Judicial Review: Parliamentary Ping Pong delayed until New Year

It had been originally thought that the House of Commons would debate the Lords amendments to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill yesterday.

This has now been delayed, probably until the New Year, indicating that there may be some chance of a Government compromise on the points of dispute.

The Lords have now voted twice to give judges some discretion about letting cases proceed even if they fail the “highly likely” test. The Government hasn’t yet given way on this one but you would hope that they would accept Lord Pannick’s amendment passed last week which would allow cases to proceed if it was in the public interest for them to do so.

Behind the scenes, the case is being made for the Government to accept that there needs to be some movement on the costs issues, too, with a threshold being set above which contributions are made public. There is some merit to that, I think, because it protects the members of the local community who are clubbing together. However, if big business is funding a judicial review for its own benefit, then we probably need to know that. Discussions will now centre on finding an acceptable threshold.

The other big issue with the Bill is secure colleges. Objections have been raised to the idea that girls and under 15s could be admitted in the future without a further parliamentary debate. That seems entirely sensible. However, the secure college model should be tested and it will be independently inspected and assessed. It goes without saying that any institution in which a young person is incarcerated should be focused on giving the best education possible. This hasn’t been the case. If the independent report things that this new model is working, then there may be an argument that girls and under 15s should not be excluded. I have my concerns about particularly girls being put into a big institution where they are by a long way in the minority, because we’d need to be sure that their specific needs were being met, so the double safeguard of an inspection and a further parliamentary debate seems the right way to go.

The delay shows that the Government recognises the reality of the position it’s in. The Lords have been clear that they want to see changes and the Government has to choose  between compromise or losing the Bill in this session. We will soon know how the next stage in the passage of this Bill will play out.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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6 Comments

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 16th Dec '14 - 2:16pm

    I think you can be fairly assured that it’s not the Tories who are making the weather on the need for change. The reality about Government is that when negotiations are at a delicate stage, you don’t see people going around shouting about it.

  • James Sandbach 16th Dec '14 - 5:50pm

    I think the Parliamentary Party is now on the case – see this morning’s Justice Questions. A hint from Grayling of a compromise or even a climb-down (!) on the ‘Highly Likely’ test. See below:-

    Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) (LD):
    There is clearly a balance to strike between trivial judicial reviews and defending the rule of law. Does the Secretary of State agree that the Pannick amendment, 102B, helps to strike a good balance between those two? Will he think carefully about whether he can recommend that we agree with the compromise suggested by that amendment?

    Chris Grayling:
    I am giving careful consideration to that matter in the wake of the Lords debate. In the new year, I intend to return to the House with further thoughts on how we take matters forward. As my hon. Friend will understand, I will not set out those plans until I have carefully considered with my colleagues what we are going to do.

    PS. Julian Huppert has already secured two concessions (as alternatives to the Lords amendments) on the other two problematic JR provisions in the CCJBill about funders and interveners costs and transparency – a possible exemption for “small funders” (though ill-defined) and a narrower set of circumstances in which interveners could be subjected to costs orders. The concessions, and the way the MoJ have drafted them, don’t get rid of the problems with this legislation, but they do take the edge of the financial disincentives that Grayling has been trying to introduce.

    So a set of messy compromises in the end. But lets give credit where it’s due to Julian Huppert as well as to the Lords for working to improve things.

    I do wonder though whether, if us humble activists hadn’t made such a fuss about the Parliamentary Party’s position on these issues, whether there would have been any movement at all – I think we’ve made them work a whole lot harder on this and consider the issues within the context of a liberal (rather than Government/coalition) perspective. Happy Xmas LDV.

  • “I do wonder though whether, if us humble activists hadn’t made such a fuss about the Parliamentary Party’s position on these issues, whether there would have been any movement at all”

    No in short. Julian didn’t do anything on those proposals (clauses 50-52 IIRC) at the committee – didn’t speak, propose amendments – just voted them through. He MAY be able to redeem himself now but I’m pretty unimpressed by his performance.

  • cllr Nick Cotter 16th Dec '14 - 11:28pm

    I AGREE WITH HYWEL !

  • Great stuff Caron. Receptivity to ideas from outside the ‘bubble’ is vital to future LD success. It’s the antidote to Ukip’s ‘give them all a good kicking’ beloved of Express and (possibly) Mail readers.

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