Constitutional Affairs Committee

Press notice No. 3 of Session 2005-06
22 July 2005


SMALL CLAIMS UNDER SCRUTINY

The 'small claims' system which is designed to provide a simple and informal way of resolving disputes is set to come under scrutiny by the Constitutional Affairs Committee.

The investigation will form a key part of the Committee's work programme for the coming months.

Concern has been expressed that the small claims system may not be working as effectively as it might do. As a result, the Committee will investigate whether the system:

» facilitates access to justice;
» is simple and informal;
» operates effectively and efficiently;
» allows cases to be allocated properly and;
» whether financial limits should be reviewed.

Announcing the inquiry, Committee Chairman Rt Hon Alan Beith MP said:

The idea of a small claims system in the County Court is a sound one.

However, concerns have been raised that all is not well with the current system. For instance, anecdotal evidence suggests that people who bring cases in the small claims track can end up in higher courts and have their claims frustrated since they are financially unable to pursue them.

We need to look at this issue and the economic practicalities involved in enforcing court orders. These are just two issues of many which we invite evidence on and which we will investigate in greater depth over the coming months.


Call for evidence:

Submissions relating to the terms of reference above are invited from relevant interested parties. These should be sent to the Clerk of the Committee at the address above by Monday 26 September 2005. An electronic version in MS Word or Rich Text format should also be submitted, either by e-mail to [email protected] or on a disk and this should be accompanied by a letter stating clearly who the submission is from, together with relevant contact details. Submissions should be as brief as possible, and certainly no more than 3,000 words. Paragraphs should be numbered for ease of reference, and it would be helpful to include a brief executive summary. Attention is drawn to the guidance on the submission of evidence which can be found at www.parliament.uk/commons/selcom/witguide.htm