Boris Johnson ushers in plans to curb Judicial Reviews

Boris Johnson has signalled that a Tory manifesto-pledged clampdown on Judicial Reviews will get underway sooner rather than later.

The prime minister took aim at what contractors have used to challenge IR35, IR35 reform on the NHS and retrospective taxation, on Wednesday in the House of Commons.

But since Mr Johnson batted away an MP by quoting word-for-word from his party’s manifesto that JRs must not be “abused to conduct politics by another means”, his Downing Street office has unofficially added some detail.

'Within months'

An unnamed but apparently senior source inside No 10 reportedly said that plans aimed at restricting JRs would launch “within months”, and put out into a short consultation.

The anonymous tip-off is likely to concern taxpayers, especially contractors in IT, as such individuals comprise many of those who have recently used JRs to challenge HMRC decisions.

But alluding to the PM’s summer shutdown of parliament -- which the Supreme Court ruled to be illegal, the No 10 source reportedly said there was a need to tackle individuals ‘deliberately frustrating the government.’

'Needless delays'

Similarly referring to the September ruling that went against him, Mr Johnson said that while JRs would still be “available”, the government would ensure that they cannot be misused to “create needless delays.”  

The latter could also be a nod to Theresa May, as she too fell foul of the courts two years ago this month, when the-then prime minister was ruled against for denying MPs a vote on Article 50.

Either way, freelance health sector body the IHPA is concerned. "This appears to be an ill-judged, vindictive, and frankly rather myopic knee-jerk reaction to the [Brexit-related] Supreme Court rulings", it said.

"It is unfortunately also a change which would cause lasting constitutional damage to a vital role of the judiciary, preventing overreaching of the executive long after Brexit is resolved."

'Concern and trepidation'

The IHPA's general-secretary Dr Iain Campbell told ContractorUK that there is a suggestion Mr Johnson might try to limit the type of person who can bring a Judicial Review.

"This would seem largely unnecessary in our view as one is already required to have standing -- 'locus standi' -- in to bring an action in the first place - something that aims to prevent action by so-called nosy-parkers."

He added: "[We will watch] these developments with considerable concern and trepidation, mindful that we have had to resort to Judicial Review to stop unlawful conduct in the recruitment market before -- most notably our IR35 claim against NHS Improvement."


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Written by Simon Moore

Simon writes impartial news and engaging features for the contractor industry, covering, IR35, the loan charge and general tax and legislation.
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