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Volume 690: debated on Monday 19 March 2007

asked Her Majesty's Government:

In what circumstances the costs of public law litigation brought in the public interest can be paid from central funds; and whether in such cases the costs of the judge and court can be met from fee income. [HL2430]

There is no provision for any costs in either civil or family cases brought in the public interest to be met out of central funds (the DCA budget which covers costs awarded to non-legally aided defendants who are acquitted in criminal cases).

Funding may be available from the CLS fund (legal aid) in judicial review cases. This is subject to tests of means and merits. The existence of a wider public interest in the outcome is a factor considered in the merits test.

The costs of the judge and the court in civil and family cases are generally covered by fee income. This is calculated on average cost across civil and family business as a whole and there are no specific fees or fee concessions for public interest cases.

In 2005-06, court fees across civil and family represented 79 per cent of the total cost. The remaining part of the cost not covered by fees is met by the general taxpayer as part of the resource budget of DCA. The taxpayer's contribution is made up of potential fee income forgone under the system of exemptions and remissions, and fees that are currently set well below full-cost levels.