Debates between Lord Faulks and Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb during the 2019 Parliament

Thu 31st Mar 2022
Judicial Review and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage & Report stage
Mon 21st Feb 2022
Judicial Review and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage & Committee stage
Wed 15th Dec 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Lords Hansard - part one & Report stage: Part 1

Judicial Review and Courts Bill

Debate between Lord Faulks and Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb
Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, Clause 1 gives judges a new power. I suggest that this is a power which enables them to do justice better between the parties, and to avoid some of the hard edges which currently obtain. Remedies in judicial review have always been discretionary. Nothing about this clause changes that; it simply gives judges an extra club in their bag. It is notable that the clause is shot through with the word “may”.

The clause—the presumption apart—has survived scrutiny by the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law on rule of law grounds. It has been welcomed by many judges. Despite what the noble Lord, Lord Marks, said, it is not obvious to me what the problem is with it. On re-reading some of the speeches at Committee, a lot of the opposition to the clause was on the basis that it gave the judges too much power. It is something of an irony that the rhetoric against the Government’s plans in respect to judicial review was that they were intending to clip judges’ wings in an executive power grab. Now the objection is that judges will have too much power and will make inroads into what has sometimes been described as the “metaphysics of nullity”.

I assure your Lordships that the Independent Review of Administrative Law was genuinely independent. I suppose that I might be regarded as having a political bias, but no such allegation could be made against my fellow panellists. It is unfortunate that the Labour Party oppose this clause in its entirety—this looks a little bit like political posturing. I very much hope that the House will not be divided on this.

The most compelling argument in favour of the clause can be found in the article published in the Times last week by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, which I hope that many of your Lordships have read. The noble and learned Lord is in his place today but, as I understand, he may not speak because he cannot be here throughout the entire debate and, with a great adherence to the customs and practices of your Lordships’ House, he will not necessarily intervene. His cri de cœur at the end of the article was to regret that the power which is given by this Bill in Clause 1 had not existed when he was sitting in the Supreme Court in HM Treasury v Ahmed. Indeed, it is unfortunate that it was not.

The objection to the presumption is, on the other hand, much more understandable. There seems to be two points: does it fetter the judge’s discretion and, if not, does the presumption add anything? I am not convinced that it will fetter the judge’s discretion. He or she will be able to grant the relevant remedy so as to do justice in the particular case. I do not expect a judge to come to a conclusion which he or she would not have reached because of the existence of this rather weak presumption. Putting myself in the position of the hypothetical judge, I would not be diverted. Our judges are made of much sterner stuff.

So why have the presumption in the clause at all? I have struggled a bit with this. The clause does give the judge more flexibility; perhaps the presumption is doing no more than reminding the judge of the new power. I was reminded slightly of the old television advertisements for washing powder. There is only so much you can say about the quality of washing powder once you have emphasised that it washes white, or whiter still, or whiter than other soap powders. Consequently, advertisers used to draw the viewers’ attention to “a new added ingredient”. That is perhaps what the presumption is there for. However, I think that Clause 1 will survive without it.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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My Lords, as I have reminded your Lordships’ House before, I have no legal training and so I will use very simple language here.

I have a huge amount of respect for the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, and I just cannot believe that he is going to convince the House that the Government are right on this because even from a simple point of view, which is what I am going to express, it seems an unjustified attack on the rule of law. Clause 1 is wrong in essence. The noble Lord, Lord Faulks, mentioned an extra club in the bag for judges. I immediately thought of one of the clubs that early humans would have carried around to kill wolves or whatever, but of course he meant a golf club. I can see that he might think an extra golf club is useful, but judges do not need it. Judicial reviews are already difficult, by design, to bring. There are very short timescales in which any claimant can initiate proceedings, and this will reduce the impact on certainty of decision-making. The Government want these hurdles to still be in place, making it hard to win a claim, but now even if you win there is almost no point in bothering.

Restricting judicial reviews in this way will undermine good government. It prevents justice for people who have been done wrong by public authorities, and it lets wrong decisions stand, even where those decisions were unlawful, irrational or procedurally unfair. Democracy goes only so far. Without being tied to the rule of law, we face the tyranny of the majority and an elected dictatorship, which, I argue, is what we have already. My noble friend and I will vote for all these amendments, as unlawful decisions must not be allowed to stand unchallenged.

Judicial Review and Courts Bill

Debate between Lord Faulks and Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb
Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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My Lords, I love these debates with our legal eagles, especially when they disagree. My only reminiscence of a court was when I was in the dock for not paying my poll tax. Being a very respectable housewife, having made a statement, obviously I paid.

I am feeling a little generous toward the Government —perhaps that is just the effect of recess—so I will accept that there could be situations where a court might usefully add constraints to a quashing order that either delay its effect or limit its retrospective effect. However, the way in which the Government have done this in the drafting of Clause 1 is far too prescriptive. Rather than giving courts these options as tools to deploy in the interests of justice and good government, the Government are trying to force them into being the default position.

Obviously, my legal knowledge is zero, but I will try to inject a little politics into all this, because the reason that the Government are bringing this is, as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, said earlier, that they are trying to stop their own mistakes. It is already difficult for people to bring judicial reviews. They must be brought as soon as possible and within three months of the decision being complained of. This new scheme in Clause 1 would mean that for many judicial review cases, even if a claimant wins, they lose. That does not make any sense.

The Government have approached the whole issue by seeing judicial review as an enemy to good governance rather than as a fundamental part of enforcing good government. Judicial review is a fundamental part of the checks and balances of the UK’s messy constitution, and the idea that public decisions which are either unlawful, irrational, or procedurally unfair should be left to stand is anathema to good governance. If the Government want to lose fewer judicial reviews, they should simply make better decisions. I know that is not easy for them. I have a lot of sympathy, but they are making a mess. If their decisions are lawful, rational, and procedurally fair, then the Government will not lose. That seems obvious to me. They should not be asking Parliament and the courts to validate their unlawful decisions. To do so is to unpick the rule of law and the delicate system of checks and balances, and now the Government seem absolutely determined to push the UK constitution to breaking point.

Of course, the Green Party’s view is that we should have a constitutional convention and produce a clear written constitution which can be understood by everyone. However, until then, we will oppose the Government’s attempt to stop exposure of their bad decisions. I do not understand why this has been put in when it is so clearly an effort by an elected dictatorship to shut people up.

Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I have the disadvantage of being a lawyer, an interest which I declare, and I was the chairman of the Independent Review of Administrative Law. Our task, as we saw it, was to review whether the balance of our constitution was fairly reflected in particular by the scope of judicial review. We did not make radical suggestions, but one suggestion that we did make—and it was simply a suggestion—was that legislation on what remedies would be available in response to a successful application for judicial review would be required if the courts are to have the option of awarding a suspended quashing order, as the possibility of issuing a suspended quashing order in a judicial review case was ruled out by the UK Supreme Court in Ahmed—and of course, there was one noted dissension, from whom we have heard this afternoon, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope.

That was our suggestion. We were not prescriptive as to how best that power should be given to the courts, but what seemed important to us was that there should be some flexibility to stop some of the hard edges which can arise with a quashing order. What seems fundamental to the way the Government have framed this clause is the use of “may” on more than one occasion. The judge, when he or she looks at the act which is being impugned, has the power to do various things and to take into account the sort of things that a judge would probably take into account anyway. We suggested that that flexibility would help do justice to claimants and to defendants, and one should not lose sight of either party in these claims. We have heard the relevant quotation from the judgment of Lord Justice Schiemann on how third parties can be affected by these orders—people order their affairs—but, equally, I accept that it is very important that claimants should not have their remedies in any way frustrated by judges taking an overprescriptive view.

In one of the amendments put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, on behalf on the Labour Party, he is concerned, I think, about potential convictions based on something that might be regarded—retrospectively, at least—as invalid. We considered this in the report, and said the following on page 75:

“in the case where a claimant who brings a civil case against a public defendant, and the public defendant seeks to justify its conduct by reference to some rule or decision under which it operated, the ‘metaphysic of nullity’,

referred to by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown, at Second Reading,

“allows the claimant to argue that that rule or decision was null and void and cannot provide a defence to his or her claim.”

We were not concerned about this because, as stated in paragraph 3.67, the

“possibility of such collateral challenges could easily be retained under the more flexible approach to the consequences of unlawful administrative action that we favour. The courts could simply take the position that an administrative rule or decision cannot be relied on as a basis for criminal proceedings, or as a defence in civil proceedings, if it would have been the subject of a quashing order or a declaration of nullity had that rule or decision been the subject of a timely application for judicial review.”

So, I understand the concern; I simply do not think it exists in the way the clause is framed.

I am afraid I simply fail to follow why the noble Baroness says this clause is creating an elected dictatorship. It is giving judges a power to do what is appropriate in the particular case. In some ways, it may allow judges to make quashing orders they might have been reluctant to make before, because of the hard edges of a quashing order. As it is, they have sufficient flexibility to tailor the remedy to what is appropriate in the case in order to reflect the balance between the claimant and the defendant. I am disappointed too that the noble Lord on the Labour Front Bench opposes this clause entirely. Some of the rhetoric about the ability or desire to constrain judicial review did not seem to be reflected at all in the way this Bill is framed.

Governments of all colours, from time to time, to some extent resent judicial review. For example, we looked at a great many comments by the Labour Government—even that of the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, who is no longer in his place—about the inappropriate comments by judges and restrictions on the ability of the Government to govern. There is the example of the Human Rights Act preventing the Government—so they said—from doing what they needed to do to deal with the threat of terrorism. All Governments from time to time find this irksome. Simply to oppose a provision in a Bill because it has the subject of judicial review does not seem to me to be a very scrupulous and sensible way to approach legislation.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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Before the noble Lord sits down, may I correct him? I did not say that this clause suggested an elected dictatorship. I am saying that an elected dictatorship is running the country at the moment, and we see that in every single Bill that comes to this House.

Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Non-Afl)
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I am grateful for that clarification, but I am afraid to say that I still fail to follow how bringing forward a fairly balanced Bill is somehow the Government reflecting an elected dictatorship. But I hear what the noble Baroness says.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Lord Faulks and Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb
Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Non-Afl)
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I have had the opportunity on a number of occasions, sitting as a recorder, to pass sentence in cases where, in one case after another, advocates have suggested that I take an exceptional course—and sometimes I have been persuaded to take an exceptional course. It seems to me that the word “exceptional” provides an opportunity for a judge in the interests of justice to depart from the minimum sentence. But this is a decision taken by the Government in response to a particular set of offences, and the general public would perhaps agree with that policy; it requires judges to think long and hard before deciding that there are exceptional circumstances. I note that the noble Lord, Lord Marks, suggested that there may be many cases where they consider it in the interests of justice not to pass a minimum sentence. It seems to me that that is a question of policy that the Government have identified and, although naturally I favour as much judicial discretion as possible, it seems to me a policy decision that they are entitled to take.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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I do not want to re-enter an old argument but, in Committee, I was almost embarrassed when the Minister pointed out that I was completely wrong about mandatory minimum sentences. Not being a lawyer, I thought that I had made some sort of legal error, but apparently not. Clause 102 will lead to gross injustice for anyone who is convicted of these offences, except in exceptional circumstances. That is revealed by the very clever wording of the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames, which contrasts those exceptional circumstances with a much preferable

“contrary to the interests of justice”.

These amendments bring justice into play rather than pure, unmetered punishment. I and my noble friend will be supporting the amendments.

The deterrent effect of these minimum sentences would still be in play, but there would also be the freedom that, when justice requires, a person is not given one of these mandatory sentences—so the Government can still hold their “tough on crime” stance and even call this “crime fortnight” while justice is still served—although it would be good if they could admit their own crimes sometimes.