Fees in immigration and asylum appeals
In September 2016 I noted there the decision of the Government to introduce massive increases in the fees charged for bringing appeals to the First Tier Immigration and Asylum Chamber. They were introduced in October 2016.
On 26 November 2016, in a remarkable change of heart, the Government announced that the October increases would be scrapped and that the fee levels would revert to those in place before their introduction.
It should not be thought that the issue has entirely gone away. The Minister’s statement repeats the point that, in the Government’s view, the cost of providing court and tribunal should be broadly neutral, and that those who use them should pay more. Officials will therefore be working on new proposals, which will be set out in due course.
I think that two key questions remain unanswered:
1 Is the idea of making courts and tribunals self-financing the best basis for providing this service, particularly where what is being appealed against are decisions taken by civil servants working within the government? Is there not a public interest element – which should be funded in other ways, not by the individual – in ensuring that decisions taken by officials are right?
2 If fees are set at such a level that cases are simply not brought to the tribunal, does this not make the whole exercise self-defeating, in that no money comes into the system? In addition, if the flow of cases dries up, it is hard to argue that the impact of the fees has not interfered with access to justice.
I do hope that the nest consultation paper deals in a rather more nuanced way with these issues of principle, rather than just focusing on the narrow question of cash.
For the Minister’s statement, go to https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/courts-and-tribunals-update