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This Government, by advancing proposals which remove the electoral franchise for the millions represented by physically vulnerable MPs, and this only months after the Government unlawfully suspended Parliament, has shown real contempt for the role Parliament plays in our public life.
This contempt can also be seen from how Parliament has handled the making of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 (‘the Lockdown Regulations’) which were made and came into force on 26 March 2020, and the three sets of amending regulations, made on 22 April 2020, 12 May 2020 and 31 May 2020, which followed.
The Regulations are made “in response to the serious and imminent threat to public health which is posed by the incidence and spread of Coronavirus in England” and, although we support those objectives, it is simply not good enough that the amending regulations should be adopted by the “emergency procedure”. The manner in which they were adopted caused them to pass into law by the Secretary of State’s fiat, without the need for any prior Parliamentary debate or approval. Each came into force before it was presented to Parliament. But there was no good reason – still less need – to bypass Parliament.
The consequence has been constitutionally remarkable. Profound restrictions on people’s lives – the most profound since the Second World War – have received almost no Parliamentary scrutiny. This state of affairs subverts the fundamental constitutional principle of Parliamentary accountability. It generates real difficulties for the quality of law because there has been no Parliamentary debate or amendments. It restricts the ability of people to understand the law so as to regulate their conduct as guaranteed by Article 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights. And ultimately, as we have seen alongside the actions of high profile Government advisors, it undermines the rule of law itself.
None of this is good enough. Today Good Law Project, instructing Rook Irwin Sweeney and senior Counsel, has written to the Secretary of State (you can read the letter here). We point out our belief that the Regulations are unlawful and we ask for a response within seven days. Although it is not our present intention to begin judicial review proceedings we reserve the right to do so depending upon the Secretary of State’s response. We put him on notice that should he wrongly use the emergency procedure again we will issue judicial review proceedings.
Parliament deserves better. The electorate deserves better.
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