MPs have set up an all-party parliamentary group to promote the use of ADR as a way of solving legal disputes.
John Howell, Conservative MP for Henley and a member of the justice select committee, was elected as chair at a meeting last week. Mr Howell told Legal Futures that he hoped the group would “help change the culture in the UK” in favour of ADR.
The MP said he believed ADR had a “big role” to play in the planning process, and he wanted to improve the ability of the health services to engage in it.
“All kinds of claims against hospitals could be dealt with by ADR much more quickly and cheaply. The same is true for claims against the police, and it would be interesting to see whether they could use it to diffuse tense situations.”
Mr Howell said the group would explore how ADR could be used in the community, for example to resolve neighbour disputes quickly and cheaply without the need to go to court.
The MP said the group’s work would not relate to justice secretary Michael Gove’s plans for court closures “at all” and would focus on “ADR in its own right, rather than as a replacement for courts”.
Mr Howell said speakers would be invited to address the group next year.
Bob Neill MP, chair of the justice select committee, is the group’s vice-chair. The other vice-chair is Labour MP David Hanson. Alberto Costa, solicitor and Conservative MP, is an officer for the group, as fellow Tory Victoria Prentis MP.
Peter Causton, director of ProMediate UK, which specialises in mediation for consumer disputes and complaints about professionals, welcomed the move.
Mr Causton, who is set to give evidence to the committee on ADR in consumer cases, said the public found the small claims system “slow, cumbersome, formalistic” and involved turning up at court.
He said ADR was much quicker and cases could be resolved by an hour-long mediation on the telephone.
“Consumers don’t want to go to court. With Gove’s reforms to the court system, this is the perfect time for MPs to look into mediation.”
ProMediate is one of the certified ADR providers that businesses must mention to consumers on their websites under the EU ADR Directive, implemented last month.
However, Mr Causton said he was disappointed that the directive had been implemented in a “soft way” by the government, meaning that businesses were not obliged to take part in it.
Mr Causton said he would be in favour of a system which gave consumers the choice of opting out.
He said businesses portrayed their customer services as “perfect” on their websites and suggested consumers did not need to go anywhere else.
However, he added: “Some large businesses have signed up to use our service, along with several barristers’ chambers and solicitors firms”.