Peers to debate judicial review cuts

On 7 May 2014 – next Wednesday – the House of Lords will debate a Motion to Regret the Civil Legal Aid (Remuneration) (Amendment) (No 3) Regulations 2014 (“the Regulations”), tabled by Lord Pannick QC.

JUSTICE has today written to all Peers urging them to support Lord Pannick’s Motion to Regret.

The Regulations were laid on 14 March 2014 and came into force on 22 April 2014. They give effect to the Government’s decision to significantly restrict access to legal aid for judicial review applications.

JUSTICE is concerned that – in light of the significant constitutional function of judicial review – these changes are unnecessary and ill-considered.

  • The Regulations will have a damaging effect on the right of individuals without means to secure advice and representation for the purposes of pursuing a judicial review. In turn, this will inhibit transparency and accountability in public decision making and the long-term development of public and administrative law.
  • The Regulations themselves contain little detail and may have a broader effect than intended by Government.
  • We consider that there are significant questions to be raised about their legal basis and the opportunity for Parliamentary scrutiny.

Our concerns are mirrored in recent critical reports by both the House of Lords Secondary Legislation Committee and the Joint Committee on Human Rights (“JCHR”) on the Regulations. Importantly, the JCHR concludes that the significance of these changes means that they should not have been made in secondary legislation (and particularly by the negative resolution procedure). (The Committee recommends that the Government abandon the Regulations and reintroduce the measures as amendments to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, in order to allow for full parliamentary scrutiny.)

Further information about the Government’s proposals to reform Judicial Review and restrict access to legal aid is provided in recent articles by our Director of Human Rights Policy for the UK Human Rights Blog, available here and here.

For JUSTICE’s full briefing on the Civil Legal Aid (Remuneration)(Amendment)(No 3) Regulations, see here.