Cameron announces reform of judicial review process

Objectors' rights to mount legal challenges to projects they oppose are to be restricted in an effort to speed up development and boost economic growth, the Prime Minister announced in a speech this morning.

Prime Minister David Cameron. Picture: Bisgovuk, from Flickr
Prime Minister David Cameron. Picture: Bisgovuk, from Flickr

David Cameron, speaking at the annual conference of industry group the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), also pledged to reduce the time taken by government to consult on policies and to streamline European legislation with the aim of getting new railways and roads built quicker.

Cameron said he was "determined to dismantle some of the procedures that have been slowing us down", such as the over-use of judicial reviews to overturn decisions, including planning permissions.

He said: "This is a massive growth industry in Britain today. Back in 1998 there were four and a half thousand applications for review and that number almost tripled in a decade.

"Of course some are well-founded – as we saw with the West Coast mainline decision. But let’s face it: so many are completely pointless.

"Last year, an application was around five times more likely to be refused than granted. We urgently needed to get a grip on this."

Cameron said the government would consider:

  • Reducing the current three-month time limit in which people can apply to challenge a decision;
  • Increasing fees for making judicial review applications;
  • Halving the number of opportunities to challenge a refusal of permission for a judicial review from four to two.

The Prime Minister also said ministers would have the power to decide how long consultations would take, instead of the current statutory three-month period, and if, they believe there is no need for one, to not have one at all.

Cameron further promised to cut "excessive European legislation" and to make sure such legislation is interpreted by Whitehall in a more flexible way.

He went on to say: "Last on my list – and it overlaps with some of the above - is getting our roads and railways built more quickly."

Cameron said he wanted to halve the amount of time it takes to get roads upgraded but gave no further details on how this would be done.

Speaking about the proposals to change the judicial review process, justice secretary Chris Grayling said that last year "only one in six applications determined were granted permission to be heard and even fewer were successful when they went ahead".

Grayling said: "The purpose of this is not to deny or restrict access to justice, but to provide for a more balanced and practicable approach, ensuring that weak, frivolous and unmeritorious cases are identified early, and that legitimate claims are brought quickly and efficiently to a resolution."

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said a public engagement process on the judicial review plans "will be carried out shortly" with the next steps, including proposed details on the changes to time limits and costs, to be set out in the New Year.

john.geoghegan@hamarket.com


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