41.Two instruments relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Electric Scooter Trials and Traffic Signs (Coronavirus) Regulations and General Directions 2020 (SI 2020/663) and the Secure Training Centre (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Rules 2020 (SI 2020/664), are drawn to the special attention of the House in this report (see pages 3 to 12 above).
42.Because of the frequent changes made, this instrument revokes the original lockdown regulations and the subsequent four sets of amending regulations to consolidate the remaining provisions in these Regulations. It also reduces restrictions on the opening of indoor and outdoor public houses, restaurants, cafes and bars from 4 July 2020 and permits the reopening of holiday accommodation, and certain leisure and recreational businesses. However, indoor venues where individuals are expected to be at close proximity, such as nightclubs, gyms, bowling alleys, dance studios and sports courts, are required to remain closed due to the increased risk of aerosol transmission (see full list in Schedule 2). As infection rates have decreased, the Regulations now allow gatherings of up to 30 individuals in private dwellings or unmanaged outdoor spaces. Recognising that certain areas have attracted large crowds, regulation 6 provides the Secretary of State with the power to restrict or prohibit access to a specified public outdoor place or types of place to prevent or provide a public health response to the spread of COVID-19.
43.The instrument will lapse six months after it comes into force and while it is in effect the Secretary of State must review the need for the restrictions and requirements imposed by these Regulations every 28 days. The first review must be carried out by 31 July 2020 and Parliament will be informed of any changes to be made by way of a written or oral statement.
44.In response to the high number of positive COVID-19 tests in Leicester in June 2020, the Government announced a local lockdown in order to limit the further spread of the disease. These Regulations came into force on 4 July 2020, re-imposing tighter restrictions on the protected area (as defined by the postcodes set out in Schedule 1) and on those who live within it. The instrument requires all non-essential businesses, leisure, and food and drink establishments to close (see full list in Schedule 3), with a limited number of exceptions. The instrument also prohibits anyone from staying overnight in the protected area and bans certain indoor and outdoor gatherings. The Regulations will expire six months after they came into force but while they are in force the Secretary of State must review the need for the restrictions imposed by these Regulations every 14 days: the first review must be carried out by 18 July 2020.
45.This instrument reduces temporarily (in most cases to zero) certain fees that the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) charges in relation to patents, trade marks and designs. According to the IPO, the fee reductions will apply from 30 July 2020 until 31 March 2021, as a part of measures to support businesses in the aftermath of the pandemic.
46.The purpose of this instrument is to ensure that critical workers who exceed the maximum income threshold of £100,000 due to an increased income for reasons related to the pandemic can continue to claim Tax-Free Childcare (TFC), up to a new maximum threshold of £150,000. The change is temporary and will be effective only for the year 6 April 2020 to 5 April 2021. Parents who usually earn over £100,000 remain ineligible to TFC, while critical workers who would have been ineligible previously as their income exceeded the maximum threshold will be eligible if their income has reduced as a result of the pandemic, if they can declare that their income over the tax year will be less than the maximum threshold. HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) estimates that only between 1.5% and 2% of children currently receiving TFC are from families where parents are critical workers whose earnings may potentially exceed the £100,000 threshold during the pandemic. The instrument also implements a permanent measure announced at Budget 2020 to clarify that when parents of primary school-aged children pay for registered childcare through agents or intermediaries, these payments will be permitted payments for TFC. If these payments include a reasonable fee or commission the whole payment will be permitted and no apportionment is needed, while unreasonable fees will not be permitted. HMRC expects the clarification of the TFC scheme to be delivered by June 2021.
47.These instruments reflect the recently permitted expansion of a person’s “bubble”. They amend the original Regulations to clarify that those in the shielding group may still receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if they meet people outside their household in accordance with public health guidance (rather than remaining in strict isolation). The instruments also set out provisions for when shielding comes to an end, but allow that any person who is notified to shield at a future date will still be eligible for SSP. Additionally, these instruments provide that someone does not have to serve waiting days, if they stop self-isolating before the end of seven or 14 days because they or someone in their “bubble” subsequently receive a negative test result. Other eligibility criteria will still apply. The Regulations also make someone eligible for SSP if a member of a linked household (in England and Wales) or of their extended household (in Scotland) has the symptoms of coronavirus.
48.Among other things, this instrument makes a temporary amendment to the Rules of a range of First-Tier and Upper Tribunals about access to recordings of remote hearings that was mistakenly omitted (due to a drafting error) from the Tribunal Procedure (Coronavirus) Amendment Rules 2020.
49.This instrument makes changes to both the Non-Domestic and Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) schemes. The schemes support the transition from conventional forms of heating to low carbon alternatives, by providing financial incentives to households and non-domestic consumers to help bridge the gap between the cost of renewable heating systems and conventional alternatives. Amongst other changes, the instrument extends the domestic RHI scheme for a further year, so that it closes to new applications on 31 March 2022, and introduces new degression triggers to ensure cost control. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) says that the extension will enable a “streamlined transition” to the new Clean Heat Grant scheme. In addition, the instrument introduces a flexible new allocation of Tariff Guarantees on the Non-Domestic RHI. According to BEIS, Tariff Guarantees offer investment certainty to larger, better value for money projects. The changes will require plants to submit financial close information by 31 March 2021 and submit evidence of commissioning by 31 March 2022. The Department says that this will provide certainty for new projects with long build times to be accredited that would otherwise not have had time to fully commission prior to the scheme’s closure and in preparation of the launch of the new Green Gas Support Scheme. The instrument also extends the commissioning deadline for Tariff Guarantee applications made before 29 June 2020 from 31 January 2021 to 31 March 2022. BEIS says that this extension is specifically aimed at giving projects that are delayed as a result of the pandemic more time to commission.
11 Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 () amended by SIs (), (), () and ().
12 Statutory Sick Pay (Coronavirus) (Suspension of Waiting Days and General Amendment) Regulations 2020 ().
13 The Tribunal Procedure (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Rules 2020 (. )