Court fee exemptions reviewed

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More people claiming certain state benefits may be granted exemption from the controversial system of increased court fees. The Government signalled the move last night, in the wake of Monday's heated House of Lords debate on the issue.

Geoff Hoon, parliamentary secretary at the Lord Chancellor's Department, told David Lock, Labour MP for Wyre Forest, in a parliamentary answer, that automatic exemption from the fees was being considered for people on jobseekers' allowance, family credit and disability working allowance.

At present, these categories of litigants can apply for fee remissions but some drop their cases because of the delay and uncertainty about whether their applications will be approved.

Vicki Chapman, policy officer for the Legal Action Group which has campaigned against the higher fees, said: "Such a move would end delay and uncertainty and may save the court service money since remission is probably granted in the majority of cases anyway and would save court staff having to process applications."