Do sunset clauses work?

Author: Jessie Blackbourn


Sunset clauses – clauses which provide for the expiry of a law or part of a law at a later date – have been included in a number of Australia and the UK’s anti-terrorism laws in recent years, but have rarely led to the cessation of the relevant measures. There must, therefore, be some other reason for their inclusion in these types of laws, which are often exceptional in nature. This paper argues that parliament’s purpose in incorporating sunset clauses into anti-terrorism laws can be imputed from parliamentary debates. It is to ensure accountability; so that exceptional measures that are often enacted in haste and during a terrorist crisis are revisited by parliament at a future date to determine whether they continue to be a necessary addition to the statute books. This paper questions whether sunset clauses in anti-terrorism laws in Australia and the UK are fit for purpose. Drawing on an analysis of two Australian and three UK anti-terrorism laws, it concludes that they are ineffective at enabling parliament to hold the government to account.

This paper will be delivered as part of our academic panel on “Westminster and Beyond”, between 2.00pm and 3.30pm.


One thought on “Do sunset clauses work?

  1. Pingback: One-Day Conference: “Making Parliaments Work: What Makes For an Effective Parliament?” – Parliaments and Legislatures

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