The government has passed its controversial reforms to judicial review through the House of Commons after two late concessions.
Lord chancellor and justice secretary Chris Grayling this evening secured MPs’ votes in favour of his proposed changes to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill.
The vote came after Grayling made a late offer to give judges the final decision on whether to grant judicial review, and for judicial committees to decide at what financial level individuals who fund cases will have to be identified.
But lawyers on the government benches took Grayling to task on his concession allowing judges to grant judicial review where there is an ‘exceptional public interest’.
Former attorney general Dominic Grieve and former solicitor general Edward Garnier both decided not to vote with the government, with Garnier describing the public interest clause as ‘moderately nonsensical’.
The bill will now pass back to the House of Lords, which has already voted against Grayling’s plans twice before. Unless they defy constitutional convention, peers are now almost certain to approve the legislation.
The government wants to change current judicial review rules to make third-party interveners liable for costs and to prevent judges from granting permission for JR even if the public authority has acted unlawfully, if the outcome would have been the same had they acted lawfully.
During the debate in the commons, the lord chancellor told MPs his new concessions should address the concerns of peers and retain the original aim of the proposals.
‘The bill protects public bodies against cases brought on a technicality,’ he said. ‘[The reforms] don’t undermine the core purpose of judicial review. [But] public bodies are effectively blackmailed in judicial review. This bill stops campaign groups using them to string out the process.’
Labour, while welcoming the concessions, continued to oppose the legislation as a whole.
Shadow justice minister Andy Slaughter said the concessions were the ‘bare minimum’ the justice secretary thought he could get away with and would lead to satellite litigation with further delays and costs.
Grayling will hope for a smoother passage in the Lords for his bill, after seeing peers vote to block it last month following the justice secretary’s admission he had misled parliament during the commons debate.
He told the commons tonight that he had ‘mixed up “likelys” with “exceptional circumstances”’.