The House of Commons Justice Committee published its Second Report of Session 2016–17, Courts and tribunals fees on 20 June 2016, as HC 167.
According to the report, major changes are urgently needed to restore an acceptable level of access to the employment tribunals system. The introduction of issue fees and hearing fees for claimants in employment tribunals in July 2013 has led to a drop of almost 70% in the number of cases brought.
The Government responded to the report in November 2016, replying to the key recommendations and conclusions, including on employment tribunals, divorce petition fees, and fees for immigration and asylum appeals. It accepted the Committee’s recommendation not to increase fees for money claims without completing a review of their impact.
Bob Neill MP, Chair of the Justice Committee, said the following in relation to the Government’s response: “It is disappointing that the Government Response is so negative in respect of the Justice Committee’s recommendations; perhaps more concerning is that it is almost offensively perfunctory, appearing to have been rushed out at short notice and giving little evidence of attention paid to the Committee’s detailed evidence and analysis. This is all the more surprising given that Government has had more than four months to produce this reply. I therefore intend to raise this matter and possible further steps with the Committee at our next meeting.”
The Committee has arranged to take oral evidence from Sir Oliver Heald QC MP, Minister of State for Courts and Justice, in a one-off evidence session on Wednesday 14 December at 4.00pm, to discuss the Government Response.
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In July 2015, the House of Commons Justice Select Committee launched an inquiry into fees and charges in courts and tribunals.
The inquiry considered the introduction of a fee-charging regime in the employment tribunal in 2013, as well as the recent increase in fees in civil proceedings and the introduction of mandatory charges on those convicted of criminal offences.
In relation to employment tribunal fees, the inquiry asked for information specifically on whether the introduction of fees has affected access to justice and whether the volume and quality of cases brought has been affected.
The Inquiry closed on 30 September 2015.
Evidence submitted to the Inquiry was published on the Select Committee’s website in October and November 2015, including evidence submitted by the Equality and Diversity Forum (EDF), the Equality and Human Rights Commission and a number of EDF members and associates.