A City spokesperson says he has picked up a ‘possible change in tone’ in justice secretary Michael Gove’s proposal for a levy to fund legal services.
In his weekly newsletter, Chris Cummings (pictured), chief executive of the lobby group TheCityUK, said the organisation is working on a ‘clear and robust’ response to the government’s proposals to raise court fees and impose a charge on City law firms.
Gove has raised the idea of asking City firms to pay a levy to support the funding of the court system and advice services.
Cummings said TheCityUK has made submissions to both the Ministry of Justice and House of Commons justice committee on court fees and lobbied the government over the levy plan.
‘Taken together, we are concerned that these moves would risk undermining the competitiveness of London and the UK in providing legal services, arbitration and dispute settlement, and the use of English law as the law of choice in commercial contracts,’ he said.
But he added the group was 'pleased to note a possible change in tone regarding the proposals' and pledged to continue to work on this issue.
Cummings pointed out that legal services make a ‘considerable contribution’, directly employing 316,000 people and putting £22.6bn a year into the UK economy.
According to a report released earlier this year, the sector’s contributions grew by 65% over the decade to 2013, with its net export surplus also doubling to £3.1bn over the same period.
Gove mooted the idea of a levy, or pro bono quota system, in his first speech as justice secretary in June, when he suggested more could be done by the legal profession to help protect justice for all.
He told the House of Commons later: ‘One thing that struck me is that there are people in senior solicitors’ firms and in our best chambers who are not doing enough, given how well they have done out of the legal system, to support the very poorest – they need to do more.’
The Law Society and the City of London Law Society have both voiced opposition to the idea of levy, describing the concept as a ‘tax on success’.
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: 'The justice secretary has been clear that those who benefit financially from our legal culture must do much more to help protect access to justice for all. We have begun constructive discussions with the sector about how we can best achieve this aim and look forward to continuing that dialogue.'