On the afternoon of 14 January 2020, around 20 lawyers gathered in a former railway arch in Hackney, hosted by ClientEarth, to discuss judicial review of statutory instruments.

This seminar was important because it is not often that Statutory Instruments (“SIs”) and system-change litigation are discussed in conjunction with one another. This was a chance for seminar participants to see how the two can fit together and how strategic litigation can be used to challenge delegated legislation. This seminar was especially valuable because SIs transcend so many subject matters and so can affect all sorts of organisations who may be less familiar with public law litigation.

The seminar first examined PLP’s 2016 success in challenge the legality of an SI which imposed a residence test for legal aid eligibility in the United Kingdom. Alison Pickup, Legal Director at PLP, focused on the process of challenging the SI, the timeline involved and the interaction with the Government consultation process. She also discussed the court’s findings that the SI was ultra vires because the residence test which required someone to have 12 months continuous UK residence to access legal aid, restricted legal aid on grounds that had “nothing to do with” the nature of the issue or services involved or the individual’s need, or ability to pay for the services.

Following on, ClientEarth, the Marine Conservation Society and their lawyers from Leigh Day presented on their recent unsuccessful permission decision in relation to an SI made under the EU Withdrawal Act 2018 which amends the way the Habitats Directive applies in UK domestic law after EU exit and could affect UK habitats, wildlife and marine areas. They discussed how the court’s finding that the claim was premature left the door open for future litigation, if the new regulations are used to adapt or manage UK marine or wildlife conservation sites in a manner that is not consistent with the Habitats Directive.

The seminar concluded with discussion about the likelihood that much delegated legislation will be coming in the second half of the year after the Government’s flagship Brexit bills, such as the Environment Bill, the Agriculture Bill and the Fisheries Bill are passed. Civil society organisations that would like to know more about SIs and how they can participate in advocacy during their passage through Parliament should get in touch with the SIFT project by emailing Alexandra Sinclair: a.sinclair@publclawproject.org.uk.