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The implications for access to justice: call for evidence

7 November 2013

The Joint Committee on Human Rights, chaired by Dr Hywel Francis MP, is today extending its inquiry into the implications for access to justice of the Government’s proposals to reform legal aid, by examining also some of the Government’s proposals to reform judicial review, as set out in its Consultation Paper Judicial Review: Proposals for further reform.

The Committee seeks evidence from anyone with an interest in the human rights issues raised by the following proposals in particular:

  • Standing and third party interventions – The proposed introduction of a narrower test for "standing" to apply for judicial review, so as to limit the range of people and groups who are entitled to invoke the procedure, and the proposed modification of the rules to discourage the involvement of interveners and third parties. 
  • Costs – The proposed rebalancing of financial incentives so that providers are only paid for work carried out on judicial review cases where permission is granted, or exceptionally in the Legal Aid Agency’s discretion; and the proposed restriction on the availability of "Protective Costs Orders" which can currently be made by courts to limit the possible costs exposure for a claimant in a case judged by the court to be brought in the public interest.
  • Procedural as opposed to substantive defects in decisions – The proposal to reduce the potential for delay by strengthening the courts’ powers in cases where a procedural defect has been established which would have made no difference to the outcome had the correct procedure been followed.  The Government is considering lowering the probability threshold to include cases where it is not necessarily certain that the defect would have made no difference, and/or by bringing forward the point at which the "no difference" question is considered, so that applications for judicial review can be rejected on this basis at the permission stage.
  • The Public Sector Equality Duty – The proposal to make non-justiciable the statutory duty imposed on public bodies by the Equality Act, to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, by providing an alternative, non-judicial mechanism for resolving disputes about whether public bodies have complied with the duty.

The Committee also seeks evidence on the combined effect of these proposals and (1) the Government’s proposals to reform legal aid, in particular the proposed introduction of a residence test and (2) the provisions in Part 2 of the Immigration Bill reducing rights of appeal against immigration decisions.

Written evidence is sought by Wednesday 27 November 2013.  As part of a scheme to encourage paperless working and maximise efficiency, the Committee is piloting a new web portal for online submissions of written evidence. Written submissions for this inquiry should therefore be sent via the Joint Committee on Human Rights’ website. Please click the link here - submit written evidence online

The Committee would be grateful if respondents to this call for evidence bear in mind the Committee’s particular interest in the human rights implications of the proposals.  Please do not submit general responses made to the Government’s own consultation.  It is expected that public hearings will be held in December.  The Committee aims to report to both Houses, with recommendations, in the New Year.  The Committee has written to the Government asking a number of detailed questions about the proposals, and requesting that the Government does not bring forward any measures to give effect to its proposals until the Committee has had an opportunity to report.  A copy of the Committee’s letter is available on its website.


  • Submissions should reach the Committee by Wednesday 27 November
  • It would be helpful, for Data Protection purposes, if individuals submitting written evidence send their contact details separately in a covering letter. 
  • You should be aware that there may be circumstances in which the Joint Committee on Human Rights will be required to communicate information to third parties on request, in order to comply with its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.  View a guide for written submissions to Select Committees.
  • Material already published elsewhere should not form the basis of a submission, but may be referred to within a proposed memorandum.  Evidence becomes the property of the Committee, and may be printed, placed on the Internet or circulated by the Committee at any stage.  You may publicise or publish your evidence yourself, but in doing so, you must indicate that it was prepared for the Committee.  Evidence published other than under the authority of the Committee does not attract parliamentary privilege.  If your evidence is not printed, it will in due course be made available to the public in the Parliamentary Archives.
  • All communications to the Committee about its legislative scrutiny should be addressed through the Clerks or the Chair of the Committee, whether or not they are intended to constitute formal evidence to the Committee.  You may publicise or publish your evidence yourself, but in doing so you must indicate that it was prepared for the Committee. Evidence published other than under the authority of the Committee does not attract parliamentary privilege.