Whilst championing the cause of human rights and freedom of speech in other countries, the current Government of the United Kingdom seems to be towing the line that it knows what is best for the country, the people and the economy! To the point that they see no contradiction in altering the existing laws in order to do what had been ruled to be outside the law.
There have also been moves by, this Government, to curb the use of judicial reviews which charities and campaign groups use to challenge the legality of some Governments actions.
A case in point is the recent saga in which Lewisham Hospital was to lose some of its services in order to save the “neighbouring” NHS Trust.
This was proposed by Mr Kershaw, despite being appointed Trust Special Administrators (TSA) for the South London Healthcare Trust and not the Lewisham Healthcare Trust.
He proposed that Lewisham Hospital should close and downgrade some of its services, including its A&E department, acute admitting wards and adult Intensive Care Unit. He also suggested that the maternity service at the hospital should be downgraded or closed completely.
This was to be implemented alongside his recommendation to break up the failing South London Healthcare Trust, found in his final report to Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health, in January 2013.
Recommendations, made despite widespread local opposition and agreement by all sides that Lewisham Hospital was a high achieving and popular hospital in good financial health.
Following Mr Justice Silber assertion in July, in the High Court that the Secretary of State had acted outside his powers and was in breach of the National Health Service Act 2006, when he announced to Parliament that services at Lewisham Hospital would be downgraded and closed; Jeremy Hunt took the decision in August to appeal, despite the fact there was even a petition asking him not to.
The next move by the Government was to introduce a ‘last minute’ amendment to the ‘Care Bill’ currently going through the House of Lords, which would give Trust Special Administrators (TSA) much greater powers when running NHS Trusts, and crucially would allow their decisions to change services arbitrarily in neighbouring Trusts.
In a letter from the Department of Health, sent to all peers dated 15 October 2013, former banker Earl Howe explains that the amendment will:
“Put beyond doubt that the Trust Special Administrator has power to make recommendation, and the Secretary of State/ Monitor the power to make decisions that affect providers other than the one to which the administrator was appointed.”
The fact that this amendment had been tabled, was brought up during the appeal, which was heard on the 28 and 29 October 2013, to which Lord Justice Dyson leading a bench of three Lord Justices, that included Lord Justice Sullivan and Lord Justice Underhill, stated, “It is of NO relevance to this court...”
Hence the Appeal court upheld the earlier decision against the Secretary of State for Health.
And now we hear as reported in the Daily Mail, that the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling wants to stop what he sees as, activists mounting ‘spurious legal challenges’, which he says serve only to generate ‘media coverage for their cause’. Read more here.
As he aims to ban charities and ‘professional’ campaign groups bringing judicial reviews – in which a court rules on whether the government is acting lawfully – thus using the courts to delay major house-building projects or government cuts to benefits. This would also prevent local councils from being able to use judicial review decisions concerning major infrastructure projects taking place in their patch.
If this law had been in place, the judicial review brought to bear on Jeremy Hunt would not have happened! As both Lewisham Council & Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign would be powerless to do so, having no legal leg to stand on! A complete reversal of how things have been so far!
One can’t help wondering if there is any real difference between the way the government is behaving at this point in time and the various dictatorships that rule elsewhere.
The only thing is that Parliament is democratically elected; but it seems when elected the ruling party can and will do anything to stamp their authority on anyone and everyone. As there seems to be the belief that party ideology is supreme over the wishes of the people who elected the politicians into power.
…And, if we don’t like what they do? Well, we can vote them out at the next round of elections. The only trouble is the damage to the infrastructure or service could have been irreparably done!