Sixth Report Contents

Instruments relating to COVID-19

Restrictions on businesses and public gatherings

Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Steps and Other Provisions) (England) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/705)

11.These Regulations extend the expiry date of all the key Regulations6 for coronavirus restrictions in England until just before midnight on 18 July 2021. The Explanatory Memorandum (EM) states that the Government have made clear that moving to the next Step of the Roadmap would always be dependent on the data supporting this move and the four tests being met. The current data, however, does not support the planned move to Step 4 from 21 June. The EM gives the main reasons as increasing rates of infection and hospitalisations, and that this is due to a new Variant of Concern, the Delta variant, about which there is insufficient data. In consequence, these Regulations extend the current Step 3 restrictions (with some minor relaxations in relation to weddings, civil partnerships and funerals) for a further four weeks (subject to continuous consideration of the epidemiological data). This will allow more people to receive vaccinations and thus support the objective of lifting the remaining restrictions when it is deemed appropriate to do so.

Changes to business practice and regulation

Draft Business and Planning Act 2020 (Pavement Licences) (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2021

12.These Regulations extend until 30 September 2022 a temporary provision under the Business and Planning Act 2020 for a quicker and cheaper process to allow businesses selling food or drink to obtain authorisation from the local authority for a pavement licence (which is needed to place furniture such as tables and chairs on the highway adjacent to the licenced premises). Without this extension, the temporary provision would expire on 30 September 2021, with no pavement licence able to extend beyond that date. The Home Office has taken forward separate regulations7 to allow licensed premises not normally licensed to sell alcohol for consumption off the premises to carry on doing so for a further year, also until 30 September 2022.

Insolvency (England and Wales) (Amendment) Rules 2021 (SI 2021/672)

Insolvency Proceedings (Monetary Limits) (Amendment) Order 2021
(SI 2021/673)

13.These two instruments update arrangements for Debt Relief Orders (DROs).8 The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) explains that in order to qualify for a DRO, a person must meet strict monetary eligibility criteria which were last changed in 2015. SI 2021/672 amends the list of property the official receiver must disregard for the purposes of determining the value of a person’s property. The list includes a single domestic motor vehicle, and SI 2021/672 increases the maximum potential realisable value of that vehicle from less than £1,000 to less than £2,000. SI 2021/673 raises the prescribed monetary limits that need to be met in order for an individual to be able to apply for a DRO: the amount of a debtor’s overall indebtedness is raised from £20,000 to £30,000, the monthly surplus income from £50 to £75 and the total value of property a debtor may own from £1,000 to £2,000.

14.According to BEIS, these changes reflect that the economic outlook as a result of the pandemic remains highly uncertain, and that there is expected to be a greater need for people in financial distress to have access to an appropriate debt solution. The Department says that the changes complement the new breathing space scheme that the Government introduced earlier this year9 which will provide people in debt with a 60 day pause on creditor enforcement action. We note that these changes have wider implications than the pandemic, and that there is a risk that some small businesses may suffer from those who are able to pay their debt but will take advantage of the raised limits to avoid having to do so.

Hydrocarbon Oil Duties (Reliefs for Electricity Generation) (Amendment and Modification) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/676)

15.These Regulations make changes that are consequential to two earlier instruments10 which relaxed temporarily the certification process for the Combined Heat and Power Quality Assurance (CHPQA) Scheme and updated the CHPQA Standard. The CHPQA Scheme certifies energy efficient Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plants11 across the UK as Good Quality. Such certification is needed for schemes to access financial incentives. The instrument updates references to the updated CHPQA Standard and to certificates issued under the CHPQA Scheme. This has the effect of confirming the relaxation of the certification process and will provide continuity of financial support, preventing a secondary financial hit to CHP operators in 2021 as a result of the pandemic.

Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre Trading Fund (Variation) Order
(SI 2021/666)

16.This Order raises the aggregate maximum borrowing limit of the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre Trading Fund (“the Fund”) from £2 million to £12 million in order to enable the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to provide any financial support that is needed to help the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre (“the Centre”) deal with the impact of the pandemic. MHCLG says that the Centre, as the largest dedicated conference, events and exhibition space in central London, typically hosts over 450 events a year but has now been closed for 15 months, and that the Fund has used up its cash reserves and has reached its current £2 million aggregate borrowing limit. MHCLG expects that in the long-term business will return to pre-pandemic levels. While it is not anticipated that the Fund will need to borrow the maximum £12 million, MHCLG says that this is the amount the Fund spends in a typical financial year, and that extending the maximum aggregate borrowing limit to this figure will allow the Fund to cover a range of eventualities.

Official Controls (Temporary Measures) (Coronavirus) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2022 (SI 2021/681)

17.These Regulations extend powers which allow competent authorities in Great Britain to adopt new, and maintain existing, temporary measures concerning official controls in relation to food and feed law, rules on animal health and welfare, plant health and plant protection products. The temporary powers were originally introduced last year and subsequently extended until 1 July to address disruption of official controls during the pandemic.12 The instrument ensures that the powers can be used until 31 December 2021. The use of such powers includes, for example, carrying out electronic document checks on some imported goods, including at locations other than a Border Control Post, instead of checking hard copies; authorising appropriately authorised persons to carry out checks under the supervision of the competent authority; and conducting meetings with operators remotely.

6 Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Steps) (England) Regulations 2021, the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings on Public Transport) (England) Regulations 2020, the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 3) Regulations 2020 and Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Local Authority Enforcement Powers and Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020.

8 DROs are delivered in partnership with the debt advice sector and aim to provide low cost, easy access to debt relief for those with relatively low levels of unmanageable debt, providing a fresh start for the most vulnerable. At the end of the DRO period (usually 12 months) the debts are written off.

9 See our 24th Report of Session 2019–21 (HL Paper 116).

10 The Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme (Temporary Modification) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/346) and The Combined Heat and Power Quality Assurance (Temporary Modifications) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/656).

11 CHP is an energy efficient technology that allows generation of both heat and power on site, providing fuel and carbon savings compared to separate generation.

12 The powers were initially introduced until 1 February 2021 by retained Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/466 and subsequently extended until 1 July 2021 by the Official Controls (Temporary Measures) (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/78).

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