Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May addresses the Confederation of British Industry's (CBI) annual conference in London, November 21, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth
Theresa May addresses the CBI annual conference in London last week © Reuters

Theresa May, UK prime minister, has scrapped large rises in the fees charged for immigration and asylum tribunals just weeks after the policy was introduced.

The tribunal fee increases, which were proposed in April and came into force last month, in some cases saw costs rise by more than 500 per cent.

The charge for bringing a case to a first-tier tribunal increased from £80 to £490. Those applying for an oral hearing saw fees rise from £140 to £800. Anyone wishing to appeal a decision to the upper tribunal paid £455; previously there was no charge for this.

The increases were necessary to help cover the costs of running the courts and tribunal service, then-minister Dominic Raab said when he launched the plan this spring.

But there were protests from lawyers and immigration campaigners.

The Law Society warned that the changes could deter individuals from challenging Home Office decisions and on Friday, its chief executive Catherine Dixon welcomed the reversal.

“Equal access to justice is more important than income generation when it comes to setting court and tribunal fees,” she said. “We note the government is now embarking on a wider review of tribunal fees which we welcome and we will be monitoring that process carefully.”

The courts and tribunal service cost £1.8bn in 2014-2015 but the government only received £700m in income, leaving a net cost to the taxpayer of about £1.1bn, Mr Raab said at the time the change was announced.

The same year only 9 per cent of the cost of running first-tier immigration and asylum tribunals was recovered in fees.

The fee increases were introduced in October despite an overwhelming majority of responses to the official consultation on the measure being opposed to them.

On Friday the government said that it was cancelling the cost rises and launching a wider review of court funding “to balance the interests of all tribunal users and the taxpayer”.

People who have already paid the new fees will have the increases reimbursed, justice minister Sir Oliver Heald said in a statement.

“The government’s belief is unchanged that it is right that those who use our courts and tribunals should pay more, where they can realistically afford to do so,” Sir Oliver said. “However, we have listened to the representations that we received on the current fee levels and have decided to take stock.”

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