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Statutory Instruments: Coronavirus

Question for Cabinet Office

UIN HL3720, tabled on 29 April 2020

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the rule requiring statutory instruments to be laid before Parliament at least 21 days before coming into force remains applicable as a default position even during the COVID-19 pandemic; and whether any departure from that rule needs to be justified by reference to specific necessity and not a general disapplication.

Answered on

13 May 2020

The 21-day rule is a long-standing convention that gives Parliament adequate time to scrutinise secondary legislation subject to the negative procedure before it comes into force. It also protects those affected by changes in the law by giving them time to prepare. The Government is committed to complying with this important convention as far as possible, and continues to apply it, in the usual way, during the COVID-19 period.

Many SIs laid as part of the Government’s response to COVID-19 have not adhered to the convention in order to enable the swift implementation of the necessary emergency legislation. In line with standard procedure, this is being determined on a case-by-case basis, with the default position being that the 21-day rule is complied with wherever possible. If an SI does need to be laid fewer than 21 days before it comes into force, then justification must be set out in the Explanatory Memorandum to explain why the urgent action is needed and what the impact of delaying the legislation would be.

Answered by

Cabinet Office