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Thursday 18 January 2024

New guidance is asking “civil servants to break the law”, says FDA

ECHR847

FDA General Secretary Dave Penman has strongly criticised new guidance issued to civil servants, as it puts them in an “invidious position” and calls into question the integrity of the civil service, which has an obligation to uphold the rule of law, whether that is domestic or international law. 

The guidance states that decisions whether to comply with a Rule 39 injunction from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and the “implications of such a decision in respect of the UK’s international obligations are a matter for ministers”, not civil servants. 

Penman argued there is a clear difference between not asking civil servants to breach international law, and telling them not to worry about breaching international law. He told the Guardian that “changing guidance… does not change the facts… If the ECHR rules a deportation unlawful, those are the facts of the case”.

“Ministers are trying to put civil servants in an invidious position by placing them between serving ministers and their professional obligations, he added. “It looks as if ministers are trying to avoid leaving the ECHR and are asking civil servants to break the law instead.”

Speaking to John Pienaar on Times Radio, the General Secretary said that he interprets the new guidance as ministers putting civil servants in the middle of “an internal dispute within the Conservative Party”. 

Appearing live on BBC News, Penman said the FDA will now “draw breath from the drama of today’s politics and see what action we may want to take to support our members who will not want to be put in this position”.
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