Fees for some courts could double under plans revealed by the Ministry of Justice today – the day after the House of Commons adjourned for the summer recess.
Under a consultation announced by justice minister Shailesh Vara (pictured), the maximum fee for money claims would rise from £10,000 to £20,000. Fees are currently payable on 5% of the value of a claim up to a maximum fee of £10,000.
Personal injury and clinical negligence claims will be excluded from the higher cap and fee remissions for those ‘of limited means’ will still apply.
Fees would be introduced to the property, tax and general regulatory chambers.
In the property tribunal, the ministry is proposing fees at low levels for the majority of applications, while setting higher fees for leasehold enfranchisement cases ‘where there are often large sums of money at stake’.
Immigration and asylum chamber fees would double, with exemptions ‘to protect the most vulnerable’. There would also be a ‘general uplift’ of 10% to a ‘wide range’ of fees in civil proceedings.
The measures would generate an estimated £48m a year in additional income.
Explaining the MoJ’s proposals in a letter to Robert Neill, chair of the commons justice committee, Vara acknowledged that fee increases were not popular, but said the courts and tribunals ‘must continue to play their part’ in the ‘national effort’ to reduce public spending, eliminate the deficit and reduce the national debt.
Vara said there was ‘only so much’ that could be delivered through efficiency measures. Despite the fees introduced, Vara said HMCTS still cost £1bn more a year to run than it received in income.
Following consultations carried out by the coalition government earlier this year, the ministry confirmed it would increase fees for issuing a possession claim in the county court from £280 to £355.
Fees for general applications in civil proceedings will increase from £50 to £100 for an application by consent, and from £155 to £255 for a contested application. Applications such as injunctions for protection from harassment or violence will be excluded from any increase.
Fees for divorce proceedings will increase from £410 to £550. Fee remissions will be available for cases such as those involving women in low-wage households.
The three measures are expected to generate more than £60m in additional income each year.
The ministry said it will also make the remissions scheme ‘more generous’. It will increase the amount of disposable capital those who need to pay a larger court fee are allowed to have to qualify for remission.
It will consider whether other forms of payment or benefit should be excluded from the disposable capital test.
The scheme will apply across all courts and tribunals on which the ministry is consulting, except the immigration and asylum chamber which has separate arrangements in place.
The MoJ consultation will close on 15 September.
Meanwhile the justice committee has opened an inquiry into the courts fee regime. Various fees and charges were introduced by the coalition government, including employment tribunals fees, enhanced fees for civil proceedings and a mandatory charge imposed on convicted defendants.
The select committee is seeking views on the impact of the fees and charges on access to justice and the competitiveness of the legal services market. The deadline for written submissions is 30 September.