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Parliament, consultation and the local lockdown

The lack of consultation on the coronavirus regulations was again top of the agenda in Parliament this week, though the debate has moved from the Commons to the Lords. In yet another example of protestations by party grandees, this time the revolt was lead by erstwhile Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord Lamont of Lerwick. Moving an amendment to the motion to approve the so-called ‘rule of six’ regulations, he highlighted his regret, supported from colleagues from across the political spectrum that the regulations were still consultatively deficient. Although he ultimately withdrew his amendment, his voice in calling for more consultation is far from a lonesome one, mirroring calls from all corners of civil society (including us!). We plan on sharing our Briefing Paper 38 to those speakers who have expressed significant interest.

We’ve also seen a degree of mystery about the somewhat minimal consultation processes that have taken place. On Saturday, Rhion highlighted on LinkedIn that the Mayor of Middlesbrough had said in a BBC interview that he had not been consulted about the imposition of new stringent regulations in his area. Parliament has been full of similar stories, MP’s raising protests from local authorities that they have not been consulted before the Government puts them back into varying forms of lockdown. The same Parliament has been full of ministers claiming that all local regulations are put into place after consultation with local leaders.

So who is telling the truth? Or is there some convoluted, Schrodinger-esque process whereby Mayors are both being simultaneously consulted and not consulted at work? We don’t know, and that could be a problem. Amongst the many important functions of consultation is transparency. It’s important to know who is being consulted. It encourages trust and gives people faith in the end result. On this one, it might end up being a good measure of whose statements the average citizen trusts more, local elected members or the Government.

About the Author

Stephen serves as the Institute’s Legal and Parliamentary Officer. Before joining the Institute Stephen studied Law at Bangor University and pursued a Masters’ degree in Aviation and Space Law at McGill University in Montreal. After this, he returned to London and was called to the bar in 2016 at the Honorable Society of Gray’s Inn, before deciding not to go into practice and move towards public policy work instead. Within the Institute, Stephen provides legal, political and policy analysis of UK and global current affairs of interest to consultors and consultees.

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