The sector should fight for the right to judicial review

As reported previously by Third Sector, the government appears keen to limit severely the right of voluntary sector organisations to bring judicial reviews. A consultation that closed last week outlines its proposals.

Last week’s news offered two perfect examples as to why this might be happening. In the space of a few days, the government lost two high profile cases to third sector organisations, both potentially highly embarrassing to the ministers involved.

One was the case of Lewisham Hospital, where a judge ruled Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, acted outside his powers when he made the decision to cut back A&E services.

The other was the case of Cait Reilly, a graduate forced to stop volunteering for charity and work for free in Poundland: the Supreme Court confirmed that the Department of Work and Pensions was not permitted to withhold benefits from individuals who did not carry out unpaid work.

Both of these cases were strongly supported by the campaigning bodies 38 Degrees and Boycott Workfare – both part of the third sector though not charities. You can imagine the fury of the relevant ministers on discovering that their will had been thwarted by a bunch of upstart campaigners.

I recommend reading this detailed explanation by the Public Law Project explaining why the government’s arguments are ill-founded.

The battle to prevent this legislation is likely to be difficult to win. Much of the sector’s effort is concentrated on the lobbying bill, and in any case, Chris Grayling, the justice secretary, does not need the approval of Parliament change the system.

But the sector had better try.