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Judicial Review (Ministerial Decisions)

Volume 521: debated on Tuesday 18 January 2011

4. On how many occasions decisions by Ministers have been overturned on judicial review in the last five years. (33910)

Figures for the number of occasions on which decisions by Ministers have been overturned on judicial review in whole or in part over the last five years are not held centrally, and such information could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Well, there have clearly been quite a number. Does not the Solicitor-General’s response highlight the fact that the concept and reality of parliamentary sovereignty are often misunderstood and that, increasingly, the last word on what Parliament has decided will not be determined here, but by the judges on the other side of Parliament square, in the Supreme Court? The increase in judicial review is a reality that is now part of our constitutional fabric.

I do not think that my hon. Friend, who is an eminent member of the Bar, is at all confused about the concept of parliamentary sovereignty. Nor, if I may say so, is our right hon. Friend the Minister for Europe, who responded to the debate on clause 18 of the European Union Bill last Tuesday.

Judicial review has increasingly become part of the legal armoury since the second world war. Ministers, whether of the present Government or the last, are not above the law, and it is for our independent judiciary to arbitrate, through judicial review cases, in disputes between the citizen and the state. The courts apply the laws enacted by Parliament, and Parliament can make, amend and repeal legislation as it thinks fit.

Given the increase in judicial activism and, in particular, legislative activism on the part of the judiciary, is it not important for us to examine much more closely the qualifications and background of the individuals who are making these decisions, so that we can ensure that the judiciary is much more representative of the society from which we all come?

That is a point of view. I tend to think that judges ought to be highly professional, legally qualified and of the highest intellect. If the hon. Gentleman takes a different view, perhaps he will let us know.