Fortieth Report Contents

Instruments relating to COVID-19

Restrictions on business and public gatherings

Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation and Linked Households) (England) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/1518)

18.This instrument reduces the required period of self-isolation for an individual who has been notified that they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus from 14 days to 10. This change is based on the latest advice from the Chief Medical Officers.

19.In addition, these Regulations amend provisions regarding when a person’s period of self-isolation begins, so that the self-isolation period will end earlier than it would otherwise have done. The date of symptoms starting/a positive test exposure to an index case is counted as Day 0. The self-isolation period ends in each case at 11.59 pm on Day 10.

20.These Regulations also make consequential amendments to reduce the minimum break required between switching household or childcare bubbles to 10 days.

Local restrictions and movement between tiers

Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/1533)

21.These Regulations make changes to the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) Regulations 20204 to move into Tier 3, the highest level of restriction when the instrument was made:5

22.The Explanatory Memorandum states that this is in response to the latest data showing an exponential rise in confirmed cases as well as rising local hospital admissions in those areas.

Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) (Amendment) (No.2) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/1572)

23.This made affirmative instrument amends the All Tiers Regulations,6 following the statutory review of those Regulations carried out on 16 December 2020. On the basis of new advice, this instrument moves council areas in the East and South East of England from Tier 2 to Tier 3 including Bedfordshire, Peterborough, the remaining areas of Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, parts of East Sussex and Hampshire, Portsmouth, Reading, West Berkshire, Bracknell Forest, Windsor and Maidenhead, Wokingham and Surrey (except Waverley Borough Council). This instrument also moves Bristol City Council and North Somerset Council from Tier 3 to Tier 2 and Herefordshire Council from Tier 2 to Tier 1. It was debated in the Lords on 30 December with the two items below.

Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers and Obligations of Undertakings) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/1611)

24.Due to concerns about an increase in the R number, this is a later amendment to the All Tiers Regulations to introduce an additional tier of restrictions, Tier 4. In Tier 4, people are required to stay at home (subject to a number of exceptions including work and education) and may not gather with more than one person from another household or bubble even in a public open space. A broad range of entertainment, leisure and beauty establishments are required to close. and hospitality is limited to takeaway services. Essential retail may remain open.

25.This instrument moves all 32 London boroughs and the City of London and some local authority areas in the East and South East of England from Tier 3 to Tier 4 including Kent and Medway, Buckinghamshire, parts of Berkshire, Surrey (excluding Waverley), Hastings and Rother, Havant, Gosport and Portsmouth, Hertfordshire, parts of Essex, Central Bedfordshire, Bedford, Milton Keynes, Luton and Peterborough.

26.In the light of the infection rate it also amends the Christmas period exception to the gathering limits in Tiers 1, 2 and 3 from five days to just Christmas Day. Those in Tier 4 are not allowed to form a Christmas bubble at all. The instrument was debated on 30 December 2020 in the Lords. The All Tiers Regulations were next due for review on 30 December.

Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/1646)

27.Due to concerns over a new variant and the rapid rise in positive cases in several areas, particularly in the south, this instrument moved a number of local authority areas into higher Tiers with effect from 26 December 2020. The instrument was debated in the Lords on 30 December 2020. There were no longer any mainland Tier 1 areas;7 the rest of the Midlands and Manchester area along with the area around Bristol and Somerset moved into Tier 3 and the remaining areas of South East and Eastern England (for example Norfolk and Suffolk) moved into Tier 4.

28.As well as some minor corrections to previous instruments, this instrument also made some changes to the Tier 4 restrictions including:

29.The Regulations also enable people in Tier 4 to visit zoos, safari parks and other outdoor animal attractions.

Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) (Amendment) (No. 4) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/1654)

30.Because of the rapid rise in positive cases of COVID-19, mainly attributed to a more contagious new variant, this instrument puts more areas into Tier 4, with no mainland areas in Tiers 18 or 2, and approximately 78% of the population in England in Tier 4. The main areas remaining in Tier 3 are Liverpool, Yorkshire and the South West.

31.This instrument also makes technical amendments to the All Tiers Regulations,9 correcting a cross reference in paragraph 8 of Schedule 3A and separately in regulation 8, to put beyond doubt that areas in Tier 4 are not also in Tier 1, and are not subject to both regimes of restrictions simultaneously.

Changes to business practice and regulation

Business Tenancies (Protection from Forfeiture: Relevant Period) (Coronavirus) (England) (No. 3) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/1472)

32.This instrument extends further, until 31 March 2021, the moratorium during which landlords of commercial properties may not evict tenants due to non-payment of rent. This follows an initial three-month moratorium until 30 June 2020, introduced by the Coronavirus Act 2020, and two subsequent extensions until 30 September10 and 31 December 2020.11 The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) says that the moratorium is not a rent holiday and tenants remain liable for payment of any rent arrears, and that this further extension is necessary as many businesses are continuing to struggle with rent payments. According to MHCLG, no further extension is planned, giving businesses and their landlords a clear deadline to work to in terms of negotiating rent repayments.

33.MHCLG says that while the impact of reduced rental income “is causing some financial distress among commercial landlords”, the Government have worked with the sector to create a Code of Practice12 that encourages businesses that can pay rent to do so. MHCLG also points to the package of support that is available to businesses and the commercial real estate sector through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme and the Coronavirus Corporate Financing Facility. The schemes provide lending through grants and government-backed loans and are available to landlords in distress.

34.We asked MHCLG about the scale of the impact of the moratorium on commercial landlords and to what extent landlords have taken up the available support. MHCLG told us that: “With regard to the impact of the moratorium on commercial landlords, we meet fortnightly with representative of the landlord and funder sectors who, although disappointed that the moratorium continues, have not reported immediate stress. We have seen limited evidence of immediate risk of extensive failures in the sector. Rent collection levels 35 days after the September rent payment date were 79% overall (according to data collected by Remit Consulting), up from 68.8% at the same point after the June payment date. Hospitality and leisure businesses show a significantly lower rent collection rate of 47.6%, up from 41.3% in June. We do not have data on the extent to which landlord businesses have taken advantage of the business support measures introduced by the Government in response to the pandemic.”

35.As noted previously,13 we are concerned that many landlords will be unable to recover rent that has not been paid during the moratorium, and that the longer-term impact on the retail sector and high streets could be significant.

Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 (Coronavirus) (Extension of the Relevant Period) (No. 2) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/1483)

36.This instrument extends until 31 March 2021 two temporary insolvency measures which restrict the use of statutory demands14 and winding up petitions.15 The measures were initially introduced by the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 and would otherwise have expired on 31 December 2020. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy explains that these temporary measures are extended to maintain the protection of companies from aggressive creditor enforcement whilst the adverse effects from the coronavirus pandemic continue and social distancing restrictions remain in place, including regional tiered restrictions, which affect normal trading. The extension means that creditors cannot rely on statutory demands as evidence of a company’s inability to pay its debts and therefore its solvency, to bring winding-up petitions as they will be void. Where company winding up petitions are made, a petitioner will have to satisfy a court that the company’s inability to pay is not due to coronavirus.

Personal Protective Equipment (Temporary Arrangements) (Coronavirus) (England) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/1484)

37.This instrument continues temporary modifications of regulatory arrangements to facilitate the production and supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) during the pandemic. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) explains that the current arrangements modify temporarily the effect of the EU’s PPE Regulation16 and were adopted by the UK Government in March 2020, following a Commission Recommendation.17 As this Recommendation will not become domestic law after the end of the Transition Period, a new provision is made by this instrument to continue the modified arrangements. According to BEIS, the modifications temporarily ease the regulatory requirements for the conformity assessment of certain categories of PPE in order to increase the supply of essential COVID-19-related PPE during the pandemic, while maintaining a process in which the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) certifies essential safety. The easements are time limited: HSE will undertake the modified assessment and certification process until 31 March 2021 for PPE to be placed on the market, and until 30 June 2021 for PPE to be provided to healthcare or specified health and care sector frontline workers.


Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel and Public Health Information) (England) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/1517)

38.These Regulations correct drafting errors in SI 2020/133718 (which introduced the Test and Release scheme) relating to the omission of an ISO standard in Schedule 2A, before the scheme came into force on 15 December 2020. On advice from the Chief Medical Officers, the instrument also shortens the self-isolation period required of traveller from non-exempt countries from 14 days to 10. They also make consequential amendments to the information operators are required to give to passengers coming to England and to the information those passengers must give on their arrival in England.

39.Additionally, on the basis of the latest information from the Joint Biosecurity Centre, Botswana and Saudi Arabia are added to the list of exempt countries with effect from 12 December 2020, but those travelling from the Canary Islands after that date must self-isolate.

Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel) (England) (Amendment) (No. 29) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/1595)

40.These Regulations amend the International Travel Regulations19 to remove Namibia, the United States Virgin Islands and Uruguay from the list of exempt countries and territories with effect from 19 December 2020. Passengers arriving in England from those destinations after that date will be required to self-isolate for 10 days.

41.An exemption has been added for workers on Phase One of the HS2 rail project; the Department for Transport states that the exemption is needed to prevent delays to critical work and ensure both the safety and efficiency of the programme.

Health Protection (Coronavirus, Travel from South Africa) (England) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/1644)

42.A new variant strain of coronavirus has been identified in South Africa; as its effects are not yet known, the Government have implemented a number of precautionary measures. Due to the urgency, the instrument was brought into effect before it could be laid in Parliament.

43.With effect from 23 December 2020, these Regulations amended the International Travel Regulations20 to remove all exemptions from the requirement to self-isolate (including the Test to Release scheme) and all exemptions from the requirement to complete a Passenger Locator Form for anyone who has arrived in England from South Africa or transited through South Africa. The Regulations also require people residing with South African arrivals to self-isolate.

44.With effect from 24 December 2020, these Regulations prohibit the arrival in England of aircraft travelling directly from South Africa (except in defined emergencies).

Public services

Human Medicines (Coronavirus) (Further Amendments) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/1594)

45.Our 32nd Report of this session drew special attention to SI 2020/112521 which facilitated the logistics behind the COVID-19 mass vaccination programme by allowing a wider range of people to administer vaccines where necessary and simplifying administration for the vaccine supply chain. Inevitably, when setting up such a large system at speed, a few problems were not immediately identified. This instrument amends the law to deal with some of the practical problems that have been encountered, for example varying the normal manufacturing and labelling legislation to allow appropriate dilution of the vaccine and for it to be labelled with the time it started thawing. Another amendment allows pharmacists to assemble and administer the vaccine outside their registered premises, for example in care homes or community halls. These arrangements are temporary, and the Regulations will expire on 1 April 2022.

Changes to benefits

Rent Officers (Housing Benefit and Universal Credit Functions) (Modification) Order 2020 (SI 2020/1519)

46.This instrument provides for the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates for the private rented sector for 2021-22 to remain at the same levels that applied from April 2020. The LHA scheme applies to the majority of tenants claiming Housing Benefit and all tenants claiming Universal Credit in that sector. LHA rates are normally reviewed annually by the Secretary of State and the rates were due to increase by 1.7% (CPI) in 2020-21 but, in response to COVID-19, were increased further to cover the lowest 30% of local rents instead. The maximum LHA rates, or “national caps”, were also increased to equal the maximum LHA rates for outer London, plus an additional 20%.

Social Security Contributions (Disregarded Payments) (Coronavirus) (No. 2) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/1523)

47.This instrument provides for a temporary National Insurance contributions (NICs) disregard to ensure that when an employer pays or reimburses an employee for the cost of a relevant coronavirus antigen test between 25 January and 5 April 2021, there is no Class 1 NICs liability for either the employer or the employee. The disregard also ensures that there is no Class 1A NICs liability for the employer either. This provision builds on a similar tax exemption.22 HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) explains that to be eligible for the disregard, a relevant coronavirus test is defined as a test which can detect the presence of a viral antigen or viral ribonucleic acid specific to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 . It cannot be an antibody test because, according to HMRC, such tests only provide a historic view of whether an individual has previously contracted the coronavirus, and unlike the antigen test, do not show whether the individual is currently affected by the coronavirus and needs to self-isolate.

Social Security Contributions (Disregarded Payments) (Coronavirus) (Scotland and Wales) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/1532)

48.This instrument disregards, in relation to National Insurance contributions (NICs), payments made under the Welsh Government’s Self-Isolation Support Payment scheme and the Scottish Government’s Self-Isolation Support Grant to employees who are on low incomes and have been asked to self-isolate. Payments made under these schemes will not be liable to employer or employee Class 1 NICs. Employers will also not be liable to Class 1A NICs in respect of the payments. The Scottish Self-Isolation Support Grant scheme started to process applications on 12 October 2020 and claims can be backdated to 28 September 2020. The Welsh Self-Isolation Support Payment scheme started to process applications on 16 November 2020 and is open to applicants who have been told to self-isolate on or after 23 October 2020.

Tax Credits, Childcare Payments and Childcare (Extended Entitlement) (Coronavirus and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/1515)

49.This instrument makes changes in relation to tax credits, Tax-Free Childcare (TFC) and 30 hours free childcare (“30 hours”) to ensure that parents who receive payments from a coronavirus job support scheme remain eligible to both TFC and to 30 hours. The instrument also includes provisions to protect a claimant’s entitlement to receive Working Tax Credit (WTC) and to allow workers to continue to receive WTC if they would otherwise have been engaged in paid work were it not for the impact of the pandemic.

50.The instrument further ensures that certain payments, such as NHS Test and Trace Support Payments in England and similar schemes in the Devolved Administrations, such as Covid Winter Grant payments, as well as Best Start Foods and Mesh Complication payments in Scotland, are disregarded as income for tax credits purposes. In addition, the instrument ensures that WTC claimants continue to satisfy entitlement conditions during periods of self-isolation, and that furloughed and coronavirus-impacted workers have access to WTC during periods of absence from work due to childbirth, parental bereavement and adoption and during periods of time off work in connection with illness, incapacity or limited capability.

51.Finally, the instrument amends the definition of a coronavirus-impacted worker to clarify when a person no longer qualifies, so that such workers are treated the same as furloughed workers when the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme ends or there are permanent changes to their employment.

4 See Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/1374), which were due to lapse on 2 February 2021 but have now been extended to 31 March 2021 by SI 2021/8.

5 A higher tier was introduced in Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers and Obligations of Undertakings) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/1611); see para 4 of this Report.

7 The Isles of Scilly were still in Tier 1 on 5 January 2021.

8 Ibid.

10 Business Tenancies (Protection from Forfeiture: Relevant Period) (Coronavirus) (England) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/602).

11 Business Tenancies (Protection from Forfeiture: Relevant Period) (Coronavirus) (England) (No. 2) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/994).

12 MHCLG, Code of practice for the commercial property sector (19 June 2020): [accessed 16 December 2020].

13 28th Report, Session 2019-21 (HL Paper 135).

14 A statutory demand can be made to ask for payment of a debt from an individual or company. The individual or company will have 21 days to pay the debt or reach an agreement to pay it.

15 A ‘winding up’ petition is an application that is made to the court to close or ‘wind up’ a company that cannot pay its debts.

16 Regulation (EU) 2016/425 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 March 2016 on personal protective equipment and repealing Council Directive 89/686/EEC.

17 Commission Recommendation (EU) 2020/403 of 13 March 2020 on conformity assessment and market surveillance procedures within the context of the COVID-19 threat.

18 Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel) (England) (Amendment) (No. 26) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/1337),on which questions were raised in our 37th Report, Session 2019-21 (HL Paper 189).

19 Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel) (England) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/568).

20 Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel) (England) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/568).

21 See 4th item in 32nd Report, Session 2019-21 (HL Paper 159) relating to Human Medicines (Coronavirus and Influenza) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/1125).

22 See: Income Tax (Exemption of Minor Benefits) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/1293).

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