Fees for immigration cases are set to jump by up to 500% as the government seeks to recoup the entire cost of proceedings.
Justice minister Dominic Raab (pictured) said it was no longer fair that the taxpayer be expected to fund three-quarters of the costs of immigration and asylum proceedings.
Fees in the first-tier tribunal will rise from £80 to £490 for an application for a decision on the papers, and from £140 to £800 for an application for an oral hearing.
The Ministry of Justice also proposes a new £455 fee for an application to the first-tier tribunal for permission to appeal to the upper tribunal.
In the upper tribunal, an application for permission to appeal, where permission had been refused by the first-tier tribunal, will cost £350, while a £510 fee will be imposed for an appeal hearing where permission is granted.
The fees, expected to raise £37m a year, are subject to a consultation which will run until 3 June.
Raab said a previous plan had been to raise fees to recover around 25% of the £84m cost of the chamber, but having reassessed the MoJ’s financial position following the spending review, ‘we need to go much further’.
He added: ‘In light of the challenging financial circumstances we face we have already had to take difficult decisions. We have implemented enhanced court fees, above the cost of the proceedings to which they relate, for money claims; possession claims; general applications within civil proceedings; and divorce petitions.
‘In these financial circumstances, we have concluded that it is no longer reasonable to expect the taxpayer to fund around 75% of the costs of immigration and asylum proceedings.’
Raab said the net cost to the taxpayer of the courts and tribunals services was £1.1bn a year.
Applicants in ‘particularly vulnerable positions’ will be exempt from fees. These include those who qualify for legal aid or asylum support, those appealing against a decision to deprive them of their citizenship, and those children bringing appeals to the tribunal who are supported by a legal authority.
Exemptions will also be extended to children housed by a local authority and parents of children receiving local authority support. Further extensions will be considered if they come up in the consultation process.
In response, Law Society president Jonathan Smithers said: ‘It is fundamental to the rule of law that access to the courts and tribunals should not be determined by the ability to pay - the provision of justice should not be an accounting exercise.
‘There is a serious risk that fee increases of 500% will prevent many people from challenging often incorrect Home Office administrative decisions about their entitlement to enter or remain in the UK.’
He added that when employment tribunal fees were increased sharply many who had been wronged were discouraged from pursuing valid claims.
Since June 2013 the number of employment tribunal cases has dropped by nearly 70 per cent and solicitors have said many claimants with strong cases see the fee as a significant deterrent to seeking justice.