The Civil Justice Council (CJC) has unveiled the make-up of the new committee which will provide advice on the guideline hourly rates (GHR) and other costs issues.
The 14-strong costs committee is to be chaired by Mr Justice Foskett, a member of the CJC, and meets for the first time on 14 April. Its vice-chairman will be the Senior Costs Judge, Peter Hurst.
The committee is being set up following the government’s abolition of the Advisory Committee on Civil Costs and its decision last October not to create the independent Costs Council that Lord Justice Jackson had recommended.
The committee’s draft terms of reference are:
- To conduct a comprehensive, evidence-based review on the nature of the GHR and to make recommendations accordingly to the Master of the Rolls by January 2014;
- On an annual basis to review the GHR and make recommendations to the Master of the Rolls regarding how they need to be updated; and
- To monitor the operation of the costs rules, in consultation with the Ministry of Justice, and where appropriate, to make recommendations.
It is not clear to what extent it can undertake the last of these under its own steam or whether it will require government direction. Decisions over fixed costs will remain with the Lord Chancellor in the first instance.
The committee’s other members will be: a circuit judge with costs expertise; a district judge with costs expertise; a consumer representative; a costs barrister, possibly nominated by the Bar Council; a claimant and a defendant solicitor, both nominated by the Law Society; a Chartered Legal Executive, nominated by CILEx; a costs lawyer, nominated by the Association of Costs Lawyers; an insurer, nominated by the Association of British Insurers; a business representative, nominated by the CBI; a trade union representative, nominated by the TUC; and a Ministry of Justice representative.
The committee will be supported in its work by a panel of senior academic economists.
The Association of Costs Lawyers welcomed its inclusion on the committee. Chairman Iain Stark said: “Our Association has now come of age. The wider legal profession has recognised the expertise and experience that costs lawyers bring to the debate. It is, dare I say, long overdue and we will play a full part to ensure that the voice of those practising costs at the coalface every day is heard.
“I hope that both the government and the Civil Procedure Rule Committee take the opportunity to consult the committee on the wider costs issues, as envisaged by the third limb of its remit. It is vital that the views of this diverse and expert group of people are sought and listened to as the Jackson reforms bed in.”