Labour amendments to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, designed to prevent charities from facing a significant financial burden if they seek to intervene in judicial review cases, have been defeated in parliament.
As it stands, the bill, which is at the committee stage in the House of Commons, says that if an organisation such as a charity or an individual applied to intervene in judicial review proceedings "the court must order the intervener to pay any costs specified in the application that the court considers have been incurred by that party as a result of the intervener’s involvement in the proceedings".
The shadow justice ministers Andy Slaughter and Dan Jarvis had put forward about 50 amendments to the bill for consideration at committee stage, which broadly sought to give the courts discretion not to impose the burden of costs onto intervening organisations.
Slaughter argued in the house yesterday that clause 53 of the bill would make it more financially prohibitive for charities to act as interveners within judicial reviews if they could be required to pay additional costs.
The amendments went to a vote after Julian Huppert, the Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge, also raised concerns about organisations that wanted to intervene in judicial review cases.
He said he did not want charities or individuals to be less inclined to intervene voluntarily because it would cause problems.
He said that it seemed odd that an "intervener would face the risk of paying more, the more important and effective their intervention was. That does not seem like the right way to go ahead. It is a huge risk to organisations."
Huppert abstained in a subsequent vote on the issue, which resulted in the amendments being defeated.
Commenting on the rejections, Slaughter said today: "It is incredible that the government is pressing on with these changes despite near total condemnation from legal experts, charities and other campaigning bodies whose ability to assist the court by intervening in judicial review proceedings will become unaffordable if the bill passes.
"We voted against each clause that aimed to narrow the power to bring judicial review because we believe they will have a chilling effect on challenging poor government decision-making."
Chris Grayling, the justice secretary, told the House of Commons during the second reading of the bill in February that the government’s reform to judicial review would "tackle lengthy delays in the system that put an undue burden on the taxpayer, act as a brake on dynamism and hold back economic growth".
He said the reforms would "rebalance the financial elements in judicial review cases so that anyone making a claim shares a fair level of financial risk. That will encourage those who bring claims to consider the merits of their cases before doing so, and ensure that public resources are focused only on well-founded claims."