The Attorney General has banned government lawyers from telling ministers that their policies are unlawful, The Telegraph reports.
It comes as she has issued a direct appeal to her supporters in the Tory leadership contest to rally behind Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.
The Attorney General, who was eliminated in the second round of voting, said that, out of the remaining candidates seen as coming from the right of the party, Ms Truss is best-placed to make it into the final ballot of party members.
Instead of dismissing new government policies as unlawful they should give a percentage chance of they could be challenged.
Lawyers, who are now describing it as the “U-word”, have hit back at the policy, describing it as an affront. “It calls into question our ability to hold the Government to account. What exactly is our role now?” one said.
The issue has come to a head at the Home Office. One government source said: “If we come and say we want something, they [lawyers] come back and say it is unlawful and we think there is a 70 per cent chance of losing. They don’t go: ‘Well, there is a 30 per cent chance a judge would find it lawful so we should go for it. There will be some who say it is unlawful because of x, y, z reasons rather than: ‘How can we make a legal argument that it is lawful’?”
“I can’t really work out why this has been done,” he said. “Clearly, the duty of government lawyers is always – if they’re confronted with a problem, and asked whether something is likely to be successfully challenged – to give their best advice based on their understanding of the law. But if they consider that something on the basis of precedent and its nature is unlawful, they should be in a position to be able to say so.”
In response, Emily Thornberry wrote the following:
It has seemingly not been well received: