Judicial Review

Today sees the first round of what is usually referred to as Parliamentary ping-pong. This occurs when the House of Lords passes amendments to a Bill sent to them by the House of Commons. The Commons can either accept the amendment or insist on the original terms and send it back. The House of Lords must then decide whether to amend the Bill again or accept the Will of the elected House of Commons.

Today the dispute between the Houses revolves around the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill and the use of a legal procedure called Judicial Review. Judicial Review is a procedure by which someone can challenge the lawfulness of a Government decision on the grounds that due process had not been followed. When I first studied law Judicial Reviews were considered quite rare occurrences which only happened in the most unusual of circumstances. Nowadays their use has expanded to such an extent that they are becoming almost a routine tool for opponents of Government legislation to deploy simply to delay matters. The Government has proposed the introduction of changes which will try to restrict the use of Judicial Reviews to more genuine cases. The effect of the House of Lords amendments is to undermine these changes.

The Government aim is to stop claimants from being able to bring challenges founded on a minor technicality which would be highly likely to make no substantial difference. The Government also want to stop objectors from using claimants who have no financial means in order to prevent their own assets from being at risk if they lose the case and have to pay costs.