16/01/2017 House of Lords


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Lords. Remember you can watch recorded coverage of all of the day


the business of Lords after the daily politics, later tonight. We


had a considerable quantity of advocates wry man who worked for a


large the products company for 40 years. The TUC representatives said


scam this man has worked for the scam this man has worked for the


company for 40 years, and they are putting him off. It's not right. We


will know more when we heard the case. I said nothing but was worried


that members might be set prior to the hearing. There are many


witnesses and the case took all day. Retired to consider our decision.


The chairman sought our views and the TUC man immediately said 40


years. I don't know how they stuck him for that long. They did


everything they could, moving him from job to job in the firm. They


could do no more. This was restoring my faith in the importance of


actually hearing both sides of these cases will stop any employee


considering themselves Ronnie dismissed and unfairly treated was


entitled to bring their service to the tribunal, their case go and I


believe in a fair hearing. They did not have to pay any fee, I believe


the system was fair, and well used. At a time when in this house we were


at a stage with commonhold and leasehold reform act of 2002 I was


responsible for an amendment which outlawed frivolous or vexatious


litigants stop the head of the tribunal service advised me in the


drafting of the amendment, and the government, after changing one lower


case letter to a capital, except it the wording in its entirety. At the


time the amendment was brought to the attention when an applicant


appeared before a tribunal and it emerged that he was making a


the country basing his cases on the country basing his cases on


failed job applications. He was a qualified radiographer, he applied


advertised and if he didn't get an advertised and if he didn't get an


interview he went to the tribunal on the grounds of discrimination. He


had all travel accommodation expenses paid in many interesting


places, and often got a good compensation. He was abusing the


system and being paid to do so. If he did get an interview he never got


the job, as hospitals needed radiographers who had worked with


human beings, and his experience was specifically with concrete blocks


and other inanimate objects. There are charities who try to help


individuals with advice. As they don't charge fees they rely on


grants and donations and the lawyers are generally not very well paid.


The Citizens Advice Bureau still exists, but their resources are


really stretched, and in many cases are simply not available to people.


My neighbour, an employment lawyer since 1990, has volunteered to help


others through the CLB for years. Welfare and debt are the largest


number of cases and employment cases where six - 10% of the over 10,000


has told me that a major problem is has told me that a major problem is


that the individual had very often no idea what the terms of their


employment were. And that they didn't know that under section one


of the employment rights act, 1996, there were entitled to a statement


of particulars in employment. This resulted in a real problem in


identifying the correct name of the employer. Many employers use


organisations, the name of which appears on a pace that, but they are


not the employer and getting hold of documents can be very difficult.


Individuals have often had but lost their copy of the terms of


employment. In the past, many of these things we


could do on a do-it-yourself basis, it seems people are finding they


have no choice now but to use legally qualified people and this


involves extra costs which they can ill afford. Some hold people on an


ex-gratia basis but there are many specialists who do pro bono work. I


dislike a system which fails to protect vulnerable groups in society


or because they need the practice, for example junior barristers


cutting their teeth. Large firms encourage junior solicitors to do


pro bono work perhaps because it impresses the corporate clients.


Organisations such as the employers lawyers Association have our pro


bono section where people can volunteer to take on a case. This is


not and should not be a substitute for the right to a fair trial which


should be available without relying on the kindness of strangers. It is


essential that individuals should have the tools made available to


enforce their rights, otherwise they are meaningless. Those who save and


therefore do not qualify for admission fees have to find the


money before they can start a claim. This means bad employers can benefit


from the fact that people who save I then hit with having to pay a fee to


claim their employment rights. My other direct experience with


leasehold valuation Tribunal is, these were abolished in 2013 and


many people are disadvantaged by this. I took part in the commonhold


reform act 2002 which introduce these Tribunal is. It was fully


debated in your lordship's chamber and after hearing from the


covering the full costs down to the covering the full costs down to the


milk for the office cat, the House decision was these cases, even if


the lost, they would not be required to be more than ?500. Now these


cases go straight to the first tier lands Tribunal and it is at least a


?500 I understand to enter your case. An important role of the


leasehold valuation Tribunal is returning value for the extension


and the terms thereof. Most are held in a leasehold and is the least


drops, the value becomes very small and the amount to extend the lease


increases exponentially. My own experience took the form of four


days in front of the Tribunal, a visit to the flat, everything seemed


to be done very thoroughly as other cases were heard by different


members of the tribunal, I sat in on a lot of cases and the standards


were high. The 2002 act made clear that if costs were charged, they


would not exceed ?500 per application. Now these cases have to


go to the first tier lands Tribunal, one of the worst thing is the


unscrupulous leaseholder can often employ a QC and win or lose, they


charge the legal fees back to the leaseholder is part of the service


charge. This is not fair and I considered it an abuse of the


system. The leasehold Tribunal was abolished in 2013 and I was the only


member to speak in opposition, perhaps because with those


instruments you had to say yes or no, you could not consider a review.


The Prime Minister has made clear that those who work hard are already


under heavy pressure and should not continue to be disadvantaged, surely


it is time to look again at helping access to a tribunal. Unless


ordinary people can access a tribunal to help them enforce their


rights, those rates are meaningless. These fees are preventing genuine


cases from being heard. My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness


for asking this question in the short debate. I am proud to be the


sole representative of the cross amongst the select band from across


those which has assembled to discuss it. The available evidence indicates


that the proportion of litigants appearing before civil and family


courts without legal representation, litigants in person, also sometimes


called self represented litigants, has increased since the legal aid


sentencing and punishment of offenders act to many civil and


private law, children and family cases out of the scope of legal aid


in England and we from April one 2013. I have become involved in


these issues through the work of the commission I cheered on the future


of advice of legal support on social welfare law and I did clear that as


an interest. One of the policy responses the commission has been


concerned with has been the Ministry of Justice's decision two years ago


to fund and supports litigants in-person support strategy,


encouraged by the civil Justice Council work and joined on many of


the resources from the pro bono legal information personal support


and other support centres such as law life advice website with a


personal support unit providing additional capacity and better


coordination of the pro bono. Over 1 million people use the advice on our


website last year with 50,000 people accessing pro bono legal advice


through clinics supported by the strategy and over 50,000 people were


provided with practical support via the personal support unit. So the


litigants in-person strategy is an litigants in-person strategy is an


excellent initiative, but one has to remember that it has been developed


in a context in which over 700,000 people have lost their entitlement


to legal aid in family and civil matters. Moreover, they now have to


pay much steeper fees if they want to bring cases as litigants


in-person. In terms of access to justice, this amounts to a double


whammy. Over the past few years, these four litigants bringing cases


have increased and mushroomed across are several quarts and tribunal is.


There have been a number of proposals for further increases.


These issues have to be considered together with the impact of legal


aid cuts in terms of the outcomes are delivered by the justice system.


Take for example, employment tribunal were legal aid was cut to


zero, steep tribunal fees were introduced as we have heard at


length from the noble Baroness. Since August 2013, from nothing at


all, the issue fee in employment tribunal is may now be ?250 and the


healing fee as much as ?950 in more complex cases. These may include


discrimination, equal pay and unfair dismissal claims. For claims to the


employment tribunal, the issue fee is ?400 and the healing fee, ?1200.


Fees can be waived if the party cannot afford to pay. However that


may be, since introducing fees, the volume of employment tribunal claims


has plummeted between October 2013 and September 2014, single claims


brought by individuals were 64% down the previous 12 months and multiple


claims, those brought by more than one person, were down by 67%. In


2015, the number of employment tribunal cases brought by single


individuals declined by 67% and the number of multiple claims declined


by 72%. Even if one accepts that the imposition of fees was flushing out


some under the Tories cases, it is clearly having a negative impact


towards access to justice. Last July's report from the other place,


criticise many aspects of the fees and charges regime, not just


employment tribunal fees but also civil fees which have risen by up to


600%. Last autumn there were proposals for an increase of up to


500% in immigration tribunal fees, again a jurisdiction that was mostly


taken out of the scope of legal aid by the punishing of offenders act.


After only a matter of weeks into their implementation, the government


had to abandon them when they realise the projected levels of fee


income from this level of increase would not materialise as the volume


of claims would be so depressed. This seems to be following a


familiar pattern from the time when Michael Gove had to scope the


criminal courts charge which clearly wasn't working. -- to scrap. Which


serve to penalised poor people for the right of citizens to use the


courts. That is clearly a strong case for reviewing these massive


increases in employment tribunal fees also. I should be grateful if


the Minister could tell us whether the government would be willing to


consider this? The respected commentator Roger Smith has spoken


about the economic cleansing of the courts by deliberately denying poor


people access to justice through new economic barriers and much reduced


public assistance for supporting litigants through the system. I


could go on at length about the false logic and false economy of the


MoT seeking full cost recovery and more besides from court users and


trying to use court fees as an trying to use court fees as an


income generating vehicle to offset the Treasury's meanness to the


Ministry of Justice. However, I am interested more broadly on the


question of why we reclaim the courts and tribunal is for citizens,


especially poor and disadvantaged citizens. Part of the answer must be


to make the whole process cheaper with less reliance on expensive


paper-based bureaucracy, removal of costly delays in proceedings to more


streamline processes and better case management systems to minimise the


wastage of court and judicial time. The whole process also needs to be


redesigned with the needs of litigants in-person in mind. I am


encouraged by proposals for court reform and digitisation and the


government take-up of these proposals. However, until one season


in operation, one must have 1's reservations about the government


commitment to funding better assisted digital legal services to


help the least legally or IT literate communities, whether the


government's willingness to commit to funding those least legally and


IT literate it will actually materialise in practice. -- one sees


in operation. My Lords, I too congratulate the noble lady for


securing this debate and would -- and also the eloquent way she opened


it. The central problem for this debate for me, I and the Woolhouse


commend Lord low for the impressive work he and his commission of


carried out in this area. Legal aid has meant more litigants in-person


while dramatic increases in court fees have restricted access to


justice by another route. Cuts in legal aid, especially cuts in scope,


were bound to lead to more litigants in-person at their impact in so


doing has been dramatic. This has been particularly severe in family


cases, mentioned by the noble Lord, because most out of scope. The


National audit office report said an increase in cases where neither


party are represented of 30% in child contact cases and 22% in


family cases overall. Approximately 80% of all family cases have


litigants, have at least one litigant in person. In family cases


of course this is serious because most litigants come to court when


their lives are turbulence and feelings between the parties are


highly emotional and often deeply hostile. This is not therefore


achieve calm and cool dispute resolution and it certainly is not


in the best interest of any children involved. But another civil


litigation as well, judges ideally frustrated at trying to get through


their lists efficiently and justly while battling to explain to Ang Lee


litigants how and where they have gone wrong in the process as well as


trying to understand how parties are trying to put their cases and we do


make sense in law. The speed and efficiency of the


judicial process and inevitably and sadly, so has the quality of


justice. At the same time, the cost of cases to the public purse has


significantly increased as the National Audit Office and the Public


Accounts Committee have pointed out. Diminishing the savings made by


cutting legal aid. And to add to the problem, government has thrown into


the mix increased court fees, increasing the burden on litigants


struggling without representation. These are not just fees to cover


administering litigants' own cases but so-called enhanced fees to pay


for running the whole system, allowing for profits in some areas


in order to pay costs incurred in others. Many of us believe that the


state has a fundamental responsibility to provide courts to


resolve disputes in accordance with the law and to do so free of charge.


But even many who do not take that purist view in difficult times


believe there is something deeply offensive about enhanced court fees,


charged at levels that exceed the cost of administering the case is


concerned, so as to make the whole court system self financing.


Furthermore, it was always obvious that introducing very high court


fees would reduce the number of cases brought. In 2015, a number of


professional bodies assembled evidence which showed that the total


value of cases brought by individuals would be likely to fall


by around one third with higher court fees, and that for small and


medium-sized companies, it would halve. This evidence was in sharp


contrast to be complacent and misguided assumptions underlying the


Government's impact assessment of higher court fees. First, that the


changes will not affect court case volumes. Then, that there are no


detrimental impacts on court case outcomes, nor on access to justice


from any increase in court fees. Thirdly, that there are no impacts


on the legal services used to pursue or defend claims. My Lords, I accept


that my party was in coalition at the time, but I spoke out against


those fees then, and make no apology for doing so again now. The Lord


Chief Justice and senior judiciary described the assumptions as very


sweeping and in our view, unduly complacent. And lastly, Lord Dyson,


then the Master of the Rolls, gave evidence to the justice Select


Committee that they were based on a very limited evidential base and


that he was extremely sceptical about them. He described enhanced


fees as wrong in principle and the Government's preparatory research as


lamentable. In practice, the dire predictions of a reduction in case


numbers are proving justified. We need more evidence on civil cases


generally, but as the noble Lord has pointed out, the immediate 70%


reduction in overall in employment tribunal claims was severe.


Furthermore, there was no increase in the success rate of claims. So,


one can reduce that fees have not discouraged spurious claims, they


have only vented claims, meritorious or not, from being brought. -- only


prevented. Michael Gove as Justice Secretary said in the House of


Commons, one of the biggest barriers to justice is costs. Action needs to


be taken to reduce costs in civil justice. It is not enough simply to


say the taxpayer must shoulder the burden. We need reform of our legal


system to make access to justice easier for all. On that issue, I


agree with Michael Gove. I also agree that the Conservative chair of


the Justice committee, who said in June, where there is conflict


between the objectives of achieving full cost recovery and preserving


access to justice, the latter must avail. -- prevail. Access to justice


has been subjected to a pincer movement of restricted legal aid and


increased court fees. This has had the dual effect of deterring


litigants and reducing the effectiveness of the court system.


On legal aid, we need an urgent review of the areas in scope, to see


whether hardship is biting deepest and to relieve it. Social welfare


and family cases are two of the prime areas for alleviation. We must


make it easier to apply for and to secure exceptional case funding. We


must review the system for applying for legal aid in domestic violence


cases, to make it more humane and easier to navigate. On court fees, I


suggest there are three things to be done. First, we should be reducing


court fees to a reasonable level, and never more than the cost of


administering claims. To ensure that litigants are not deterred by court


fees from bringing genuine claims. Secondly, we should be introducing a


more fair fee remission scheme. The present capital and disposable


income thresholds are far too low, and stop poor litigants from


bringing genuine claims. Thirdly, we should be looking at spreading fees


in civil litigation more evenly over the life of cases this is done in


part already in employment cases. Rather than front loading them, as


is done now in civil cases with huge issue fees and only modest fees


later on. The present arrangements deter claims to collect, difficult


to recover undisputed depths, and encourage unscrupulous debtors to


avoid payment in the hope that the fees will put off their creditors.


My Lords, these are practical steps, intended to go some way to reverse a


steady decline in access to justice over successive governments in


recent decades. The measures I have suggested have cost implications,


but they are targeted to addressing the most urgent crisis points. In


the longer term, only a more wide-ranging review will enable us


to restore and sustain access to civil justice to the standard we


would all wish to see, and to which we all claim to aspire. And which, I


fear, we have painfully failed to attain in recent years. I suppose I


should mention that my daughter practices in the field of housing


law and serves as a part-time deputy district judge. I must congratulate


the noble Baroness on securing this debate, her initiative is the more


welcome, coming as it does from a most respected occupant of the


off-mac benches. Access to justice has been all too regular a subject


of debate in my membership of this House, with the coalition and


Conservative governments laying down roadblocks in the form of huge


increases in fees wedding already existed, new impositions whereas in


the case of implement Rabah N also did not exist, and savage reductions


in legal aid, to which noble Lords have already referred. Senior


members of the judiciary have repeatedly complained likely that


these measures have led to a significant increase in a number of


cases in which parties are not represented with the consequential


legal equivalent of Burger King, wasting the time of course and


proving the old maxim that Justice delayed is justice denied. Lord


Dyson giving evidence to the justice Select Committee described the


evidence on which the Government based its increase in court fees as


hopeless and pointed out that it had consulted all of 31 people on the


proposal. Sir Ernest Ryder, in charge of tribunal is an apartment,


Ponta to the 70% reduction in tribunal applications, which he


described as an extraordinary position that demands an


explanation. Needless to say, those are -- no such expiration has been


vouchsafed. The fee could be as much as ?1200. The civil justice Council


have warned that the reductions and changes in legal aid will have the


most serious consequences, not something because of their skill but


also by design and incidents. Among other things they would have a


disproportionately adverse effect on the most vulnerable. If forecast


correctly the number of self represented litigants will increase


on a considerable scale, leading to cases been longer than the need to


be, and with increasingly wide and serious consequences for the


individual families and the state. There have been large reductions in


important areas of the law, including housing, weather has been


a reduction of 18% in cases at a time whether having record numbers


of repossessions in private rented property. Some 40,000 households


were affected in 2015 and 53% more than in 2010. -- 40 3000. -- 43,000.


The problem is the collapse of the supply side in the ship of legal aid


lawyers specialising in housing law so there are areas of the countries,


very few and in some cases no legal aid housing providing lawyers. One


third of legal aid areas have just one solicitor providing legal aid in


housing cases. As the director of the legal aid action group observed,


civil aid legal services are in freefall with solicitors' firms and


advice centres closing and while legal aid is available, fees are


charged that only 57p per hour or ?63 per hour for a court appearance.


-- ?57 per hour. It is hardly surprising that there are not many


people practising. My charging rate was higher than that when I was last


practising. I would surmise that the charges in Scotland might be higher


still. Unqualified people assisting litigants are no charging as much as


?125 per hour for their services. Shelter has 17 offices offering


legal assistance, some of them being the only source in their error. How


much has the Government been saving from the impact of the changes in


housing law? And reminder budgets -- and from other bodies, which have


all been affected as a consequence of evictions and this repair which


might have been dealt with by the justice system? In family law there


has been a significant drop in cases of domestic violence, which could


trigger legal aid but it is not an issue, and that is where legal aid


is not available, but the much vaunted alternative by way of


mediation has actually fallen by two thirds. The people here are most


likely to be affected women and children. Mental health cases have


declined due largely to a shrinking of the supply-side of legal advice,


as in housing. And welfare cases have season large reductions. Nor


have these difficulties combined to individuals -- can find. Small


businesses also faced difficulty from higher court fees. The Justice


Select Committee report was damning of the Government's policy, and are


unlikely to be impressed by what passes for the government's replied.


-- reply. One of those pages deals with the controversial employment


and immigration tribunal fees and I would be grateful if the Government


has at least abandoned that proposal. The Government declared it


would publish a review of the employment Tribunal fees in due


course. Can the Minister say how long this issue will take to resolve


and how long does he expect the pregnancy and discolouration claims


today? The Government dismissed the concern about a significant increase


for fees and divorce petitions, seeing help is available, but how


widely is that no? Insofar as the Government is right to claim women


are less likely to have to pay the full feed, is it not the case that


by the same token, there are less likely to be able to pay for legal


advice and rivers in addition, thereby being placed at a


disadvantage and increasing the problem of litigants in person? The


Government and responding to the suggestion that there should be a


graduate of the declared a balance had to be struck between the 70


fixed fees Andrade more for those who make greater use of the course.


Can the Minister explain this? Does greater use Roberta frequency and if


so, in one sense, or content? Will and income or means related system


not be sufficient? The committee suggested the employment tribunal


cases that the respondent should pay but the suggestion was rejected


because respondents have little influence over the decision to


mitigate or stop it is an interesting argument. A recalcitrant


employer must not be troubled by paying a fee but a dismissed


employee must fork out an amount disproportionate to the claim. I


mentioned immigration cases, and I welcome the fact the Government have


not proposed an increase of these but immigration judges report high


levels of unrepresented applicants, contrary to the impression given by


the official statistics, which were questioned in the letter to Michael


Gove by an immigration lawyer in 2015.


Litigants for Suffolk the additional difficulty of not being able to


speak English. So far it has resolutely resisted and insist that


will only do so after five years of the operation. Given the scale of


concerns, at the time of the review, why will the government not now


settled that review and least the respect of the most contentious


areas? I conclude with the further short points, the first is to remind


the House that the government was my proposals on the increase of the


small claims it will engender more problems for litigants and a further


depletion of qualified lawyers wishing to undertake cases. The


second is that the courts impose additional costs on parties now


having to travel to have their cases heard. And finally, I would like to


commend the work that the public support unit which has been


mentioned tonight who staff and volunteers do valiant work in


non-legal support of litigants in person as they encounter unfamiliar


experiences in the court centres that they support. Will the


government at the very least help this organisation as it attempts to


hold those and help those whose access the judgment has been made


more difficult by this government and its predecessors?


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble lady Baroness Gardner of Parkes


securing the debate today. On this important subject. And to the House


for its valuable contributions they have made to the debate. I would


begin by saying that the government is committed to ensuring that the


justice system continues to be accessible to all and that it deals


with disputes fairly and justly and that it continues to work for all


its users. A number of your noble lord ships and the noble lady


Baroness Thatcher have referred to the matter of the employment


tribunal 's and the employment tribunal fees. And as the noble Lord


Beecham noted in his observations, that has been the subject of a


review at the instance of the government. -- baroness and are.


What I can tell you is that that review, which was essentially to


address the issue of applications in light of the three matters, a review


of the impact of the introduction of fees on the employment tribunal 's


Andy employment appeal Tribunal has made a very good progress and we do


expect to publish the results of that review in the very near future.


I cannot at this stage, regret, be more specific than that, but I hope


that the noble Lord Beecham will accept that it is our intention to


publish as soon as we reasonably can and that is anticipated to be in the


near future. It is appreciated that the number of applications to


employment tribunal 's have reduced since the introduction of fees but I


would notice that the introduction of fees was incidental with the


development and mediation services in the context of employment


applications, and therefore, one cannot simply attribute any


reduction to fees being introduced in that respect. It would not be


appropriate for me to anticipate the outcome of the review that has been


carried out and must be published in the near future. I am sorry to


interrupt, had any work being done to assess how far there is a match


between the increase in mediation services and the drop-off? I would


not wish to anticipate the outcome of the review, which will be


published, and we will look at the matter in light of that review once


it has been published. If I can turn for a moment away from employment


tribunal 's to the matter of the property law issues that were raised


by the noble baroness in her opening speech and it is necessary to


remember that when you look at the matter of course, it is not just a


matter of fees, it is not just a matter of legal costs that may be


incurred in litigation, there is the matter of recovery of costs in that


context as well and in that area, some considerable progress has been


made, particularly with regard to the matter of applications to the


property chamber. As noble lords will be aware, provision had already


been made with regard to preventing landlords and in some instances at


least, from recovering costs by way of service charge against


leaseholders. That has now been extended or will be extended by


virtue of section 131 of the housing and planning at 2016, which will


also endeavour to prevent landlords recovering such costs by way of


administrative charges. So steps are being taken to try to limit the cost


liability of those who do have regard to these tribunal 's and to


these courts. Now, the noble lady also expressed some concern


regarding the operation of costs and in general, parties meet their own


costs of litigating in the tribunal system, even when they are


successful with the claim but there are some exceptions to that and the


procedural rules. As the noble baroness noted, there was a cap of


?500 in respect of the cost rules of the property chamber, although that


was rarely used, I understand. The tribunal Procedure Committee has


noted that there is concern about the movement of that cap and it does


intend to seek a consultation ASDA bother to reintroduce a cap for


costs for unreasonable conduct any sort of cases. If such a cap is to


be reintroduced to address the question at the water level it


should be set, again, in that regard, some progress has been made


and I would hope the report for the injured course. The noble lady,


Baroness Gardner of Parkes refers to that, those who do not have


representation when it comes to trials at courts. Those using the


system are not required to be legally represented and tribunal 's


are characterised by an approach which is deliberately less formal


than is generally found in the courts and the tribunal panel


members themselves as the noble Baroness noted, are trained to


assist unrepresented parties but helping to frame the way in which


the present their case to the tribunal. Of course, this issue is


dealt with differently in the courts but in November 20 14th the support


strategy for litigants in person was launched and this involves work by a


range of partners across the sector to improve the experience of


vulnerable litigants in person in the fundamental ways. Firstly,


providing online and self-help resources and making sure that those


who need them know where they are and how to access them. A point


raised by the noble Lord Marks earlier. Secondly, providing


practical and emotional support and providing access to free or


affordable advice and representation, whenever possible.


Now, of course, any legal proceedings are likely to be


stressful and that is particularly the case in matters concerning


families and children, one could not doubt that. But there is support


therefore those who become involved in these proceedings. Can I move


onto a more general issue of costs? Because we have to address the fact


that the cost of our courts and tribunal 's has to be met in some


form or another. The Ministry of Justice is not a protected


Department and it does face a very challenging financial settlement. We


must reduce annual spending by 15% in real terms, that is about ?1


billion by 2019 to 2020. Achieving that scale of financial saving


inevitably require is difficult and tough decisions. We need to look at


every area of the department's spending and there can be no


exceptions for tribunal is. I hope that the noble lords will recognise


that to ensure that they are properly funded and that access to


justice is protected, increases to some court fees are required. The


cost of our courts and tribunal systems to the taxpayer is


unsustainably high and it must be right that those who use the system


p more to believe that burden. However, Parliament has granted


through the anti-social behaviour crime and policing at 2014 a power


that allows the government to set court and tribunal fees at a level


above the cost of the service and I acknowledge that and Lord Marks


referenced that. The income from those fees must be used to find an


efficient and effective system of courts and tribunal is, so when


setting fees the Lord Chancellor must have regard to a number of


factors, including the need to preserve access to justice. And


respects of tribunal fees, the government firmly believes it is


right to ask users of the service to make contributions to the cost of


providing such services and reference having been made to the


property tribunal, I would note that the fees are set at a level below


the actual costs incurred, not above it or even equal to it. That is the


help for Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon scheme which helps those who cannot


afford to pay and in addition, the Lord Chancellor has the power to


limit Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon in exceptional circumstances. In the


property chamber, and in particular the first-tier Tribunal, a new fee


structure was introduced in July 2016 to simplify matters, a single


issue three of ?100, hardly an insurmountable burden for a


leaseholder with a further fee of ?200 in respect of the review of an


application. We must see all of this against the background of proposals


to modernise our whole court and tribunal system and indeed,


reference was made to the support by the noble lord and to the government


having decided to address that and the review how they can take forward


the whole process of digitisation in the court process. The removal of


paper, wherever it can be done, the streamlining of case management,


wherever that can be achieved, all of that is an immediate goal of the


present government and indeed, proposals are coming forward quite


imminently to address that whole process of digitisation. Yes, it


will take time, it will take years to implement that sort of proposal


fully, but we have begun that task. And that task will improve, well, I


suggest, immeasurably improve, the whole matter of access to justice.


It will demystify the court process and hopefully, allow those who do


not have legal representation to understand how they apply to the


court, how they proceed through the courts in order to vindicate rights


and in order to seek a secure justice. That extends to all of


those who might be vulnerable to all of those who might be in difficulty,


to all of those who feel they have a just climb. Ultimately, these


proposals, these changes will deliver swifter justice. So our


wider reforms underlie a guiding principle that our justice system


must be proportionate and accessible to everyone. And that means members


of the public, legal professionals, witnesses, litigants, the


vulnerable, victims of crime and, of course, the judiciary themselves.


My Lords, I beg to move the House do now I Jardim until 20:38pm. The


question is that the House do adjourn until 8:38pm. As many of the


position C content, not content, the content habit. -- have it.


Pieres get the opportunity to put the government of the day under the


spotlight at question time. It is the first item of business every


Monday to Thursday in the House of Lords. In each session, there are


format questions which can be on any topic. The government gives notice


of most of these well in advance, but spots are kept open for topical


questions on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The winner gets drawn


out of a hat a few days before. I beg leave to ask the question


standing in my name on the order paper. The minister and stars and


the original questioner gets a follow-up. The flaw is then open to


everyone else in the Chamber who can ask whatever they want as long as it


relates to the original question. Why will Eurostar not take pets


because you can take your God in the sleeper to Scotland and all of the


ferries take dogs, why not Eurostar? Unlike any comments, where each


department has a number of different ministers with specific areas of


responsibility, ministers and the Lords must be ready to field any


question on the whole department. They have to be completely on top of


their prey. Would the noble lord the Minister accept my assurance that he


should be careful in dealing with the issue of ferries? We had a very,


my Lords, belonging to my son and she did enjoy trouser legs. I think


the noble lady has given us a tremendous reason as to why we


should be cautious of ferrets. They were 68 ferries that came in last


year under the pet scheme and I very much hope that everyone has taken


note of what the noble lady has said about trousers. A Lord's question


marks about eight minutes, much longer than any comments or it is


that much harder to wriggle out of answering an awkward one. Pieres can


go into much more detail so there is the greater risk that ministers get


caught out. Oral questions of the busiest part of the day in the


Chamber. The benches are always packed. I beg leave to as the


question standing in my name. With the number of peers at over 800 and


still rising, this place is fit to burst.


As numbers grow, asking a question gets harder. The traditional


courtesy and conventions always decided who gets to speak, but this


gets forgotten when peers struggled to be heard and things can get quite


heated. My lords... My Lord stud-mac -- my Lords... When good manners


were out of the window, the referee, the Leader of the House, not the


Lord Speaker, steps into cool down. I may suggest that the Liberal


Democrat Baroness and the Green Party burners decide between


themselves who would like to give way. The Parliamentary rule book


says that the purpose of questions is to obtain information, or press


for action. Though perhaps the bigger question is, how many peers


actually got the answers they were looking for?


Order. Questions to the Prime Minister. The goings on in


Parliament are watched closely in the comments and counterclaims are


pored over, especially at busy times like this. Of course, there are


times when there are fewer people taking notice, times like this. But


even in those quiet times, there are two sets of eyes and ears ticking


down, witnessing everything that happens here. And they sit here and


on the Speaker's chair. They are the reporters of Hansard and they have


been there for centuries with different staff over the years. How


does this work? To reporters at any given time are in these seats. We


call this the box. It is difficult to get in and out but you have the


best view in the house. You are craning your neck, searching the


benches for any, anything that people would say that you need to


put into the record. It is an edited verbatim report, a purely verbatim


report would not be a useful thing as a written record so we translate


the spoken to the written so the record can stand the test of time.


The reporters watch back video of the debate they made notes on, then


take it up, editing as they go. The deadline is a very tight so if I am


doing a five-minute turn, a chunk of debate that we report, I have 45


minutes to get that done and onto the sub editor's desk. I then have a


few minutes before I go back into the chamber for the next one.


Hansard has been the official record Parliament since 1909, but for


hundreds of years before that, there were competing journals documenting


what was happening. It is interesting standing here, seeing


this huge role of books, and if we look at the years they cover, we can


see that they started in the early 18th century. We have to walk quite


a long way before we get to the Battle of Waterloo, and even further


before we get to the First World War. It is only by this point, when


I have walked quite a long way, that we get to the 1940s and the Second


World War. These days, most of our customers access Hansard in digital


form. In those days, the print run was quite big. When I joined Hansard


there were still many thousands of daily additions being published. And


also, all these lovely bound volumes were sent out to all the libraries


in the country as a way of distributing them. These days, we


produced several hundred daily copies, which members still like to


use in the chamber, and very few of these bound volumes. A lot of our


work recently has been aimed at making our digital content more


effective. House of Commons business is available to read on the Hansard


website, within three hours. You can search for your own MP, for example.


That is quicker than sitting through hours and hours of debate. They do


that so you do not have to. The higher education and research


bill. I beg to move the House du Niall McGinn resolve itself into a


committee upon the bill. The question is the House du resolve


itself into coup -- committee upon the bill. As many as are of the


opinion say, "Content," to the contrary, "Not content." The


contents have it. Higher Education Bill, after clause nine, amendment


118. My Lords, I beg to move 118. Although I am a thoroughgoing


advocate of Freedom of Information, I am very much conscious of what my


noble friend Lord Willets said shortly before supper, that we must


be careful of the degree of obligations and the direction of


obligations we put on universities. So, this amendment is very much


phrased as not prescribing any particular outcome but saying the


outcome must be equal, and that is born of my experience, when the time


has reached -- was reached under the last command when UCAS was deemed to


have public functions and was made subject to the Freedom of


Information Act. -- the last government. I immediately requested


some information from UCAS and was refused, and went through the appeal


procedure. Having been ruled partially in my favour, UCAS went


through two sets of tribunal is with QCs, it must have cost them about


half ?1 million to resist the commission's attempts to pin them to


the Freedom of Information Act obligations. But is perhaps my -- by


I reacted so fiercely to Lady Brown when she quoted commercial


interests, because UCAS's order of priorities was first of all making


money, secondly I'm looking after the universities and thirdly, the


students. The -- I did not think that was right and nor do I think it


is right that universities put money first and other things second. We


are dealing, or ought to be dealing, with different kinds of


institutions. But on the bits I never got through the commission on,


some of which are bits of information which I now -- are now


being made available through this bill, the reason I failed was, the


inequality of treatment of universities which were subject to


Freedom of Information Act, and other high against St Mary de Haura


Church higher education institutions which were not. -- other higher


education situations. That created a commercial tension between those who


might have been asked to reveal information on those who were not


subject to FOIA, which prevented information being released under


FOIA. This is just my recommendation to the government, whatever you do,


do the same with everybody, then everybody has to comply. I beg to


move. Proposed, insert the following new clause entitled Freedom of


Information followed by the words on the list. I have amendment two 38.


-- 238. It follows on from what George Lucas has just been saying


about equality of treatment. -- Lord Lucas. The bill creates three types


of registered providers that are basic, approved and approved with a


fee cap. Universities are currently subject to the Freedom of


Information Act 2000 but in order to ensure a level playing field in


terms of access to information, we believe it is important for all


registered providers designated for the purpose of student support under


section 22 of the teaching of higher education act 1998, to be subject to


the same level of public scrutiny. Schedule 11 of the bill as drafted


currently leaves open what categories of provider should be


caught by Freedom of Information by leaping to the Secretary of State to


specify categories and McGillis is. If there is the appetite to be more


prescriptive, the schedule could adopt the revised new clause for a


wording has proposed. Universities are Kammy subject to the Freedom of


Information Act 2000, if we propose further consideration to be given as


to whether adherents should be a condition for initial registration


for Hydro -- higher education providers do -- designated her


purpose of student support. This new clause would amend the Freedom of


Information Act so as to apply its provisions to or higher education


providers designated for the purpose of student support, which are


registered with the OFS. This means registered providers which are


eligible for public grant funding and, or, access to student loans and


I look forward to the Minister's replied. -- reply. I have not


thought about this topic before. So I welcome the amendment that has


been moved, but I must say that on the face of it, I very much agree


with what Lord Lucas has said. It seems to me that there is an


invisible case for a level playing field. It would be interesting to


know from the Minister what he regards as the argument against a


level playing field on this question. What is his argument


against it? And it also seems to me that I am relaxed, personally, about


new entrants to the higher education market, I want to see more diversity


and innovation in higher in higher education. But if this is to happen,


there are clearly risks, of the Trump University type, as we know


from the United States. It seems to me that requiring everyone to be as


open in their dealings as public institutions, I say not public


sector, I do not believe universities are public sector


institutions, but they are public institutions, that requiring them to


be, requiring everybody to comply with Freedom of Information


obligations seems to be a highly desirable thing.


My boards I am not certain as to whether these amendments, both of


them, will in fact plays a statutory duty of whether they are intended to


enforce some kind of contractual obligation in order to be


registered, because you have to agree to do this and that. That


would not quite be the same thing. -- my Lords. And I just wonder,


there are important distinctions between universities and other


providers of higher education. Whether that level playing field


that has been referred to applies across that divide is an interesting


question that I would be glad to know the answers to. I would briefly


rise to say that I think it is incredibly important for the student


and for society as a whole that all providers of higher education are


subject to Freedom of Information requests. I will give you a couple


of examples. If there are a number of private colleges which provide


higher education and if you wish to find out what the progression rates


are, the books are closed. You are not allowed to do that. But if you


went to university and said we would like to know what the progression


rates are by the students a year on year, that could be obtained by


information requests. It should be the same for universities as it is


for any private provider. Yes. My Lords, I rise to say that I think


the level playing field for those in receipt of public money and with


students who have fees from government loans should indeed have


a level playing field but I think we must reflect on the comment of David


Willetts about do we want to add more requirements or do they


actually want to take some of them away? Having recently been a vice


Chancellor I know that universities get memories Freedom of Information


requests, some from local newspapers in the area want to know bits of


information about vice chancellors and staff and other things, for


example, and is it really reasonable that we should be spending students'


fees on responding to this sort of trivial request? I think the kind of


key data that you need to know about universities, things like


progression rates, this bill will make sure that is available to do to


register providers, that is very important, it is not about


universities trying to hide things, I think the bill does require


universities to provide the right kind of data that students need to


know, but I think you are levelling the playing field and I think we


should follow the advice of David Willetts and take some of the


requirements of Rather than simply having more requirements on.


My Lords, having blasted off at Lord Wallace in the previous amendment, I


cannot go back on that, and I will not follow up the noble baroness on


that one. But like the learned Lord, they are within the Freedom of


Information Act or they are not, if they are not, they will get the


information in other ways, that does not matter. But if you have to


question the other way round, would you have the university sector as


prestigious as some of our institutions that was not covered by


a Freedom of Information at, you would find that quite strange. My


Lords, the government has given careful consideration to the range


of views expressed in response to our green paper. That is 2015 in


relation to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to higher


education providers. Over 100 cons of these responses were received on


this issue perhaps surprisingly poignant was divided. The underlying


principle behind Freedom of Information legislation is that they


will have a right to know about the activities of public authorities.


And though not traditionally required as public authorities in


the wider sense, the act applies to the funded institutions in


recognition of the fact that they are in receipt of direct public


funding. In seeking to apply the Freedom of Information Act equally


to all providers, the effect of the amendment tabled by my noble friend


Lord Lucas and I thanked him, would either be to remove all I read the


quiche and providers from the remit of the act or impose an additional


Freedom of Information obligation on providers who are not currently


already covered. Irrespective of whether they receive direct public


funding. This amendment would extend the scope of freedom of information


obligations, in this case, to all registered higher education


providers and is of course designated for student support. Any


2015 green paper we consider the application of the act and the


regulatory costs could impose on higher education providers, some of


which may be relatively small organisations. Having considered the


views expressed by range of stakeholders, our decision was so


far as gospel to maintain the status quo by providing Freedom of


Information obligations on those providers who are in future are


eligible to receive grant funding from the office of students, namely


approved the cap providers. As part of our overall principle of


risk-based regulation and seeking to reduce regulation costs and barriers


to entry when appropriate, we did not consider there was a strong case


for expanding the scope of the Freedom of Information Act more


broadly. We already believe that more higher education providers


would be regulated through our reforms. And then this short debate,


I did want to address an interesting question posed by Lord Liddle and


supported by Lord story, which basically, they just this question


was why that this bill seek to provide a regularly playing field


across the board? I would like to expand on my answer that the bill


continues in a different approach whereby those who received the more


significant public funding direct from the public purse are subject to


the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act and this is a


targeted approach to regulation, imposing requirements on those... I


am not trying to be difficult but when you talk about direct public


funding, does that mean any institution where a students can


receive a loan in order to carry out their studies, because in my view,


anyone who is eligible for a student loan, there is an element of public


funding because as we know, there is going to be write-offs of these


loans in future from... By the government. So I think that this


phrase about direct public funding, with the greatest of respect,


Minister, it is a bit of a copout. Well, it is that the more


complicated than that and it could be that there is a letter that I


should like to clarify, but there is the funding, of course, only student


side of the tuition fee and the argument here is that, in fact, you


are talking about the private individual receiving private funding


and then on the other side, what we are speaking about here is the


funding that comes, for example, in the form of a grant to help with Tom


Pope, for example, for a high-cost course. It would be good if I wrote


a letter of clarification about that. There has been some discussion


outside the Chamber about this and it gives me the opportunity to be


able to write to him further. Having said all of that, there is more that


I wanted to see on that. Before the minister finishes, I wonder if I


could ask, does that direct public funding include QR funding and


research funding from UKRI? I would be planted to add that to the letter


for clarification, these are complicated aspects that require


proper qualification. -- I would be delighted. Just to complete my


answer to the noble lord Lidl, providers, and he will have probably


guessed, will come future in shapes and sizes and one size fits all


approach to such risks could impose unwarranted costs on smaller


providers and new entrants which could stifle Bible is the specs of


competition in the sector. The independent commission of Freedom of


Information concluded that the current application of the FOI Act


is appropriate. The considered evidence was looked at and it could


please others at a disadvantage compared with alternative advisers


-- providers and founded unpersuasive. In addition to


comments made by my noble friend, I thought they put it rather so simply


and it backs up the access to this debate. It has been helpful to have


this particular discussion. Given the importance of information to the


effect and scrutiny of higher education providers, we have to


produce provisions elsewhere in the bill to provide a high degree of


regulatory oversight and transparency. For example, causes


eight and nine would require the office for students to impose


ongoing registration conditions on higher education institutions and


provided by the permission required to out its functions and publish


specified information. The noble Lord, Lord story, raised the point


about information availability and if I could attempt to answer that


point, because to this bill we are making more information available to


students, as he will know, hopefully he will know, than ever before. For


example, both approved and the approved the cap providers will be


subject to the transparency of duty in Clause nine as discussed earlier


in committee. It will make it easier for more information to be available


to students. With that, I would hope that the noble lord would agree to


withdraw his amendment. My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for


that answer, if a little disappointed. As I learned in making


the application for information and going through the tribunal and


afterwards, if you allow this difference of treatment, you


effectively say to all of the institutions which are covered by


Freedom of Information, that all you need to do is claim commercial


confidentiality and you do not have to publish anything. And the stuff,


anything that is commercially confidential is information that


might affect a student in making a decision about which institution to


go to. So anything that is important and interesting becomes


unpublishable and the Freedom of Information registration has no


function, except to find out what the Vice Chancellor had for


breakfast, which is, you know, clearly not commercially


confidential and therefore, we can't continue to plague you on that. But


it ceases to have a function. There is no point in registering


institutions for the Freedom of Information Act if you then this


apply it on such a large scale by failing to register their


competitors. I understand the government will reach a decision and


that will not trouble them again, but I think they have gone down the


wrong road on this. I beg leave to withdraw that amendment. Visit your


lordship pleasure that this membership be withdrawn? It is


withdrawn, Clause ten, 119. -- is it your pleasure?


Amendment 119 and 120, they should be looked at together, could you


possibly follow me on that, that would be very helpful? These are


probing amendments and the background to that is that the bill


contains aspirations and indeed, could be amended to have more


aspirations to CD cover and rather rigid structure for curriculum and


courses in this country change, so that there are more two-year degrees


and more flexibility allowed to the possibility of taking part courses


or credit in order to build up an entitlement to Bosley award of


degree. This is common in many other higher education systems, it is


something that has been much talked about on all sides of the political


spectrum in recent years but progress has been quite slow. These


amendments are here to prop the question that part of the delay on


this is because of the way in which the financial regulations that


financed higher education are structured, worked in terms of


sessions. There is an academic year that is defined in paragraph 11,


which we are coming to, and the funding for courses is done in


relation to the whole course, rather than to any part of the course. That


has historically been the way that we have done it and there is no


reason that that is wrong or right, but it will not be flexible and if


you wish to attempt to do half of the course with a view to perhaps


stopping after a bit and coming back and doing the rest at a later date,


or if you were a new institution attempting to try to provide a


different type of course, you would have to do it in years, you could


not do it in part years, and that seems to speak to a discourse of


lacking flexibility and it is no surprise that the people who


currently occupy the position of Challenge Tour institutions are


being vigorous and arguing that the arrangements that are currently


needed for the provision of courses does not allow them to do the work


that they would like and they would be interested in seeing a way of


getting a more flexible approach, whereby perhaps as an Amendment 119,


the student... Every student could get up an honours degree in two


years because that there was the way that it was taught and examined and


that was appropriate for the subject and agreed with all the regulators


and everyone involved, even though the noble lord bullocks does not


like that, it would not be possible to do it because it is for a


four-year course and not a three-year course, so it would not


be possible. They would not get it for the Vergeer. Alternatively, if


it was possible to do it more flexible in terms of credits, they


could do for credits any year and the student would have to pay for a


four-year score so much the student might only take two or three


credits. These things do stack up to more flexible system. There is no


particular model in mind and I will give the opportunity for the noble


lord to respond to open this up in future. I beg to move.


Could I just add my own tuppence worth in terms of support of these


amendments? This seems to be crucial to the kind of socially progressive


innovation in higher education which many of us on these benches would


like to see. The truth is that there has not been as much attempts to


enable people to do courses faster than the standard three or four


years, and creating the financial possibility for this to happen would


be a very good thing to do indeed. My Lords, I wish to respond to all


three amendments. I would like to start by saying that Government is


committed to encouraging more accelerated degrees and other


flexible provision. Indeed the Government stated this in our last


manifesto and I hope that there will be an element of agreement had us


all on this. That makes bone, the bill will level the playing field


for high-quality new entrants, making it easier for new specialists


and innovative providers to enter the sector. Accelerated degrees or a


particular strength and this will help to ensure that students can


access learning in the form that suits them. For example, Buckingham


BPP, Conde Nast fashion and the Greenwich School of management or


offer students the opportunity to complete an honours degree of two


years, so the student incurs less debt and can enter or re-enter the


workforce more quickly. We are interested in understanding what


more we can do to support flexible provision. We carried out a call for


evidence seeking views from providers, students and others. This


call for evidence resulted in over 4500 responses. A clear majority


came from individual students and we were delighted to see this level of


engagement. Many of the responding students express an interest in


accelerated degrees so this is clearly an important issue. The


demand seems to be there. On December the 20th 2016, the


Government published a summary of the call for evidence. This is a


complicated policy area and we are now fully considering the evidence.


Let me reassure you that we are looking carefully at the options to


remove barriers to accelerated degrees. While we sympathise with


the underlying intention of the amendment, as we continue to


consider the key issues, I would ask that the amendment is withdrawn. I


would like to move on in a similar theme to the amendment is spoken to


by Lord Lucas, and a similar approach, which is they both seek to


link funding to academic credits as well as academic years. Again I


would like to say there is sympathy to the issues that have been raised.


The Government is committed to improving diversity of provision and


increasing student choice. Supporting students who wish to


switch higher education institutions is an important part of our


performance. We also recognise the importance of part-time study and it


now gives me an opportunity to trumpet this particular aspect of


our reforms and should no doubt of our intention to promote this side.


Studying part-time and later in life can bring enormous benefits for


individuals, the economy and employers. I would like to also say


that this area that is -- has also been considered as part of the call


for evidence and is all part of us looking closely at the 4500


responses. Again, it is complicated and I hope the House will indulge me


in remembering that this does require quite a bit of time together


the information. We will do all that and we will return with a response


in due course. Overall, the Government is already taking action


to address some of the key areas of student choice as well as working to


support students and their diverse needs. I assure the House that we


are actively considering all options in this particular area so I hope


these warm words we will be helpful and as we continue to consider the


key issues as highlighted in our call for evidence, I ask that this


amendment, these amendments, also withdrawn. If I get the support of


Lord Liddle, who was quite mean with his support with some of the things


that come from the site, I am onto a winner! I would make a couple of


points. If I give the impression this was only about new entrants,


that was a mistake, and I think the Minister accepts that, the interest


is there from all institutions who might be interested in following


student demand. I am puzzled why it takes so long to cover those --


process those submissions. You have about 4000 sheets in that file! I


cannot believe it will take you that much longer to get through those. In


the course of this moment we now discover the fifth way of saying


they are not quite sure what they are going to bring back at report.


He said he says he is spending more time reviewing the evidence. You


just have to tell us and we will put it down in report. I beg leave to


withdraw the amendment. Is it your Lordships' pleasure this amendment


be withdrawn? And not moved. Amendment 122, Lord Stevenson.


I beg to move the House do not be resumed. As many as are of the


opinion say, "Content," to the contrary, "Not content." The


contents have it. -- do now be. I beg to move that the House do know a


journey. -- now adjourn. Baroness Meacher. I beg leave to ask


the question standing in my name on the order paper. My Lords, the short


answer to the question is no. Like previous governments we have always


made clear that such legislation is a matter for Parliament, not


government. If the other House considered a bill to legalise


assisted dying, they rejected it by 330 votes to 118. My Lords, I thank


the Minister for his reply. As he has indicated, there has never been


a government supported bill on this issue. The


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