Controversial former minister to head judicial review panel
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Marc Bloomfield
The government has announced that Lord Faulks QC, who served as a justice minister from 2014 to 2016, will chair a panel to examine ‘the need for potential reforms of judicial review’ (‘Government launches independent panel to look at judicial review’, Ministry of Justice (MoJ) press release, 31 July 2020). Lord Faulks QC currently sits as a crossbench (independent) peer. Until taking up the post of chair of the Independent Press Standards Organisation, he had been a Conservative politician.
Responding to the announcement, the chair of the Bar Council, Amanda Pinto QC, said: ‘We should regard [judicial review] as a prized possession because it enables citizens to hold the state to account effectively and to ensure that it uses fair procedures every day’ (‘Bar Council responds to latest announcement on judicial review’, Bar Council press release, 3 August 2020). She cautioned against ‘any unnecessary barrier to the public’s right to challenge their government’.
While a minister at the MoJ, Lord Faulks QC, whose responsibilities included the legal aid scheme, caused controversy by claiming lawyers advising on social welfare law matters were routinely paid ‘£200-odd an hour’. In response to this, Legal Action published an article that examined the rates paid for legal aid work in detail and concluded that ‘fees for these cases are more like £50–70 an hour’ (‘Cutting through the fog of fees’, September 2015 Legal Action 8).
In the MoJ press release announcing the panel launch, the lord chancellor and justice secretary, Robert Buckland QC MP, said: ‘This review will ensure this precious check on government power is maintained, while making sure the process is not abused or used to conduct politics by another means.’

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