Justice secretary Chris Grayling will consult on plans to raise more money from those who litigate in courts in England and Wales.
Grayling today announced he had asked his department to look at reform of the resourcing and administration of HM Courts & Tribunals Service.
Critics will suggest that this implies the commoditisation of the courts system, but in a statement to the House of Commons Grayling insisted he wanted a more efficient service ensuring access to justice ‘quickly and effectively, while delivering value for money for the taxpayer’.
He said: ‘This country is a major centre for legal services and dispute resolution. I want to explore how we can further enhance the position of the UK at the centre of the international legal market and the revenue it can generate.
‘I also want to ensure that those who litigate in our courts pay their fair share, and that it is possible to raise the revenue and investment necessary to modernise the infrastructure and deliver a better and more flexible service to court users.’
Grayling said any new model must support administration of justice as a ‘core pillar’ of the constitution and will preserve the independence of the judiciary.
The justice secretary confirmed that he had discussed ideas with the lord chief justice and the senior president of tribunals.
In a cautious response to the statement, Lord Judge, the lord chief justice, said it was increasingly difficult to secure adequate funding to support and develop the courts and tribunals.
He added: ‘The senior president of tribunals [Sir Jeremy Sullivan] and I recognise the wisdom of exploring ways in which to achieve funding arrangements which are consistent with the independence of the judiciary, the responsibility of the state to provide access to justice and the need for appropriate accountability.
‘We will work with the lord chancellor [Grayling] over the coming months as the review considers the options.’
The Law Society said it strongly supported further steps to update the courts service in England and Wales, particularly to enhance international competitiveness.
‘A well-funded and effective courts service is an essential part of the UK’s democratic system and fundamental for the rule of the law,’ said president Lucy Scott-Moncrieff. ‘In a time of fiscal austerity, it is right that the Ministry of Justice seeks to find new and innovative ways of funding and updating the courts service.’