70 Labour MPs, led by Shadow Minister for Diverse Communities Dawn Butler MP, have written a joint letter to the Justice Secretary demanding answers after the Supreme Court found Employment Tribunal Fees to be unlawful.
The group of MPs have asked Justice Secretary David Lidington to explain how the government will recompense those who were unable to bring forward cases due to high fees, to explain the detail and timescale of the repayments to those who paid the fees, as well as the amount of money the government spent fighting the case in court. Within 48 hours during parliamentary recess the joint letter received 70 signatures.
The full letter co-signed by Labour MPs reads as follows:
Dear Secretary of State,
We are writing regarding the Supreme Court’s judgment which has found Employment Tribunal Fees to be unlawful.
It is a fact that the Employment Tribunal Fees have disproportionately impacted on women and diverse communities. We are pleased that these fees have now been overturned following the challenge by Unison, however we are concerned about the damage which has already been done. As you will be aware, there has been a 79% reduction in cases over three years since the fees were introduced, with many people sadly not being able to afford to bring important cases to court. These people are often on low incomes and some of the most vulnerable people in society.
We would therefore like to ask what plans you have to recompense all those individuals who were unable to progress their claims due to the fees? These fees blocked access to justice to so many people and potentially ruined lives, so it is essential that the government makes amends to them.
As the court has ordered the government to repay up to £32m to claimants who were able to take their cases forward, we would also like you to outline this commitment in detail as well as the timescale for these repayments. Every person should be paid back in full and as soon as possible.
Finally, we would like to know how much public money has been spent by the government in fighting this case in court?
We hope you will consider our concerns carefully and respond to our questions in full as soon as possible. We look forward to hearing from you.
Dawn Butler MP
Shadow Minister for Diverse Communities
Following the result of the court case on Wednesday, Ms Butler said:
“The judgement of the Supreme Court that overturned the Conservative government's policy on tribunal fees shines a light on the lies Theresa May told on the steps of Number 10 when she promised to tackle “burning injustices”.
I challenged the government repeatedly on this throughout their review and always knew that these fees were cruel and unlawful. I congratulate UNISON for bringing this to court. Now let's try and rectify the damage of this cruel government has inflicted on the many.”
Dawn Butler led on the joint letter following her long campaign on the issue, as the fees have been found to disproportionately impact on diverse communities. Last year Dawn pushed for the government to release its review into the fees. The lack of straight answers from the government on the release of its review led to Dawn writing to the procedure committee, and in a rare move then-Justice Secretary Liz Truss was rebuked and told to stop “prevaricating” by the Commons committee. Ms Butler continued her campaign by starting an online petition against the fees.
See the official letter here.