The CPRC annual open meeting took place today via Teams in keeping with the format of the previous two years.
The meeting was opened by the Master of the Rolls, The Rt. Hon. Sir Geoffrey Vos, who spoke about the Civil Justice Committee’s current holistic review of costs as a whole in light of the various radical changes coming forward. The group will look at the recent changes to guideline hourly rates, costs budgeting (which he said remained controversial and needs another look), costs in the pre action space, and upcoming fixed costs changes. It was confirmed that there may be recommendations to the CPRC following the CJC’s report as it is important to look at how these issues interact and to ensure that things are working smoothly.
The open meeting includes time for questions and, perhaps unsurprisingly, there were plenty of costs issues raised, particularly in respect of the upcoming changes to fixed costs. The following costs matters were discussed and the full minutes will likely be published in June:
Fixed Recoverable Costs
There are currently 2 open consultations in respect of QOCS and vulnerability. Comments are due in by 20 June. Thereafter, the rules are scheduled to be approved at or by the CPRC December 2022 meeting, with a view to implementation in April 2023. Additional questions were asked regarding late acceptance of Part 36 offers and whether the new FRC rules would include any penalties. It was confirmed that this was not covered by the consultation.
A question was asked regarding any proposed changes to the QOCS position where there is late acceptance of a Defendant’s Part 36 offer. It was confirmed that the QOCS review looks at the position arising from Ho v Adelekun only.
Guideline Hourly Rates
Various questions regarding the increased GHRs were raised, including whether this would lead to an increase in the £1,500 cap for Provisional Assessment costs and whether periodic reviews/updates are anticipated to prevent stagnation. It was confirmed that the CJC’s costs group, led by LJ Birss, is looking at costs as a whole and Guideline Hourly Rates is one of the specific areas that will be considered along with pre action costs, budgeting and fixed costs. They will report soon and invite consultation responses with a final report due in the autumn. That report will not include detail of any proposals but will look at broader principles.
Aldred v Cham
Changes to CPR 45.29(h) were agreed in principle at last year’s open meeting but have not yet been implemented. The detail of that proposal can be found here. It was confirmed that that decision was subject to the wider work of the fixed costs committee on CPR 45 in its entirety. The Aldred point will be dealt with in those changes due in April next year.
There are conflicting judgments regarding the recoverability of Court fees between the parties when a party has chosen not to seek a fee remission. The lacuna committee considered the issue but work is currently paused as the MOJ considers the policy implications.
Some minor changes to the N260 were suggested during the consultation on the electronic statement of costs. These fall into two categories, firstly, changes arising from the GHR report involving a certificate to show where the work was carried out and, secondly, minor changes to make the form more user friendly. There is currently no time frame for those changes.
Belsner v Cam Legal Services Ltd
The issues arising from Belsner v Cam will again fall within the CJC costs group’s work on pre action costs.