As the Coronavirus lockdown continues, both in the UK and most of the rest of the world, the challenges it poses to the Rule of Law come into ever sharper focus. This week the Bingham Centre has been actively involved in many of the discussions and debates about those challenges.
One of the Rule of Law issues that becomes increasingly pressing as the lockdown goes on is the legal uncertainty about exactly which of our normal activities outside the home are permitted and which are forbidden. Can we sit on the grass in the park during a break from our permitted daily exercise? Can we exercise outside more than once a day? Which shopping is essential? And what are the police's powers in respect of these fine judgments? These are of huge practical significance because the degree of public compliance required with the lockdown restrictions depends on public acceptance and trust. These issues are considered in the comment piece Covid-19: When is a Rule not a Rule? by Ronan Cormacain, Senior Research Fellow in the Rule of Law Monitoring of Legislation, which investigates the difference between rules and guidance and asks whether the government has been risking public trust by elevating guidance to the level of compulsory laws.
Another increasingly pressing Rule of Law issue, also relevant to the public's trust and confidence in the Government's response, is the democratic accountability of the Government for the way it is handling the crisis. In a Bingham Centre comment piece, Nyasha Weinberg, Research Fellow in Rule of Law Measurement, argues that "Parliament re-opening will help the government defeat Covid-19" . Parliament's work in scrutinising Government is never more important than in a crisis. Emergencies sound the hour of the executive , where it plays an essential role in coordinating and delivering an urgent and effective response. This has certainly been the case with COVID-19, with Ministers granted additional powers to mobilise a rapid response to the lethal danger posed by the virus.
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