The launch of the Business and Property Courts of England and Wales – the new name for the specialist business courts – will see a greater focus on High Court work being handled in the regions and the cross-deployment of judges, the new Lord Chancellor said today.
Speaking at the official launch at the Rolls Building, David Lidington paid tribute to the work of the senior judiciary in bringing about the change, which formally takes effect on 2 October.
The umbrella title, which incorporates the Rolls Building in London and many judges in the specialist district registries of the High Court outside of London, will cover: the Commercial Court, the Admiralty Court, the Technology and Construction Court, the Financial List, the Companies and Insolvency Court, the Patents Court, the Intellectual Property and Enterprise Court, the Competition List, the Revenue List, and the Property Trust and Probate list – the last two having been added since the move was first announced in March.
Other courts and lists will be added in future, while there will also be Business and Property Courts in Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Bristol and in Cardiff, with expansions to Newcastle and Liverpool likely.
Mr Lidington said: “A more integrated system of business and property courts will mean judges can be cross-deployed to maximise the benefit of their particular qualifications.
“But the reform isn’t just about bolstering our reputation among overseas claimants. It’s also about improving the service our civil courts offer to all the individuals and businesses in this country who seek legal redress.
“Senior judges have argued that no case should be deemed too big to be tried outside London. And rightly so, given the talented lawyers we have nationwide.
“Yet many cases at the moment migrate unnecessarily from the regions to the Rolls Building, leading to extra inconvenience, delays and expense for those based in our other great cities like Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Bristol and Cardiff.
“And having business and property courts across England and Wales that are served by a critical mass of specialist judges will mean that all classes of case should be capable of being managed and tried away from the capital.”
More generally, he said the new structure would be “a powerful further magnet for international civil litigation”.
Mr Lidington continued: “Today’s launch demonstrates beyond any doubt that our bench is responsive, forward-thinking and clear in their purpose.
“Not least in recognising that while our historic courts continue to flourish, the somewhat arcance names of some – ‘Chancery’, for instance, about which Dickens wrote with such scathing relish, or ‘Mercantile’ – are perhaps still beloved of many lawyers but rather less well understood by the 21st century business community outside the City of London.
“And, perhaps dare I say it, by those many people who have not been steeped in the law for decades. And at a stroke, this is now remedied.”
Sir Geoffrey Vos, Chancellor of the High Court, added: “When the Business & Property Courts go live, the specialist jurisdictions of our courts will all be using names that national and international business people can readily understand.
“The judges of the Business & Property Courts are high calibre forward looking people, who understand the importance of providing a state of the art service to court users.”
Sir Brian Leveson, president of the Queen’s Bench Division, said: “Cross deployment of judges across the Chancery and Queen’s Bench Divisions for the purposes of the Financial List has demonstrated the real value of flexible deployment in appropriate cases. This development will be of benefit both to the courts and the users of the courts.”