Nineteenth Report Contents

COVID-19 legislation: obstacles to Parliamentary scrutiny

1.While we appreciate that the pandemic has given rise to a need to take urgent action, we would like to draw attention to two concerns about procedural aspects of the COVID-19 legislation which bear on the effectiveness of Parliamentary scrutiny.

2.First, we would urge the Government to ensure that the legislation follows on more closely from any announcement that they have made: the announcement that face masks would become mandatory on public transport was made on 4 June, the Regulations were laid before Parliament on 15 June — the day that the provision came into effect — thus denying Parliament the opportunity to scrutinise the detail before its implementation. Also, even a short gap between regulations being laid and their coming into effect would better enable those affected to prepare, having seen the law’s actual detailed requirements (rather than just the headline announcement). While we fully understand the need for legislation to take immediate effect when imposing lockdown measures to protect public health, the justification is less strong when relaxations are being contemplated and such regulations should not, if at all possible, be laid at the last minute.

3.Second, we are aware that a number of COVID-19 instruments enable powers that can be switched on or off according to current infection levels, or are subject to review every 21 or 28 days: it would assist the House and the Committee if the Explanatory Memorandum in such cases included specific information about how and where the outcome of any review is to be promulgated and how Parliament is to be informed of any change of status. We expect Government departments to ensure that in future this information is always provided.

© Parliamentary copyright 2018