Following a judgment published earlier this week by the First Tier Tribunal, Parliamentarians will not be able to see Government evidence submitted to the Independent Review of Administrative Law, ahead of key votes on the Judicial Review and Courts Bill taking place this week.

Although the tribunal agreed with the Public Law Project (PLP) that there were strong public interest grounds in publishing this evidence, PLP was unsuccessful in its attempts to require the Ministry of Justice to disclose it.

Having assessed the undisclosed evidence, the tribunal found that opinions expressed by Ministers were sufficiently “wide ranging, frank and in some instances divergent, both in the views held … and the strength of those views” and that disclosure would have undermined collective cabinet responsibility. (para 71)

The tribunal further found that:

  • Proposals for the reform of judicial review are matters of “high constitutional significance.” (para 53)
  • Disclosure of the evidence would “facilitate heightened scrutiny of the Judicial Review and Courts Bill during its passage through Parliament and enable Parliamentarians to consider additional proposals for reform made by Ministers in the Unpublished Submissions.” (para 58)

The tribunal explicitly rejected the Ministry of Justice’s argument that the submissions would add nothing to the Parliamentary debate. It said disclosure would have “prompted Parliamentary Questions and correspondence from MPs, which in our view would promote constructive debate.”

PLP’s Director Jo Hickman said:

“The tribunal acknowledged that proposals for the reform of judicial review are matters of high constitutional significance and that disclosure would significantly assist Parliamentary engagement with the Judicial Review and Courts Bill.

“In their representations to the Court, Government lawyers argued that disclosure would be damaging to Government, and the tribunal has clearly accepted that.

“Parliament is currently considering Government legislation that will weaken judicial review and restrict the ability of individuals to hold the state to account. There will soon be a vote on amendments that will minimise the damage the Bill will cause. It is disappointing that this vote will not be informed by the evidence that the Government considers relevant and that Parliament will not be able to make its own analysis of the diversity of views within Government departments.”

Public Law Project is grateful to Gemma White QC, Kate Gallafent QC and George Molyneaux who provided their expert assistance and time so generously in this case, and to Blackstone Chambers for their ongoing support.