Figures highlight importance of foreign litigants to Commercial Court

Rolls Building: 58 commercial cases in 2013

Four in five of cases in the Commercial Court in the last three years involved a foreign party, figures released in Parliament this week have shown.

They also highlight what a tiny percentage of claims actually result in a trial.

The details published by justice minister Shailesh Vara came in response to a series of questions tabled by shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan.

In 2012-13, 1,190 claims were issued in the Commercial Court, of which 961 (81%) involved at least one party whose address was outside England and Wales. The figures were similar for the two preceding years.

Mr Vara said there were 58 Commercial Court trials heard in the Rolls Building in 2013, of which five lasted a day, 32 up to five days and a further nine up to 10 days, while 12 cases stretched beyond that.

The figures also showed how the fee income generated by the Commercial and Admiralty Courts has grown in recent years, from £1.1m in 2007-8 to £2.3m five years later.

The government recently consulted on its controversial plan to increase court fees on users of the Commercial Court users, which will raise more than its cost.

Responses from the profession have deprecated the move, with the Commercial Bar Association saying that the Ministry of Justice’s “good work” in promoting the UK as a litigation centre would be undermined by this “dangerous step backwards”.

If fees were regarded as excessive in high-value commercial proceedings, parties would “simply litigate or arbitrate elsewhere”, the association predicted.

There were similar concerns expressed by the City of London Law Society and London Solicitors Litigation Association.

“Court fees might, in themselves, be a relatively small part of the cost to a foreign party of litigating in England, but overtly increasing fees to a level far in excess of the costs involved in order to subsidise unrelated parts of the justice system does not send a message that the courts of England and Wales welcome international business,” said the society’s response.

“The more than sixfold increase in court fees proposed for higher-value cases potentially makes court fees an issue that litigants must consider and will not promote the competitiveness of the English legal services sector.”

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