The Woolf Reforms and the Civil Procedure Rules 1998

Part 2

The Woolf Reforms and the Civil Procedure Rules 1998

March 2001  

19.6 The Woolf reforms

(Amended December 2010)

In June 1996 the Rt Hon Lord Woolf published a review of the civil justice system. His findings were that the civil justice system was too slow, too costly and too complex. As a result of this review legislation was made for the introduction of rules of court to be called the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR). The rules are to be made with a view to securing that – 

  1. the civil justice system is accessible fair and efficient, and
  2. the rules are both simple and simply expressed [Note 1].

The CPR came into force on 26 April 1999 and replaced the Rules of the Supreme Court and the County Court Rules and embodied the reforms proposed by Lord Woolf and his committee. The Insolvency (Amendment) (No. 2) Rules 1999 came into force on the same day to complement the CPR. The CPR are divided into 79 sections called 'Parts' and each part is subdivided into 'rules'.

The CPR contain two schedules: 

  • Schedule 1 contains various High Court rules (the old rules of the Supreme Court that are re-enacted with modifications).
  • Schedule 2 contains re-enacted County Court rules.

Accordingly, High Court and County Court procedures are not entirely unified. The rules in the schedules are referred to as 'Rules of reference'.

The CPR applies to the Civil Division of the Court of Appeal, the High Court and County Courts. Each new rule is supplemented by a practice direction (see paragraph 19.10) which sets out in more detail the procedure which has to be followed.

The CPR are available on the Court Service website at


19.7 The overriding objective

All the rules must be seen and applied within the context of the overriding objective to deal with each case justly [Note 2]. This includes dealing with cases expeditiously, to ensure proportionality, to ensure that the parties are on an equal footing, to limit costs as far as possible and to ensure the appropriate allocation of the court's resources.

In order to achieve the goals the central theme of the CPR was a fundamental transfer of the management and control of litigation from litigants and advisors to the courts. The court itself is under a duty to further the overriding objective by 'actively managing cases' [Note 3]. This alters the traditional role of the court away from merely adjudicating on whatever the parties present.


19.8 Application of CPR to insolvency proceedings

(Amended December 2010)

The CPR states that the CPR do not apply to insolvency proceedings except to the extent that they are applied to those proceedings by another enactment [Note 4].

The Insolvency Rules state the extent to which the CPR applies to Insolvency Proceedings [Note 5]:

Pre 6 April 2010 petition cases:

For pre 6 April 2010 cases the CPR, practice and procedure of the High Court and of the county court (including any practice direction) apply to insolvency proceedings in the High Court and the county court as the case may be, in either case with any necessary modifications, except so far as inconsistent with the Rules.

Post 6 April 2010 petition cases:

The Insolvency (Amendment) Rules 2010 (IAR) provide for application of the CPR as laid out in the following table for all post 6 April 2010 petition cases. The provisions of the CPR in the first column (including any related practice direction) apply to insolvency proceedings by virtue of the provisions of the Insolvency Rules set out in the second column with any necessary modifications, except so far as inconsistent with the Rules. [Note 6]: 

Provisions of CPR

Provisions of these Rules



CPR Part 6 (except 6.30 to 6.51) (service of documents)

Chapter 3 of Part 12A


CPR Part 18 (further information)

Rules 7.60 and 9.2(3)(b)

CPR Part 31 (disclosure and inspection of documents)

Rules 7.60 and 9.2

CPR Part 37 (miscellaneous provisions about payments into court)

Rule 7.59

CPR Parts 44 and 47 (costs)

Chapter 6 of Part 7

CPR Part 52 (appeals)

Rule 7.49

The provisions of the CPR (including any related practice direction) not referred to in the table apply to proceedings under the Act and Rules with any necessary modifications, except so far as inconsistent with the Rules [Note 7].

To summarise, the Insolvency Rules referred to in the table above make specific provision for application of the respective Part of the CPR. For all other insolvency proceedings the CPR can be applied generally except where they conflict with specific provisions in the Act or Rules.

Most of the applications official receivers are likely to make in the course of insolvency proceedings will not require reference to the CPR as the procedure is given in the Insolvency Rules but, where these Rules are silent on any matter, reference should be made to The Civil Court Practice published by Butterworths (often referred to as "The Green Book") or to Sweet & Maxwell's Civil Procedure (which is known as "The White Book"). Both publications contain the CPR, together with their associated practice directions and all necessary forms. The CPR and all associated Practice Directions and forms are also available on the Ministry of Justice website  


19.9 Practice directions generally

(Amended December 2010)

A 'practice direction' is a direction as to the practice and procedure of any court within the scope of the CPR [Note 8]. Copies of practice directions and the CPR can be found on the Ministry of Justice website at

A single practice direction for insolvency proceedings came into force on 26 April 1999 [Note 9]. This practice direction consolidates most of the previous practice directions.

Where relevant, other CPR practice directions will also apply to insolvency proceedings. 


19.10 CPR Practice directions

The CPR may, instead of providing for any matter, refer to provisions made or to be made by directions [Note 10]. Practice directions under the CPR therefore have the force of law.

The CPR contain less detail than was provided in the Rules of the Supreme Court and the County Court Rules, in particular with regard to the requirements of the court of an administrative nature. Detail of an administrative nature is now generally to be found in the relevant practice direction. Almost every part of the CPR has a corresponding practice direction. These have been published with the rules. They supersede all existing practice directions, both local and national. Practice directions are approved by the Chancellor of the High Court under the authority delegated to him/her by the Lord Chancellor.

Practice directions have close links to individual Parts of the CPR but also have other roles. They tell parties and their representatives what the court will expect of them, both in respect of documents to be filed in court for a particular purpose and as to behaviour in complying with directions and co-operating with other parties to their claims. They also tell parties what they can expect of the court.

As a general rule, therefore, it is not sufficient to simply look at the CPR rule. Reference must also be made to the relevant practice direction to obtain a full picture of a procedure and its requirements.


19.11 Case management

All defended claims are allocated to one of three tracks for case management purposes [Note 11] – 

Each of the tracks offers a different degree of case management. Directions from the court will be proportionate to the value of the claim, its importance, complexity, etc. Each track requires a different degree of case monitoring, that is, the more complex the claim, the more milestone events there are likely to be. Time for carrying out directions may be extended or shortened by agreement between parties but must not, as a result, affect any of the milestones relevant to that track.

19.12 The multi track

All insolvency proceedings shall be allocated to the multi-track [Note 13].

The multi-track is intended to provide a flexible regime for handling cases and does not provide any standard procedure such as those in the small claims or claims in the fast track. Instead it offers a range of case management tools such as standard directions, case management conferences and pre-trial reviews. These can be used in a 'mix and match' way to suit the needs of individual cases

Case management under the CPR will usually be carried out by Registrars in the High Court and by District Judges in the county court. The purpose of a case management conference is to identify the issues that need to be tried (and those that do not) and assess the case to see what matters need to be attended to in order to prepare the case to trial.


19.13 Terminology

The Rules of the Supreme Court and the County Court Rules contained a number of terms which are now considered to be archaic. In an effort to make the civil justice system more accessible, the CPR have replaced this terminology with more modern words and expressions. Annex D provides a list of the main words/terms of relevance to official receivers.

The CPR have replaced the term 'substituted service' with the term 'service by an alternative method'. The term 'substituted service' remains unchanged in the Insolvency Rules and this prevails over the CPR.




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