Assessment and certification (‘taxation’) of costs

43.19In connection with the passing of private bills, the Parliamentary Costs Act 2006 (replacing previous legislation) provides for the assessment and certification (‘taxation’) of the costs incurred by the promoters, opponents, and other parties. In each House there is a taxing officer, having all the necessary powers of examining the parties and witnesses on oath, and of calling for the production of books or writings in the hands of either party to the taxation. The Parliamentary Costs Act 2006 allows the taxing officers in each House to prepare a list defining the charges which parliamentary agents, solicitors and others will be allowed to charge for the various services usually rendered by them. Such a list was last prepared in 1996.

Any person upon whom a demand is made by a parliamentary agent or solicitor for any costs incurred in respect of any proceedings in the House, or in complying with its standing orders, may apply to the taxing officer for the taxation of such costs. Any parliamentary agent or solicitor who may be aggrieved by the non-payment of their costs may apply, in the same manner, to have their costs taxed, preparatory to the enforcement of their claim. The client, however, is required by the Act to make this application within six months after the delivery of the bill. But the Speaker in the Commons, or the Clerk of the Parliaments in the Lords, on receiving a report of special circumstances from the taxing officer, may direct costs to be taxed after six months have expired.

The taxing officer of either House is empowered to tax the whole of a bill brought before them for taxation, whether the costs relate to the proceedings of that House only, or to the proceedings of both Houses; and also other general costs incurred in reference to the private bill or petition. Each taxing officer may request the other, or the proper officer of any court, to assist them in taxing any portion of a bill of costs. The proper officers of the courts may, in the same manner, request the assistance of the taxing officer of either House in the taxation of parliamentary costs; such costs when taxed and settled are returned by the taxing officer, with their opinion on them, to the officer who made the request.1

When costs have been awarded by a committee on a private bill to one party against another and the losing party has objected to items in the bill of costs presented to it, the taxing officer has heard both parties before reaching a decision.2

Except when costs have been taxed at the request of the taxing officer of a court outside Parliament, the taxing officer, if requested so to do by the parties, reports their taxation in the Commons to the Speaker, and, in the Lords, to the Clerk of the Parliaments. If no objection is made within 21 days after such report, either party may obtain from the Speaker or from the Clerk of the Parliaments, as the case may be, a certificate of costs allowed. This will be treated as conclusive evidence only of the amount that the claimant may recover from the defendant if his action is successful.3

The 2006 Act extends the powers of the taxing officer to costs in respect of provisional orders and bills promoted by public authorities, and opposition to hybrid bills. The powers of the taxing officers of both Houses were also extended to special procedure orders by the Statutory Orders (Special Procedure) Act 1945 (c 18), s 7. The taxing officer of the House of Commons is required to tax costs incurred in respect of a special procedure order if requested to do so by the Minister responsible for the order.4

Footnotes

  1. Parliamentary Costs Act 2006, s 5.
  2. Wallasey Corporation's objections to bill of costs of Wallasey Embankment Commissioners, heard on 25 November 1958.
  3. Parliamentary Costs Act 2006, s 8.
  4. Parliamentary Costs Act 2006, s 15; Statutory Orders (Special Procedure) Act 1945 (c 18), s 7(2) (as amended by s 17 of the 2006 Act).