The government has followed up on its manifesto commitment to examine the system of judicial review.
Today’s Queen’s Speech confirmed it would establish a constitution, democracy and rights commission.
The Conservative manifesto said the commission would examine in depth the issue of judicial review. It said:
“We will ensure that judicial review is available to protect the rights of the individuals against an overbearing state, while ensuring that it is not abused to conduct politics by another means or to create needless delays.”
Judicial review is the main route open to people who oppose decisions by public bodies about the UK onshore oil and gas industry.
Claire Stephenson succeeded in her judicial review about the climate impacts of shale gas developments. This resulted in the removal of a paragraph in the National Planning Policy Framework that had required local authorities to develop policies to facilitate onshore exploration and extraction.
Eddie Thornton, a campaigner in North Yorkshire, has lodged a judicial review claim against the Oil & Gas Authority over who should pay for decommissioning sites. Sarah Finch is bringing a case against Surrey County Council’s approval of drilling and long-term oil production at the Horse Hill site, near Gatwick Airport.
A background briefing document issued after the Queen’s Speech today did not specifically refer to judicial review.
It said the commission would:
“develop proposals to restore trust in how our democracy operates”
“consider the relationship between government, parliament and the courts to explore whether the checks and balances in our constitution are working for everyone”.
It also said:
“The Government is committed to considering our constitutional position post Brexit, protecting our democracy and safeguarding the integrity of our elections. The Government will continue to develop and drive reforms in a number of important areas.”
Careful consideration was needed on the composition and focus of the commission, the document said. Further announcements would “be made in due course”.
- In 2014, the government dropped plans to restrict those eligible to bring a judicial review.