According to today’s Daily Mail, the government will shortly be launching a consultation on limiting access to judicial review. It reports:
Charities and ‘professional’ campaign groups will no longer be allowed to use the courts to delay major house-building projects or government cuts to benefits, under plans unveiled today. Justice Secretary Chris Grayling wants to stop activists mounting ‘spurious legal challenges’ he says serve only to generate ‘media coverage for their cause’. They will be banned from bringing judicial reviews – in which a court rules on whether the government is acting lawfully – which can delay developments and policies by years. And local councils will no longer be able to judicially review decisions about major infrastructure projects taking place in their backyard.
The Mail‘s source is none other than Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary. Attempting (unconvincingly) to transform his critique of judicial review into a left versus right political issue, he writes:
Of course, the judicial review system is an important way to right wrongs, but it is not a promotional tool for countless Left-wing campaigners. So that is why we are publishing our proposals for change. We will protect the parts of judicial review that are essential to justice, but stop the abuse. Britain cannot afford to allow a culture of Left-wing-dominated, single-issue activism to hold back our country from investing in infrastructure and new sources of energy and from bringing down the cost of our welfare state. We need to make decisions quicker and respond to issues more quickly in what is a true global race. The Left does not understand this, and believes that our society can do everything for everyone, and that those who work hard to get on in life should pick up the tab.
Earlier in the summer, when these proposals were first trailed, I argued that they appeared to based upon a spurious distinction – between worthy individuals legitimately using courts to protect their “rights”, and pressure and campaigning groups cynically exploiting judicial review so as to advance their own agendas. That distinction only makes sense if one fundamentally misunderstands the nature and purpose of judicial review. At root, it exists not to protect the rights of individuals, but to ensure government according to law – and so to uphold the rule of law. The fact that we all have a shared interest in seeing that government acts lawfully dissolves the distinction that Grayling clumsily attempts to erect. My piece on this matter from earlier in the summer can be found here. If and when the consultation paper is published, I will put up a more detailed post.