Master of the rolls Lord Dyson has waded into the debate on clinical negligence fees, calling for the scope of fixed costs to be extended to deal with costs which are ‘far too high’.

Dyson told a Leeds Law Society event that the quality of service provided by solicitors delivering civil justice was ‘impressive, but who can afford it?’.

He asked: ‘How many of you would start proceedings, instructing a solicitor or barrister in the usual way in pursuit of a claim?’

Dyson said he recognised that conditional fee agreements promote access to justice but ‘you have to be pretty desperate or very rich to be willing to engage lawyers in the time-honoured way, being charged at an hourly rate, with no cap and simply not knowing what you’re committing to’.

The government last week conceded that it would not meet its 1 October timetable for introducing fixed recoverable costs in clinical negligence cases.

Dyson said he had been convinced ‘for some time’ that the scope of fixed costs in litigation should be extended to include all fast-track cases and all cases in what he referred to as the ‘lower reaches’ of the multi-track.