Tony Blair has stepped into the debate over the Government's decision to increase civil court fees by employing a procedural device to get the issue debated in Parliament.

It is, however, highly unlikely that the Labour leader will be able to use the device, known as “laying a prayer”, to force a vote on the fee rises, which are being introduce via a statutory instrument.

The Law Society, which is campaigning against the rise and has complained to the Lord Chancellor about the lack of consultation over the issue, has welcomed the move to get the measure debated.

“We very much welcome this initiative and will be briefing MPs on the issue,” said Chris Philipsborn, head of the Law Society's parliamentary unit.

Tony Girling, the Law Society president, added: “The Law Society has stressed to the Lord Chancellor that his policy of making the civil courts self-financing must be subject to the widest possible debate.”

Last week Rus de Haney, chair of the Law Centres Federation, said the courts were a service, not a private business.