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”

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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 727.

    So if I am a terrorist trying to escape extradition to Jordan I can have as many appeals on the public purse as my lawyers can find excuses for. However if I want to try to stop the local authority building a Dioxin spewing incinerator in my back garden my appeals will be limited. Talk about being a 2nd class citizen in my own country !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 726.

    If you are a nascent dictator then I suppose that the democratic process, which has evolved over centuries in this country, would appear to be a waste of time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 725.

    As far as I am concerned it is just a load more hot air from this uncaring govt of ours. If only we could bottle it, it could be used to generate electricy for large swathes of the country.

  • Comment number 724.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 723.

    Time wasting? So was the police commissioner elections. But at least less than 84% of the voting population didn't waste their time. As didn't the candidates by informing their catchment area who they were or what they stood for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 722.

    If we are unable to challenge process, then process becomes corrupted. In planning for example , there is no 3rd party right of appeal, so a Judicial review is all a 3rd Party has when an injustice has occurred. If there are increasing numbers of Appeals then another explanation is that processes are more unjust. Does he apply principle to the justice system next?

  • rate this

    Comment number 721.

    Mr Cameron has never had to fight a developer wishing to locate wind turbines adjacent to his house or Centrica wishing to establish a new route for pylons through areas of outstanding beauty or a recycling unit of household waste by a housing development. I can hear him saying we must make tough decisions but as long as it is not near me. Posh boy and the price of milk comes to mind.

  • rate this

    Comment number 720.

    711.Loony Liberal -
    I ... would support an increased tax rate for my income group if it spent on schools and the NHS rather than Trident"

    I see. You're OK with tax rises so long as you decide where the tax is spent.

    Would you extend that to others? Or is it only YOU that gets that choice? Or maybe you're so wise you can decide these things for everyone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 719.

    711.Loony Liberal -
    I give about a tenth of my disposable income to charity

    Is that all? Why so little?

  • rate this

    Comment number 718.

    Mr Cameron seems keen on mentioning wars. I can't believe he wants to "celebrate" the START of World War 2 in 2014 just to try and influence the Scottish Independence vote.

    He wants to deny the normal person the right to appeal/protest by looking after his business friends as usual at the expense of everyone else.

  • rate this

    Comment number 717.

    What confidence can we now have in this man - David Cameron - and his government?

  • rate this

    Comment number 716.

    The burning question I have now I've thought about this for a little is, where the hell are all Cameron's highly paid advisors or did he just come up with this idiotic idea by himself off the cuff? Surely anyone who is an 'advisor' to the 'top man' would have seen the massive problem in trying to sell this lemon to anyone of any political persuasion!

  • rate this

    Comment number 715.


    They will go down as as the worst govenrment in our history."

    Aren't they already? I never thought anyone could be worse than Blair, but then along comes Cameron! He must be a little lonely now his friend failed failed miserably to get elected in the US (it's obvious what Obama thinks of him - the tennis challenge). There's a message there if he were listening.

  • rate this

    Comment number 714.

    Lets try to figure this out, from DCs POV.

    Judicial Reviews are a waste of time if they support the governments view?

    So the system which could actually show how government proposals are sound and the right thing to do is the system which DC wants to restrict?
    Shouldn't someone tell him this is a politically poor point to make?
    Or is this an admission of the poor quality of his proposals?

  • Comment number 713.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 712.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 711.


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

    I give about a tenth of my disposable income to charity and would support an increased tax rate for my income group if it spent on schools and the NHS rather than Trident.

    It's called society. and we build it together for the benefit of everyone. That's how we prosper from here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 710.

    It is the right of every citizen of England to object to a planning application"

    You are confusing objecting to a planning decision and asking for a judicial review of a decision. Anyone can do the former but but to be allowed to ask for a judicial review four times is overkill.

  • rate this

    Comment number 709.

    So the Tories want to take away our legal rights AND they want more court cases to be held in secret ? Did we elect Putin or Cameron ? This is INSANE. Why would any of us support either of these policies ? Thatcher must be very happy with Tory boy Dave - he's carrying on where her dictatorship ended.

  • rate this

    Comment number 708.

    Just because a government wants to do something doesnt mean that it is automatically the right thing to do. The right of appeal must be maintained, so what if it takes longer, it is there to protect the rights of the people and stop dictate and and abuse of regulations. The increase in the number of appeals is mainly due to lack of forethought and incompetence by those in charge.


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