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Judicial Review

Volume 577: debated on Tuesday 18 March 2014

Judicial review is, and will remain, a vital means of holding public authorities to account, but the Government are concerned about the potential for unmeritorious judicial reviews being used to frustrate decisions that have been properly made, to generate publicity and to cause delay. Last month we announced a package of reforms designed to reduce the number of unmeritorious claims and speed up the process for those claimants who have arguable grounds and a genuine case to put. Most of our reforms will be given effect through the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, which is currently in Committee—a Committee on which the hon. Gentleman is serving.

Last week, the Public Bill Committee on the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill heard evidence from 17 leading experts in the field of judicial review. Is not the Minister just a little concerned that not one of them agrees with the Government’s position as set out in that Bill?

I am afraid that if the hon. Gentleman looks carefully at that evidence, he will find that one of the very last people to speak—I am thinking of only one person who comes to mind—said that the reforms would be helpful for development. Judicial review is a very good system of holding the Executive to account, but it is our intention to ensure that unmeritorious claims are dealt with so that those that are genuine can go through to help the economy and the taxpayer and ensure, ultimately, that those who want jobs can get them.

Does my hon. Friend agree that unmeritorious judicial reviews not only bring the judicial system into public disrepute but are frequently a significant financial burden on democratically elected local authorities, which might find their attempts to carry out the wishes of their electorate frustrated?

That is absolutely the case. Some local authorities are trying to help the economy through projects, only for them to be frustrated by unmeritorious claims. The taxpayer loses out because of the extra costs, the efforts of those who wish the projects to make progress or to have employment in them are stifled and, ultimately, the economy does not recover in the way that it ought to. That is what we are trying to achieve, to put right the consequences of the Opposition’s time in government.