The return of rule by decree

After the health secretary promised to consult parliament about any national coronavirus restrictions, now there has been a revert to previous type – with the now familiar act of introducing laws as statutory instruments (ideally when parliamentarians are on a break), with laws published a few hours before they come into force.

Parliamentarians are then offered the chance to rubber stamp laws that are already in existence and are already being enforced. There is minimal debate – only 3 minutes per speaker – and the regulations cannot be amended or improved, only given a yes/no.

This means law being created pristine on the whim of a single minister. Parliament is reduced to the status of a rubber stamping authority, with no rights to properly debate or amend.

This shows that the promises to involve parliament were not worth the breath they were issued with.

Ministers will consult parliament if it suits them. But if it doesn’t, they won’t.

This sets an extremely dangerous precedent, and shows that parliament can effectively be dispensed with in any situation that the executive deems to be an emergency.

When such a situation persists, we do not live in a democracy. The rights and authority of parliament to scrutinise legislation cannot be grounded on the say-so and good intentions of ministers. It must be demanded and enforced by the public and by law.