This is a weekly update on the legislation and guidance on coronavirus COVID-19 up to 21 November; it is intended as a quick reference to the latest developments. New items will be added throughout each week as they become available, and included in COVID-19 Coronavirus: legislation and guidance which is now the main source of information §. The updates for the earlier weeks are here.
Also in this update is information on the Scottish General Election (Coronavirus) Bill which was published on Tuesday 17 November 2020. This is not strictly “law and religion”, and as such has not be covered in a stand alone post. Nevertheless it a potentially important provision and there is a slightly longer summary at the end of this update, here.
Sunday 15 November to Saturday 21 November 2020
Law and Religion UK
- Law and religion round-up – 15 November. COVID-19: Welsh Government guidance.
- COVID-19: Northern Ireland Executive agrees two-week “circuit breaker” lockdown. The Northern Ireland Executive has agreed to introduce a two-week circuit breaker to slow the spread of COVID-19. The new restrictions will run for two weeks from 27 November until 11 December.
Church of England
- The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 4) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2020, SI 2020/1326. Amend the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 4)Regulations 2020 to permit shops, stalls, Christmas tree farms and other businesses selling or supplying natural Christmas trees to open.
- The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Local Levels) (Scotland) Amendment (No. 3) Regulations 2020, SSI 2020/389. Coming into force at 6.00 p.m. on 20th November 2020.
- COVID-19: suggested principles of safer singing, PHE, 20 November 2020.
- Maintaining records of staff, customers and visitors to support NHS Test and Trace. DHSC. Designated venues in certain sectors must have a system in place to request and record contact details of their customers, visitors and staff to help break the chains of transmission of coronavirus. Updated 19 November 2020.
- New National Restrictions from 5 November, Cabinet Office, Updated 20 November 2020.
Coronavirus (COVID-19): local protection levels, 17 November 2020.
Legislation to ensure safety of 2021 poll during pandemic.
New legislation has been published to make sure next year’s Scottish parliamentary election can take place fairly and safely during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The poll is expected to go ahead as planned on 6 May and the Scottish General Election (Coronavirus) Bill has been drafted to provide powers, if needed, to conduct the election differently.
The Bill, developed in partnership with the Electoral Management Board, the Electoral Commission, the Scottish Parliament and political parties, introduces key measures including:
- earlier deadline for postal vote applications of 6 April rather than 20 April to give more time for these to be processed given expected increase in demand
- power for Ministers to allow polling to take place over more than one day if needed to support physical distancing at polling stations
Measures have also been included for the highly unlikely event that the election has to be deferred. The Bill therefore moves dissolution of parliament to 5 May rather than 25 March to ensure MSPs can pass emergency legislation to delay the election if required.
Minister for Parliamentary Business Graeme Dey said:
“We fully expect the Scottish Parliament election to go ahead as planned in May, but it is prudent and responsible to ensure we have planned for every eventuality so that the poll can be conducted safely and fairly during this pandemic.
“This Bill includes measures to help ensure that polling can go ahead and that voters will be able to vote safely in person in May as planned.
“The proposed legislation, which will be scrutinised by parliament, also properly prepares for contingencies in the highly unlikely event that this is not possible due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“Importantly, should there be a need to defer the election because of COVID-19 during the pre-election period, the measures to delay dissolution will allow MSPs to return to parliament to take a vote on any such proposal through emergency legislation.”
Read the draft Scottish General Election (Coronavirus) Bill https://beta.parliament.scot/bills/Scottish-General-Election-Coronavirus-Bill
Although some or all of the measures might not prove necessary, for them to be available primary legislation will be needed prior to the current date for dissolution of Parliament on 25 March 2021. Early commencement for the Bill will be pursued with a view to putting it into force from late January 2021.
Powers for Ministers to allow polling to take place over more than one day and to conduct the poll as an all-postal ballot if necessary (which would only happen in the highly unlikely event the election was deferred and it remained impossible to hold in-person voting) are subject to consultation with the Presiding Officer, the Electoral Management Board, the Electoral Commission and the Chief Medical Officer.
By delaying the dissolution of parliament all MSPs and parliamentary staff will continue to be paid until 5 May 2021. In previous elections MSPs who were standing again and their parliamentary staff continued to receive their salaries through the pre-election period. Only those standing down were not paid after dissolution.
Measures to delay the dissolution of parliament have been put in place to ensure MSPs are able to return to parliament to vote on any emergency legislation to change the date of the election if required. It also allows for the parliament to continue to sit in the event of a postponement of the election.
§ – item to be added to COVID-19 Coronavirus: legislation and guidance.
Post last updated, 22 November 2020 at 10:02.