Letters: Judges step in where MPs fail

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The Independent Online
Sir: Few could argue with the central point of Lindsay Farmer's article ("Now judges speak out, but should we listen?", 7 August); that this country needs a formal written constitution together with a Bill of Rights. She is quite correct to say that without this, where powers are not clearly settled as between the political institutions, there will always be questions over the propriety of particular cases where ministers are the subject of judicial censure.

However, there is a danger that concentration on a few causes celebres, especially in the field of judicial review, will skew our perspective. The judiciary is a changing institution. The cause of a new judicial activism has more to do with the nature of the modern administration of government than it has to with the politicisation of the judiciary.

The media only report a tiny minority of judicial review cases: research proves that the vast majority of cases will never have been as far as a grade 7 civil servant, let alone a minister. In the few cases that the judiciary do question a judgement of a secretary of state it is very difficult to see any usurpation of parliamentary sovereignty. In fact in checking the executive in new ways, it could be argued that they are often doing the job our representatives are failing in, for which many of us are grateful.

MICHAEL HARKER

Cardiff Law School

University of Wales

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