Lies, Falsehoods and Misrepresentations from Boris Johnson to Rishi Sunak

‎”We believe that our bill is compliant with the ECHR. That is the Government’s view”

PM Rishi Sunak, House of Commons Liaison Committee

Facts

On 7 March 2023, the Government introduced the Illegal Migration Bill to the House of Commons. 

Appearing before the House of Commons Liaison Committee, on 28 March, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stated that “We [the government] believe that our bill is compliant with the ECHR.” He repeated this statement more than once during the meeting. 

A report published on 11 June 2023 by the Joint Committee on Human Rights found that the Bill clearly breaches a number of the UK’s international legal obligations, including the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). 

On the front page of the Bill, there is a “section 19 statement”. Such a statement  is a rarely used device.  In section 19 of the Human Rights Act 1998 it is stated that “A Minister of the Crown in charge of a Bill in either Houses of Parliament must, before Second Reading of the Bill – (a) make a statement to the effect that in his view the provisions of the Bill are compatible with the Convention rights (“a statement of compatibility”); or (B) make a statement to the effect that although he is unable to make a statement of compatibility the government nevertheless wishes the House to proceed with the Bill.”

Suella Braverman wrote the following section 19 statement on the front page of the Bill: “I am unable to make a statement that, in my view, the provisions of the Illegal Migration Bill are compatible with the Convention rights, but the Government nevertheless wishes the House to proceed with the Bill.”

Suella Braverman was therefore making clear in her Section 19 statement that she was unable to say that the provisions of the Bill were compatible with rights under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). 

Moreover, HuffPost UK obtained a copy of the letter sent to MPs by the Home Secretary in which she says provisions in the Bill are more than likely not compatible with ECHR rights. She wrote that “there is a more [than] 50% chance that they may not be” compatible. 

Verdict

Sunak was misleading MPs when he said the Government believed that the Illegal Migration Bill is compliant with the ECHR. The “section 19 statement” on the front of the Bill and the Home Secretary’s letter to MPs, obtained by HuffPost, clearly show that the Government was well aware that the Bill was unlikely to be compliant. 

According to the Ministerial Code,  “It is of paramount importance that Ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity.  Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the Prime Minister.” The Prime Minister was misleading parliament in defiance of the Ministerial Code.

We emailed Rishi Sunak’s office and Number 10 offering him the chance to respond. The email was received, but no reply. 

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