The Tories took a gavel blow today as employment tribunal fees were ruled “unlawful” at the Supreme Court.
It means the Government must pay back £27 million to people charged since the policy was implemented in 2013 by then Justice Secretary Chris Grayling.
The Government argued that the introduction of fees was fair because employment tribunals only benefits those using the service rather society and taxpayers as a whole.
But the Lord Reed said that showed a “lack of understanding” of the rule of law in a comprehensive demolition of that logic.
Barely concealing his contempt, the judge gave the Tories a dummies introduction to the basic concept that underpins democracy:
“It may be helpful to begin by explaining briefly the importance of the rule of law, and the role of access to the courts in maintaining the rule of law. It may also be helpful to explain why the idea that bringing a claim before a court or a tribunal is a purely private activity, and the related idea that such claims provide no broader social benefit, are demonstrably untenable.
“At the heart of the concept of the rule of law is the idea that society is governed by law. Parliament exists primarily in order to make laws for society in this country. Democratic procedures exist primarily in order to ensure that the Parliament which makes those laws includes Members of Parliament who are chosen by the people of this country and are accountable to them.
“Courts exist in order to ensure that the laws made by Parliament, and the common law created by the courts themselves, are applied and enforced. That role includes ensuring that the executive branch of government carries out its functions in accordance with the law.
“In order for the courts to perform that role, people must in principle have unimpeded access to them. Without such access, laws are liable to become a dead letter, the work done by Parliament may be rendered nugatory, and the democratic election of Members of Parliament may become a meaningless charade.
“That is why the courts do not merely provide a public service like any other. Access to the courts is not, therefore, of value only to the particular individuals involved.”
To complete the Government’s humiliation, Lord Reed explained how tribunal fees breach the Magna Carta – on top of UK and EU law: