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The Court of Appeal has ruled that the National Disability Strategy is lawful, overturning a previous ruling that it was unlawful as it was not an appropriate consultation.
Disability Rights UK says the ruling is “surprising” given that the government did not undertake an appropriate consultation and that the disability strategy implements policies that are “harming disabled people disproportionately”.
Initially, in 2022, the High Court ruled that the National Disability Strategy was unlawful as the government failed to lawfully consult disabled people.
Four disabled claimants argued that while the Secretary of State has consulted disabled people, she had failed to provide sufficient information on the proposed Strategy to allow for meaningful response.1
The claimants said the survey did not include any specific proposals for inclusion in the Strategy on which disabled people could comment, and the multiple-choice format and limited free-form responses did not allow for a proper response.
The government argued that the UK Disability Survey was an information-gathering exercise, not a consultation, and therefore they did not need to provide such information.
However, the judge agreed with the claimants and said that since the National Disability Strategy was informed by an unlawful consultation, the Strategy was unlawful.
The government then appealed this judgment to the Court of Appeal, and the court has now upheld the government’s appeal and ruled that the National Disability Strategy is lawful.
The judge, LJ Elisabeth Laing, agreed with the government that the survey did not amount to a consultation, and was instead an information-gathering exercise.
The government also appealed on a second ground: that the ‘Gunning principles’ do not apply to voluntary consultations. The Gunning Principles are the founding legal principles applicable to public consultation in the UK.2
The Gunning Principles hold that a consultation is only legitimate when four proposals are met:3
The court refused to rule on Ground 2, and LJ Laing said she found it “difficult to see” why the Gunning criteria should not apply in this context.
Tom Pursglove MP Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work said he is “pleased” the Court of Appeal has ruled in favour of the government and that the government can now “move forward again” with its “ambitious agenda”.
“This means that both the UK Disability Survey and the National Disability Strategy have now been found to be lawful by the Court of Appeal, and we are able to continue with the important work of transforming disabled people’s everyday lives for the better,” he said.
However, disability campaigners are disappointed with the judgement, and Doug Paulley, one of the four disabled campaigners who took the judicial review, told the BBC that he was “really frustrated” to have lost the case “on a technicality”.
Kamran Mallick, CEO of Disability Rights UK says the government must now work with disabled people and support them to become equal citizens.
“Whilst the court ruling is surprising, as the disability survey was not an appropriate consultation, the Government should now act to take significant and meaningful action to address the poverty and systemic inequalities faced by millions of Disabled people.
“We definitely don’t need both a National Disability Strategy and a Disability Action plan. We need a single ambitious and transformational plan to make society inclusive and put in place the incomes and support Disabled people need to be equal citizens,” he said.