§ Mr. Bayley
To ask the Minister of State, Lord Chancellor's Department what principles will underpin the new civil court fees structure which will accompany the unified rules of court to be introduced next April; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Mr. Hoon
The Lord Chancellor issued a discussion paper in February 1998 and has concluded in the light of the responses that the civil court fee structure will be based on the following key principles.
Court fees should not act as a barrier to access to justice. Litigants should not expect the taxpayer to pay for the court services they use, if they can afford to do so themselves. We shall continue to provide protection for the less well-off through a system of exemptions and remissions. In addition, fees for Children Act 1989 applications, adoptions, and domestic violence injunctions will be subsidised by the taxpayer. All other fees will be set to recover the full cost of the service provided.
Fees will broadly match the cost of the service for which they are charged. Within civil proceedings, fees payable on issuing a claim will be banded according to the value of the claim and will still be used to defray the bulk of the cost of proceedings. Litigants will pay fees which match the average cost of the service for which they are charged, rather than the specific costs of their particular case. Fees will be paid by the claimant, or where a specific application has been made, by the applicant, and will be paid in advance.
A structure based on these principles will be fairer than the present one. It will encourage and enable litigants to make responsible choices about whether to proceed, while ensuring that the taxpayer's contribution is clearly targeted on the people who really need it.724W
The Court Service is publishing a consultation paper today on the charging points and the levels at which fees should be set. The paper, a copy of which has been placed in the Library of the House, includes proposals that separate fees will be set for the main stages of the new civil procedures, introducing charging points at allocation and listing.