I am today publishing a consultation on the system of fee remissions for courts and tribunals. The proposals in this consultation paper (Cm 8608) will ensure that access to justice is maintained for those who cannot afford a court or tribunal fee. They will also provide a better targeted system of fee remissions so that those who can afford to pay a fee do so.
The proposals set out in this consultation paper represent a wide-ranging reform of the fee remissions system. A fee remission is a full or partial waiver of the fees that become payable when an individual uses certain court or tribunal services.
The remission system ensures that access to justice is maintained for those individuals on lower incomes who would otherwise have difficulty paying a fee by providing access to that service free of charge or at a reduced rate.
Our aim is to produce a remissions system which is better targeted, fairer, easy for users to understand and more coherent. To achieve this, the consultation paper proposes three key changes:
The introduction of a unified system of remissions across courts and tribunals.
The introduction of a disposable capital test to assess eligibility for a remission.
The introduction of a simplified income test, with a greater level of contribution required from those who receive a partial remission.
Implementation of these proposals will mean that the taxpayer contribution towards fee remissions will be targeted towards those who need it most. The proposals also ensure that the system of remissions takes into account the introduction of universal credit which replaces several benefits that currently determine eligibility for a remission.
The consultation will be open for a period of four weeks. We plan to implement an amended remissions system for the start of October 2013, in time for the introduction of the universal credit.
The consultation will be available in the Vote Office, the Printed Paper Office and on the Ministry of Justice website.