26 Oct Rights Watch UK instruct DPG to challenge amendment to Ministerial Code
Deighton Pierce Glynn has been instructed by Rights Watch UK to challenge the Prime Minister’s amendments to the Ministerial Code, which remove the reference to Ministers’ duty to uphold international law, Treaty obligations and the administration of justice.
The Ministerial Code is a document issued by the Prime Minister setting out the standard of behaviour expected of Ministers. Until 15 October 2015 it read:
“The Ministerial Code should be read alongside … the background of the overarching duty on Ministers to comply with the lawincluding international law and treaty obligations and to uphold the administration of justice and to protect the integrity of public life”
On 15 October 2015 the underlined passage was deleted. The amendment has attracted significant criticism and triggered huge concern. Rights Watch UK Director Yasmine Ahmed said:
“For the government to erase from the Ministerial Code the starting presumption that its Ministers will comply with international law is seriously concerning.
There are numerous obligations at international law, including, for instance, those obligations governing the use of force set out in the UN Charter, which have not necessarily been incorporated into domestic law, but which it is only proper that Ministers should be explicitly required to comply with when exercising their powers.
Given our concerns, we will be taking action against the Government to make them reinstate the previous version of the Ministerial Code. It is absolutely necessary to ensure that Ministers are required to comply with international law in all decisions that they make on behalf of the British public.”
“Ministers frequently have to take decisions that may involve abrogating fundamental rights, such as stripping Britons of their citizenship. Removing one of the key checks on the exercise of executive fiat risks undermining the rule of law, which is a fundamental cornerstone of democracy. Moreover, the removal of the requirement for ministers to uphold the administration of justice is very concerning, particularly at a time when legal aid is being decimated, courts are being closed, and court fees are being increased so much that justice is out of reach for the vast majority of the population. Many in the legal profession will feel that this confirms the value this government places on justice.”
The case has attracted significant media attention. See for example: