The Government Response to the Independent Review of Administrative Law (IRAL) poses 19 questions at the end of a 56 page response. The public consultation period in which to provide responses to these questions is six weeks, which period includes the Easter bank holiday weekend and the school holidays. Further, notwithstanding that the consultation began on 18 March 2021, the summary of the Government submissions to the IRAL was only published this week.
Those in favour of some or all of the changes proposed will point out that the consultation period is no different from the original timeframe for the call for evidence. Critics, however, will highlight this as further evidence of the Government's desire to expedite fundamental change to judicial review without sufficient scrutiny.
Law firm Bindmans has written to the Ministry of Justice to ask for more time, suggesting that there is no reason why there should be such a short time frame for responses, and suggesting that if it is not extended, any actions following from the consultation period may be unlawful and open to challenge.
This is not the first time that the time period for responses in connection with the IRAL have been the subject of debate. In September 2020, the call for evidence (which was originally six weeks) was extended by a week after repeated requests.
So what's the hurry? These questions are wide-ranging and have a potentially tremendous impact on the judicial review process. In the absence of any pressing reason why the consultation period needs to conclude in six weeks, an extension of time to allow a comprehensive response seems sensible, with a precedent already having been set in 2020.
If the Bindmans position gathers public support then an extension of time seems likely, although if it follows precedent, it will be substantially less than the 12 weeks that Bindmans suggests would be appropriate.
MoJ could face judicial review - over JR reform consultation