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Legal Costs

Volume 890: debated on Monday 21 April 1975

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41.

asked the Attorney-General if he will seek to amend existing legislation to enable a successful claimant to be awarded full costs when claiming amounts less than £75.

No, Sir. The provision by county court rule that costs shall not normally be recoverable where the claim does not exceed £75 is necessary in order to enable a litigant in person to bring or defend county court proceedings without fear of incurring high legal costs if he loses. It is an integral part of the new small claims procedure which has been running with considerable success since its introduction in October 1973.

Is the right hon. And learned Gentleman aware that in one case brought to my attention the costs Mr. Steel: Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that in one case brought to my attention the costs of pursuing a claim successfully exceeded the claim that was gained by the pursuer? Surely there is no point in people pressing their claims in court if such claims are going to cost them more than they will get in doing so successfully.

There are, of course, bound to be difficulties about a situation in which no costs are normally allowed. However, the registrar, under the order, has a discretion to award costs in certain cases, particularly when an important question of law or fact arises. In the end we have to decide whether cases of this kind, which involve comparatively small sums, should be available to be litigated at all, inasmuch as they will not he if plaintiffs are afraid that they will be called upon to pay high costs if they lose.