Updated Oct 4, 2021

Application to quash DEFRA policy document dimissed

An application for judicial review was dismissed in the case of R. (on the application of Langton) v Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

The case considered whether the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs had been required to have regard "to the purpose of conserving biodiversity" under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 before publishing the policy document "Next steps for the strategy for achieving bovine tuberculosis free status for England: 2018 review - government response".

The claimant was seeking an order quashing the policy document and further relief to stop culling pending review of the Government's policy.

A core message within the "next steps" policy document was that intensive culling would start to be phased out, but that culling would remain an option where epidemiological assessment indicated that it was needed. No mention of biodiversity was made in the document.

The claimant highlighted that the Godfray Review, a review of the Government's Bovine TB Strategy published in 2018, stated "reducing badger numbers will have consequences for other species in the local area".

The Judge felt that even if that was the case, the Godfray Review did not suggest that any of the options for future control of bovine tuberculosis should be avoided because of the possibility of damage to biodiversity.

Section 40 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 outlines that "the public authority must, in exercising its functions, have regard, so far as is consistent with the proper exercise of those functions, to the purpose of conserving biodiversity".

The Judge ruled that the policy document did not not engage the defendant's duty under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 as the:

  • duty had been discharged previously, when the implications of the statutory purpose of conserving biodiversity had been expressly examined;
  • policy document did not effect any change so far as badger culling or supplementary badger culling was concerned, except to suggest that it should be ended in the foreseeable future.

The Judge argued that if the duty was engaged, then the secretary of state had failed to discharge it, and it would be reasonable to assume, had he had regard to the purpose of conserving biodiversity, that he would have provided evidence of that. With or without consideration to the section 40 duty, the Judge felt it "highly likely that the outcome would not have been substantially different" so relief would have been refused under the Senior Courts Act 1981.

The application to quash the policy failed and the case was dismissed.