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Democratic concerns over Covid lawmaking

A prominent human rights lawyer has raised concerns that lawmaking during the Covid-19 pandemic has put usual parliamentary procedure aside and given a huge amount of control to a small group of ministers. He claims this has been done without proper scrutiny and is making the lawmaking process as a whole “anti-democratic”. 

MPs are being urged to “take back control” of laws in this country after a period which has set a dangerous precedent. While regulations are beginning to lift, the last year has raised several questions about the centralisation of judicial power with a handful of ministers. 

Adam Wagner, the lawyer in question who has been a keen chronicler of new and updated laws and regulations across the pandemic, has described laws as being passed “by the swish of a minister’s pen”. The increased output of new laws regarding the pandemic has led not only to an erosion to the democratic process, but also to uncertainty and confusion surrounding the current state of play. 

According to Wagner, the guidance, rules, and laws around Covid-19 change around once per week. For him, this trigger happy approach has led to people not being sure of what they can and can’t do; in a recent survey, even nine out of ten police officers thought the rules were unclear. 

The policy of “hotel quarantine” drew particular ire from Mr Wagner, who described it as “hotel detention”, likening the policy making process around it to “the wild west”, with a “fully unscrutinised detention of ordinary people who have committed no crime”. 

The hotel quarantine policy has led to over 85,000 fixed penalty notices at time of writing and was pushed through via secondary legislation. This is where ministers can pass legislation without parliamentary debate or approval. 

A damning light has also been shone at the controversial policing bill, granting powers to the Home Office to define what amounts to “serious disruption” from protestors and gives more autonomy to police with how they are dealt. The banning and aggressive dealing of the vigil for Sarah Everard, despite it being protected by the Human Rights Act, highlights for Wagner the concerning disregard for primary legislation in recent years. 

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