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Volume 603: debated on Thursday 17 December 2015

I will today publish the Government response to the consultation on proposals to increase court and tribunal fees. The consultation paper was published on 22 July 2015 and the consultation closed on 15 September 2015.

The Government announced in the spending review that it will be investing £700 million in reforming the courts and tribunals during the next five years. This crucial investment will allow us to modernise and improve the service we provide to the public.

There remains a need to ensure the courts are not placing too great a burden on the taxpayer. Courts and tribunals in England and Wales cost £1.7 billion in 2014-15, but we only recovered £700 million in income. That is a net cost to the taxpayer of around £1 billion.

It is therefore right that we ask for a greater contribution from court users who can afford to pay more. We have balanced this need alongside the responses we received to our consultation and decided to:

Implement fee increases of 10% across the range of civil proceedings, including enforcement proceedings, determination of costs proceedings, and civil business in the magistrates courts.

Introduce fees for the first time in the General Regulatory Chamber and the tax chamber of the First-tier Tribunal and in the Upper Tribunal Tax and Chancery Chamber.

Keep the maximum fee cap in money claims at £10,000. A number of consultees were concerned about the proposal to raise the cap to £20,000. We accept that it is too soon to understand the full impact of the first round of fee increases introduced in March this year. We will therefore not implement the further increase at this stage, but keep this option under review.

Introduce a fee of £20 for an appeal against a financial penalty in the tax chamber. Some respondents felt that it was unfair to charge an issue fee of £100 for an appeal against a financial penalty of £100 or less imposed by HM Revenue and Customs, so we have decided to introduce a lower fee than initially proposed.

Introduce fees of £100 to issue proceedings in the Property Chamber and £200 for a hearing. There will be an exception for proceedings relating to rent levels and pitch fee applications, where a lower fee of £20 will apply. This will mean fees are more proportionate to the amount in dispute. We will not implement the higher fees for leasehold enfranchisement proceedings that were proposed in the consultation paper at this stage, so these proceedings will be subject to the standard fees in the chamber.

Defer any decision on whether to introduce a fee for bringing an appeal against a decision of the Information Commissioner until the Independent Commission on Freedom of Information reports next year.

HMCTS’s remissions scheme will apply to all of the new and increased fees, with the exception of those in the Immigration and Asylum Chamber of the First-tier Tribunal where there is a separate exemptions policy to protect vulnerable users. As proposed in the consultation document, we will introduce an additional exemption for those whose humanitarian protection or refugee status is at risk of being revoked.

Fees are never popular, but they are necessary if we are to reduce the burden of the courts and tribunals on the taxpayer.

We have sought to protect the vulnerable at every stage. We have also listened very carefully to concerns raised during the consultation and modified our proposals accordingly.

This balanced package will put the courts and tribunals on a more sustainable footing as we create a modern efficient service, fit for the 21st century.

Full details of how the Government intend to take forward these proposals are set out in the consultation response document which has been published on the website.