Trade union legal action will not delay Rwanda flights, says Downing Street

The Government has no concerns that trade union legal action could disrupt its timetable for deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda, Downing Street has said.

The FDA union, which represents senior civil servants, has applied for a judicial review of the Government’s Rwanda scheme, arguing that any decision not to comply with an order from the European Court of Human Rights could conflict with civil servants’ duty to comply with international law.

FDA general secretary Dave Penman said the Government had “chosen” to put civil servants “in a position where they are conflicted between the instructions of ministers and adhering to the Civil Service Code”.

But a Number 10 spokeswoman said on Thursday that there was no such conflict and the Government did not expect legal action to prevent deportation flights taking off within the next 11 weeks.

She said: “We have set out our position very clearly. There have been letters from the Cabinet Office to the Home Office permanent secretary setting out very clearly civil servants are acting fully in line with the code in carrying out policies and delivering for ministers.

“That’s the case here and civil servants are fully supported in doing so.”

The Civil Service Code requires civil servants to comply with the law, but also implement Government policy.

In a letter to Home Office permanent secretary Sir Matthew Rycroft on Monday, the Cabinet Office said Parliament had legislated to leave it up to ministers whether the UK complied with injunctions from the European Court of Human Rights, known as “Rule 39 indications”.

The letter said: “In the event that the minister, having received policy, operational and legal advice on the specific facts of that case, decides not to comply with a Rule 39 indication, it is the responsibility of civil servants to implement that decision.”

It added: “The code does not require or enable civil servants to decide not to do so, and so to frustrate the will of Parliament and ministers, on the basis that non-compliance with a Rule 39 indication would or might be a breach of (the European Convention on Human Rights).”

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