Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Judiciary as a Check on Government?

According to Peter Oborne, it is much less so than of old. He writes in the Spectator this week:

"...the (new) Political Class is deeply hostile to the rule of law. It constantly strives to undermine the judiciary, instinctively preferring to govern through executive fiat, repeatedly showing anger when the judges thwart illegal decisions made by ministers."

I have plenty of quibbles with Mr Oborne's assessment of the old form of the governing classes or "The Establishment" as it is characterised, but on the nature of the current powers-that-be, I suspect he is spot on.

Perhaps hostility to the judiciary is the real reason why all the remarks from lawyers were blacked out in the results of our recent Freedom of Information enquiry to the DCSF. It wasn't that the department spuriously wanted to assert its right to legal privacy, but was instead the result of the dept's desire to ignore the legal angle altogether.

There are at least two other reasons for thinking that this might be the case. First, there was a sentence in the FOI result which appeared to advise a member of the department not to include too many lawyers in the discussions about changes to guidelines on home education. Then it is also the case that some of the proposed changes to home education guidelines could result in significant alterations in education law; the lawyers, if they were worth their salt, should have been reminding dept members of this fact. However, dep't members may well have wanted to ignore all this legal caution in the drive to ensure that "every child matters."

However, we believe the department would be wise to take note of their legal advice since changes to the monitoring and control of HE could result in changes in primary legislation which in turn could impact very negatively upon local authorities and eventually central government itself.

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