Directions for the future conduct of a group action were to be given without reference to the funding of the claimants' claims, although the Legal Services Commission had temporarily withdrawn funding pending the outcome of a funding review and its decision to do so was arguably unlawful.Decision on case management in group litigation where the claimants' funding by the Legal Services Commission ('LSC') was to be temporarily withdrawn pending the outcome of a funding review. The legal aid certificates of the eight lead claimants were limited to non-generic work. In July 2003 the LSC required an opinion from leading counsel in order to consider whether it should continue to fund the claimants' claims in litigation concerning the safety of the MMR/MR vaccines. The LSC informed the claimants that the funding review would involve a temporary withdrawal of funding and therefore interruption of the court's timetable for the proceedings. The LSC stated that authority would not be given for work on certain matters including preparation for the case management conference in October 2003. The trial was due to start in April 2004 and a break in preparations meant that the trial would then probably not start until October 2004. The defendants argued that the LSC had no power to withdraw the claimants' funding temporarily while conducting its review. The key question was whether the need to proceed with the litigation was so important that the LSC's legitimate concern to save costs during the review period outweighed the disadvantages to the litigants and the wider public of the start of the trial being delayed by approximately six months.HELD: Directions for the future conduct of the action were to be given without reference to the funding of the claimants' claims. The existing timetable with minor modifications was to be kept in the hope that the LSC would reassess its stance and lift its temporary withdrawal of funding. That conclusion took into account that: (i) the LSC's withdrawal of funding was arguably unlawful; (ii) the length of the review was unknown; (iii) the temporary withdrawal still allowed for some work to be funded; (iv) the overriding objective of the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 SI 1998/3132 was to deal with cases justly; and (v) the LSC could well decide to permit work to be done on the five areas that it had not given authority for work to proceed even during the review.Judgment accordingly.
 EWHC 1972 (QB)