In advance of the next six-month review of the Coronavirus Act 2020 (due at the end of September), we have just published “Parliament’s One-Year Review of the Coronavirus Act 2020: Another Example of Parliament’s Marginalisation in the Covid-19 Pandemic” in The Political Quarterly. In this paper we consider the last such six-monthly review (i.e. the one-year review) and argue that, despite appearances, this review was another example of Parliament being marginalised during the Covid-19 pandemic.
We draw out in particular four obstacles to meaningful scrutiny that can be observed in that review: inadequate parliamentary time scheduled for the review; the ‘all-or-nothing’ framing of the review; late and inaccurate government reporting prior to the OYR; and the failure to address key issues regarding the operation of the CVA, including major human rights concerns. We this identify two different sets of challenges to effective parliamentary scrutiny of the CVA: the government’s (procedural and substantive) treatment of the six-monthly review motions, and MPs’ failure to engage meaningfully with the substantive issues raised by the CVA.
We finish the paper by looking forward to the next review, and making two proposals for change. First, we argue that adequate time must be given to the debate on the six-month review motion and that motion on the temporary powers under the Coronavirus Act 2020 must be considered as a stand-alone motion (i.e. not rolled up with other motions into the same debate). Second, we suggest that at some point prior to the next review there should be an attempt to amend section 98 of the Coronavirus Act 2020 so that the motion debated allows for some temporary provisions to be maintained and others to be expired by vote of the House of Commons.
The paper is published open access and is available to read here.