Skip to main content

Judicial Review (Reforms)

Volume 563: debated on Tuesday 21 May 2013

1. What recent discussions he has had with his Cabinet colleagues on the costs and benefits of his reforms to judicial review. (156173)

The impact assessment of 23 April and the Government response to the consultation clarify the costs and benefits of our reforms, which are intended to tackle delays and reduce the burden, while upholding access to justice.

Figures published by the Minister’s Department confirm that the proportion of judicial review applications for planning and environmental cases has remained unchanged since 2005. Does she agree that, rather than facing a culture of so-called meritless judicial review applications, what we actually face is a meritless attack on people’s fundamental constitutional rights to challenge unlawful behaviour by public bodies and protect their environment, without a shred of evidence to substantiate the changes she is rolling out?

I do not agree with the hon. Lady. Judicial review is a critical check on the power of the state—and it will remain so—but it is also subject to abuse, stifling innovation, frustrating reforms and imposing unnecessary costs on individuals, business and the economy. Our reforms will tackle the burden while maintaining the benefits of the rule of law, access to justice and the right to a fair hearing.

In welcoming my hon. Friend’s remarks, may I urge her to look at other, wider areas where judicial review might be considered to some extent to be supplanting Parliament by interfering with the answerability of Government? I am thinking of some immigration tribunals and areas of the benefits system, where judicial review has been misused.

This is an area that we will keep under review. I am very happy to take sensible suggestions from my hon. Friend.

How can the Minister possibly claim that these changes are not damaging access to justice, when she knows full well that by reducing the possibility of taking cases to judicial review, public authorities and the Executive cannot be held to account by ordinary citizens? Why is she destroying what is so important in our justice system in this country?

We believe our proposals strike the right balance. They are proportionate and targeted, and do not restrict access to justice, the rule of law or the right to a fair hearing. Our proposals also encompass a number of safeguards to help vulnerable people.

Does my hon. Friend agree with the principle that public power should not be exercised to abrogate fundamental common-law values, at least unless abrogation is required or those concerned are empowered by clear primary legislation? If we have better and clearer primary legislation, we are likely to have less judicial review.