Business and Planning Bill illustrates challenges of fast-track law-making
10 July 2020
The Constitution Committee publishes its ninth report of the session on the Business and Planning Bill.
The Bill is intended to "help business adjust to new ways of working" after the disruption caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic. It contains measures on a range subjects, including: pavement and alcohol licensing; a "bounce back loans scheme"; vehicle licensing; construction working hours; and changes to the planning process.
The Committee warns that fast-tracking this Bill through both Houses is "problematic" as the ability to scrutinise permanent changes to the law is significantly reduced. The report recommends subjecting the permanent measures in the Bill to sunset provisions.
The report highlights the difficulties inherent in sending clear public health messages under emergency conditions. The Committee expresses concern that amendments to licencing restrictions are an example of significant policy changes appearing to be given effect through ministerial announcement rather than enactment of law.
The Committee recommends that the delegated powers in the Bill should only be extendable for a limited time and only if the Secretary of State considers it necessary or appropriate to respond to the pandemic.
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