THE Tory government has ruled "by diktat" at times during coronavirus and Brexit, with power shifting away from parliament, peers have warned.

Peers say our political system has now reached a "critical moment".

In damning reports by two cross-party committees in the House of Lords, peers found that ministers have adopted procedures which "effectively by-pass parliament's role in the legislative process".

And they warn that the shift to using secondary legislation and other technical measures has enabled the UK Government to make detailed laws without proper oversight.

The vast changes to UK law after Brexit and the need to respond quickly to the emerging threat of the Covid-19 pandemic has seen the use of secondary legislation — powers afforded to ministers which require less input by MPs and peers about legal alterations — rise in the past few years.

But the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee (SLSC) and the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee (DPRRC) have issued a "stark warning" in both their respective reports published about the practice today.

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They claim the "balance of power between parliament and government has for some time been shifting away from parliament".

And they both said: "A critical moment has now been reached when that balance must be reset: not restored to how things were immediately before these exceptional recent events, but reset afresh."

Lord Hodgson, chairman of the SLSC, said that, while it was understandable that the Covid outbreak meant speed was required in introducing restrictions, "government by diktat must not become the norm".

Referencing his committee's Government by Ditkat: A Call To Return Power To Parliament and DPRRC's Democracy Denied? The Urgent Need To Rebalance Power Between Parliament And The Executive, he said: "These reports from our two committees are a blunt warning, that hundreds of laws are being imposed on all of us, in effect by government diktat, with no effective scrutiny and control by parliament.

"Increasingly the government has made use of secondary legislation, regulations and orders which are subject to a much lower level of scrutiny than primary legislation.

"Given this, it is not surprising that the executive can be tempted to put as much of the law as possible into regulations.

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"At a time of national crisis, as during the pandemic when urgent action is required it may be necessary to pass laws speedily with the minimum of parliamentary process.

"However, government by diktat must not become the norm."

Delegated Powers chairman Lord Blencathra said: "It is imperative that the substantial shift in power from Parliament to ministers that has occurred over the years even prior to Brexit and Covid should be rebalanced."

The reports condemn the growing use of so-called skeleton bills that give ministers sweeping powers to make secondary legislation that can be passed with "little or no consideration" by the two chambers.

They recommend that skeleton bills be used only in the "most exceptional circumstances" in future, along with a published justification for their use.

Peers also want the Cabinet Office's Guide To Making Legislation to be amended to emphasise that when ministers choose to use such delegated law-making powers, that their decision is based on the "principles of parliamentary democracy and not political expediency".