Liberty: IRAL just the latest in attack on accountability

Posted on 18 Mar 2021

Liberty has responded to the Government’s response to the publication of the Independent Review of Administrative Law, warning this is just the latest attack on accountability in the UK.

The human rights organisation said that the UK’s laws and legal processes are a vital part of democracy because they enable ordinary people to challenge governments and public bodies when they get things wrong.

It warned that Government plans to weaken these laws and legal processes should be viewed as part of a wider attack on our ability to hold those in power to account, coming just days after restrictions on protest came before Parliament earlier this week.

Sam Grant, Liberty’s head of policy and campaigns, said:

“We all want to live in an equal, just and fair society – and our laws and legal processes allow ordinary people to hold governments and public authorities to account when they get it wrong. But the recommendations announced today show these basic principles of democracy are under attack. By suggesting it shouldn’t be possible to bring legal challenges against certain decisions, and limiting court powers when they find the Government has acted unlawfully – the Government is stifling people’s ability to challenge its decisions through the courts, even if those decisions cause harm or infringe basic human rights.

“This Government, through its handling of the Windrush scandal, has shown why its treatment of migrants must be scrutinized and its decisions sometimes contested. And while this Government is targeting migrants in a popularist move to push through these changes, the fact is these changes would affect all of us, reducing our ability to stand up for our rights.

“Ordinary people must be able to challenge those in power because in a true democracy no one is above the law. Judicial review is an important part of that principle. It’s a vital safety valve and has made many people’s lives better. For example it helped a mum keep her autistic son in school, ensured a military veteran got his medals back after he was kicked out of the navy due to discrimination against his sexuality, and held the Government to account over PPE shortages during the coronavirus pandemic.

“If it’s limited, we’re on a dangerous path where governments – both now and in the future – can no longer be held to account. Liberty along with many others in civil society is extremely concerned by the way this Government is operating right now. Earlier this week a vote in Parliament set extraordinary powers – which would effectively snuff out dissent and insulate those in power from public outcry or opposition – on course to become law. We must be able to stand up to power, on the streets, in the courts and through the media. We must come together and challenge these alarming proposals and protect our democratic principles.”

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