PM to crack down on 'time-wasting' appeals


David Cameron: "If Christopher Columbus had an advisory committee he would probably still be stuck in the dock"

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David Cameron has promised to crack down on "time-wasting" caused by the "massive growth industry" in legal challenges to government policy.

The prime minister told business leaders he would "get a grip" on people forcing unnecessary delays.

Judicial review applications would cost more, with less time put aside to apply and fewer chances to appeal.

But green groups said planning laws protected the environment and should not be blamed for economic failings.

On Twitter, Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith criticised Mr Cameron, writing: "So the same PM whose dithering on airports will cost 3-6 years is now enraged by the delays affecting big infrastructure decisions?"

He added that there was a "gap between what the PM says and what the PM does".

In his speech to the CBI conference in London, Mr Cameron said the government had been "too slow" at cutting the deficit.

'Hopeless causes'

He pledged to end "equality impact assessments", which need to be carried out when new policy or legislation is introduced. He insisted that "bureaucratic nonsense" was not necessary to ensuring the rights of different sexes, races and religions were upheld.

Individuals and organisations can seek a judicial review if they think a decision by a public body has been made unlawfully.

The review, carried out by a judge, looks only at the way the decision was reached - rather than whether it was correct or not.

A recent example was Virgin's successful challenge against the awarding of the West Coast Mainline rail franchise to First Group. It was found there had been "significant flaws" in decision-making.

Start Quote

The majority of judicial review applications are in one area - immigration and asylum”

End Quote

Downing Street figures show more than 11,000 applications for judicial review were made in 2011, compared with just 160 in 1975.

BBC legal correspondent Clive Coleman said the majority of these had related to asylum cases, which was where the "real growth" had taken place.

But, in his address to the CBI, the prime minister said the increase in unnecessary applications had been too great: "We urgently need to get a grip on this. So here's what we're going to do: reduce the time limit when people can bring cases; charge more for reviews - so people think twice about time-wasting."

It is unclear yet how much the fees would rise by for review applications or by how much the three-month time limit for applications might be cut.

But Mr Cameron said that "instead of giving hopeless cases up to four bites of the cherry to appeal a decision, we will halve that to two".

Downing Street refused to identify any infrastructure projects which had been delayed by judicial review, saying it was "not going into specific examples".

Mr Cameron also argued for less Whitehall bureaucracy and greater emphasis on the pursuit of economic growth.

He argued that government was "too slow in getting stuff done" and that civil servants must appreciate delays were felt in "businesses going bust, jobs being lost" and "livelihoods being destroyed".

Mr Cameron drew a historical analogy, saying: "When this country was at war in the '40s, Whitehall underwent a revolution.

Start Quote

Protecting the environment and boosting the economy are two sides of the same coin”

End Quote Friends of the Earth

"Normal rules were circumvented. Convention was thrown out. As one historian put it, everything was thrown at 'the overriding purpose' of beating Hitler.

"Well, this country is in the economic equivalent of war today - and we need the same spirit. We need to forget about crossing every 't' and dotting every 'i' - and we need to throw everything we've got at winning in this global race."

For Labour, shadow local government minister Jack Dromey told BBC Two's Daily Politics: "This is the same prime minister who kicked into the long grass a decision on airports for at least three years.

"He is presiding over a shambles in government, where it can't make its mind up on an urgent policy."

And Friends of the Earth's Executive Director Andy Atkins said the planning system played "an important role in protecting our green and pleasant land".

He added: "It mustn't become a scapegoat for the government's economic failings.

"EU rules protect peoples' legal right to defend their environment - any moves to prevent this may well be unlawful. Protecting the environment and boosting the economy are two sides of the same coin."

Joe Rukin, co-ordinator of the Stop HS2 campaign against plans to build the High Speed 2, rail link: "The government seem to be making out that they believe any of their infrastructure plans should be above the law and do not realise that it is essential in a democratic society to be able to hold the government to account."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 707.

    Clearly without the need for the affection of others!
    My bank manager loves me. As do my wife and kids.

  • rate this

    Comment number 706.

    David Cameron, please do not pretend you are IGNORANT.

    The REASON why anything takes so long, is due to PROTECTING what is left of our landscape/country and due to the FACT that big corporates dont give a monkeys left testicle at destroying environment for PROFIT.

    FACTUAL problem is, our economy/prosperity is geared to DESTRUCTION of planet & financial mess means FASTER DESTRUCTION

  • rate this

    Comment number 705.

    Somebody needs to point out to the Prime Minister that economic stagnation is not quite the equivalent of a war.

  • rate this

    Comment number 704.

    So now, unable to do just as they please, this incompetant govt want to be free from the law to get their way.
    They will go down as as the worst govenrment in our history.

  • rate this

    Comment number 703.

    There is a tendancy go along with this government's "Euphemism of the Day". In this case the phrase is "time wasting" - when everybody actually knows that what they really mean is inconvenient opposition to the palns and ambitions of Cameron's property speculator pals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 702.

    Mr Cameron insisted that "bureaucratic nonsense" was not necessary to ensuring the rights of different sexes, races and religions were upheld. Equality Impact Assessment requirements have never applied in the private sector so what is Mr Cameron on about?

  • rate this

    Comment number 701.

    These are increasingly desperate times for "Call Me Dave". Resorting to World War analogies (when no such thing is thankfully happening) is crackers. Every Government of every type runs out of ideas at some point, but this one has set a speed record in that regard that may stand for some time. When you actually read the speech, there is much flowery language, but very little that means anything!

  • rate this

    Comment number 700.

    Well, what on earth happened to 'localism' Mr Cameron? You know, 'giving more power to local communities?' So much for manifestos. And how dare you make the comparison with wartime Britain, a completely different age and set of circumstances.

  • rate this

    Comment number 699.

    So he wants to throw democracy in the toilet and do exactly as he wants irrespective of his voters views... That's why he will lose the next election... Tories are less popular today than at the last election which they didn't win outright... They will be punished....

  • rate this

    Comment number 698.

    20 Minutes ago
    Bring back Thatcher ! She had guts and common sense.

    ... She had as much common sense as you appear to have.

  • rate this

    Comment number 697.

    "679 - AndyC555
    "each of us prepared to turn round and help by our own efforts those who are unfortunate"
    but in your world, only if the law forces you to, eh?"

    So how much do YOU donate each year to charity? How much more than you have to do YOU pay in tax?

    Yeah. Thought so. Your idea of society is one where other people pay for your whims.

  • rate this

    Comment number 696.

    At the end of the day the problem is the party political system in this country and its lack of separation of powers (legislature, Executive). We have x years of the right wing doing this this then x years of the left wing undoing that etc ect.

    I would like to see a system where it forces the ruling party to work with other parties. Legislature would be more robust and less ideological.

  • rate this

    Comment number 695.

    The only way Mr. Cameron could know that legal challenges to government policy are a waste of time is if the decisions are already final. Something I have suspected for a long time. He's right you know. We are wasting our time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 694.


    Maybe Andy has connections with the BBC.

  • rate this

    Comment number 693.

    Why is this being allowed to even raise it ugly head above the parapet, It is the right of every citizen of England to object to a planning application or even the merest hint of an application .
    We need to make it very much harder not cowtow to the TAX avoiding immigrants that have money to burn.

  • rate this

    Comment number 692.

    Next Move by Das Fuhrer Cameron abolish voting altogether and move to a one party state open the workhouses and consentration camps

  • rate this

    Comment number 691.

    St.Dave into battle against a host of ill-defined enemies: civil servants, lawyers, planners etc. Compare and contrast with his hand-wringing impotence when 'dealing' with Abu Qatada. The truth is that the complexity and time/expense taken with the planning process is a result of UK/EU legislation. Look in the mirror at the political class he represents if he wants to focus his blame.

  • rate this

    Comment number 690.

    Surely the only justification for reducing Judicial Reviews is where a number of reviews have been held which upheld Government Policy, making the review a waste of time.

    So why not bring out some data to support this point?

    Otherwise, as in the example of Virgin quoted in the article, it looks like Cameron is attacking reviews which show his incompetence. And we want to keep those don't we?

  • rate this

    Comment number 689.

    During the long, dark days of the Thatcher dictatorship we had no legal rights at all so the government was out of control. The extremism that Thatcher pushed onto us was insane and the damage to our country is still there today.
    The good thing about being in the EU is that we can sue our own government and it makes them behave a little better.
    This is a TERRIBLE plan by useless Cameron.

  • rate this

    Comment number 688.

    #679 - AndyC555
    "each of us prepared to turn round and help by our own efforts those who are unfortunate"
    but in your world, only if the law forces you to, eh?


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