Would-be silks will have to cough up a u335 fee to enter the QC selection process, the Lord Chancellor's Department has confirmed.
The fee system will be introduced via the Access to Justice Bill which goes to the Lords for final consideration this week.
In a letter leaked to The Lawyer, Keith Vaz, parliamentary secretary at the Lord Chancellor's Department, says the fee has been upped from the original estimate of u200 to pay for providing feedback to candidates who are unsuccessful.
This service, he writes, is “time-consuming and re-source intensive”, and is increasingly in demand from those who fail.
So far this year, 140 requests for feedback have been made to the LCD compared to just 70 in the whole of last year.
He adds that the u335 fee with be reviewed every three years.
Currently, the u120,000 annual bill for the selection process is picked up by the taxpayer.
An LCD spokeswoman says the fee will be collected from the 500 or so barristers who apply to become silks every year and of whom between 60 and 80 are usually successful.
The application fee will be non-refundable.
A spokesman for the Bar Council says: “The Bar Council has long called on the Government to introduce a fee system for silk applications and we therefore welcome this initiative.”
He says the fee system is unlikely to deter applicants “with a genuine case for silk”.
Andrew Dismore, Labour MP for Hendon and a solicitor who has long been seeking reform of the silk system, tells The Lawyer: “I think it's a good idea. It's one of the things I have been campaigning for.”
He pledges to continue his fight, in particular, for the abolition of paying QCs more because of their rank. He he is also looking to abolish the practice of QCs employing juniors on cases.