David Davis’ recent article (Be Warned: This Government Is Denying Your Right to Challenge the State, October 25) calls the government’s proposed reforms to judicial review “a clear attempt to avoid accountability”. Although the specific changes to clauses 1 and 2 of the current bill are in fact relatively limited and technical, I share his concerns about the attitude they reveal. Recent statements by the government demonstrate that the bill is only the first skirmish in an effort to protect government power from legitimate surveillance.
The government defines its desire to curb judicial review as correcting an illegitimate political grab against elected lawmakers by unelected judges. In fact, the government seeks to arrogate more power to itself.
Judicial review exists to allow independent courts to act as Parliament’s watchdog and to ensure that public bodies follow the law and interpret it correctly. The legal issues raised are “political” insofar as any exercise of state power is political, but judicial review is not about questioning political choices, it is about enforcing the law. The role of a judge is to check whether the decisions fall within the legal power of the decision maker and are made rationally, following the appropriate procedures. If the government wants to change the laws and procedures in question, it is free to do so, but until that happens, the courts require public bodies to follow the law as it is. A significant reduction in judicial oversight would place government and public agencies above the law.
While Davis may be right that this goal “shouldn’t come as a surprise,” it is nonetheless ominous in its implications for being expected.
I read David Davis’ article regarding the democratic right to challenge authority with growing dismay at how insidious the current administration is. The government, starting with Boris Johnson, is beginning to imitate the playbook of the American Republican Party.
To my surprise, I am writing to support David Davis in his concern over any attempt to diminish a vital part of our democratic process.