Forty Sixth Report Contents

Instruments relating to COVID-19

Travel

Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel) (England) (Amendment) (No. 6) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/137)

21.Following the ninth statutory review of the International Travel Regulations,14 these Regulations tighten up some existing sectoral exemptions from the self-isolation requirement and update the list of elite sporting events, set out in Schedule 3, to which certain exemptions apply. Exemptions from self-isolation for certain coaches and sport support staff have been removed and the training abroad provision has been amended so that it now only covers Olympic and Paralympic athletes training in the run up to the Tokyo Olympic Games.

22.The Department for Transport (DfT) justified bringing these provisions into effect overnight on the ground that they reduce the risk that individuals arriving in England may pose to public health. The Explanatory Memorandum, however, gives no indication of the numbers involved. To assess the degree of risk, the House may wish to ask the Minister how many ancillary sport staff were previously using the exemption that this instrument terminates, and how many elite sports people who have departed from or transited through a non-exempt country or territory in order to compete in one of the elite sports events listed in Schedule 3 are expected still to use it.

Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel) (England) (Amendment) (No. 7) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/150)

23.From 15 February this instrument amended the International Travel Regulations15 to implement a new system of managed quarantine. Travellers from countries listed in Schedule B1 (“red list countries” where coronavirus variants of concern are prevalent) are now required to obtain a package comprising 10 days in accommodation designated by the Secretary of State, transportation to that accommodation and tests for coronavirus on day two and day eight after their arrival in England.

24. The instrument also requires all travellers who have been outside the common travel area to pre-book two tests for coronavirus: the first has to be taken within two days of their arrival in England and must be capable of permitting genomic sequencing of the sample; the second has to be taken seven days after their arrival. These tests are in addition to the requirement to complete a Passenger Locator Form (PLF) and obtain a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of commencing their journey. Failure to book a test and failure to take it are both made offences subject to fines.  

25.Regulation 14 amends Regulation 10 of the International Travel Regulations to insert an existing offence under section 1 of the Fraud Act 2006 of fraud by false representation or by failing to disclose information. The maximum penalty upon conviction is imprisonment not exceeding 10 years or a fine (or both). In addition, where a traveller intentionally or recklessly provides false or misleading passenger information relating to their travel history in relation to a red list country, they may be issued with a fixed penalty notice of £10,000.

26.The Regulations also oblige the transport operator to ensure that passengers who arrive in England on their services have included details of the test arrangements and managed self-isolation package on their PLF. They also require operators to ensure that flights from red list countries, including in private aircraft, arrive in England only at the permitted airports (Heathrow, Gatwick, London City, Birmingham or Farnborough).

Public services

Education (Coronavirus, Remote Education Information) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/122)

27.This instrument imposes temporarily a requirement on schools in the public sector, as well as independent schools with state-funded pupils, to publish information regarding the provision of remote education on the school website or on an alternative website, so that parents, carers and pupils can better understand what their school’s remote education provision entails. The temporary requirement came into force on 12 February and will expire on 31 August 2021, ensuring that the information is available for the duration of the academic year. The Department for Education (DfE) says that the instrument does not put any additional burden on schools, as there is already an expectation set out in guidance from 3 December 202016 that schools publish information on the provision of remote information on their website. To help schools meet their obligation, DfE has published a suggested template for this information.17

Changes to business practice and regulation

Draft Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 (Coronavirus) (Change of Expiry Date) Regulations 2021

28.These draft Regulations propose to extend the expiry date of the period during which the power in section 20 of the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 (“the CIG Act”) can be used, from 30 April 2021 to 29 April 2022. The section 20 power enables the Secretary of State to make regulations to modify temporarily corporate insolvency or governance legislation for various purposes in connection with mitigating the impact of coronavirus. This power has been used once so far, to suspend temporarily the personal liability incurred by company directors through wrongful trading.18 According to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the extension of the section 20 power by one year through this instrument is the maximum period allowed under the CIG Act for a single extension, although the power to extend may be used more than once. BEIS says that the one-year extension reflects that while there is a vaccination programme, national lockdowns and other restrictions on normal trading continue, and the future impact of the pandemic on business and the insolvency regime remains uncertain.

Law and order

Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 (Specified Proceedings) (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Order 2021 (SI 2021/126)

29.This instrument provides that penalties incurred for offences contrary to a range of COVID-19 regulations are “specified proceedings”, which means that the police may conduct the proceedings by serving a notice and the evidence on an accused person. If that person pleads guilty in writing or has not responded after 28 days, then a court can deal with the case under “the single justice procedure” without the assistance of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).19 The CPS will take over, however, if the accused pleads not guilty or does not consent to their case being dealt with under this process.

30.The Attorney General’s Office states in the Explanatory Memorandum that the Order needs to be brought into immediate effect to ensure the summary resolution of the over 6,000 unpaid fixed penalty notices in England and Wales that had accrued by 26 January. As a result of a rule which requires proceedings to be instituted no more than six months after the commission of the offence, some of them may otherwise lapse. While it is clearly important that these fines are enforced, we regard bringing these administrative provisions into immediate effect as inappropriate: the urgency only results from poor planning by the Government.

Electoral changes

Draft Mayoral and Police and Crime Commissioner Elections (Coronavirus, Nomination of Candidates) (Amendment) Order 2021

31.The Government confirmed on 5 February 2021 that the elections scheduled for 6 May 2021 would go ahead but with some differences to reduce the amount of person to person contact involved because of the coronavirus pandemic.20 This Order, which will expire on 22 February 2022, proposes to reduce the number of electors that are required to sign a candidate nomination form for police and crime commissioner (PCC) elections in England and Wales and combined authority and single authority mayoral elections in England, as set out in Table 1 (other than London — see SI 2021/160 below). Actual signatures are still required to ensure democratic accountability and to show that candidates have the required degree of support from local electors.

Table 1: Summary table provided by Cabinet Office

Poll

Subscriber Number now

Subscriber Number revised

Comments

Mayor for Combined Authority

100—minimum of 10 from each local authority (“LA”)

Will now have the total required dictated by number of LAs within the Combined Authorit —based on two per LA within the Combined Authority area.

(e.g. if 10 LAs, 20 subscribers are required)

Two subscribers are required from each LA area. two of the total will be Proposer and Seconder.

PCC

100

Will now have the total number required dictated by number of LAs within the Police Area—based on two per LA or part LA within the Police Area.

(for example, if 14 LAs (or part of an LA), 28 subscribers are required)

Number based on two per LA (or part of an LA) but retaining the ability to have subscribers from anywhere in the area without the need for two of them to be registered to vote in each LA. Two of the total will be Proposer and Seconder.

Source: Cabinet Office

Local and Greater London Authority Elections (Coronavirus, Nomination of Candidates) (Amendment) (England) Rules 2021 (SI 2021/160)

32.This instrument also temporarily reduces the number of signatures required on a nomination paper during the pandemic period and will expire on 28 February 2022:

33.The House may wish to ask the Minister to make clear how this procedure is compatible with the guidance (cited in footnote 20) which says that under the current national lockdown, leafleting and door-knocking by party activists is not permissible.


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

15 Ibid.

16 See: DfE, ‘Actions for schools during the coronavirus outbreak’ (2 July 2020): https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/actions-for-schools-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak [accessed 18 February 2021].

17 See: DfE, ‘Providing remote education information to parents: template’ (15 December 2020): https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/providing-remote-education-information-to-parents-template [accessed 18 February 2021].

18 Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 (Coronavirus) (Suspension of Liability for Wrongful Trading and Extension of the Relevant Period) Regulations (SI 2020/1349).

19 The procedure is set out guidance is available on the internet, for instance at: https://www.gov.uk/single-justice-procedure-notices.

20 See Cabinet Office, Government delivery plan (5 February 2021): https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/may-2021-polls-delivery-plan/may-2021-polls-delivery-plan [accessed 18 January 2021].




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