Cameron Plans Judicial-Review Changes to Spur Economy

Prime Minister David Cameron
Prime Minister David Cameron gestures during his keynote address at the Confederation of British Industry annual conference at the Grosvenor House hotel in London. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Prime Minister David Cameron said he plans to make it harder to apply for judge-led reviews of government decisions in the U.K., arguing the current system and other red tape are holding back projects needed to boost growth.

Cameron told business leaders he wants to make people think twice before bringing cases by reducing the time limit on reviews, charging more for them and reducing the number of times a decision can be appealed to two from four.

Judicial reviews are “a massive growth industry in Britain today,” Cameron said in a speech to the Confederation of British Industry annual conference in London. “Back in 1998 there were 4,500 applications for review and that number has almost tripled in a decade.”

Cameron said the government needs to do more to get the economy growing and pledged to break down a culture of caution. Many applications for judicial review are “completely pointless and vexatious,” the premier said, adding that data from last year showed they were five times more likely to be refused than granted.

Separately, Business Minister Michael Fallon announced that the government is replacing its “one-in, one-out” rule, so that starting in January every new regulation that imposes a financial burden on companies must be offset by a reduction in red tape that saves double the costs of the new rules.

‘Tough Choices’

“Our new target will require radical thinking,” Fallon said in an e-mailed statement. “It will require policy makers to make tough choices and to think hard about how to get government off the backs of hard-working and hard-pressed businesses.”

Civil servants have become “too risk-averse, too willing to say no instead of yes,” Cameron said. “There are understandable reasons for that. When you’ve got lobby groups lined up to criticize every action you take, you’ve got parliamentary select committees ready to jump on every bump in the road, the rational choice is to be cautious, sometimes even over-cautious. But for the sake of our country’s progress we have got to cut through this.”

The proposed overhaul of the judicial-review system is aimed at discouraging ill-founded applications, allowing the courts to deal with other cases more swiftly, Cameron said. The Ministry of Justice will begin a public consultation on the plans and the next steps will be set out in the New Year.

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