Abracadabra Law-Making and Accountability to Parliament for the Coronavirus Regulations

14 Pages Posted: 18 Nov 2020

See all articles by Tom Hickman

Tom Hickman

University College London - Faculty of Laws

Date Written: November 17, 2020


Since 26 March 2020 the day-to-day life of every person in the country has been regulated and restricted to an exceptionally high degree by criminal laws made by regulations that have intruded deeply into the heart of individual liberty, regulating the purposes for which people can leave their homes, their ability to socialise and meet family members and their ability to work. The regulations have been made under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984. Disquiet about the development of a modern form of government by proclamation gradually built-up in Parliament over the summer of 2020. This paper examines this issue. It identifies the two functions of Parliament in relation to delegated legislation as (a) accountability and (b) transparency. It concludes that in the period 26 March 2020 to 12 October 2020 Parliament was unable to perform these functions adequately. Regulations were produced at the last minute, shortly before they came into effect, and parliamentary scrutiny and debate of the measures, if it occurred at all, was belated, restricted and stale. It is suggested that far from being merely a product of an exceptional period, the experience highlights structural weaknesses in the regime for scrutiny of delegated legislation which need to be urgently addressed.

Keywords: Constitutional law, coronavirus, COVID-19, parliament, criminal law, judicial review

JEL Classification: K00, K16, K23

Suggested Citation

Hickman, Tom, Abracadabra Law-Making and Accountability to Parliament for the Coronavirus Regulations (November 17, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3732097 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3732097

Tom Hickman (Contact Author)

University College London - Faculty of Laws ( email )

Bentham House
4-8 Endsleigh Gardens
London, WC1E OEG
United Kingdom

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