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Accountability, emergency and liberty during COVID-19 in the UK 2020-22

Ferry, Laurence; Midgley, Henry; Green, Stuart

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Stuart Green
Assistant Professor in Accounting


Purpose The study explains why Parliamentarians in the United Kingdom (UK) focused on accountability through data during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as on how data could be used to improve the government’s response to the pandemic. Design/methodology/approach Understanding the implications of accountability for COVID-19 is crucial to understanding how governments should respond to future pandemics. This article provides an account of what a select committee in the UK thought were the essential elements of these accountability relationships. To do so, the authors use a neo-Roman concept of liberty to show how Parliamentary oversight of the pandemic for accountability was crucial to maintaining the liberty of citizens during the crisis and to identify what lessons need to be learnt for future crises. Findings The study shows that Parliamentarians were concerned that the UK government was not meeting its obligations to report openly about the COVID-19 pandemic to them. It shows that the government did make progress in reporting during the pandemic but further advancements need to be made in future for restrictions to be compatible with the protection of liberty. Research limitations/implications The study extends the concept of neo-Roman liberty showing how it is relevant in an emergency situation and provides an account of why accountability is necessary for the preservation of liberty when the government uses emergency powers. Practical implications Governments and Parliaments need to think about how they preserve liberty during crises through enhanced accountability mechanisms and the publication of data. Originality/value The study extends previous work on liberty and calculation, providing a theorisation of the role of numbers in the protection of liberty.


Ferry, L., Midgley, H., & Green, S. (2023). Accountability, emergency and liberty during COVID-19 in the UK 2020-22. Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 7, 2023
Online Publication Date Mar 27, 2023
Publication Date 2023
Deposit Date Mar 7, 2023
Publicly Available Date Mar 8, 2023
Journal Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal
Print ISSN 0951-3574
Publisher Emerald
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Public URL


Accepted Journal Article (312 Kb)

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Copyright Statement
This author accepted manuscript is deposited under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC) licence. This means that anyone may distribute, adapt, and build upon the work for non-commercial purposes, subject to full attribution. If you wish to use this manuscript for commercial purposes, please contact

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