Lib Dems to reverse court fee hikes if they win general election

Exclusive: Review of fees will go before party's final meeting of its general election manifesto group today

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Indy Politics

The Liberal Democrats will pledge to reverse some of the court fee hikes that they have introduced in coalition government as part of their general election campaign.

Party sources said that delegates pulled an emergency motion, which condemned fee rises that could make justice unaffordable for poor people, at the party's spring conference over the weekend. To avoid an embarrassing public row, the party leadership agreed to put a review of the fees to the last meeting of the party's general election manifesto working group, which is to be held today.

A party lawyer told The Independent that the review would be held “with a view to reversing a range of the fees”. Many of the hikes have been introduced this month, such as a 5 per cent levy on people pursuing claims of between £5,000 and £200,000.

Simon Hughes, the Lib Dem justice minister, has angered some lawyers in his party for failing to block the reforms. Lord chancellor Chris Grayling, the first non-lawyer to hold that historic position, is desperate to tackle his department's budgetary problems and believes the fee increases will raise around £120m a year.

Mr Hughes was successful in preventing a £340 increase to £750 to petition for a divorce. Mr Grayling hoped this would raise an additional £30m a year, but axed the plan after Mr Hughes pointed out that the coalition did not want to be accused of forcing poor people to stay in broken marriages because of the financial constraint.