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Comment: Institutional memory is diminished

Brian Thompson

Brian Thompson

As this excellent summary (or obituary) on the Australian Administrative Review Council (ARC) indicates, the sad news of its intended abolition is not unexpected. As a former member of the Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council (AJTC), which was abolished in August 2013, I am especially saddened as my evidence to the Leggatt Review of Tribunals on the reform of the Council of Tribunals drew heavily on the ARC. Sir Andrew visited Australia, and his report and its recommendations show the influence of Australian developments, not least in the proposal for a super-tribunal, although the First-tier Tribunal is not as extensive as he recommended.

Both the ARC and the AJTC were abolished as part of efficiency drives and in my view, it is counter-intuitive to abolish bodies whose roles included the promotion of efficiency. One of the difficulties in government is the fairly rapid turnover of staff and policy initiatives which, combined with the tendency to operate in silos, means that institutional memory is diminished and there is a lack of awareness of the experience of what others are doing in similar activities. It was his appreciation of the depth and breadth of the Council on Tribunals’ experience and expertise that led to his recommendation that the Council’s role should be to act as ‘the hub of the wheel of administrative justice’. This was what the AJTC was seeking to do.

The AJTC has gone and the ARC is to follow it, but there is UKAJI and the longer-established Australian Institute of Administrative Law. Both of these organisations act as hubs or forums for the exchange of information and opinion amongst various stakeholders. This is done with a view, I would suggest, to making the administrative justice system and its delivery of governmental and public services accessible, fair and efficient. Such work is always important but especially so when budgets for governmental and public services are declining.

Brian Thompson is Senior Lecturer at University of Liverpool School of Law.


2 thoughts on “Comment: Institutional memory is diminished

  1. I agree with Brian but it amounts to much more than loss of institutional memory. The removal of inexpensive, independently minded but constructive bodies, one of whose primary roles is to remind governments that they work or citizens, not the other way round, was an act of civic vandalism. The reasons advanced for abolition of the AJTC were tissue thin as evidenced by the debates in both houses at the time. The idea that the role could be absorbed by the MoJ successfully, was ironically itself a contradiction in terms, of the principles on which administrative justice is founded. When the next Crichel Down comes along we will have to relearn some lessons but sadly that bit of administrative justice history is hardly taught any more. Meanwhile the Institute will have to punch above its weight if it is to catch the attention of austerity-driven politicians and mandarins. I would like to think It is only a failure of understanding but it amounts to a collapse of respect for administrative justice. As with human rights, it is another symptom of the divide between politicians and the people who put them into power. It is not just a topic of scholarly debate. It is something about which should all feel passionate.

    Bernard Quoroll (former AJTC member)

    Posted by Bernard Quoroll | May 22, 2015, 9:52 am


  1. Pingback: What’s new in administrative justice, June 2015 | UK Administrative Justice Institute - June 4, 2015

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