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In recent months, questions have been asked in Parliament about the Government’s civil contingencies planning in the event of the UK leaving the EU without having ratified a negotiated withdrawal agreement (ie a ‘no-deal’ Brexit). 

The use of emergency powers (ie the creation of temporary legislation) is set out in part 2 of the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 (CCA 2004). The Act provides the Government with powers to create emergency regulations to deal with emergencies that threaten “serious damage to human welfare”, or that threaten damage to the environment or the security of the UK. Damage to human welfare is defined in the Act to include disruption to transport networks or to the supply of food, money, energy, or health services.

The CCA 2004 provides powers for the monarch or a senior Minister of the Crown to make emergency regulations, under certain circumstances, to deal with the most serious emergencies. In practice, such regulations are drafted and their substance determined by the Government. The powers are wide-ranging, providing the Government with the power to make any provision that could be made by an Act of Parliament or through the use of the royal prerogative. The regulations must be laid before Parliament as soon as is practicable, and they would lapse after seven days if not approved by both Houses of Parliament.

This briefing summarises the circumstances in which emergency powers can be used, the procedure for creating emergency regulations, and the provisions for parliamentary scrutiny of the regulations.

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