Panellists on the BBC’s Question Time yesterday (October 22) were asked if they supported the UK’s new relationship with China, a “rogue state”. Now we can see why the deals have happened – the UK government is itself going rogue
Some might say this has been happening ever since the Conservatives returned to office in 2010.
The unheralded changes to the ministerial code mean that there is no longer any obligation for government ministers to concern themselves with justice (whether they did or didn’t before is debatable, but now becomes a moot point).
What implications will this have for the government’s response to the UN investigation into human rights abuses here?
And the UK may go to war with any other country in the world without concerning itself over the legality of such actions.
Of course, other countries are likely to object to any such illegal military adventure. Just because British ministers no longer feel the need to be bound by international law and treaty obligations, that doesn’t mean other countries will allow them to do whatever they like.
These changes potentially place us on a knife-edge.
No wonder a legal challenge is being launched by Rights Watch, an organisation that exists to hold the government to account.
Conservative ministers have been accused of quietly abandoning the longstanding principle that members of the government should be bound by international law.
A rewrite of the ministerial code that sets out the standard of conduct expected has omitted a reference to the subject – a decision that senior lawyers say could have far-reaching implications for the UK and its relationship with the rest of the world.
The latest version of the code, which was published without fanfare on Thursday last week, reveals that a key element has disappeared. The previous code, issued in 2010, said there was an “overarching duty on ministers to comply with the law including international law and treaty obligations and to uphold the administration of justice and to protect the integrity of public life”.
In the new version the sentence has been edited to say only that there is an “overarching duty on ministers to comply with the law and to protect the integrity of public life”.
Lawyers say key issues affected by the change could include decisions about whether to go to war or use military force, such as the use of drones in Syria, any decision made by an international court about the UK and any laws not incorporated into English law, such as human rights legislation and the Geneva conventions.
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