On 23 March 2020, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced a nationwide lockdown to control the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19). This included restrictions on individuals’ movement, and the enforced closure of many types of businesses. From May onwards, the national lockdown has been progressively relaxed—although some restrictions, for example on mass gatherings, remain in place.
On 3 July 2020, Mr Johnson said that the Government’s strategy would “move away from blanket, national measures, to targeted, local measures”. This targeted approach would, he argued, “enable as many people as possible to live their lives as close to normally as possible—in a way which is as fair and as safe as possible”. Since then, a series of ‘local lockdowns’ have been introduced in England, initially in Leicester and more recently in areas such as Blackburn, Bradford, Luton, Northampton, Manchester, Lancashire and West Yorkshire.
In the devolved administrations, a separate process applies. In Scotland, there have been local lockdowns in parts of Dumfries and Galloway and in Aberdeen, which have now been lifted and, most recently, in Glasgow, East Renfrewshire and West Dunbartonshire. There have been no local lockdowns in Wales or Northern Ireland.
Leicester local lockdown: Original regulations
On 4 July 2020, the first local lockdown was introduced, in Leicester and the surrounding areas, to counter an increase in coronavirus cases in the region.
The Government created regulations under emergency powers provided in section 45 of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 to impose the lockdown and define the affected area. These were the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Leicester) Regulations 2020. The measures included shutting non-essential retail premises, bars and cafés and restricting people’s movements, overnight stays outside the home and indoor and outdoor gatherings. For more information, see the Library’s briefing on the regulations and the explanatory memorandum.
The regulations were introduced by the ‘made affirmative’ procedure. This means they could become law when made by the Secretary of State, and prior to being laid before, or approved by, Parliament. The 1984 Act requires a statement of why such urgency is justified. The memorandum said that this was “so that public health measures can be taken in response to the serious and imminent threat to public health” posed by coronavirus. The Act also specifies that the regulations must be approved by both Houses within 28 days of being made, or they cease to be in force (the period can be extended for, for example, parliamentary recesses).
The original Leicester regulations were drafted so that they expired six months after they came into force. They also required the Secretary of State to review the need for the restrictions every 14 days.
Leicester local lockdown: Amendments
Since the original regulations, five further instruments relating to the Leicester lockdown have been introduced. These have all followed the made affirmative procedure.
Three sets of regulations amended the original regulations:
- The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Leicester) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 came into force on 18 July 2020. They were designed to reduce the areas covered by the lockdown.
- The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Leicester) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2020 came into force on 24 July 2020. They lifted some of the restriction measures, for example to allow non-essential retail premises to open.
- The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Leicester) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2020 came into force on 1 August 2020. They reduced the geographic boundary of the lockdown further, with only the City of Leicester remaining in scope.
On 3 August, a new set of regulations, the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Leicester) (No. 2) Regulations 2020 came into force. These revoked and replaced the original regulations (as amended). They reaffirmed some parts of the earlier regulations, for example that the local lockdown would apply only to the City of Leicester. However, they changed other measures, for example relaxing restrictions to allow some businesses, such as restaurants, cafés and bars, to open.
The Government said that it brought forward new regulations, rather than further amending the original ones, because the changes were “quite substantial”. Again, they expire six months after coming in force—thus, approximately a month later than the date the original regulations would have expired—and the Secretary of State must review them every 14 days. The explanatory memorandum clarified that the original regulations still applied to any offence committed in the period when they were in force.
The new regulations have so far been amended once, by the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Leicester) (No. 2) (Amendment) Regulations 2020, which came into force on 19 August 2020 and allowed some further types of premises to open.
Statutory instruments under the made affirmative procedure typically receive three types of Parliamentary scrutiny:
- consideration by the House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee;
- consideration by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments; and
- debates in both Houses. In the House of Commons, debate on statutory instruments usually happens in a delegated legislation committee, with the formal approval decision taken in the Chamber without further debate.
The original Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Leicester) Regulations 2020 completed all of these stages, culminating in a debate in the House of Lords on 29 July 2020. The three amending regulations reached different stages in the scrutiny process before being revoked, along with the original regulations.
The replacement regulations, the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Leicester) (No. 2) Regulations 2020, as amended, are in force but have not yet been considered by either committee or debated in either House. Both Houses must approve them by 28 September 2020 for them to remain in force. It is not yet clear whether the regulations and the amendment will be debated separately or at the same time.
On 24 July 2020, the Government set out a series of model regulations under the 1984 Act that could form the basis of future local lockdown instruments. It said that this approach should help to facilitate scrutiny of the legislation.
Other local lockdowns
Other regulations for local lockdowns in England under the 1984 Act have been as follows. Each instrument has taken and adapted sections of the model regulations.
- Blackburn with Darwen and Luton, coming into force on 25 July 2020. This required the closure of certain businesses and placed restrictions on gatherings.
- Blackburn with Darwen and Bradford, coming into force on 1 August 2020. This revoked the 25 July 2020 legislation and thereby lifted restrictions in Luton, while adding Bradford to the areas covered. Aside from the geographical changes, the restrictions were the same as in the 25 July 2020 regulations. This instrument has now been amended twice, in each case reducing the geographical areas covered.
- Various areas in Greater Manchester, Lancashire and West Yorkshire, coming into force on 5 August 2020. These placed restrictions on gatherings but did not, initially, enforce the closure of businesses over and above the national measures in place. They have since been amended four times, to change their geographic scope and to include the closure of certain businesses.
- In Northampton, but limited to those who work or have worked at the Greencore food production sites, in response to an increased level of positive tests for the virus amongst the workforce. The regulations require Greencore workers, and their household members, to self-isolate for 14 days to reduce the spread of coronavirus. The Government said that this would also “prevent wider lockdown geographic measures”.
The Institute for Government has described other ways in which restrictions could be implemented. It said these could be imposed at the national level, for example under the Coronavirus Act 2020, or by local authorities under a range of legislation, including the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 3) Regulations 2020.
- House of Commons Library, Coronavirus: the Lockdown Laws, 6 August 2020, pp 14—17
- Alex Nice and Rachel Hogarth, ‘Coronavirus: local lockdowns’, Institute for Government, 2 September 2020
- Department of Health and Social Care, ‘Local restrictions: areas with an outbreak of coronavirus (Covid-19)’, 22 August 2020
- BBC News, ‘What are the new local lockdown rules?’, 2 September 2020