Over the last couple of weeks, I have been teaching new Constitutional Law students in Cambridge about the fundamental, architectural aspects of the UK constitution, including the rule of law, the separation of powers and the sovereignty of Parliament. The House of Lords’ rejection earlier this week of parts of a Government Bill that aimed restrict the availability of judicial review of executive action is an excellent example of the way in which these principles interact.
Part 4 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, in the form in which it was approved by the House of Commons, would have made it more difficult, in certain circumstances, for courts to scrutinse government action in order to determine its lawfulness. I have written before (here and here) about some of the intended limitations, and there is an excellent summary of this week’s House of Lords debate, and analysis of its implications, on the UK Human Rights Blog. However, it is the fact that the government and House of Commons have sought to introduce significant limitations upon judicial review, rather than the precise nature or effect those limitations, with which I am concerned in this post. I argue that this episode illuminates three key issues relating to the UK constitution.