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'Powers of unelected judges should be cut'

The power of judges to review ministerial decisions should be diminished, former Tory leader Lord Michael Howard said today.

The ex-home secretary said judges were unelected and unaccountable and should be very reluctant to interfere in decisions made by elected politicians.

His comments came as a group of local authorities were launching a High Court challenge against the Government's controversial decision to axe Labour's multibillion-pound Building Schools for the Future (BSF) secondary school rebuilding scheme.

"In my view, the power of the judges, as opposed to elected politicians, has increased, is increasing and ought to be diminished," Lord Howard told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

"More and more decisions are being made by unelected, unaccountable judges, instead of accountable, elected Members of Parliament who have to answer to the public for what happens."

On the BSF case, Lord Howard said: "If that were to be reinstated (the building programme), which is what the local authorities want, the Government is going to have to decide what else to cut in its place - the judges won't have to decide that.

"I think it's quite wrong for judges to intervene in cases of this kind."

He went on: "Judges are unaccountable and unelected and ought to be very reluctant indeed to set aside decisions of this kind."