Deep divisions between the government and judiciary over court fee increases were today laid bare through a rare barrage of public criticism.

Master of the rolls Lord Dyson appeared before the justice committee of the House of Commons and immediately made clear his concern over the reasoning behind and impact of the rises.

Joined by his colleagues Sir James Munby and Sir Ernest Ryder, Dyson said ‘ordinary people’ who fall out of the safety net of fee remissions are being deterred from taking their cases to court.

He added that small and medium-sized businesses – ‘the sort this government says time and time again they want to encourage’ – are being put off seeking justice.

He said the judiciary warned ministers of the ‘real dangers’ of both implementing and increasing civil court fees, and noted the research in advance of reforms was ‘hopeless’ and amounted to little more than 31 phone calls to interested parties.

‘There was a great big gap in the department finances, which had to be plugged,’ he said. ‘I get the sense it was almost a desperate way of carrying on.’