OTTAWA - The public safety minister is rejecting a Senate committee's proposal to give some criminal-pardon seekers a break on the application fee.

The government wants to raise the cost of seeking a pardon to $631 from the current $150, saying taxpayers should not have to subsidize the process.

After studying the question, a Senate committee endorsed the fee hike and the principle that offenders should bear the cost.

But it also suggested a two-tiered system, under which some applicants would pay the full $631 and others less.

The proposal flows from the notion that applications from people convicted of serious crimes entail more work to process than those from individuals seeking pardons for minor offences.

However, a spokeswoman for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews says there are no plans to adjust the fee increase.

"Pardons are not a right," said Julie Carmichael, a spokesman for Toews. "That is why we are proposing that criminals pay their own way when applying for a pardon."

It's still possible to tweak the planned pardon fee structure, said Conservative Sen. John Wallace, chairman of the committee that looked at the issue.

"These are significant matters that will take time to consider," he said. "And I have no doubt they will be given serious consideration."

A pardon doesn't erase a person's criminal record, but can make it easier for a convict to get a job and make a smoother return to society.

A law passed last year requires the parole board to assess the behaviour of applicants from the time of their conviction to ensure granting a pardon would not "bring the administration of justice into disrepute."

Overall, assessing a pardon application has become more involved and costly -- particularly in the case of a serious offence.