Civil contingencies and emergency powers
Produced in partnership with Eric Metcalfe of Monckton Chambers and Alistair Grainger of 25 Bedford Row

The following Public Law practice note produced in partnership with Eric Metcalfe of Monckton Chambers and Alistair Grainger of 25 Bedford Row provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Civil contingencies and emergency powers
  • The Civil Contingencies Act 2004
  • The definition of emergency
  • Planning for emergencies
  • The Secretary of State's power to make emergency regulations
  • Are emergency regulations 'necessary' to combat the emergency?
  • What is the scope of emergency regulations?
  • What limits are there on the power to make emergency regulations?
  • The making of emergency regulations

Civil contingencies and emergency powers

The Civil Contingencies Act 2004

The Civil Contingencies Act 2004 (CCA 2004) provides the primary framework for dealing with large-scale emergencies under UK law:

  1. CCA 2004, Part 1 concerns the responsibility of various public bodies and certain private bodies (eg energy suppliers or telecommunications providers) to undertake contingency planning for emergencies

  2. CCA 2004, Part 2 enables a senior government minister to make emergency regulations with the power to amend primary legislation

It is important to bear in mind, however, that there are a wide range of other exceptional statutory powers that may be deployed in times of crisis without an emergency first having been declared under CCA 2004, Part 2.

For example, primary legislation such as the Coronavirus Act 2020 and section 14 of the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA 1998) permit a Secretary of State to make a designated derogation from rights under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Although a derogation under Article 15 ECHR may only be made ‘in time of war or other public emergency threatening the life of the nation’, it is entirely possible for there to be a ‘public emergency’ under Article 15 without the CCA 2004 being engaged. An example is the Human Rights Act (Designated Derogation) Order 2001, made following the 9/11 attacks.

Notwithstanding various crises over the last decade, no emergency regulations have been

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