Speaking to the CBI today, the Prime Minister talked about “cutting back on judicial reviews” and the need to stop completely pointless cases being brought. In a speech about barriers to the UK’s economic competiveness overseas, this was a peculiar target to choose.
The Prime Minister is missing the point - it is a myth that judicial review is stopping the government from proceeding with policies to help boost the economy. Although there has been significant growth in the number of judicial review cases brought, the increase has been in cases about immigration and asylum – it’s nothing to do with stopping the Government from taking steps to assist business. In non-immigration and asylum cases, the number of cases has actually gone down since 2006.
The Prime Minister said that one thing that he would do is to reduce the time that people have to bring cases. In fact, the existing requirement is to bring cases “promptly” and it is difficult to see how that can sensibly be reduced. The real delays in the system arise at the courts, once cases have been brought and the answer is to resource the courts better, not to set up an unfair barrier that would not discriminate between so called “pointless” cases and the valid cases that are brought to ensure that public bodies act lawfully.
The Prime Minister also talked about increasing the cost of cases and the suggestion is that this should be increased substantially. The scope to do this is, in fact, limited and I strongly expect that once the Ministry of Justice has completed its consultation - oddly described as a “public engagement exercise” - a much more modest set of changes will emerge.