One comment that repeatedly gets said with which I must take issue is the suggestion that Ministers cannot simply block the BSkyB takeover because the process is somehow “quasi judicial”.
Obviously I am not party to the legal advice but I question whether this is so. The mere fact that the decision rests with Ministers surely means that they do have discretion. If the decision was indeed “quasi judicial” then it would not be made by Ministers but by some sort of impartial “quasi judicial” body like a tribunal. Judicial Review is a mechanism whereby the High Court can review the way Ministers make a decision to ensure that the decision itself is legal and that it is made in a lawful way. I do not see why a decision to refuse News International’s takeover of BSkyB would be illegal. Contrary to what is often said about judicial meddling the High Court is actually very reluctant to interfere with a Minister’s exercise of discretion so provided it is all done in a lawful way I cannot see why the High Court would want to overturn it. To my mind this whole business of Ministers being supposedly “forced” to make a decision in News International’s favour smacks of an excuse concocted to allow the government to do something it has decided to do, which is hand over BSkyB to News International, which it knows is controversial and unpopular.