End of term flood of Ministerial announcements, including court fees & LASPO

Today, the last day before the Christmas recess, the Government made 36 Ministerial Statements, which is some three times more than the seasonal number of Lords-a-leaping. (These were written statements issued by Ministers in both Houses, so no Peer or MP indulged in acrobatics of any sort.) Statements from the Ministry of Justice on further court fee increases (which will be implemented soon) and on the LASPO Act 2012 (which is to be reviewed and extended to insolvency litigation) are summarised in this post. There is also reference to reviewing mesothelioma claims.

On court fee increases, the MoJ confirmed that it will:

  • retain the cap of £10,000 for issue fees (dropping the idea of raising it to £20,000)
  • effect a general increase of 10% in fees (for applications and the like) in civil proceedings, including costs assessments

In respect of the fee cap, 103 of 110 respondents (94%) were against the proposed increase to £20,000. The MoJ has actually listened to this weight of option and will not take the proposal forward for the time being. Contrast that reaction with it steamrollering ahead against 96% of respondents disagreeing with its previous set of court fee increases. Perhaps this is further evidence of the difference between Michael Gove and his predecessor Chris Grayling, following closely after Mr Gove’s reversal of Grayling’s highly controversial criminal court charge on defendants? According to the MoJ report issued today, the fee increases will be made – no surprises here – “as soon as Parliamentary time allows”. Perhaps next April, then?

The LASPO announcement is more nuanced. Lord Faulks confirmed that:

  • insolvency litigation will be brought within the scope of part 2 of the Act (ending the recoverability of success fees and ATE premiums) from next April
  • a wide-ranging review of the effects of part 2 of the Act will be conducted between April 2016 and 2018, and that
  • the section 48 review necessary to end recoverability of success fees and ATEs in mesothelioma cases will form part of the wider review

The language of his statement is unclear as to the timing for the mesothelioma review. What he said was that “there will be a Post Implementation Review of the LASPO Act Part 2 reforms between April 2016 and April 2018. The review will take place towards the end of that period. The review under s48 of the Act in relation to mesothelioma cases will also take place as part of the Post Implementation Review.”

Unpacking Lord Faulks’ words, it does seem that if the wider review is to take place at the end of the two year window, and the mesothelioma review forms part of it, then it must follow that the mesothelioma review is going to take place at the end of the window as well. That could easily be as late as Q1 2018.  This delay may come as a disappointment to defendants and insurers expecting early activity to bring these claims within part 2 of the Act. It is quite a shame that the Minister did not choose words that set out the proposed timing more directly.

About the Author

akAlistair Kinley is BLM’s Director of Policy & Government Affairs.

Alistair is responsible for BLM’s engagement with government departments and regulators on policy and public affairs issues and consultations affecting the firm and its customers. He coordinated BLM’s market-facing activities in connection with the Insurance Act 2015 and the consultations which preceded its publication and introduction in Parliament.

He is a member of the Civil Justice Council (CJC), a regular speaker and experienced commentator on legal and procedural reforms and was a contributing editor to the Law Society’s Litigation Funding Handbook (September 2014).

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