April 2023 | Dominic Raab resigns over bullying investigation
Dominic Raab resigned from his posts as Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary following an investigation into several formal complaints about his behaviour towards staff while in public office. The inquiry, commissioned by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and undertaken by lawyer Adam Tolley, found that Raab had engaged in conduct experienced as “undermining” or “humiliating”. In 2021, the High Court found that bullying is not consistent with the Ministerial Code. Raab is a key figure in the Conservative Party’s right wing, and a close ally of the Prime Minister. Raab is the second cabinet member to resign over bullying claims in under six months, following Gavin Williamson’s resignation in November 2022. In his resignation letter, Raab stated that the inquiry would have a “chilling effect” on government officials. For its part, the opposition has said the case is part of a history of Conservative MPs dodging the rules.
March 2023 | Parliament debates Illegal Migration Bill
The Parliament is currently debating proposed legislation which would ban migrants who enter the UK irregularly from claiming asylum, particularly targeting adults arriving in small boats typically crossing the channel from France. In 2022, 45,000 people irregularly entered the UK by small boat according to official data. The bill would also block migrants entering the UK irregularly from accessing services designed to support victims of modern slavery and would hear human rights claims remotely after deportation, which the IOM has said would limit survivors’ ability to report trafficking and to access assistance. The bill would deal a blow to criminal gangs who profit from irregular migration and human trafficking, according to the UK government. The bill would also cap the number of refugees arriving via “safe and legal” routes. The Parliamentary committee on human rights has launched an inquiry to assess the bill’s potential impacts on international treaty obligations.
January 2023 | British government vetoes Scottish gender recognition bill
The British government blocked a Scottish law that makes it easier for trans people to have their gender legally recognised. The Gender Recognition Reform Bill, passed by the Scottish Parliament in December 2022, made it possible for people over the age of 16 to change their gender on official documents by self-declaration, removing the requirement for a medical diagnosis. For the first time since devolution in 1999, the British government used its power to block the law, arguing that the law risks undermining UK-wide equality legislation. Kemi Badenoch, British Minister for Women and Equalities, stated that the law threatens to make it easier for predatory men to gain access to spaces intended for women. Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s leader, called the move a Conservative party challenge to Scottish democracy, while also “weaponizing a stigmatised, vulnerable, often marginalised group.”
November 2022 | Voter ID requirements attract fresh concerns
The Electoral Commission, election officials, local authorities and civil society organizations have voiced concerns over the Elections Act, as passed by Parliament in April 2022. Requiring voters to show photographic identification before being allowed to vote in parliamentary, local and certain other elections, the Act will apply to the local elections scheduled for May 2023. The list of acceptable forms of voter ID was published in secondary legislation this month and faced criticism for disproportionately approving forms of ID held by older people vis-a-vis younger generations. For those who do not hold an approved ID, a Voter Authority Certificate will be made available, although arrangements for this will not be finalized until January 2023 at the earliest. In private correspondence with the Government, it was also revealed this month that the Electoral Commission described the voter ID timeline as neither “workable” nor “secure” and warned that it has the potential to disenfranchise parts of the electorate, particularly those already marginalized. Its potential to polarize and affect trust in the electoral process has additionally been raised.