Administrative and public law

Westminster update: government drops statutory presumption from Judicial Review and Courts Bill

Your weekly update from our public affairs team on all the latest developments and debates in parliament and across Whitehall.

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Law Society win: government drops statutory presumption from Judicial Review and Courts Bill

The government has accepted a key Law Society recommendation and agreed to remove the statutory presumption from clause one of the Judicial Review and Courts Bill, in a major influencing win for the Law Society.

Removing the presumption was our top priority for improving the bill.

Its removal means that the long-established and fundamental principle of the justice system – that all remedies are discretionary – will continue, and will ensure fair outcomes in judicial review cases that fit the circumstances of the case at hand.

The win on the presumption was the culmination of almost two years of campaigning and engagement from the Law Society around the government's plans to reform judicial review.

The bill will be debated in the House of Commons on Tuesday next week, at which the removal of the presumption will be formalised.

In return for the government's concession on the presumption, we will not oppose the other judicial review proposals in the bill.

Justice minister resigns

On Wednesday 13 April, Lord Wolfson resigned from his role as justice minister.

In his resignation letter he indicated that his decision was motivated by the recent news that the prime minister had received a fixed penalty notice for lockdown breaches.

As of yet no announcement of a replacement has been made.

Appointments of junior ministers from the Lords often take longer than appointments for ministers from the Commons, so it may be some time before a replacement is confirmed.

Human Rights Act: committee endorses our recommendations

The Joint Committee on Human Rights published its report on Human Rights Act Reform on 13 April.

We submitted written evidence to the committee's inquiry, and a number of our positions were reflected by the report.

The report was almost entirely opposed to the government’s proposals for reforming the Human Rights Act, noting that committee is “concerned that the proposals and their consequences run counter to three central principles of human rights law”.

The report states that it does not think a case has been made for replacing the Human Rights Act with the British Bill of Rights in the form proposed by the government.

Notably, the report does not support the government’s proposals to weaken the obligation in section 2 of the Human Rights Act for the UK courts to take into account judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, saying it would likely lead to “legal uncertainty, and increase the time and cost of litigation”.

Furthermore, the report does not support either the repealing or reforming of section 3, which it says would “weaken the protection of human rights in the UK” .

Read our response to the government's consultation

Home Office signs offshore asylum deal with Rwanda

The home secretary, Priti Patel, made a statement to the House of Commons on Tuesday 17 May, announcing that the UK had signed an agreement with Rwanda, to send refugees who arrive in the UK illegally to east Africa.

Patel said that this measure would act as a deterrent to those intending to travel to the UK illegally, and would therefore reduce the number of asylum seekers engaging with people smugglers.

The home secretary also stated that a nationwide dispersal system was to be introduced, which would ensure that the burden of housing asylum seekers would be distributed more equally among all local authorities.

The minister faced criticism from both sides of the house, with MPs asking Patel for estimates of costs, and for evidence that such a deal would deter asylum seekers from crossing the sea by illegal and dangerous means.

Questions about the safety of asylum seekers in Rwanda also arose, given the UK had previously called for investigations into torture and disappearance cases there.

The minister called such concerns “a slur”, and repeatedly stated that Rwanda is a safe country, trusted by the EU to resettle asylum seekers.

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...

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