The Chairmen and Members
THIS chapter focuses on the decision makers in social security appeal tribunals: the chairmen and two wing members. The discussion covers both the backgrounds of tribunal personnel and the part they play in appeal hearings. Fulbrook ( 1978) has noted that, 'The number three seems to have acquired almost mystical proportions in many kinds of judicial forums as a number best representing a check on individual bias and idiosyncracy' (p. 208). The extent to which such a check is achieved depends on assembling a reasonable mix of people on the tribunal panel, and the backgrounds of those who sit on tribunals will be explored in the first half of this chapter. It is also important to consider the dynamics of an appeal hearing and the contribution made by each panel member, for, if wing members play only a minor role, their differing backgrounds would be of little real significance. Hence the central concern of the second half of this chapter will be to examine the interrelationship between the legal chairman and the two lay members and the way that this manifests itself at tribunal hearings. In our analysis, we shall use the material collected from interviews carried out with fifty chairmen and ninety-seven lay members of the tribunals we visited in different parts of the country, and draw upon our own observations of the tribunals in action.
One of the main arguments in this chapter will be that legal chairmen play a predominant role in tribunals, leaving their lay