UCL Faculty of Laws


Against the Clock: Time Pressure and the Constitution

08 February 2023, 6:00 pm–7:00 pm

Big Ben

A Statute Law Society event hosted by UCL Laws

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About this lecture

Time pressure is a necessary constraint on aspects of the constitution, but it can also pose a threat to good government, parliamentary accountability and scrutiny. In this lecture Dr White considers the impact on the constitution of the time constraints created by external factors (such as the Article 50 process and the COVID-19 pandemic) and politically driven agendas (such as the approach taken by the Truss premiership). She will examine the ways in which time pressure shaped the May and Johnson governments’ strategies for giving effect to the 2016 referendum result and how they controlled time in pursuit of their policy objectives. She will discuss the impact on procedures and conventions of the imperative for the government to act swiftly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the opportunities and risks of the precedents set. And she considers the impact of Truss’s accelerated policy agenda for the constitutional safeguards built into government processes. In concluding, she will reflect on the lasting legacy of the time pressure exerted on the constitution during this exceptional period and offer some thoughts about how the constitution might be protected against the negative consequences of governing under time constraints.        

About the speaker

Dr Hannah White OBE has been Director of the Institute for Government since October 2022.

She has extensive knowledge of Westminster and Whitehall based on a career in parliament, the civil service and academia. Before running the Committee on Standards in Public Life in the Cabinet Office, she was a clerk in the House of Commons. She joined the Institute in 2014.

Hannah received an OBE in the 2020 Birthday Honours for services to the constitution, and in April 2022 she published her first book Held in Contempt: what’s wrong with the House of Commons?

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