Judicial review is indeed a key part of our democracy in the UK as it protects citizens from an overbearing state. That said, it is vital to ensure that the correct balance is struck between the rights of citizens to challenge decisions of the executive and the need for efficient government.
In 2019, I stood on a manifesto committed to ensure that the judicial review process is not open to abuse and delay. I believe it is vital that the process is not used to conduct politics by another means. That is why I welcome the publication of the independent review of administrative law led by Lord Faulks QC.
The review investigated whether the correct balance is being struck between the rights of citizens to challenge executive decisions and the need for effective government. As you may be aware, the panel found courts were increasingly considering the merits of government decisions themselves, instead of how those decisions were made – moving beyond the remit of judicial review.
The panel proposed two reforms to substantive law: to reverse the effects of the Cart judgment and to introduce suspended quashing orders as a new remedy.
Following the outcomes of the independent review, I welcome the Government’s Judicial Review and Courts Bill, which will equip judges with the tools to give more tailored solutions in judicial review cases. The measures outlined in the Bill will allow the courts to delay the time it takes for their orders to come into force, allowing parties time to prepare. It will also remove the inefficient Cart judicial reviews, which can create unnecessary delay including in immigration and asylum cases and introduce a range of steps to improve court processes.
The Bill creates new powers for the courts to modify quashing orders in judicial review proceedings and improves the flexibility of the courts to provide proportionate remedies, increasing the tools in their toolbox. Specifically, the power to suspend a quashing order allows the courts to give time for transitional arrangements to be made, or give Parliament the opportunity to pass legislation in response to a decision to quash. The Bill also allows for the retrospective effect of quashing orders to be removed or limited. This measure allows the court to protect third parties that have relied on decisions in the past, and whose legal position may be compromised if that decision is quashed retrospectively.
I am aware of Fish Legal's campaign which seeks to remove or alter the quashing measures included in the Bill. The campaign highlights the need to protect the UK's environment, with specific focus on rivers, lakes and coastal waters. I agree that our waters are a precious natural resource, and they must be managed carefully. Now that the UK has left the EU, the UK Government has powers to implement evidenced based marine management that will help ensure our seas are managed sustainably, protecting both the long-term future of the fishing industry and our precious wildlife and habitats. More broadly, I am encouraged that improving water quality is a Government priority.
The Bill has completed its Committee Stage, where detailed examination of the Bill took place. It is now awaiting its Report Stage and Third Reading. I will developments in Parliament very closely.