Closed petition Require government ministers who break the law to be removed from post

Government ministers and lawmakers have an utmost duty to uphold the rule of law at all times. Accountability before the law for all citizens is important, and therefore government ministers must also be forced to take responsibility when they break the law.

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Equality and accountability before the law for all citizens is very important. It enables our society to function better and prevents and punishes abuses of power. If government ministers in particular are able to get away with breaking the law, then that sets a dangerous precedent for future governments and other powerful positions. Everyone should have take responsibility if they break the law, and that includes members of government.

This petition is closed All petitions run for 6 months

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Government responded

This response was given on 28 July 2021

Ministers are under an overarching duty to comply with the law. It is for the courts to determine whether an act is unlawful and the appropriate remedy or consequences.

Read the response in full

Government Ministers are under a duty to comply with the law.

Government decisions, and the process by which powers are exercised, can be reviewed by the High Court. In judicial review, the Court will consider the Government’s exercise of public powers by reference to procedural fairness, reasonableness or rationality and compatibility with legal obligations.

Where a legal challenge is brought against the Government, these will often be brought against "the Secretary of State" as the legal embodiment of the department. The challenge is brought against a department corporately, whether or not a decision or action was taken by a particular Minister or by officials acting on behalf of Ministers. Many operational decisions in Government are in practice made by civil servants. Ministers take their decisions having received and considered advice from civil servants. Legally and constitutionally, however, the acts of officials and Ministers in the department are in the name of the head of the department, usually the Secretary of State, who is ultimately accountable for all decisions by the Department.

Where the Court finds against the Government, this is about the department having acted in a manner which is determined not to have been lawful. Whilst Ministers are the legal embodiment of their department, this is not an indication that individuals have knowingly or intentionally broken the law. Where the Court finds an act to have been unlawful it is for the courts to determine the remedy.
Where a Minister has broken the law in a personal capacity, that is also a matter for the Courts.

Where there is an allegation relating to conduct as a Minister that is undertaken by the Minister personally, then that is a conduct matter to be considered under the Ministerial Code.

Cabinet Office

This is a revised response. The Petitions Committee requested a response which more directly addressed the request of the petition. You can find the original response towards the bottom of the petition page: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/577013

Other parliamentary business

Petitions Committee requests a revised response from the Government

The Petitions Committee (the group of MPs who oversee the petitions system) have considered the Government’s response to this petition. They felt that the response did not directly address the request of petition and have therefore written back to the Government to ask them to provide a revised response.

When the Committee have received a revised response from the Government, this will be published on the website and you will receive an email. If you would not like to receive further updates about this petition, you can unsubscribe below.

Original Government response

Ministers are under an overarching duty to comply with the law. It is for the courts to determine whether an act is unlawful and for the appropriate remedy or consequences.

Government Ministers are under a duty to comply with the law.

Government decisions, and the process by which powers are exercised, can be reviewed by the High Court. In judicial review, the Court will consider the Government’s exercise of public powers by reference to legality, procedural fairness, reasonableness or rationality and compatibility with legal obligations.

Many operational decisions in Government are made by civil servants. Ministers also will often take advice from civil servants. Legally and constitutionally, however, the acts of officials are the acts of the Ministers to whom they are accountable, and the Court will regard ‘the Minister’ as the person who is ultimately responsible for ensuring that a particular decision is made reasonably, fairly and according to law. For this reason, legal challenges are often brought against “the Secretary of State”.

Where the Court finds against the Government, this is about the department having acted in breach of the law. Whilst Ministers act as the embodiment of their department, this is not an indication that individuals have knowingly or intentionally broken the law.

Cabinet Office

This response was given on 9 July 2021. The Petitions Committee then requested a revised response, that more directly addressed the request of the petition.