The Lord Chancellor yesterday signalled changes to the way the courts are funded and organised, with making litigants “pay their fair share” a key element of the reforms.
In a statement to Parliament that did not suggest any specific measures, Chris Grayling said that “as in other areas, we need to look at the way we deliver our services to provide a more efficient service that delivers access to justice quickly and effectively, while delivering value for money for the taxpayer.
“At the same time, we must preserve the independence of the judiciary which lies at the heart of our constitutional arrangements…
“This country is a major centre for legal services and dispute resolution. I want to explore how we can further enhance the position of the UK at the centre of the international legal market and the revenue it can generate. I also want to ensure that those who litigate in our courts pay their fair share, and that it is possible to raise the revenue and investment necessary to modernise the infrastructure and deliver a better and more flexible service to court users.”
The Ministry of Justice will now consider “appropriate vehicles” to achieve these aims, and the organisational structures that might best support them.
The Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge responded: “The rule of law and access to justice are fundamental to our society; it is increasingly difficult to secure adequate funding to support and develop the courts and tribunals.
“The Senior President of Tribunals [Sir Jeremy Sullivan] and I recognise the wisdom of exploring ways in which to achieve funding arrangements which are consistent with the independence of the judiciary, the responsibility of the state to provide access to justice and the need for appropriate accountability. We will work with the Lord Chancellor over the coming months as the review considers the options.”
The legal profession also supported a review. Law Society president Lucy Scott Moncrieff said that at “a time of fiscal austerity, it is right that the Ministry of Justice seeks to find new and innovative ways of funding and updating the Courts Service”.
Maura McGowan QC, chairman of the Bar Council, added: “We agree with the views expressed by the Lord Chief Justice, that it is appropriate to look at better ways of ensuring that the court and tribunal service is adequately funded to meet the diverse requirements of a modern justice system.”