Government bid to reverse ‘back to work’ legality ruling rejected by Supreme Court

Landmark Chambers’ Nathalie Lieven QC has defeated Blackstone Chambers’ James Eadie QC in the Supreme Court in a battle over the legality of the Government’s ‘back to work’ scheme.

The court rejected a bid by the Government to quash a Court of Appeal (CoA) ruling handed down in February, which found that the “work for your benefits” regulations failed to give the unemployed enough information about the scheme.

The Supreme Court today said the scheme was legally flawed but stopped short of allowing a cross appeal by the claimants, ruling that the scheme did not amount to “forced labour”.

Lieven was instructed by Public Interest Lawyers solicitor Tessa Gregory to lead the case for respondents Cait Reilly and Jamieson Wilson. They had challenged the government over the legality of the schemes, which required them to carry out unpaid work, most famously at Poundland, in order to continue receiving Jobseeker’s Allowance.

Eadie, the Treasury Devil, challenged the CoA ruling for the Government having been instructed by the Treasury Solicitor.

In its ruling today the Supreme Court stated: “It is rather unattractive for the executive to be taking up court time and public money to establish that a regulation is valid, when it has already taken up Parliamentary time to enact legislation which retrospectively validates the regulation.”

Today’s ruling is not the end of the matter. Public Interest Lawyers launched a fresh judicial review challenge to the retrospective legislation introduced by the Government in June after the CoA decision. That case is now expected to be expedited.

The legal line-up:

For the appellant Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Blackstone Chambers’ James Eadie QC, leading Catherine Callaghan and 11KBW’s Amy Rogers, instructed by the Treasury Solicitor

For the respondent R (on the application of Reilly and another)

Landmark Chambers’ Nathalie Lieven QC, leading Blackstone Chambers’ Tom Hickman, instructed by Public Interest Lawyers’ Tessa Gregory