Valerie speaks at APPG- Legal and Constitutional affairs on Judicial Review

Valerie spoke at a panel discussion event at the House of Commons hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Legal and Constitutional affairs on Wednesday 22nd January together with Mr Robert Bukland MP and John Gallagher Solicitor at Shelter.

Valerie Vaz MP said:
“I was pleased to be invited to speak at a meeting of the APPG on Legal and Constitutional Affairs about the Government’s proposals on Judicial Review. Judicial Review is one of the most vital checks and balances of a democracy. Judicial review is a safety valve for society; whether it is a hospital closure or challenge to eligibility for Employment support allowance; both cases where the mighty Secretary of state was found to have made a flawed decision.”

“I am concerned about the Government’s proposal to reduce the time limits for bringing a claim from 3 months to 6 weeks in planning cases. Reduction in time helps no one, and there is no suggestion that the current time limits are causing delays. There is a Civil Procedure Committee and anything that needs changing should go through it.”

“The Government’s argument that the reforms are necessary because of the increase in immigration and asylum cases is not supported by the evidence or analysis. I tabled a written question to ask what the levels were. Figures from 2011 show that in civil law there were 11,020 applications lodged: 8,711 for immigration and 2,309 for ‘other’. In criminal law there were 339 applications lodged: 23 for immigration and 316 for ‘other’. Only one in 6 were granted permission and the number that progressed to a full hearing fell from 187 in 2007 to 114 in 2011. There could be many reasons behind this increase, not least that there is both more legislation and greater scrutiny of the weight of legislation, as well as a greater expectation that all decisions should be justified. It is the role of the judiciary to hold public bodies to account, so if there has not been proper scrutiny by Parliament then it is quite right that there will be challenges.”

“Judicial Review is about cases in the public interest, and it is very important what happens is in the public interest. Protective Costs Order are important in protecting the public interest. It is not about a free ride as has been suggested. Protective costs orders allow costs to be capped at the discretion of the Court where it is in the public interest.”

“More worryingly this is an unprecedented attack on our legal system with cuts in legal aid. In my view the Bar Council was right to not attend court on 6 January or to work for rates lower than the minimum wage. These proposals will mean that the legal system will not help all of society, but just those who can afford it.”

“Judicial Review is the light that leads us out of the darkness of illegality, irrationality and inequality, ensuring that whoever we are, we are all equal before the law.”