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Frequently Asked Questions 

What is the Commission? 

The Independent Commission on UK Public Health Emergency Powers is an independent body chaired by The Rt. Hon. Sir Jack Beatson FBA. It brings together twelve individuals to work as Commissioners.

The Commission will review the UK's public health legislative framework and institutional arrangements, alongside Government decision-making during the Covid-19 pandemic. It will make recommendations for changes in law, policy, practice and procedure, and plans to publish its findings in a report in the autumn of 2023.

Who are the Commissioners? 

 The Commission brings together twelve leading policy experts, practitioners, parliamentarians and academics who are working alongside The Rt. Hon. Sir Jack Beatson FBA as Chair. Details of the background and experiences of the Commissioners can be found here.

When did the Independent Commission start?

The Independent Commission met for the first time in September 2022 to agree its Terms of Reference and programme of work. The Commission will operate for a year, and plans to publish its findings in a report in the autumn of 2023.

How will the Independent Commission reach its conclusions?

The programme of work anticipates that the Commission will undertake its deliberations over the course of four plenary meetings, and will gather evidence and analysis in several ways including via evidence sessions with stakeholders and by considering international comparators.

What are the Independent Commission's Terms of Reference?

The Commission's Terms of Reference can be found here.

What are the areas of law, policy, and practice that the Independent Commission will review?

 The issues examined by the Commission will include:

  • The legislative framework that enables the Government to adopt emergency powers during a public health crisis
  • The primary and secondary legislation that was used and created in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, including the clarity and accessibility of that legislation, and the process of parliamentary scrutiny of that legislation
  • The consideration of safeguards to ensure that the formulation, exercise and enforcement of emergency public health powers is consistent with human rights law;
  • The interplay between reserved and devolved powers for dealing with public health emergencies
  • How Government decision-making during the pandemic was communicated to Parliament, including the transparency of the evidence and advice relied upon by the Government
  • The extent to which Government messaging distinguished between binding law and non-binding public health advice
  • The extent to which the concerns and interests of different groups, in particular marginalised and disadvantaged groups, were taken into account in the formulation and review of emergency powers
  • The formulation, review and exercise of emergency public health powers during the pandemic in selected jurisdictions outside the UK

How is the Independent Commission linked to the Bingham Centre?

The Independent Commission is set up with the support of the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, but will function as an independent body. The Secretariat for the Commission will operate under the Steering Group led by the Chair of the Commission. The Bingham Centre will provide administrative and research support to the Secretariat.

How does the Independent Commission differ from the UK and Scottish Covid-19 Inquiries?

The Independent Commission is an independent body that operates separately from the UK and Scottish Covid-19 Inquiries. The Independent Commission intends for its work to assist the UK and Scottish Inquiries. The Commission's report will provide the Inquiries with an expert legal and constitutional analysis of existing and alternative emergency public health laws, parliamentary procedures for responding to public health emergencies, and the ways in which emergency laws and public health guidance were made, scrutinised, utilised and disseminated during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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