I accept that Mrs A or her solicitor should have been aware of the possibility that the automatic reference of the claim to arbitration could be rescinded by the judge, and that Mrs A by her own admission was not aware of that. However, to some extent at least that was not a possibility with which Mrs A should have needed to concern herself at the outset, because there was no provision in the Rules for court officials to anticipate a judges decision to rescind an automatic reference to arbitration.

Having limited her claim to £3,000, Mrs A and her solicitor were entitled to expect that it would be dealt with by arbitration unless and until the court notified her in writing that the judge was minded to order trial in court.Although in view of the evident complexity of the case it might nevertheless have been recognised as potentially unsuited to arbitration from the outset. I recognise that the issue of form N450 and the notice of the pre-trial hearing might well have alerted Mrsa to the fact that something was amiss.

That her claim was being dealt with Straight Line Depreciation by arbitration, the fact that she did not query the procedures described or the terminology used in the notifications she received strikes me as unremarkable. it is more remarkable that court staff apparently saw no need when issuing such forms in the circumstances of Mrs As case to make sure that she understood that the situation was no longer as she evidently expected it to be.

Nor do I see why Mrs A should have been expected to seek legal advice on the matter; it was in order to minimise such costs that she had limited her claim in the first place.However, I cannot absolve Mrs A from all responsibility for clarifying the position when first notified by the court of the course which the proceedings were to take, in view of the doubt which should have existed from the outset as to the cases suitability for arbitration.The Chief Executive agreed that CS would reimburse 50 per cent of Mrs As reasonable costs.

On 25 February a local Quantity Surveyor Racial Equality Council (the racial equality council) wrote to the High Commission and the Member wrote to FCO each asking for an interview date for Mrs B at the High Commission. On 27 February the then passport officer at the High Commission replied to the welfare association saying. On the same day the then passport officer replied to FCO saying that it appeared that Mrs B had applied for a child addition in 1995 but for some reason had not paid the fee and her application had been returned to her. Judging by an old application (dated 17 January 1996) that the welfare association had sent them, Mrs B has encountered the same problem in 1996. hat application clearly showed the writing of their cashier on the reverse.

The passport officer said that he was at a loss as to why the application had not been accepted as the child appeared to have a claim. If Mrs B wished to apply, he suggested she call at the High Commission on her next visit to Pakistan; however, he said he would not give her an interview date until he had seen the application and supporting documents. On 6 March the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for FCO replied to the Member saying that the High Commission had been unable to process the applications made in 1995 and 1996 as Mrs B had not paid the fee. If Mrs B wished to apply again she should contact the passport officer at the High Commission.

He said that if Mrs B went to the High Commission with all supporting documents, he would consider the application personally in the hope that a favourable outcome would be reached. On 3 March FCO faxed the Members letter of 25 February to the High Commission for comments. He said that there appeared to have been some misunderstanding and confusion surrounding Mrs Bs application, for which he apologised.

On 12 March the Member wrote to FCO he had spoken to Mrs B, who had disputed the information contained in the letter of 6 March. Mrs B had said that on both occasions that she had applied for X to be added to her passport she had produced all the necessary documents, including Xs birth certificate and medical records. The Member said that Mrs B had not understood why that was necessary she has queried what it meant, but the person dealing with her application had simply given all the paperwork back to her. On each occasion she had seen the same person, whom she had found very rude and abrupt.