Forty Fifth Report Contents

Instruments relating to COVID-19

Restrictions on businesses and public gatherings

Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers and Self-Isolation) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/97)

4.We have previously criticised the Government for not sharing data effectively with the authorities to enable them to enforce self-isolation.2 This instrument is therefore welcome. It amends the Self-Isolation Regulations3 to provide the police with sufficient information to verify the identity of an individual, a copy of the notification sent to the individual informing them of the legal duty to self-isolate and why (following a positive test or contact with an infected individual). Regulation 4(4) limits the use of this shared notification information to the prevention, investigation, detection or prosecution of offences under the Self-Isolation Regulations. The Department for Health and Social Care states that disclosure of this information for these reasons is proportionate and in line with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Data Protection Act 2018.

5.In addition, regulation 2 changes the All Tiers Regulations4 to introduce a new fixed penalty notice (FPN) for each individual that attends a gathering of more than 15 people in a private dwelling, in educational accommodation or at an indoor rave. The first penalty is £800 with subsequent offences doubling the FPN to a maximum of £6,400.

Changes to business practice and regulation

Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme and Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme (Amendment) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/76)

6.This instrument amends legislation concerning both the Domestic and Non-Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) schemes. The RHI schemes aim to encourage the transition from fossil fuel-based forms of heating to renewable, low-carbon alternatives. While the Domestic RHI scheme involves renewable heat installations that service domestic properties, the Non-Domestic RHI scheme is open to producers of biomethane for injection into the gas grid, to renewable heat installations that provide heat to a variety of buildings, such as commercial properties, blocks of flats or public buildings, or for industrial or agricultural uses.

7.The changes to the Domestic RHI scheme relax the requirement to apply for accreditation within 12 months of the installation being commissioned. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy says that this relaxation is being introduced in response to the pandemic, which is preventing some applicants from being able to comply with the current application requirement. The amendment will enable applicants whose installation was commissioned on or after 1 March 2019 to apply for the Domestic RHI scheme until it closes to new applications on 31 March 2022. The instrument also updates the reference to the code of practice of the Home Insulation & Energy Systems (HIES) Quality Assured Contractors Scheme and revises the thresholds at which degressions are triggered.

8.The amendments to the Non-Domestic RHI scheme provide for its closure for new applications at the end of 31 March 2021 as confirmed last year,5 future-proof the scheme across a range of technologies including heat pumps, biomass and biomethane, and provide a 12-month extension to smaller projects impacted by pandemic-related delays.

Official Controls (Temporary Measures) (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/78)

9.This instrument amends retained direct EU law6 which introduced temporary relaxations of the system of official controls last year, so that these relaxations can continue until 1 July, rather than expire on 1 February 2021. The amendments temporarily allow competent authorities in Great Britain to carry out electronic document checks on some imported goods, including at locations other than a Border Control Post (BCP), instead of checking hard copies. This is to prevent disruption during the ongoing pandemic.

10.The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) says that the relaxations apply to certain products of animal origin including fish and fishery products for human consumption, animal by-products, high-risk food and feed not of animal origin as well as plants, plant products and other objects regulated by plant health legislation. Some products are exempt, such as live animals and animal products derived from porcine meat due to their higher biosecurity risk and risk for spread of disease. The instrument also reinstates a provision that permits appropriately authorised persons to carry out checks under the supervision of the competent authority. Defra told us that when this provision was used last year, it allowed non-Official Veterinarian staff at BCPs to perform or assist with checks under the supervision of an Official Veterinarian.

11.Defra says that the relaxations were introduced last year to help address serious disruption to official controls due to capacity issues with staff having to self-isolate and adhere to social distancing measures. The relaxations do not enter into force automatically through this instrument, but the instrument provides the Government with the legal powers to apply them. Defra told us that because the EU has made equivalent changes to EU law, Northern Ireland has the legal powers to introduce the same relaxations. We are publishing at Appendix 1 further information from the Department about the context of the relaxations and how they will operate in practice. While the additional information helps to understand how any potential relaxations will operate in a complex system, we note that the relevant government websites are not easy to navigate. This is a matter of concern: good and effective law needs to be accessible and should be signposted and explained appropriately on official websites to those who may be affected by it.


Traffic Signs (Coronavirus) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/75)

12.This instrument makes certain clarifications to the e-scooter pilot scheme in the light of six months’ experience. In particular, some of the road marking requirements for a cycle track shared with e-scooter trials are temporarily adjusted, e-scooter access to bus lanes is clarified, and it is made clear that e-scooters may not park in motorcycle bays. Although this instrument has ‘Coronavirus’ in the title, the connection appears to us as tenuous (see our Report on the original regulations).7

13.We asked the Department for Transport (DfT) for information on how the trials are progressing. DfT said:

“E-scooter trials are currently live in 25 areas across England, including the West Midlands, Liverpool, Cambridge, Nottingham, Bristol, Bath, Norwich and Tees Valley. A further five areas have been approved to hold trials, but have not yet launched. London has also announced plans to launch trials in participating boroughs in spring 2021, but have not yet submitted a formal proposal to the Department for approval.

We have approved over 17,000 e-scooters for use, but do not yet have detailed data on the number of e-scooters currently being used, or trips taken. We will receive this data as part of our monitoring and evaluation plan, later in February (as our data ‘warehouse’ is now almost built).

In the interim, we have been receiving ‘situation reports’ from trial areas and these show that the majority of journeys on e-scooters have been completed safely and successfully. Where problems have arisen, we have been working closely with both local authorities and e-scooter suppliers to resolve matters. For example, we have tightened the requirements for licence checks to ensure that a single licence cannot unlock multiple e-scooter accounts. We have asked operators to develop more robust geo-fencing to tackle pavement riding and other anti-social behaviour.   No serious incidents have been reported to us.”

14.We note that there have been press reports about serious injuries as a result of accidents involving e-scooters. If, as the DfT statement implies, they are caused by privately owned e-scooters being used illegally, rather than those in the pilot schemes, the House may wish to ask what the Government are doing to address that illegal usage. We also question how robust the results of trials conducted during the pandemic will be given that road and foot traffic are likely to be significantly less busy than usual, and whether, to give an accurate picture of risks, these trials should be repeated when normal conditions are resumed.

Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel) (England) (Amendment) (No. 5) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/98)

15.With effect from 29 January 2021, this instrument added Rwanda, Burundi and the United Arab Emirates to the list, in Schedule B1 to the International Travel Regulations,8 of countries and territories subject to enhanced restrictions. Passengers from those countries and the household where they reside in England must self-isolate for 10 days and they may not make use of the “Test to Release” regime.

16.In addition all direct flights from the United Arab Emirates are banned from landing in England, except in emergencies. (There are no direct flights to the UK from Burundi and Rwanda, so this provision is not required for those countries).

Public services

Organic Control (Amendment) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/94)

17.This instrument extends temporary COVID-19-related derogations in relation to the process for verifying the integrity of organic products. The derogations are contained in retained direct EU legislation9 and the instrument extends the end date of the derogations, the majority of which would otherwise have ended on 1 February, to the end of 2021 or until national restrictions are lifted. The extension until 31 December 2021 applies, for example, to unannounced physical inspections, additional random control visits and samples taken by control bodies to verify the integrity of organic products, while a derogation relating to annual supervision audits is extended until the current national restrictions on movement during the pandemic are lifted. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs says that the Devolved Administrations in Scotland and Wales have given their consent to the instrument, while EU law will continue to have effect in Northern Ireland. The EU is expected to introduce similar extensions.

Law and order

Prosecution of Offences (Custody Time Limits) (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/91)

18.This instrument will remove all defendants who are under 18 years old at the time of their first appearance at the Crown Court from the extension to custody time limits (CTLs) introduced by the Prosecution of Offences (Custody Time Limits) (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 202010 (“the 2020 Regulations”). The 2020 Regulations amended the maximum CTL by 56 days from 182 days to 238 days (eight months) for all criminal offences awaiting trial on indictment at the Crown Court with effect from 28 September 2020. These Regulations also provide that any defendant under the age of 18, remanded on or after 28 September 2020, will no longer be subject to the extended CTL. We note this exclusion but remind the House of the concerns expressed in our Report on the 2020 Regulations11 about the effects on the mental health of anyone remanded for such a long time and hope that the backlog of cases, which is only in part due to the pandemic, may soon be reduced.

2 Most recently in our 37th Report in relation to Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel) (England) (Amendment) (No. 26) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/1337).

3 Public Health (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/1045).

4 Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/1374).

5 BEIS, Non-domestic Renewable Heat Incentive: ensuring a sustainable scheme (28 April 2020): [accessed 4 February 2021].

6 Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/466.

7 See our 22nd Report, Session 2019-21 (HL Paper 104) on The Electric Scooter Trials and Traffic Signs (Coronavirus) Regulations and General Directions 2020 (SI 2020/663).

8 Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel) (England) Regulations 2020 (SI 2021/568).

9 Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 2020/977.

10 Prosecution of Offences (Custody Time Limits) (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/953).

11 27th Report, Session 2019-21 (HL Paper 131).

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