In March 1994, Lord Woolf, a senior Law Lord, was appointed by the then Lord Chancellor to carry out a review of the current rules and procedures of the civil courts in order ‘to improve access to justice and to reduce the cost of litigation; to reduce the complexity of the rules and modernise terminology; to remove unnecessary distinctions of practice and procedure’.
In little more than a year, Lord Woolf published an interim report, and his final report was published in July 1996. Such was the Government's desire to make progress on the recommendations of the report that in February of the following year the Civil Procedure Act 1997 received the Royal Assent. The Act sets up a new Civil Procedure Rule Committee with power to make rules governing the practice and procedure of the Court of Appeal (Civil Division), the High Court and the county courts. The old Supreme Court and county court rule committees disappear and a new, unified, set of comprehensive Civil Procedure Rules replaces both the old Rules of the Supreme Court 1965 and the County Court Rules 1981.
Following the change of Government in May 1997, the new Lord Chancellor asked Sir Peter Middleton, a former Treasury official, to report on the proposals for reform and to do so within an extremely short period in order that momentum might not be lost. In the meantime, in October 1996, Sir Jeffery Bowman, an accountant with a law degree, was appointed to chair a review of the Court of Appeal (Civil Division) and his report appeared in September 1997.