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Thursday 06 June 2024

FDA legal challenge over Safety of Rwanda Act heard at Royal Courts of Justice


The FDA's legal challenge relating to the relationship of the Civil Service Code with the UK government’s Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Act 2024 was heard at the Royal Courts of Justice on Thursday 6 June.

The union's statement of facts, as presented to the court, outlines the timeline of events and why we felt we had no choice but to ask the court to intervene.

FDA General Secretary Dave Penman said: 

“We did not take this legal challenge lightly, nor did we welcome it. We’ve also been clear that this legal challenge is not to the policy itself – that is a matter for Parliament. The government could have amended the Civil Service Code to make clear that the obligation to comply with international law does not apply in these circumstances. But instead, it chose to fudge the matter and issue guidance which it knows cannot override the Civil Service Code, any more than the instruction of a minister can.  

“By leaving civil servants in an impossible position, we felt we had no choice but to ask the court to intervene.”

The FDA's statement of facts relays our concerns around guidance issued by the Cabinet Office setting out the legal responsibilities of civil servants if the European Court of Human Rights grants interim measures that suspend the removal of an asylum-seeker to Rwanda, following the enactment of the Act.

The guidance states it is for ministers to decide whether to comply with an interim measure and that giving civil servants these instructions “would be operating in accordance with the Civil Service Code”. As the Civil Service Code requires civil servants to comply with both domestic and international law – to “uphold the rule of law and administration of justice” - the FDA believes that civil servants would in fact be acting contrary to the Civil Service Code if a minister were to instruct them to ignore this interim measure.

Civil servants have a legal obligation to follow the Civil Service Code - neither Ministers nor guidance can overrule that, only another act of parliament can.

We will provide a further update when the judgement is given.

Read more on why we've launched a judicial review of the Safety of Rwanda Act.

Key documents:

21st Jun 2024
This Pride Month, a delegation of FDA members will attend the TUC LGBT+ Conference in London. Our lead delegate and Executive Committee member Simon Percelay looks ahead to the conference and reflects on the state of play of LGBT+ equality in the civil service.
10th Dec 2020
General Secretary Dave Penman explains why the FDA has now begun the legal process which may ultimately result in a Judicial Review application, following the Prime Minister’s decision that the Home Secretary did not breach the Ministerial Code.
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