Boris Johnson wants to prevent courts from overruling decisions by ministers, reports The Times.
The Prime Minister has ordered justice secretary Dominic Raab to toughen plans to reform judges’ powers to rule on the legality of ministerial decisions via judicial reviews.
The developments are the latest chapter of Downing Street’s war with judges, which have ruled against the government twice on Brexit issues over the past five years.
Number 10 reportedly favour the idea of MPs passing an annual “Interpretation Bill” to strike out findings from judicial reviews with which the government does not agree.
The option was drawn up by Raab alongside attorney general Suella Braverman, and will effectively allow ministers to throw out verdicts from judges.
Whitehall sources argue the bills would reinforce the constitutional principle that parliament is sovereign over the unelected judiciary.
The move has provoked uproar within the legal establishment, with Johnson accused of trying to use his Commons majority to halt legitimate challenges.
Edward Garnier QC, solicitor-general in David Cameron’s administration, told the Times that the government needs to recognise the country is not ‘under a dictatorship’.
He argued: “This government seems to forget that like all of us it, too, is subject to the law. And I should have thought that No 10 would have learnt the lesson of the prorogation battle, when the Supreme Court reminded the government that this is a country under the rule of law and not under a dictatorship.”
David Gauke, a former lord chancellor and justice secretary, said: “If the government is contemplating getting parliament to retrospectively change the law as it has been interpreted by judges, then that would be an extremely worrying step and a departure from the rule of law and the traditions of this country.”
It has also faced immediate criticism from MPs, with Labour’s Chris Bryant comparing the plans to the botched attempt to overhaul the parliamentary standards authorities.
This led to the resignation of Owen Paterson MP who was accused of breaching lobbying rules.
Raab’s changes will come too late to be included in the upcoming Judicial Review and Courts Bill, which is already at report stage in the Commons.
Sources close to Raab indicate they would be included in legislation next year.
The action on judicial review is the latest assault the government is planning on the legal framework.
Raab told Times Radio on Sunday he wanted to overhaul the Human Rights Act to “correct” the balance between freedom of speech and privacy.
He was speaking after The Mail on Sunday lost its appeal in the privacy case brought by the Duchess of Sussex over the publication of a letter she had sent her father.
Pledging to prioritise free speech over privacy, Raab said: “I think the drift towards continental-style privacy laws, innovated in the courtroom, not by elected lawmakers in the House of Commons, is something that we can and should correct.”