initiatives to encourage greater numbers to apply for judicial office, and to secure equality of opportunity. For example, he has made information about the appointments procedures widely available; he applies the procedures flexibly in relation to the age and sitting arrangements; he has introduced a work shadowing scheme; and he has reviewed the criteria for appointment. These efforts will continue and be developed with a view to progressive increases in numbers as the pool of suitable candidates grows.
29 Mar 2001 : Column: 785W