MoJ stands by record as MPs attack court fee hikes
By John Hyde » The Ministry of Justice has said it will consider the findings of a critical
report from MPs on court charges – but insisted the most vulnerable are still protected.
The Commons justice committee last week called for an overhaul of the employment tribunal
fees scheme and scrapping of the recent increase in the divorce petition fee.
A full response to the committee’s report is likely in September, but in the meantime the MoJ
has defended its record. A spokesman said: ‘The cost of our courts and tribunal system to the
taxpayer is unsustainably high, and it is only right that those who use the system pay more to
relieve this burden. Every pound we collect from fee increases will be spent on a leaner and
more effective system.’
The committee focused much of its report on the need for changes to the remission system,
which reduces fees for those who can show they are in financial need. In particular, with
employment tribunal fees, MPs called for a rise in the income threshold to qualify for fee
The MoJ said it intends to publish a review of tribunal fees – due out more than six months
ago – ‘in due course’, but on the subject of remissions it added: ‘We’ve made sure that the
most vulnerable and those who cannot afford to pay won’t have to.’
Courts and tribunals cost £1.8bn in 2014/15 and generated £700m in income – a position the
government says is unsustainable.
The Law Society welcomed the committee’s report and said the government must now heed
the views of experts.
President Jonathan Smithers added: ‘All civil cases, from divorce, employment and
immigration cases to landlords and small businesses trying to get their property back, are
affected by fee increases which are tantamount to treating justice like a commodity. Justice is
increasingly out of reach for many ordinary people. This will only serve to widen the access
to justice gap in our two-tier justice system.
[Courtesy: The Law Society Gazette]