MPs have voted to defeat Lords amendments to the government’s plans for reforming judicial review.
The House of Commons tonight voted by margins of 66, 36 and 33 to remove the amendments and instead voted for a concession offered by justice secretary Chris Grayling last week.
That amendment will go back to the House of Lords for a vote on 9 December – a period referred to as ‘ping pong’ between the two houses of parliament.
The Lords voted last month to reject plans to make parties automatically pay costs for cases in which they intervene.
Under Grayling’s amendment, interveners would be liable for costs if their evidence and representations have not been ‘of significant assistance’ to the court.
Costs would also be imposed if the intervener has behaved ‘unreasonably’ and if a significant part of their evidence is on matters that are not necessary for the court to consider.
During a debate to a near-empty House of Commons, Grayling said he was ‘baffled’ by continued opposition to his plans, which form part of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act.
He said the legislation would stop challenges being made on ‘technicalities’, adding: ‘If you’re a government minister you’re confronted by the prospect of judicial review virtually every week’.
His amendment would allow parties to continue to bring justified judicial reviews, but prevent those made simply to delay decisions made legitimately by parliament.
Grayling said: ‘If a group can find a clever enough lawyer, almost any government decision can be judicially reviewed.’
Conservative MP Geoffrey Cox said he opposed the government amendment and warned permission hearings will turn into a ‘detailed and cumbersome process’.
Cox was one of two Conservative MPs, along with Zac Goldsmith, to vote against the government. Andrew Turner abstained.
Sarah Teather was the only Liberal Democrat MP to vote against the government, while newly elected UKIP MPs Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless also joined the opposition.
Shadow justice minister Andy Slaughter said the attempt to impose retrospective costs created ‘impossible hurdles’ for charities and not-for-profit organisations attempting to intervene on someone’s behalf.
He added: ‘In rejecting the lords amendments, the Tory-led government is savagely attacking the rights of the individual citizen to take on the state in court, opening the door for unlawful governments to avoid scrutiny.’