Plan to `streamline' industrial tribunals

Ministers yesterday published plans to speed up the increasingly overburdened industrial tribunal system, including increased powers to dismiss ``hopeless cases''.

Ministers did not take the radical option of introducing a charge for bringing unfair dismissal cases, but bowed to European pressure with a Bill to ``tidy up'' employees' rights.

In a Green Paper, Resolving Employment Rights Disputes - Options for Reform, the Government is seeking to cut the £27m cost of the procedures and ensure that more disputes between employer and employee are settled ``in house'' or by Acas.

As a deterrent to bringing cases, tribunals would award costs where an applicant ``unreasonably refused'' an employer's offer of compensation that was larger than the tribunal's own award. The ``streamlined'' courts could be renamed employment tribunals.Independent, binding arbitration would be offered as an alternative to a hearing and the legally trained chairman would sit alone except in cases involving discrimination or unfair dismissal. Unions last night said they were wary of ``legal eagles'' sitting without the advice of laymen with industrial experience.