Emergency Powers Act 1920 - Overview


The exact grounds for such a proclamation by the monarch are defined in the Act as:

"...any action has been taken or is immediately threatened by any persons or body of persons of such a nature and on so extensive a scale as to be calculated, by interfering with the supply and distribution of food, water, fuel, or light, or with the means of locomotion, to deprive the community, or any substantial portion of the community, of the essentials of life..."

Upon a proclamation, Parliament must meet within five days and the Act gave Her Majesty in Council, by Order, to make regulations to secure the 'essentials of life to the community' and gave the relevant Secretaries of State the power for the 'preservation of the peace' and the 'essentials of life' as defined above. Such regulations would be laid before Parliament as soon as they were pronounced and would expire in seven days, unless Parliament decided otherwise, of being laid before Parliament. A proclamation of this sort could be in force for no more than one month.

Anyone who broke these regulations, the Act says:

"...shall be imprisonment with or without hard labour for a term of three months, or a fine of one hundred pounds, or both such imprisonment and fine, together with the forfeiture of any goods or money in respect of which the offence has been committed."

The Act forbade regulations which amounted to 'compulsory military service or industrial conscription' and ruled out regulations which would forbid 'any person or persons to take part in a strike, or peacefully to persuade any other person or persons to take part in a strike'. Regulations could not allow punishment by either fine or prison without trial.

Read more about this topic:  Emergency Powers Act 1920

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