Administrative and public law

Westminster update: Judicial Review and Courts Bill – key amendments passed in Lords

Your weekly update from the Law Society’s public affairs team on all the latest developments and debates in Parliament and across Whitehall.

Palace of Westminster

One thing you need to do

We’re fighting for the future of the criminal justice system after it emerged that solicitors will receive a fee increase that is 40% less than what Sir Christopher Bellamy recommended as the minimum to keep the system functioning.

Submit your views directly to the government consultation and read our analysis of the proposals.

What you need to know

1. Judicial Review and Courts Bill: Lords pass key amendments supported by Law Society

The House of Lords defeated the government and passed three key amendments endorsed by the Law Society to the Judicial Review and Courts Bill at its report stage on Thursday (31 March).

We've been campaigning for amendments to remove the presumption in favour of using suspended and prospective-only quashing orders, remove the power to make prospective-only quashing orders, and protect the ability to bring Cart judicial reviews in order to protect judicial discretion and maintain the effectiveness of judicial review.

Amendments making these changes were brought forward by Lord Anderson of Ipswich (Crossbench), Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames (Liberal Democrat), and Lord Etherton (Crossbench) respectively. All three amendments were opposed by the government, but on division, all were passed by the House.

We were referenced directly three times in the report stage debate, both by Lord Etherton and Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Labour's Shadow Justice Spokesperson), who cited the our position on quashing orders, on the retaining of Cart, and on our concerns around online conviction options.

The bill will now progress to the third reading in the House of Lords (6 April), before returning to the Commons where MPs will consider peers’ amendments.

Read our briefing on the bill

2. Law Society recommendation endorsed by parliamentary committee

Our recommendation that a public register of algorithms in use in the criminal justice system be created was endorsed by the House of Lords Justice and Home Affairs Committee in its report on new technologies and the application of the law, published on Wednesday (30 March).

We were referenced four times in the report, which reflected key points from the written evidence we provided to the Committee’s inquiry including the importance of accountability, transparency and addressing bias in algorithmic systems.

The report has been submitted to the government for an official response, which is due by 30 May.

Read our 2019 report on algorithms in the criminal justice system

3. Hong Kong: Parliament debates withdrawal of UK judges

The foreign secretary made a statement on Wednesday (30 March), supporting the withdrawal of serving UK judges from the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal. Though it is not in the government’s powers to withdraw judges due to judicial independence, this will put pressure on any remaining UK judges to resign their roles in Hong Kong.

Lord Reed and Lord Hodge, Britain’s two most senior judges on the Hong Kong court, resigned on Wednesday from their roles as non-permanent judges on the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal.

On the same day a Westminster Hall debate was held on the issue, with all present members commending the government on its statement, and the two judges for their resignation.

Members called on the government to impose further sanctions on Chinese officials, both with regards to the regime in Hong Kong, and their human rights violations against minority ethnic groups such as the Uyghurs.

We were mentioned specifically in the debate by Ian Duncan-Smith, who called upon the Law Society to respond to the situation unfolding in Hong Kong, specifically in regards to the judges who continue to sit upon the Court of Final Appeal.

4. Parliamentary committee investigates SLAPPs

Strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs) were the subject of an evidence session held by the Communications and Digital Committee in the House of Lords on Wednesday (30 March).

A number of different proposals for addressing SLAPPs were raised during the session, with witnesses disagreeing as to whether a single anti-SLAPP law or a range of procedural reforms to existing laws would be the most effective way of dealing with this type of litigation.

The session also covered the role of the Solicitors Regulation Authority, with several witnesses welcoming the regulator’s updated guidance on conduct in disputes published at the beginning of March which addressed SLAPPs.

The Committee chair said that the evidence it received would be used to inform its submission to the government’s consultation on SLAPPs. We'll also be making a submission to the consultation, and we are consulting widely with members to inform our response.

Coming up

We'll be working closely with MPs and peers to influence a number of bills and inquiries.

If you made it this far...

Read our president, I. Stephanie Boyce's speech to Gray's Inn, setting out her view on what the rule of law means.

Maximise your Law Society membership with My LS